Legalize Hemp Now

Federal lawmakers will again file hemp legalization bill

Hemp growing in Canada
Hemp growing in Canada (by Photo by Scott T. Samson)

With lawmakers looking for ways to revive an economy in the dumper -- putting money toward developing renewable energy sources, for example -- could it be that the time is finally right for Congress to reauthorize industrial hemp farming?

Reps. Ron Paul, Surfside's own Liberpublican, and Barney Frank, D-Mass., are once again set to file legislation that would do just that. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act would exclude from the definition of marijuana all Cannabis sativa L. plants with a concentration of tetrahydrocannbinol (or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in pot) at or below .3%. The bill would also give to the states the exclusive right to regulate hemp cultivation by farmers.

Paul and Frank are now on the troll for co-sponsors of the legislation, a match to a bill filed last session that ultimately languished in committee. Last time around the pair netted a coalition of 13 sponsors from eight states. In a March 10 letter to colleagues, Paul and Frank ask for support for the measure, which would allow the U.S. to join every other industrialized nation in the cultivation of hemp. Hemp is an incredibly versatile crop and is currently used to make food, clothing, paper, automotive parts, and automobile fuel.

Although the hemp market is fast growing, it is now supported entirely by imports: Because the Drug Enforcement Administration interprets the Controlled Substances Act to include non-narcotic hemp in the general prohibition of pot, U.S. farmers have not been able to grow the crop and all raw hemp materials must be imported, including from Canada and China. The position is ironic, at least, note the lawmakers in their letter, because federal law "concedes the safety of industrial hemp by allowing it to be legally imported for food."

Several states, led by North Dakota, have sought to reintroduce hemp farming, but have been stymied by the DEA, which seems intent on stopping the practice. North Dakota officials are currently fighting the DEA in federal court. Paul and Frank are hoping to stop the fight by changing the law: "Industrial hemp was grown legally in the United States for most of our nation's history," reads their letter. "In fact, during World War II, the federal government encouraged...hemp farming to help the war effort." Since 1970 though the law has precluded farmers from cultivating the crop "despite the fact that...hemp has such a low content of THC...that nobody can be psychologically affected by consuming" it.


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Industrial Hemp, Ron Paul, Barney Frank, DEA, Marijuana

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