Hemp: The Other Cannabis


California may be on the verge of legalizing hemp, marijuana's nonpsychoactive cousin. With bipartisan support, the state legislature has passed a bill allowing farmers to grow the crop, which is raised for its fiber (used in clothing and car door panels, among other things) and seeds (used in a wide variety of food products and toiletries). Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature is all it will take to give would-be hemp farmers the green light. Unlike other states that have passed pro-hemp bills, California does not plan to seek permission from the DEA; supporters of the bill say federal clearance is legally unnecessary. Their position is bolstered not only by the Constitution but by a 2003 decision in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the federal marijuana ban does not cover nonpsychoactive portions of the cannabis plant.

That decision grew out of the DEA's legally untenable, self-contradictory effort to ban edible hemp products, a crusade that seemed to be motivated chiefly by the DEA's (not entirely unfounded) belief that producers and consumers of hemp products are sympathetic to marijuana legalization. The agency's official concern was not the industry's political symbolism but the possibility that consumption of hemp products could interfere with drug tests by producing false positives, a concern that is easily addressed by keeping the traces of THC in hemp salad dressing and hemp seed granola below a certain level. In the case of hemp farming, the DEA claims to worry that fields of hemp could be used to conceal marijuana. Jack Herer, author of the pro-hemp classic The Emperor Wears No Clothes (and known, a bit confusingly, as "the Hemperor"), counters that planting marijuana with hemp would make no sense, because cross-pollination would ruin the pot.

California would be the only state to permit hemp cultivation, but internationally it would hardly be an oddball. A 2005 report from the Congressional Research Service noted that "the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop."

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  1. California can legalise as much as it likes, but as long as the DEA still exists, their decisions won’t mean shit. Guaranteed. They’ve been fighting their War On Alzheimer’s Patients for years and having lots of fun doing so. They’re not going to be stopping any time soon.

  2. The DEA no longer bothers trying to come up with law enforcement rationalizations for their political activities. Check out this story from the Rocky Mountain News.

  3. It is legal to possess and use industrial hemp, and there is a growing selection of products on the market that use hemp. Hemp oil is used in Dr Bronner’s Soap and various other soap and shampoo brands. Hemp cloth is used to make backpacks, clothing and rope, etc.

    But it is not legal to grow hemp in the USA. Legalizing cultivation of industrial hemp will help America’s trade deficit, and give a boost to the full range of manufacturers that used imported hemp products.

    California legalizing hemp sends a message, but the federal law must change too. Rep. Ron Paul has introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp at the federal level. Maybe now he can get Gov. Schwarzenegger to lobby for his bill.

  4. Chuck,

    Thanks for the link. Despite the slimy behavior of the DEA, I was actually happy to read the article because I didn’t know about the ballot initiative, and I live in Denver! Now I gots a reason to vote in November!!!

  5. California may be on the verge of legalizing hemp, marijuana’s nonpsychoactive cousin.

    I think I would call hemp, marijuana’s nopsychoactive father or at least its older brother.

  6. How about we prohibit hemp and make the good stuff legal?

  7. Jacob, you’re usually very good on facts but I think you misread the court decision. It’s not that DEA couldn’t apply the law to nonpsychoactive portions of a hemp plant (which in this case would presumably be any portion), but that small amounts of THC present in the exempt portions of the plant did not convert them into controlled substances, just as the small amounts of testosterone in meat don’t make it a controlled substance, etc., even though a literal reading of the CSA would suggest so. The court’s reasoning was that Congress would not have created the exemption had the finding of such traces (which could surely have been anticipated) rendered the exemption null.

    No, I’m sure DEA will insist on registration of the growers as manufacturers of a controlled substance, which will require rather extensive (and expensive) security measures, plus a showing of the worthiness of such endeavor (based on need for the products), to be determined by the att’y gen’l. And I’m sure that the same court would then side with DEA, given the fact that Congress did not exempt all parts of the hemp plant, and that federal licensure was required for growing hemp in the Hemp for Victory program. So it may take years for applications to finally result in licensure of hemp crops, during which time the prospective licensees may lose interest. DEA could just say there’s no need for domestic hemp production, given that imports will satisfy all anticipated needs, there being so many countries to import from.

  8. If someone figures out how to make methanol from industrial hemp, the Feds and state governments will subsidize the hell out of them. 🙂


  9. edit: ethanol for methanol


  10. Heh — turning boo into hooch.

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