Weed Watch

Feds on Top of Volunteer Hemp Situation

More than 98% of all marijuana seized by law enforcement under the Drug Enforcement Administration-funded Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program is actually feral hemp – aka "ditchweed" – and not cultivated, smokeable pot, according to DEA statistics compiled in the State University of New York at Albany's annual Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. That's right: Under the federally funded program, local law enforcers in 2005 spent millions in tax money to eradicate nearly 219 million hemp plants that grow wild across the U.S., a majority of them in states known for farming large hemp crops prior to the 1970s, when the Controlled Substances Act made a mess of the definition of "marijuana," sending control over the farming of industrial hemp to federal narcos at the DEA who, as far as "Weed Watch" can figure, have absolutely no expertise in agricultural matters. (In contrast, in 2005 law enforcers eradicated just more than 4 million intentionally cultivated marijuana plants – that is, smokeable pot.)

While it is physically possible to smoke ditchweed, it is improbable that a person would get high from doing so; ditchweed has an extremely low level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Nonetheless, the feds continue to spend money to eradicate so-called "volunteer hemp," feral plants that pop up every year – a reminder of the nation's long history of hemp farming, much of it mandated by the government, beginning in colonial times when it was, in fact, illegal to not grow hemp, and continuing through the 1940s, when the government touted a World War II "Hemp for Victory" initiative.

Sourcebook stats consistently show that well more than 98% of all the plants eradicated each year are feral hemp and not – as the feds would like you to believe – THC-laden pot of the refer madness variety. "Virtually all wild hemp goes unharvested and presents no legitimate threat to public safety," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML. "As such, it should be of no concern to the federal government or law enforcement." Indiana, with just more than 212 million feral plants exterminated, alone accounted for nearly 97% of all ditchweed eradications. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, California led the nation in the number of cultivated plants – just more than 2 million – wiped out last year by law enforcers. To see state-by-state stats, go to www.albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t4382005.pdf.


In other marijuana and DEA-related news, the official explanation regarding an e-mail sent to Colorado politicos, seeking a campaign manager to lead the official fight against a statewide decriminalization ballot initiative, has – believe it or not – gotten weirder. Last week "Weed Watch" reported that Boulder's Daily Camera had gotten its hands on a copy of an e-mail reportedly sent out by local DEA agent Michael Moore, seeking to hire a campaign manager to head up an opposition campaign to the decrim initiative, known as Amendment 44, sponsored by the grassroots group Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation. Amendment 44 foes have a $10K coffer to get off the boards, read the Moore e-mail, prompting SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert to argue that the DEA was overstepping its bounds, in violation of federal law. At first, Denver DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Jeff Sweetin told the daily that the $10K had come from private donations, but just days later, Sweetin changed his story, saying instead that he'd never said anything about having any money at all: "We don't have $10,000 in money," he told a Denver television station. "There is no $10,000 in money that I've ever heard of."

Then, according to The Denver Post, the story changed again: Not only was there no cash, Sweetin told the daily, but the e-mail didn't come from agent Moore, either. Instead, he said, Moore's DOJ e-mail address was listed as a contact for interested parties without Moore's permission by someone from the opposition group Guarding Our Children Against Marijuana, for whom Moore has reportedly been acting as an adviser. According to DEA spokeswoman Suzanne Halonen, the Daily Camera reporter took Sweetin's comments "out of context." At press time, the daily had not printed a retraction; SAFER's Tvert isn't buying the DEA's bait-and-switch either: "We fully think this is a good case of the DEA backpeddling because they think they may have done something illegal," he said.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Domestic Cannabis Eradication / Suppression Program, ditchweed, DEA

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