Whenever a bill to allow industrial hemp farming – note, this is different than marijuana legalization – comes up in a state legislature, the leading opponents are generally law enforcement groups. These police lobbies almost always base their opposition on flawed logic and outright falsehood. A recent conflict between marijuana growers and hemp farmers in Oregon proves it.
Industrial hemp and marijuana look identical, but hemp contains very little THC, the active ingredient found in its cousin, marijuana. Hemp can’t make you high.
Experts estimate some 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food and body products, clothing, auto parts, building materials, biofuels and other goods. Hemp represents a potential economic windfall for farmers. The Hemp Industries Association estimates that the total U.S. retail value of hemp products in 2014 came in at about $620 million. The U.S imports more hemp than any country in the world, getting most of its supply from Canada and China. But the federal government essentially maintains a policy of virtual prohibition in the United States.
Industrial hemp falls under the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970. It technically remains legal to grow industrial hemp, but farmers must obtain a permit from the DEA, a nearly impossible feat, although the feds have loosened those requirements. In 2014, Congress passed a law allowing for limited hemp production for research purposes if legal under state law.
But eight states have taken things a step further, legalizing industrial hemp production for any purpose within their borders. These state laws effectively block federal hemp prohibition in practice.
Recognizing the potential economic windfall, and not wanting to get left behind as the hemp industry cranks up, other legislatures in a number of other states have considered legalizing the crop. But in almost every case, they have run up against vocal opposition from powerful police lobbies.
Take Kentucky for example.
The Commonwealth at one time led the country in hemp production. The crop flourishes in economically depressed eastern counties and would likely provide a much needed boost for an agriculture economy decimated by the demise of tobacco. A Kentucky based energy company has developed a process that combines hemp with coal to create a cleaner burning biofuel. This has the potential to revolutionize coal, another struggling industry in Kentucky.
But the Kentucky State Police and other law enforcement interests have vigorously opposed legalization of hemp in the Bluegrass State. KSP commissioner Rodney Brewer said that marijuana growers would use legal hemp fields to hide marijuana and police can’t tell the plants apart. Other Kentucky cops repeated this argument.
“It would be very enticing for someone to obtain a license to grow hemp, then divert a small part of their fields to growing illegal marijuana,” director of the South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force Jere Hopson said in an article published by Operation Unite. “Law enforcement wouldn’t be able to tell the difference without testing, and how would you even know which plants to test?”
You will hear cops making similar arguments in every state considering hemp legalization across the country.
Their reasoning sounds plausible, but in reality it’s a load of crap. These cops are either ignorant or lying.
A recent dust-up between marijuana growers and hemp farmers in Oregon proves it.
The Beaver State allows legal production of both hemp and marijuana. Oregon legalized medical marijuana nearly a decade ago, with passage of Ballot Measure 67 in 1998. More recently, the state opened the door to recreation marijuana and hemp. Several farmers planted hemp crops last year, setting off a feud with marijuana growers that led to legal maneuvering to shut down the fledgling hemp industry.
Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) originally introduced HB2668 to spur hemp production. But according to the Oregonian, Buckley later shifted course and proposed provisions to the bill, including the suspension of licensing for new crops and stricter regulations for current license holders, after lobbyists for the marijuana industry began complaining. Marijuana growers like Cedar Gay fear cross-pollination could ruin marijuana crops, leading to seedy plants with lower THC levels. This would greatly diminish the quality of recreational marijuana and ruin plants intended for medical use.
“Any hemp industry that produces pollen around here is going to destroy the value of the highly bred local marijuana crop,” Grey told the Oregonian.
This should put to rest the tired old police argument that marijuana growers will use hemp to hide their weed. It simply won’t happen.
Scott Morgan of “Stop the Drug War,” sums up police arguments against hemp nicely.
“The bottom line is that hemp is food, not drugs. If you have a problem with hemp, you’re anti-food, and the very notion of being anti-food is so staggeringly absurd, it could only emerge from the perverted fantasies of paranoid, overzealous drug warriors.”