While most farmers await the naming of a new agricultural secretary, a
much smaller group of agriculturalists awaits new leadership in another
area of government. They are more concerned with who will head up the
Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement
Administration.

These new administrators may hold the key, the agriculturalists believe,
to the return of the crop once grown on many US farms and an industry
once prominent in America-industrial hemp.

The growing of hemp has been illegal for nearly 40 years. It is
classified the same as marijuana another plant of the genus cannabis.
Both plants produce a psychoactive compound called THC.

Why Hemp is not pot

Proponents argue that industrial hemp varieties contain very low levels
of THC, less than 0.3% while marijuana contains levels of 15%-25% THC.
So in other words you could smoke industrial hemp all day and never get
high. Still the DEA holds firm that hemp and marijuana are equally bad
for society.

A few of your families may have grown hemp to aid the war effort in the
1940s. Remnants of a hemp mill still remain in my hometown.

Why hemp was made illegal is not exactly clear. Growing marijuana was
one reason. However it is also believed that the rapidly emerging
industries centered around petroleum based synthetic products were
involved.

These industries included very powerful players. They felt threatened by
the potential of a bio-based industry that would provide energy and new
synthetic products from renewable biomass.

What's ironic is that the Declaration of Independence was written on
hemp paper. The crop was so important that three colonies had laws
requiring that farmers grow hemp!

Hope for hemp

More than 30 countries, including Canada, now allow industrial hemp
production. The industry is growing with hundreds of products including
paper, construction materials, clothing, carpeting cosmetics and food.
Most of these products are exported to America or processed here.

So why not just let American farmers grow the hemp? That's the questions
more Ag leaders are asking. At the least they would like to relax the
rules to allow research.

"Farmers need alternative and profitable crops," says NPO president Paul
Olson, "It's time to put politics aside and use common sense to give
this a chance."

Growing hemp may also contribute to the demise of marijuana. "With hemp
pollinating marijuana across America, hemp would be like paraquat to a
marijuana crop." quips (former CIA Director) James Woolsey, a legal
adviser to the North American Industrial Hemp Council.
*Contact NAIHC at (608) 258-0243 or at naihc.org on the web.

SUCCESSFUL FARMING MAGAZINE
December 2000
By Loren Kruse Editor-in Chief

Sucessful Farming's website:
http://www.agriculture.com