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Hemp is the far bigger economic issue hiding behind legal marijuana.

If the upcoming pot legalization ballot in California were decided by hemp farmers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, it would be no contest.  For purely economic reasons, if you told the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that the nation they were founding would someday make hemp illegal, they would have laughed you out of the room.  

If California legalizes pot, it will save the state millions in avoided legal and imprisonment costs, while raising it millions in taxes.

But if it then legalizes hemp, it will open up to a multi-billion-dollar crop that has been a staple of human agriculture for thousands of years, and that could save the farms of thousands of American families.  

Hemp is the far bigger economic issue hiding behind legal marijuana.

If the upcoming pot legalization ballot in California were decided by hemp farmers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, it would be no contest.  For purely economic reasons, if you told the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that the nation they were founding would someday make hemp illegal, they would have laughed you out of the room.  

If California legalizes pot, it will save the state millions in avoided legal and imprisonment costs, while raising it millions in taxes.

But if it then legalizes hemp, it will open up to a multi-billion-dollar crop that has been a staple of human agriculture for thousands of years, and that could save the farms of thousands of American families.  

Hemp is currently legal in Canada, Germany, Japan and China, among many other countries.  It is illegal here largely because of marijuana prohibition.  

For paper, clothing, rope, sales, fuel and food, hemp has been a core crop since the founding of ancient China, India and Arabia.  Easy to plant, grow and harvest, farmers---including Washington and Jefferson---have sung its praises throughout history.  It was the number one or two cash crop on virtually all American family farms from the colonial era on.  

If the American Farm Bureaus and Farmers Unions were truly serving their constituents, they would be pushing hard for legal pot so that its far more profitable (but essentially unsmokable) cousin could again bring prosperity to American farmers.

Hemp may be the real reason marijuana is illegal.  In the 1930s, the Hearst family needed to protect their vast timber holdings, which were being used to make paper.  Hemp produces five times as much paper per acre as do trees.  Hemp paper is stronger and easier to make.  The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, and one of Benjamin Franklin’s primary paper mills ran on it.

But the Hearsts used their newspapers to incite enough reefer madness to get marijuana banned in 1937---and with that ban came one on hemp.  The ecological devastation that’s followed with continued use of trees for paper has been catastrophic.

Hemp---known in this case as canvass---has long been essential for shoes, clothing, rope, sails, building materials and much more.  It is far more durable than cotton and far more ecologically benign than virtually any other industrial crop.  Hemp needs no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, and can grow well without water.  

Hemp’s use for rope was so critical to the US war effort that in the 1940s, despite its illegality, the US military blanketed virtually the entire state of Kansas with it.  The War Department’s “Hemp for Victory” is the core film on how to grow it
( http://www.youtube.com/... ).  

Powder from hemp seeds is extremely high in protein and in omega-3 oils, now mostly gotten from fish.  

Hemp may also be the key to the future of bio-fuels.  Growing food crops like corn and soy to make ethanol and diesel is extremely inefficient and expensive, and forces people to compete with cars for fuel.  

Fast-growing hemp stalks and leaves are well-suited for cheap fermentation into ethanol, while the seeds produce a bio-diesel that’s far cheaper and superior to what comes from soy.

The California campaign has shown that the alcohol, pharmaceutical and law enforcement/prison-industrial industries---not to mention entrenched narco-terrorists---oppose legal pot solely for narrow economic interests.

But even more significant may be the opposition to the industrial production of hemp as it threatens the paper, cotton, fuel, fish oil and other related industries.  

When Californians go to the polls November 2, they’ll decide whether to end a prohibition with devastating impact on the public health.  

They’ll also be deciding whether California and, ultimately, the US will resume production of history’s most powerful, versatile and profitable industrial crop.

One that was an essential part of this nation’s founding---and that could be a huge plus for its economic future.  

Originally posted to harveywasserman on Fri Oct 15, 2010 at 09:49 PM PDT.

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