What is industrial hemp?
"Industrial hemp and marijuana are the product of the same plant, Cannabis Sativa, and short of chemical analysis, there is no way to discriminate between marijuana-producing plants and hemp-producing plants. The seedlings are the same. Cannabis Sativa plants contain the psychoactive ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC."[i]
Generally, hemp contains the same amount of THC that marijuana contained in the 60s and 70s, 0.3%. Two cigarettes with this level THC can make a user "high." However, the Illinois State Police have found the "wild stuff (ditch weed) to be 0.1 to 0.9% THC."[ii] Many young people start their marijuana use by first smoking hemp or "ditchweed."
THC is a Schedule I controlled substance. It is a drug of abuse that currently has no medical use in treatment, has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and does not meet an accepted level of safety for use. Any product that causes THC to enter the body is an illegal substance that may not be manufactured, sold, or consumed in the United States.[iii]
Hemp can be smoked. "I am a concerned citizen and a rehabilitated ex-offender convicted of drug trafficking. While serving a sentence in a federal prison in Indiana, I learned about hemp growing wild near Valparaiso, IN. After prison, I would travel to Valparaiso and cut the hemp and sell it as 'marijuana.' None of my customers ever complained about the quality of the 'marijuana,' and they continued to buy from me."
- Joe Estrada, November 27, 2000
Is industrial hemp a promising new agricultural crop for U.S. farmers?
* There is no measurable market for hemp. "Given the average size of farms in the United States (about 500) acres), just a few farms could have supplied the hemp fiber and seed equivalent of 1999 import levels."[iv]
* Canadian hemp farmers lost thousands of dollars because of no market.
In 1999, Canadian farmers grew 35,078 acres of hemp, 13,551 acres in 2000, and 3,250 acres in 2001.[v]
* China dominates the hemp market with their low-cost labor and European hemp farmers receive substantial subsidies amounting to about half the price of hemp. The world market price for hemp fiber is less than 60 cents per pound, which is below most estimated U.S. production costs.[vi]
* Processing hemp is costly. Processing plants need to be built and they must be within 70 miles of the crop. Farm machinery needs to be adapted for harvesting.
* Plants like corn, sorghum, alfalfa, etc. have greater soil building capacity than hemp.[vii]
* Cannabis Sativa is illegal.[viii] Food products containing THC are considered illegal, such as beer, cheese, coffee, corn chips, energy drinks, flour, ice cream, snack bars, salad oil, soda and veggie burgers.[ix]
Is hemp a safe product?
Industrial hemp is being marketed as a promising new source for food products, cosmetics and nutraceuticals; however, hemp contains THC and research is showing health hazards associated
with exposure to THC.
THC and the other over 60 cannabinoids in Cannabis Sativa are fat-soluble; other drugs
are water-soluble, washing through the body fairly quickly. THC is stored in the fatty tissues of the
brain and body, and even a very small amount may be damaging, especially if ingested regularly.
Fat-soluble substances accumulate in the body. The only important substance that exceeds THC in fat
solubility is DDT.[x]
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not tested hemp products to determine their safety. John Bailey, Microbiology and Cosmetics Division, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, stated that there is no definitive information about THC in food and cosmetics.[xi]
Health Canada commissioned a report on the safety of hemp food products, cosmetics and nutraceuticals; it concluded, "Hazards associated with exposure to THC include acute neurological effects and long-term effects on brain development, the reproductive system and the immune system, ..."[xii]
Even though available research indicates that there is serious concern about the safety of THC, hemp promoters are actively marketing food products, cosmetics and nutraceuticals. The Cannabis Candy Company is marketing Mary Jane Hemp Pops and Hemp Power Sours.
Could growing hemp contribute to increased drug use?
Industrial hemp is used as cutting material for marijuana. Use of cutting material is extremely common in the drug trade, adding volume to increase profit. Use of industrial hemp as a way to increase volume of higher-grade marijuana would significantly increase profits for dealers.[xiii]
Because hemp and marijuana are the products of the same plant, Cannabis sativa, there is no way to tell the difference between the two, except through chemical analysis. This makes enforcement of marijuana laws close to impossible. A field of hemp could conceal marijuana plants.
