Thursday, April 2, 2009

Got Hemp?

By Mike Lillis - Well, you might have a bit more if Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) get their way. The two lawmakers have plans to reintroduce legislation to legalize the domestic farming of industrial hemp, a genetic but non-psychoactive relative of marijuana.

Hemp advocates (yes, there are hemp advocates out there) argue that the change would benefit the economy at a time when it could certainly use the boost.

“Hemp is a versatile, environmentally-friendly crop that has not been grown here for over 50 years because of a politicized interpretation of the nation’s drug laws by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),” Eric Steenstra, president of Vermont-based Vote Hemp, said in a statement. “Jobs would be created overnight, as there are numerous U.S. companies that now have no choice but to import hemp materials valued at $360 million in annual retail sales and growing.”

Any number of domestic businesses — from soap makers to auto suppliers — use industrial hemp in their products, but the hemp must be farmed overseas and imported. (Nearly every other industrialized country in the world already produces the crop.) The Frank-Paul bill, Steenstra said, “will return us to more rational times when the government regulated marijuana, but allowed farmers to continue raising industrial hemp just as they always had.”

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