This week's NORML newsletter cites a new report from the Congressional Research Service that finds "the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop." While hemp, a variety of cannabis with negligible THC, is profitably grown for fiber and other nonpsychoactive uses in "more than 30 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America," the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration won't even allow experimental cultivation, saying it would "send the wrong message to the American public concerning the government's position on drugs."
In this country hemp enthusiasts are widely assumed to be potheads eager to legitimize cannabis. Some of them are, but many others are farmers and entrepreneurs who see an economic opportunity unreasonably foreclosed by the government. It's the DEA's position on hemp cultivation that (like its ridiculous, failed attempt to ban hemp foods) most clearly reflects the symbolic power of cannabis, since that's the only explanation for banning a crop that's legal in so many countries where marijuana is still prohibited.