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Long Arm Of The Law May Someday Wear Hemp

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The hippie days live on in a handful of head shops on upper Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, so you might be surprised if you step into a store called the Master Peace (3623 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-493-2366).

The shop specializes in, among other things, products made of hemp, and that may conjure images of billowing smoke and psychedelic colors. But there are no portraits of Bob Marley or the Grateful Dead here.

Ropy hemp sandals are piled in one corner, but the graphics on a line of T-shirts are hip and modern, with not a single spiky green pot leaf symbol in sight.

Hemp, soy, bamboo and organic cotton are the basis for the clothing here, which is carefully selected from a handful of fashion designers. Owners Melissa Giacobbe and Sierra Freeman have assembled an understated, casual collection that brings in all kinds of shoppers.

“It’s really amazing what a wide range of customers we get,” Freeman says.

According to Freeman, consumer interest in hemp products is on the rise. What’s available on the wholesale market is expanding, too. Hemp is hardier than cotton, Freeman explains, so it’s easier to grow without pesticides – and that appeals to ecoconscious shoppers.

Hemp fabric provides natural UV protection, she adds, and it’s breathable and very durable. The downside is cost. “Because it can’t be grown in the United States, it’s very expensive,” she says.

Food, paper and clothing are just a few of the things that can be made from hemp.

In a whirlwind shopping spree of some of Portland’s more independently minded retailers, you can stock your pantry with hemp butter, your bathroom with hemp soap and hand cream, your closet with hemp shirts and your desk with hemp stationery.

You can even carry it all home in a hemp tote bag. Just don’t plant any hemp in your backyard – that would be a violation of federal drug law.

Casual speech distinguishes between hemp (grown for commercial purposes) and marijuana (grown as a drug), but taxonomically they are the same species, Cannabis sativa.

There is a movement to legalize the growing of hemp – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say two movements. Advocates for the legalization of marijuana inevitably bring hemp into their case, while advocates for the cultivation of industrial hemp often struggle to distance themselves from the drug association.

Andy Kerr is a longtime environmental activist from Ashland and a member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council. In recent testimony in the Oregon Senate, he used the term “hempsters” to define “people who believe that all things and all thoughts cannabis will solve all the world’s problems.”

Kerr’s goals are more modest. He believes that industrial hemp could have significant environmental and economic advantages for Oregon.

He testified on behalf of Senate Bill 348, which would have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp. The bill was introduced in January by state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Democrat representing parts of Lane and Douglas counties. It died in committee.

Kerr explains the difference between hemp and marijuana as being like the difference between a Saint Bernard and a Chihuahua. You can’t get high by smoking industrial hemp, he says, and you can’t get useful fibers from a plant bred for pot.
North Dakotans go for it

In recent years, other states have moved to legalize hemp farming, despite the federal prohibition against it. In North Dakota, two farmers who have state approval to grow hemp are suing the Drug Enforcement Administration.

For now, importing hemp from Canada is not very difficult.

So says John Bannerman, a Portland resident who is preparing a line of hemp butters under the name Wilderness Poets (Wilderness Poets Hemp Food). Hemp butter, made from ground hemp seeds, tastes similar to almond butter, he says, and is very nutritious.

Hemp seeds provide a complete protein source that is easier to digest than soy, and they contain a perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients.

“I’ve always been interested in sustainable agriculture,” says Bannerman, who is a former organic lime farmer as well as a former creative writing teacher. “I realized that food was as important a place to educate people as even being in the classroom.”

His food products are a tribute to philosophers and poets, and bear names such as Civil Disobedience Hemp Nut Butter and Moon Priestess Hemp Nut Chocolate Divinity.

The market for hemp products has been expanding rapidly since 2004, Bannerman says. That year, a federal court ruled that products made with hemp don’t fall under the ban against Cannabis sativa itself.

The legal climate now is friendly enough that more people are comfortable investing in hemp-related businesses.

Activist Kerr also has seen the expansion. “I think there’s a renaissance,” he says, citing hemp production in Europe and in Canada, which legalized industrial hemp in 1998.

If so, it is a rebirth rather than a birth – hemp once was a major agricultural crop in the United States, before the availability of cheaper synthetic fibers and tightening of drug laws wiped it out. The last commercial hemp crop in the United States was grown in Wisconsin in the 1950s.
DEA blames it on Congress

The DEA’s position on hemp is pretty clear: “The law is the law is the law,” says Garrison Courtney, who is the lead spokesman for the DEA’s public information office. “To get hemp, you have to grow marijuana.”

Don’t blame the DEA, he says, if the law seems contradictory: “That’s something that Congress put together, and really, the beef should be with them, not us.”

To Kerr, the issue is not so cut and dried, especially with rising concern about our dependence on oil.

Fiberglass and industrial oils, now made of petroleum, could be made with plant-based ingredients, Kerr claims. But for him, the biggest benefit of hemp cultivation would be the preservation of forestland for clean air, clean water and wildlife.

“We can’t afford to be cutting down our forest,” he says, “and we can move fiber production back to the farm. … The problem is that farmers in Oregon haven’t been demanding it.”

In the city, though, the demand is definitely growing. “As things are becoming more stylish and current,” the Master Peace’s Freeman says, “more people notice it. … It’s come a long ways.”



News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: Beaverton Valley Times
Author: Anne Marie DiStefano
Contact: Contact
Copyright: 2007 Pamplin Media Group
Website: Long arm of law may someday wear hemp
 
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