If hemp became a legal crop, anyone stopped for possession of cannabis could claim that it was hemp. Since a chemical analysis would be required to determine what it was, the substance would then have to be sent to a forensic laboratory for testing. The backlog at the lab could result in evidence beginning to decompose and the analysis being too late; enforcement would soon recognize the futility in charging people for marijuana. Eventually, this could lead to de facto legalization of marijuana.
What is the position of official governmental bodies on hemp?
U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Hemp products, derived from the cannabis plant, often fall under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) because they contain the hallucinogenic substance tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). The CSA prohibits human consumption of any non-FDA-approved product that contains any amount of THC. THC is the primary psychoactive chemical found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. THC is a Schedule I controlled substance.[xiv]
Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
"Our primary concern about the legalization of the cultivation of industrial hemp (Cannabis Sativa) is the message it would send to the public at large, especially to our youth at a time when adolescent drug use is rising rapidly."
"The second major concern is that legalizing hemp production may mean the de facto legalization of marijuana cultivation."[xv]
Who are the proponents of industrial hemp?
The proponents of hemp are the same ones advocating for the legalization of marijuana.
In an Internet search for hemp, one finds most of the sites promoting industrial hemp to be drug sites that support the legalization of marijuana. The strategy is to have industrial hemp legalized to pave the way for acceptance of and the legalization of marijuana.
"The way to legalize marijuana is to sell marijuana legally. When you can buy it at your neighborhood shopping mall, IT'S LEGAL!" (Hemp activists Matthew Cheng and Alex Shum, in High Times, 3/90)
"Don't forget that the joints you smoke and the fiber you make into clothes are the same plant." (Hemp guru Jack Herer, in High Times, 4/95)
"H.E.M.P. organization stands for "Help Eliminate Marijuana Prohibition." (High Times, 4/95)
"When people buy and see hemp it stimulates public awareness, mainstreaming the evil weed into a normal commodity whose days of illegality are numbered." (High Times, 8/97)
Does all hemp have THC?
Dr. Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Ph.D., from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, writes, "I know of no such variety of hemp that contains no THC. Different groups around the world have been trying for years to come up with such a variety without much success. My prediction is that if it is at all possible this will be a long and hard road which could take years to materialize."[xvi]
[i] Office of National Drug Control Policy, "ONDCP Statement on Industrial Hemp;" July 29, 1997.
[ii] M/Sgt Tim Becker, Deputy Chief Illinois State Police Governmental Affairs: letter to Judy Kreamer, Educating Voices, Inc. May 5, 2002.
[iii] "DEA Issues Final Rules On Cannabis Products," press release, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, March 21, 2003 http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/pressrel/pr032103a.html.
[iv] United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service Report "The Status and Potential of Industrial Hemp in the United States."
[v] "Industrial Hemp Licensing and Authorization Statistical Summary - July 2002," Niels Hansen-Trip, Manager of Industrial Hemp Program, Office of Controlled Substances, Health Canada.
[vi] Vantreese, Valerie L.; "Industrial Hemp: Legislative Briefing;" University of Kentucky, Department of Agricultural Economics; January 2001.
[vii] Dr. Robert Robinson, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics; University of Minnesota.
[viii] United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, "Denial of Petition Notice." U.S.Federal Register Vol. 66. No. 75. April 18, 2001. 20039.
[ix] "DEA Clarifies Status of Hemp in the Federal Register," press release, U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, October 9, 2001 http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/pressrel/pr100901.html.
[x] Hart, R.H.: Bitter Grass, The Bitter Truth About Marijuana, 4/80, 13-14.
[xi] Begoun, P., "Hemp Claims Can't be Confirmed," Tampa Tribune, Florida, 2/4/00.
[xii] Mcilroy, Anne: "Health Canada Study says THC poses health risk," Globe and Mail,Ottawa, Canada, 7/27/99.
[xiii] Craig S. Klyve, Director Special Operations Bureau, division of Narcotics Enforcement, Wisconsin Department of Justice; Hearing of the Wisconsin Assembly Agriculture Committee; May 6, 1999.
[xiv] "DEA Issues Final Rules On Cannabis Products," press release.
[xv] "ONDCP Statement on Industrial Hemp," Office of National Drug Control Policy, July 20, 1997.
[xvi] Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Ph.D., U. of Mississippi, National Center for Natural Products Research. letter to Judy Kreamer, Educating Voices, Inc. June 20, 2001.