Saturday, June 30, 2012

Just in from the Crash Report - how the Feds are screwing American citizens in Maine...

The Crash Report: Hemp for Victory




Written by Crash Barry
Since 2009, Maine law has allowed farmers to grow industrial hemp, but the federal Drug Enforcement Agency will lock 'em up if they try. Even though everyone agrees you can't get high from smoking the stuff. It's just another example of government-sponsored reefer madness stigmatizing anything cannabis-related.

Doesn't matter that industrial hemp has the potential to bring much needed cash to Maine's agricultural sector and new manufacturing jobs to unemployed workers across the state. To the feds, the harmless plant needs to stay on the "bad" drug list, along with heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and opium. The irony, of course, is that the U.S. annually imports about $400 million worth of hemp products, mostly from China and Canada. And yet if Maine farmers decided to sow a field with industrial hemp, they'd face five to 20 years behind bars for growing a plant with such low THC levels, you'd pass out from smoke inhalation long before catching a buzz.

The war over hemp isn't lost, though. Earlier this month, a bi-partisan amendment to the Senate Farm Bill to exempt hemp from the "Controlled Substances Act" was briefly discussed, then discarded. And in the House, the issue has been sent to committee via a bill introduced by Ron Paul and co-sponsored by 33 others, including Maine's Chellie Pingree. And on June 11, David Bronner — CEO of Dr. Bronner's, one of the largest natural soap manufacturers in America — locked himself in a cage across the street from the White House, with a dozen hemp plants. The stunt allowed Bronner to explain how he'd prefer to spend his company's annual $100,000 hemp oil budget on domestic hemp, rather than importing foreign oil.

When and if the ban is lifted, Maine could be poised to capitalize on hemp. According to a 2005 study by the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station, farmland across the state is well-suited for growing hemp for fiber. And most of Maine, south of Aroostook County, has adequate land and climate for cultivating hemp seed crops. Growing hemp is considered "green agriculture" because the plant doesn't require pesticides to thrive. And hemp is excellent to grow in rotation with other crops. Planting tight grids of hemp suppresses weeds, counters erosion and restores organic matter to depleted soil.

Hemp also fits well with Maine's long history of papermaking. An acre of hemp translates into four times more paper than an acre of forest. And it only takes four months, instead of many years, to grow and be harvested.

Plus, farmers can earn good money. Basing the numbers on Canadian prices, at $3,800 per acre, hemp is more valuable than Maine's traditional crops. An average acre of blueberry barrens generates about $3,100. An acre of potato field brings in about $2,700. (Due to fruit flies and blight, per acre yields tend to fluctuate.) The only legal crops more valuable than hemp are tomatoes and tobacco, neither of which thrive in Maine.

(Of course, these numbers are nothing compared to the value of Maine's number one cash crop: Marijuana of the "gets you high" variety. Imagine an acre of super-fine, six foot tall organic ganja shrubs. With one plant per square yard, an acre of marijuana grove could conservatively pull in $10,000,000. Of course nobody in Maine would ever plant an acre of ganja. The sheer number of employees required to tend a pot plantation of that size would make it tough to keep a mega-patch secret. Besides, to avoid federal drug charges, most guerilla growers tend to keep their garden plots to under 99 plants. But the image of an acre of primo weed is certainly nice to envision.)

Many conspiracy theories abound, trying to explain why hemp is illegal. Some claim the Dupont family unduly influenced government bureaucrats to favor post-war synthetic fibers and fabric, like nylon, over hemp. Others blame the Hearst newspaper syndicate for fomenting hatred toward marijuana and hemp as a way to protect the assets of lumber and woodlot barons, while demonizing the ethnic groups who loved to smoke the weed.

Propaganda from drug czar mouthpieces blurred the hemp issue even further. General Barry McCaffrey opposed legalizing the plant, insisting it would be confusing and send the wrong message to children. And local law enforcement officials, like Roy McKinney, the longtime head of the Maine DEA, complain that cops would have difficulty distinguishing between industrial hemp and the psychoactive variety, despite easy-to-spot dramatic differences in appearance and cultivation techniques for the two crops.

That sort of bureaucratic babble is maddening, especially since hemp could help bring back to Maine some of the manufacturing jobs lost in recent years to automation and overseas outsourcing. With 100,000 residents either under-or-unemployed, Maine continues to lag behind the rest of the country in recovering from the Great Recession. And the latest economic numbers show that Maine was the only New England state to have a reduction in gross domestic product in 2011.

A hemp industry could jump start, or at least stimulate, Maine's economy. In addition to the new farm and hemp processing jobs, there would be increased demand for trucking. Many abandoned fabric and paper mills could be retrofitted to handle hemp fiber. And the products that could be manufactured in the state are amazingly diverse. In addition to creating textiles and rope, hemp fiber can be mixed with Maine lime into "hempcrete," a greener form of concrete. Hemp is a helpful ingredient in paper recycling. Combined with wood, hemp turns into fiberboard for use in building construction. And hemp can be molded into chips or biofuel to burn for heat and electricity. Or the fiber can be pulped and transformed into rolling papers or Bible pages.

Hemp seed is an even more valuable food resource and an excellent vegan protein, chockfull of omega oils. Hemp, in various forms, has found its way into many types of breads, snacks, milks, oils and cereals. Hemp makes delicious beer. Paints, varnishes and lubricants can be also derived from the magic plant. And just think of all the ad agency, sales team and web design jobs connected to promoting and selling a plethora of Maine-made hemp products.

In fact, the only conceivable downside to the widespread cultivation of hemp in Maine would be the possible negative impact on the local marijuana crop. Industrial hemp fields have male and female plants in order to produce seeds. In recreational and medicinal cannabis gardens, however, growers only keep un-pollinated females to prevent unpleasant-to-smoke seeds from forming. The possible danger comes mid-summer when hemp pollen can catch a ride on the breeze and pollinate the marijuana. The solution, though, is simple. Mainers could mimic the north African ganja farmers who cover their pot plants with tight-meshed nets on windy days.

It's not far-fetched to envision a day soon when hemp is legal to grow in Maine. After all, interest is growing in legalizing the wunder-crop. Current Senate candidates Cynthia Dill, Andrew Ian Dodge and Charlie Summers have expressed support for the possibility, while the other three candidates — Danny Dalton, Angus King and Steve Woods — declined to comment.



Secret documents, incriminating evidence or whistle-blowing notes may be e-mailed to tips @ crashbarry.com.

1 comment:

whollyhemp said...

It's truly unfortunate to see this first hand: it is claimed that the job losses and economic decline are inevitable (that is something I would not contest) but then when hemp is suggested as a viable alternative, all facts go out the window as policy makers adopt a Reefer Madness mentality when working with this harmless plant.


Hemp has countless uses ranging from moisturizing and sulfate-free soap to food and medicine. It is about time we drop the drug war facade and begin investing in a product that can benefit the nation.


Hemp Criminalization is a Recent Phenomenon:

http://www.whollyhemp.com/hemp/HistoryOfHemp.jpg