Connecticut - In order to fully understand the opposition to marijuana reform, it is important to investigate who already benefits from the status quo prohibition. Besides recreation, there are many other uses for marijuana. Many people benefit, while many others suffer negative consequences of prohibition. In most cases it is the corporations who benefit, while the individual citizens are the ones left out in the cold.

There are three different degrees of possible marijuana reform, all of which have different ramifications for society. They are the legalization of hemp, the medicalization of marijuana and finally the legalization of marijuana. Only the last step is a full repeal of marijuana prohibition.

With hemp and medical marijuana, it is still possible for prohibition of marijuana as a recreational drug. This column will discuss the asinine policy of hemp prohibition, while medicalization and legalization will be discussed in their own subsequent columns.

When most people think of hemp, they inaccurately think of marijuana. Specifically, they do not recognize the difference between hemp and the mind-altering affects of the demonized marijuana plants. The lack of education has led hemp to be banned by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 as a Schedule I drug.

Hemp is not marijuana. Yes, it does come from the Cannabis plant, like marijuana, but it cannot get a person high, which is the main difference between the two. Hemp bred for industrial purposes usually has very low THC content, which is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. In many cases, the THC content is so low that is near impossible to use as a recreational drug. This is because many of the species and subspecies of Cannabis used in hemp production do not yield high amounts of THC.

Hemp itself is harvested from the stalks and parts of the plants other the bud in which the marijuana is located. There are many benefits to producing hemp which include the speed and ease at which it grows combine with the environmentally friendly benefits of the products that can be made from it.

Hemp products encompass almost all parts of the Cannabis plant and can be used to make foods, fuels, and fibers. The only edible parts of the plant with any nutritional value are the seeds.The seeds are extremely nutritious and are a source of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers and essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet and are not harmful like saturated and trans fats. The seed also is not psychoactive and cannot be used as a drug. The seeds most resemble a nut and can be shelled and eaten raw, used to make numerous foods, or can be converted in to hemp seed oil and used in cooking.

To get an idea of how versatile hemp is, here are a short list of products that can be made from hemp - food and others: snack bars, cookies, trail mix, coffee, beer, nutbutter, chips, pasta, tortillas, hummus, butter, salad dressing, milk, cheese, non-dairy ice cream, burgers, oils, lotions, lip balms, conditioners, shampoos, soaps, shaving products, lamp lighting, household detergents, stain removers, varnishes, resins, paints, twine, cordage, textiles, clothing, paper, webbing, non-woven matting, auto parts (ie door panels, dashboards, luggage racks), building materials, animal feed, plastics, packaging materials, skate boards, and most importantly biofuel. All in all, there are almost 25,000 environmental friendly products that can be derived from hemp.

Hemp is also not harmful for the environment. It can be grown organically because there are very few pests that feed off of it. The Cannabis plant only has a growing cycle of 100 days and is a natural weed suppressant so the soil remains weed free for next planning (that is if one does not consider the Cannabis plant a weed itself). The short growing cycle of Cannabis, combined with the number of products that hemp can manufacture, makes it a very viable and important natural resource that should be utilized.

However, there is a caveat, and that is that the United States currently forbids people to grow hemp with a permit from the DEA. And surprise, surprise, the DEA rarely grants permits for large scale productions. The reasoning, which can be found on the DEA Web site, is that hemp contains THC. Hence, hemp is a Schedule I substance under the CSA, as is heroin and LSD, despite that fact that it is impossible to get high from it. To realize the stupidity of the U.S. government policy towards hemp, one only has to look at that the fact the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not permit hemp production. The only hemp products that are allowed in this country are ones that are manufactured outside of it.

So, are there problems with hemp? Maybe farming and irrigating enough land to grow hemp would be a problem. But the sustainability, short growing season and ease of manufacturing offset the onetime costs. It is far better for the environment to use hemp fiber than to constantly cut down trees, that will never be replaced, to obtain paper and wood. And maybe the fuel produced by hemp may harm the environment, but any fuel made will the environment, biofuels just do at a miniscule rate compared to oil.

So the essential question in the end is - who benefits from hemp prohibition? Well, it is not the environment or the citizens. Hemp is a quick growing, renewable, and biodegradable resource, with health benefits that have been documented in human history for over ten thousand years. This includes the United States where it was grown during the colonial era and World War II. So in the end, the winners are the corporations that would be rivaled by hemp. All companies including oil refineries, textile mills, paper manufactures, plastic producing companies and many others who benefit from making environmentally harmful products would be forced out of business or would have to change their ways.

The only other beneficiaries are those, such as people at the DEA, that take on the moral crusade against a product which does not even result in intoxication. Yes, hemp does contain THC, but there is not enough to experience any psychological effects. The benefits, which include the nutritional value of the hemp seed, far outweigh the negative consequences, if there are any to begin with. Legalization of industrial hemp will not lead to increased marijuana usage as some fear, a fear left over the early years of marijuana prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s, and instead it will only benefit the economy, environment and individuals of this country.



Source: Daily Campus, The (UConn, CT Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily Campus
Contact: opinion@dailycampus.com
Website: http://www.dailycampus.com/