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Hemp Plant

Compiled from: NORML Hemp Facts

Despite America's bureaucratic moratorium on industrial hemp cultivation, overwhelming evidence in favor of hemp production continues to emerge from this growing, international industry. Domestic sales of imported hemp products raked in an estimated $25 million dollars in sales in 1994 alone and the American Farm Bureau Federation recently called hemp "one of the most promising crops in half a century." Fashion giants Adidas, Ralph Loren, and Calvin Klein recently added hempen goods to their clothing lines and Klein also has predicted that hemp would become "the fiber of choice" for the home furnishing industry. The number of outlet stores selling hemp products has exploded in recent years and the amount of American manufacturers producing a variety of hemp-based goods ranging from socks to skin care is now estimated to stand at over 1,000. In addition, many nutritionists and health professionals are now singing the praises of the hemp seed, noting that it is second only to soy in protein and contains the highest concentration of essential amino and fatty acids found in any food. Most importantly, none of the countries that currently cultivate hemp for industrial purposes have reported experiencing rates of rising marijuana use because of their position regarding hemp.

History of Hemp:

Researchers trace hemp's history as an industrial crop back some 10,000 years when the fiber was first utilized by the Chinese to make ropes and eventually paper. Hemp's wide array of industrial uses first rose to prominence in America during the colonial era when many of the founding fathers espoused its versatility. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were strong advocates for a hemp-based economy and both cultivated the crop for its fiber content. Most of the sails and ropes on colonial ships were made from hemp as were many of the colonists' bibles and maps. The early settlers also used hemp seeds as a source for lamp oil and some colonies made hemp cultivation compulsory, calling it's production necessary for the "wealth and protection of the country."

Hemp continued to be cultivated in America until 1937 when Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act outlawing marijuana. Although not a bill specifically aimed at industrial hemp production, legal limitations posed by the legislation quickly put an end to the once prominent industry.

Hemp production briefly re-emerged in 1942 when the federal government encouraged hundreds of American farmers to cultivate hemp for the war effort. Armed with a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) film entitled "Hemp for Victory," thousands of farmers grew hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp for wartime needs. Unfortunately, when World War II ended, so did the government's allowance of hemp cultivation. By 1957, prohibitionists had reasserted a total ban on hemp production. That federal ban remains in effect today.

Hemp Today:

Although the federal government refuses to waver on hemp prohibition, the popularity and knowledge surrounding the numerous advantages hemp production holds for American industry and the environment is rising dramatically. Not surprisingly, even some politicians are beginning to catch on. In 1996, politicians in four states introduced legislation allowing for domestic hemp cultivation and by legislative session's end, both Hawaii and Vermont had passed measures promoting industrial hemp research.

It's sometimes hard to believe, but just a few years ago there existed no such thing as a hemp industry in America. Today, hemp importers, retailers, and manufacturers, and products are springing up everywhere. Similarly, in 1995 only one state politician introduced legislation pertaining to hemp cultivation; it was defeated soundly. Just one year later, politicians in four different states proposed such legislation and garnered significant support.

Currently, many US states have passed legislation to grow, study or request changes in US governement policy on industrial hemp. Hawaii has not only passed hemp legislation allowing for hemp trials but has also planted the first legal hemp crop since the 1950s.

Where Does The DEA Stand On This Issue?

Despite hemp's growing emergence as a worldwide economic industry, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) remains firmly opposed to any notion of revising the federal law to allow for its domestic cultivation. Currently, only the DEA has the power to license farmers to legally grow hemp. Not surprisingly, the DEA has continued to deny every permit for large-scale hemp farming within America's borders for the last forty years. Recently, the DEA reaffirmed their opposition to hemp in a 1995 USDA "White Paper" regarding the economic viability of alternative crops. In it, the DEA stated that the agency is "opposed to any consideration of hemp as a legitimate fiber or pulp product." The paper further stated that current policy mandates any USDA researcher who wishes to explore the issue of hemp cultivation and research must first be briefed by White house anti-drug officials. In addition, DEA officials have stonewalled several state efforts to enact hemp cultivation and research bills by threatening to arrest any farmers contracted to grow the crop. 1

Industrial Hemp is currently legal in more than 25 countries including Canada, Germany, England, France, Holland, Spain, the Russian Federation, China, Thailand, Hungary and Romania.

DEA getting close to *banning* hemp foods and cosmetic products!
Excerpts from letter sent by CSH on 1/12/01

The DEA has now officially announced that it intends to ban most hemp products in the United States, including food made from sterile (non- psychoactive) hemp seeds and hemp-based personal-care products.

Under the DEA's proposed regulation, literally millions of Americans will be criminalized for possessing shampoos, lotions, and soaps that have the slightest amount of naturally occurring THC, the primary active ingredient in marijuana. (It is impossible to get a psychoactive effect from hemp-based shampoos and soaps, but the DEA is proposing to ban them nevertheless.)

Those who are arrested for shampoo or soap will face up to one year in federal prison and a $10,000 fine -- the same penalties they would face if they were arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

If someone is arrested with a stockpile of (currently legal) hemp products that weighs hundreds of pounds, it stands to reason that the defendant would face a 5- or 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence -- or even the death penalty -- under federal law.

There are already 700,000 arrests every year in the U.S. for marijuana offenses. Our nation's beleaguered criminal justice system doesn't need the additional strain of processing 100,000's of additional arrests that will result from the illegal possession of non- psychoactive shampoos and soaps.

We don't need another front in our nation's failed war on drugs. Please oppose the DEA's hemp ban before it is allowed to take effect.

In urgency,
Coalition to Save Hemp

P.S. Please distribute this message as widely as you can. Thank you!

  1. NORML Hemp Facts
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