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This week, hemp advocates across the nation will attempt to build grassroots support, through the second annual Hemp History Week, for a law that would once again make it legal to grow the long-demonized plant. For several years, a growing group of legislators have co-sponsored and introduced a Hemp Farming Bill that would amend the current Controlled Substance Act to exclude hemp from the definition of marijuana. In short, it would allow farmers to grow hemp without fear of legal repercussions.

Local hemp advocate David Piller, who is organizing a discussion and celebration of hemp at the Green Room this week, says hemp could bring a number of positives to the country and explains that opposition is rooted in a complex history and negative connotations.

While it is currently legal in the United States to import hemp and make any number of products from it, it remains illegal to grow the crop here. When you buy a hemp shirt or necklace, the raw material typically comes from China. Hemp used in food production is typically imported from Canada.

"It's not a matter of will it come back, it's when it comes back," says Piller. "The United States is the only industrialized nation where hemp farming is illegal."

Hemp prohibition has a long history steeped in controversy and conspiracy, but Piller claims that before prohibition, the United States had a rich relationship with the crop. In the early days of the republic, hemp was used for everything from textiles to paper. "The first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper," says local marijuana attorney Thomas Dean. "The long fibers helped it last."

Eventually, hemp lost out to cotton and timber because it was more labor intensive and expensive to produce. By the late 1930s, when efforts were underway to criminalize marijuana, only small amounts of hemp were being produced each year. So when Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, it lumped in hemp as well. Anyone who wanted to possess marijuana had to pay taxes on the substance.

"People promoting the bill said it wouldn't affect hemp farmers, but it was essentially a prohibition bill disguised as a tax bill," says Piller. He believes that the market again favors hemp as a crop, in part because it's more comfortable than cotton, but also because it's more sustainable.

"There's a big push towards organic cotton and that's good, but what we really need is hemp," Piller says. "Cotton uses so much water it's ridiculous."

In addition to bills being pushed at a national level, Piller is also involved in getting hemp legislation moving at the state level. He's worked to lobby in the Arizona legislature and was in California last week to try and reach out to policymakers there.

"There was a hemp study bill that passed in Arizona 10 years ago that would have given money to universities to do research on hemp production, but it was vetoed by Governor (Jane) Hull," says Piller.

Law enforcement groups have been among the main opponents of legalizing hemp farming, he says. They argue that farmers would abuse their right to grow hemp by growing marijuana as well.

"They're operating from a place of fear and not truth," says Piller. "If you were to plant marijuana in a hemp field you would be reducing the potency of your own bud."

He says a little education could help law enforcement tell the difference between hemp and marijuana plants. If the plants are long and skinny and planted close together then they're hemp, if they are big fat bushes far apart then they are pot, he says.

"Luckily for us, Canada had heard the same arguments from their law enforcement officers and they have not had a problem with it," Piller says.

Dean agrees and says that much of the reason why hemp is banned is because of the leaf similarities. After the North American Free Trade Agreement passed in the 1990s, Dean became aware that the agreement specifically mentioned that there should be no restrictions on the importing of hemp. But the United States was still refusing to allow hemp to come into the county. Dean says he helped to lobby the government by showing them they were in direct violation of NAFTA.

Attorney General Janet Reno sent a letter to U.S. Customs soon after asking them to end the embargo.

"You could smoke an acre of hemp and probably end up with a just a real bad headache and probably some lung problems," says Dean.

Piller will be pushing for greater awareness of the benefits of hemp at the Green Room, 15 N. Agassiz, Sat, May 7 from 3—6 p.m. The all-ages event, which he's calling Hempstravaganza, will feature hemp food samples and product demonstrations, discussions about hemp, as well as music and a movie about hemp.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: flaglive.com
Author: Eric Betz
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Flagstaff Publishing Co.
Website: Sustainable Sweet Leaf
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