CO: Hemp Never Belonged On The Controlled-Substances List

Photo Credit: RJ Sangosti

Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not like marijuana, and the feds could crack down on Colorado’s booming industry at any time. But hemp — marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin — has a powerful ally in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to legitimize industrial hemp. It is past time for Washington to let farmers grow hemp without fear.

Hemp is a serious cash crop in other countries. Though it was popular in America back around the time of the Revolution, over the decades too many people stopped differentiating it from marijuana.

There was even a twisted logic behind making it illegal. Hemp and marijuana look nearly the same. If the government was going to ban the latter, it wanted to ban the former so that hemp grows could not conceal illegal marijuana grows.

That misguided ban denied farmers, industry and consumers access to a home-grown crop with a surprising number of uses. Hemp oil and seeds wind up in food, paints, cosmetics and animal feed. The fibrous stalks can make paper, mulch, rope, clothing and more.

And no one will get high off it. Hemp contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive THC found in marijuana. In most state, hemp is limited to .3 percent THC.

Colorado voters legalized hemp at the same time they legalized recreational marijuana. The state now grows more than any other state, and other states want to copy our success. Indeed, a major hemp expo and tradeshow lands in Loveland next weekend.

No doubt expo attendees will be talking about McConnell, who has promised to introduce legislation to remove hemp from the controlled-substances list and treat it as an agricultural commodity. His Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would give farmers a lot more freedom to grow without fear that the Justice Department might decide to crack down on them. McConnell comes from Kentucky, which has had success with its own industrial hemp pilot project.

“It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop,” McConnell said.

Removing hemp from the controlled-substances list would allow farmers to buy crop insurance and access banks more easily. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have some oversight, but states would have wide latitude to regulate the crop.

Hemp has had bipartisan support in Congress for years but has struggled to advance. With McConnell pushing it, its prospects are much better.

There’s an old saying that the states are laboratories of democracy. Each is free to try out different ideas and policies to see what works. The best ideas will spread. But how many states must embrace an idea before the nation recognizes that it’s a good one? Five? Ten? Maybe half of the states? How about 30?

So far, 34 states have legalized growing hemp for commercial, research or pilot programs. That is almost enough to ratify a constitutional amendment. Most of those states still have not legalized marijuana proper, but they’re doing just fine growing hemp.

Support for hemp crosses political and demographic state lines. It’s grown from California to Maine and Alabama to Montana. Stop treating a harmless plant like a dangerous drug just because it was caught up in fears of reefer madness.