Reefer Madness

'Hemp for Farming' and Acronym Antics

Despite California Gov. Terminator's decision to veto a bipartisan measure reauthorizing the cultivation of industrial hemp by the state's farmers, the broader movement to restore industrial cannabis farming to the American agricultural economy continues to barrel forward. Indeed, North Carolina legislators have passed a bill appropriating $30K to fund a statewide commission charged with studying the "economic opportunities industrial hemp provides to the state and to consider the desirability and feasibility of authorizing industrial hemp cultivation and production as a farm product in North Carolina," according to the Beneficial Uses of Industrial Hemp Act, which became law July 1. The commission -- made up of state agricultural and commerce officials and academics from several universities -- is expected to present its findings (including any legislative proposals) to the State Assembly by Dec. 1.

According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation without an established hemp crop. Yet hemp farming was once a vital part of the American agricultural economy, and no one seemed prone to confusing nonnarcotic hemp with its illegal cousin, marijuana. By 1937, however, with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act, Congress bent to reefer madness -- and to the will of the fledgling petrochemical industry -- making the language of the act's so-called hemp exception so vague as to render it meaningless and offering federal narcos a way to create a virtual ban on cultivation. Indeed, while industrial hemp products are technically exempt from federal control, the net effect of the language inserted into the 1937 law -- which was later taken whole and pasted into the 1970 Controlled Sub­stances Act, the playbook for the modern War on Drugs -- gives the U.S. Drug Enforcement Admini­stra­tion, and not the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the power to permit, or deny, farmers to sow industrial hemp. And the DEA -- which, as far as Weed Watch can discern, has absolutely no expertise in agricultural policy -- has been more than happy to routinely deny, or simply ignore, farmer requests for permission to cultivate the plant.

Still, as interest in industrial hemp farming continues to gain steam -- at least 16 states have laws either authorizing its cultivation, or asking for further research into the potential benefits of its cultivation -- and both state officials and their constituents become better educated on the facts about hemp farming, the DEA will likely be forced to back down. After all, a lie only works so long as no one knows the truth.

Acronym Antics

And now, here's one from the Department of Really Bad Ideas Seemingly Concocted Exclus­ive for Acronymic Possibilities (or RBISCEAR -- not a particularly promising acronym): U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., last month filed legislation that would create a national online drug-dealer registry and would require states to follow suit or risk losing federal dollars. Yup, that's right, Pearce wants to create a registry of all individuals convicted of drug distribution, conspiracy, or even possession with intent to distribute, to be updated annually and containing individual names, addresses, employers, Social Security numbers, and other identifying information. The Com­mun­ities Leading Everyone Away From Narcotics Through Online Warning Notifi­ca­tion Act, or, CLEAN TOWN Act -- I shit you not -- would require individuals to register annually for a term of five years for a first-time offender, 10 years for a twice-convicted offender, and for life for a three-time loser. Moreover, the bill would require states to set up their own CLEAN TOWN registry or risk losing a percentage of annual law-enforcement-related funds doled out by the feds. But wait -- it gets better: The bill provides an exemption from registering for any individual who agrees to become a snitch, or, as the legislation puts it, an individual would be exempt from registering if he or she agrees to provide "substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense."

Exactly what tide Pearce thinks he's stemming with this wacky idea -- one that would likely ensnare a number of casual drug users since the "possession with intent to distribute" is often tacked on to criminal drug charges even when the drugs in question were strictly for personal use -- is a complete mystery. But Weed Watch agrees with drug-law-reform advocates who suggest that a drug-dealer registry would certainly make it easier for potential buyers to find their own neighborhood source.

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