Pass the hemp


Friday, May 2
What exactly is the big deal here? It seems incredible that there's been such a drawn-out debate — actually encompassing several years — over whether to make hemp a legal crop in Vermont.

At last, however, the bill seems close to passage in the Legislature and could be on its way to the governor's desk soon.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had been urged by numerous farmers and others to usher the bill along to the full Senate. He now has agreed to do that, and the bill was expected to be voted on late Thursday or today.

However, Sen. Sears said he had concerns in part because growing hemp is prohibited by the federal government, and the Vermont law would not take effect unless the federal prohibition is lifted.

"My concern is that it basically requires the federal government to agree with it, and the federal government is not going to agree with it," he said. "I don't want our farmers having drug busters coming in from the feds and making an example."

The reason for this non-reefer madness? Because hemp, like marijuana, contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a psychoactive chemical. The difference, as any boob outside the federal government under George W. Bush knows, is that hemp contains such a low level of THC it would only give someone a severe headache if they were dumb enough to smoke it.

Meanwhile, the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't allow hemp to be grown legally. Hemp, grown elsewhere, including in Canada, has myriad uses: It has been used to make cloth and rope for thousands of years. Hemp ropes are known for their strength and durability and were used in ship's rigging and for anchor ropes during the age of sail. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper.

In short, it is only the radial right-wing administration now in power in Washington that, in a self-defeating effort to appear ultra-tough on drugs, is blocking farmers here and elsewhere from growing hemp. But that could end as early as Jan. 20, 2009. We hope.


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