Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jan 2013
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2013 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Note: from The Washington Post
Note: The Daily Progress of Charlottesville contributed to this report.


Albemarle Board May Act to Set It Apart From Pot

In the cannabis plant family, hemp is the good seed; marijuana, the
evil weed.

But while the U.S. ranks as the world's leading consumer of hemp
products - total U.S. sales were estimated to top $450 million in
2011, according to an industry group-it is the only major
industrialized country that bans growing it, even though 11 states
have passed measures removing barriers to hemp production and
research. About 90 percent of the U.S. supply comes from Canada.

In Virginia, Albemarle County supervisors will consider a resolution
in February to separate industrial hemp from marijuana. Montgomery
County Supervisor James D. Politis told the Albemarle board earlier
this month that the plant has almost 25,000 uses and could be planted
extensively across the state.

Since Colorado and Washington state legalized marijuana by ballot
initiatives last fall, some farmers and activists have been pushing to
revive a crop they say offers a solution to vexing environmental,
health and economic challenges.

Proponents value hemp for how it grows - quickly and in a wide
geographic range, without requiring much in terms of water, pesticides
and fertilizers - and for what it can produce.

Its seeds and oil are fodder for health and beauty products, while the
strength of its natural fiber makes it a good candidate to be used as
a building composite. Combine hemp with water and lime and you get
"hempcrete," which can help construct a house; process it differently
and it can make up a car's interior door panel.

In the Colonial era, Benjamin Franklin published an article touting
hemp's virtues, and Virginia farmers were allowed to pay their taxes
in hemp. A USDA botanist grew half a dozen varieties of hemp on
federal property in the 1920s. The U.S. government urged farmers to
grow "Hemp for Victory" during World War II to provide the raw
material for ropes, sailors' uniforms and other supplies.

But several factors - the high taxes the federal government imposed on
growing hemp in the late 1930s and again in the early '50s, and then
the Drug Enforcement Administration's interpretation of the 1970
Controlled Substances Act - made producing hemp nearly impossible.

Starting in 1999, states began to pass legislation making it easier to
either grow industrial hemp or conduct research on it. But these
measures have had little practical effect. Since the DEA grants
permits only in rare instances and demands costly, elaborate security
precautions, large-scale hemp growing in the U.S. is not viable.

Those working on a new federal law describe it as a simple matter of
economics. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who introduced legislation in the
last Congress with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to decouple hemp from
marijuana as a controlled substance, plans to push for a bill again
this year.

The Daily Progress of Charlottesville contributed to this report.
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