Is there a surprise inside the legalization initiatives pending in November? Attend:
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“The three ballot initiatives to regulate pot like alcohol have garnered much attention, in part for the hundreds of millions of dollars they could bring into state coffers and for the showdown it could set up with the federal government. No state has made recreational pot legal, and these measures would be the first to set up state-sanctioned pot sales. The Justice Department could try to block them in court under the argument they frustrate federal antidrug law enforcement efforts.
Less well known is the effect the measures would have on hemp and the possibilities they create for another fight with the federal government.
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While medical marijuana patients and those who grow for recreational use have been willing to risk federal prosecution, a viable hemp crop would be much larger than many of those grow operations, putting farmers at risk of severe mandatory minimum sentences in federal court. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, cannabis sativa, but are genetically distinct. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high. It’s also grown differently, in tightly packed plots to maximize stalk height rather than widely spaced to maximize branching and flowering.
Marijuana growers generally don’t want their plants anywhere near hemp fields because cross-pollination would create less potent marijuana, so the notion of farmers hiding marijuana plants among their hemp crop isn’t much of a concern. But Steve Freng, prevention treatment manager for the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded antidrug effort, said having legalized hemp would nevertheless make marijuana enforcement trickier.
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At least 30 countries produce hemp commercially, and most of the hemp imported into the U.S. is grown in China, Canada and Europe. Rough industry estimates suggest that a few hundred million dollars’ worth of hemp products, such as soaps, body lotions and hemp granola, are sold in the U.S. every year.
All of it is imported, which maddens David Bronner, chief executive of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap based in Escondido, Calif. His company uses 20 tons of hempseed oil in soaps every year and has contributed $50,000 to Washington’s campaign and $50,000 to Colorado’s. “The Canadian farmers are laughing at us all the way to the bank,” Bronner said. “We give $100,000 a year to the Canadians. If American farmers could grow industrial hemp here, we’d recognize 25 percent savings, for sure.”
That kind of talk intrigues farmers like Ted Durfey, who has a seed press at his Sunnyside, Wash., farm to help turn the canola and flax he grows into biofuel. “If it’s sanctioned, it would lend itself pretty well to enhancing our local economy,” Durfey said. “But I’m definitely not going to grow a commodity that’s illegal under federal law.”
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This is a great article for those interested in the hemp side of coming re-legalization. Find it HERE.
[image: Google images hemp]