Cannabis and Hemp Gaining Legal Acceptance More Rapidly This Year

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

United States’ hemp agriculture has been given the “green light” in the 2019 Farm Bill. President Trump signed the 2019 Farm Bill that was passed by both the Senate, with an 87 to 13 vote, while the House voted it into law with a 369 to 47 count. President Trump signed it into law on December 20th, 2018.

It includes a clause that legalizes hemp agriculture throughout the entire United States. What had been a valued commodity for thousands of years among varied cultures, including America until immediately after WWII, has been a viable cash crop denied to American farmers, till now.

Even though many of our U.S. founding fathers grew hemp as an agricultural product in the 1700s, it has been illegal to grow in the U.S. for over 80 years.

From circa 1960 to now, hemp advocates have been constantly campaigning to bring hemp agriculture and hemp products back into open commerce. Hemp advocates have tended to promote the superiority of many hemp products over ecologically-destructive material sources for paper, clothing, plastics, and even building materials. 

But it appears that what has finally swayed the nation’s lawmakers was the fact that many farmers need this agricultural option to improve their lot for a variety of reasons. 

A Relentless Pursuit from Farmers and Hemp Industry Advocates 

Kentucky Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky appears to have been the squeaky wheel that finally pulled this through the Senate and the House and onto President Trump’s desk for a final signature into law. 

The state of Kentucky was a top hemp producer before and during the WWII years. It was even considered the Hemp Capital of the World.

After hemp was once again outlawed, those independent Kentucky farmers who had thrived on this low overhead, easy-to-manage cash crop began to suffer. 

So they formed networks and alliances whose intentions were channeled by McConnell. He began working on a bill that created Kentucky’s successful pilot research program in 2014 to test the commercial viability of hemp. 

Just prior to introducing his Farm Hemp Bill to Congress earlier in 2018, Senator McConnell stated in a Kentucky press release:

Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future. I am grateful to join our Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles in this effort.

The work of [Agricultural] Commissioner Quarles here in Kentucky has become a nationwide example for the right way to cultivate hemp.

I believe that we are ready to take the next step and build upon the successes we’ve seen with Kentucky’s hemp pilot program. (Source)

Now Kentucky farmers are embracing hemp agriculture as even more viable than their other cash crop, tobacco. (Source)

Some see legalizing hemp as a solution to the recent negative effects on farmers from Trump’s trade wars with China, a major export customer of United States’ agricultural products. (Source)

The Differences are So Drastic It’s Amazing Hemp Was Ever Confused with Marijuana

Another factor in getting the McConnell Farm Hemp bill through is the growing awareness that industrial hemp and marijuana, both of the cannabis plant species, are cultivated differently.

Hemp has taller and stronger stalks, sometimes 10 feet or more high. For centuries, the stalks’ fibers have been used to create canvas, clothing, and paper. Marijuana plants are smaller and bush-like with less sturdy fibers. They produce flowers that contain the full array of cannabinoids with outstanding medicinal properties, including the one produces the “high,” THC.

THC is the deciding factor to legally allow industrial hemp where marijuana is banned. The industrial hemp variation of cannabis contains hardly any THC, the cannabinoid that creates the “high” and a good deal of medicinal value, and the legal limit for THC content in industrial hemp is firmly established at 0.3 percent.

Hemp had been associated with the “evil weed” marijuana mania that swept this nation during the late 1930s. Yet, our national government encouraged hemp agriculture when the USA became totally involved in both the Pacific and European campaigns of WWII. 

Parachutes, tents, ship roping, combat clothing, and canvas were all in high demand when America fully committed to that war. Hemp fibers could handle that demand. Soon after the “Great War,” the United States returned to banning hemp along with marijuana. 

Nixon’s War on Drugs Deepened Industrial Hemp Prohibition

The Nixon Administration made sure anti-marijuana mania flourished during Richard Nixon’s reign as Commander in Chief from 1969 – 1974. He declared the War on Drugs that featured marijuana as a major threat along with heroin. 

A former top Nixon aide during that time recently admitted that the focus on marijuana was a part of a plan to criminalize anti-war and anti-establishment hippies as well as “militant” blacks that had begun to organize and gain respect among anti-establishment intellectuals.

John Ehrlichman, who spent 18 months in prison for his Watergate involvements, had this to say during an April 1994 interview from a young journalist Dan Baum, who revisited that interview in a 2016 April Harper’s Magazine article:   

You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.

You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.

We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs [dangers]? Of course we did.” [Emphasis added]

Nixon resigned shortly after reelection in 1974 after his involvement with the Watergate scandal was exposed publicly. But his Drug War legacy remained sufficiently enough to include industrial hemp along with marijuana and heroin.

The USA has been importing hemp products and highly nutritious raw hemp seeds at approximately $300 million per year for the past few years from Canada. Perhaps this trade deficit is another factor motivating the passage of the Hemp Farm Bill as part of the 2019 Farm Budget Bill.

Finally, We Will Begin Seeing the Benefits of Industrial Hemp in Everyday Life

The hemp plant is hardy and requires very little to no pesticides/herbicides, unless pesticide companies creatively get their way. It has little to no negative environmental impact. It provides farmers with an excellent rotational crop to improve the soil while still providing cash flow.

Hemp could provide a positive environmental impact if it edges into the paper processing industry that relies on deforesting trees and creating paper processing mills that pollute waterways.

Trees take years to replace. Hemp stalks grow completely in half a year or slightly more depending on the region. 

Another positive impact would be from hemp plastic products. Hemp plastic has proven durability similar to, and often better than, petroleum-based plastics. And hemp plastic is bio-degradable, eliminating waste removal headaches that have led to plastic islands in our oceans. 

Some have considered an unusual solution for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen in urban areas. Create large building rooftop hemp groves. 

Even durable building materials that don’t require insulation and are relatively easy to use can be made from hemp. It is an amazingly adaptable and useful plant. 

See also:

The Virtues of Hemp: The Most Underappreciated and Misunderstood Crop

The following video explains the virtues of hemp, its history, and future very convincingly.