How hemp can help

By Jacob Vial

What a surprise. Government is again thwarting the opportunity for economic progress. This time, however, the problem isn’t liberals pushing for intrusive environmental regulations or revenue-draining worker rights legislation.

Instead, drug enforcement officials and drug paranoid citizens are halting United States farmers’ ability to profit on the cultivation of industrial hemp. Other countries have looked past the drug stigma associated with industrial hemp and have allowed for its cultivation.

Every day, farmers in North Dakota and other border states must watch as Canadian farmers profit from growing hemp and exporting it to the U.S. Industrial hemp is one way in which we can increase the demand for United States agricultural products and reduce producer dependency on government subsidization.

Industrial hemp receives criticism because it is nearly the same crop as cannabis sativa subspecies indica, which is selectively grown to contain high percentages of THC. The hemp grown as a fiber and oil crop contains less than one percent THC. Hemp grown in Canada must contain less than .3% of the substance. To the untrained eye, marijuana and industrial hemp appear to be the same product. However, simple tests can easily distinguish the two varieties.

Those who will benefit from commercial production of the crop aren’t all pot-smoking hippies, but they are all consumers. Industrial hemp is an environmentally friendly alternative to many products.

Hemp can be used to produce paper which can be used to limit the deforestation necessary to meet our demands. Hemp is also high in oil. It can be used in producing biofuels and plastics. Hemp can be used to make over 25,000 different products. Currently, these products are overpriced due to the limited production of hemp and therefore the limited research into equipment and processes needed to utilize it. If the Drug Enforcement Administration will grant North Dakota farmers’ request for hemp permits requested last week, the market will dictate whether hemp is a viable alternative crop.

Critics of this proposal think that it will be easy for producers to hide THC containing cannabis among their crop. We have enough hills and hollers on my farm to hide enough pot to satisfy every speech communications TA on campus. Not to mention how easy it would be to hide marijuana amongst the thousand acres of corn. I find it hard to believe that my family will become drug lords. I find it easier to believe that industrial hemp might make my family some extra green.

I’ve said to many people that I’m a realist. Government shouldn’t allow uncontrolled production of hemp or the opportunity will be abused. Potheads will begin growing industrial hemp in their gardens and hiding their traditional plants amongst it. I expect regular visits from Uncle Sam’s finest overpaid employee testing for THC levels. As Milton Friedman so accurately opined, “Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.” Acreage limits may even be imposed similarly to current tobacco production. In the end, the government will have its hand on every stage of the production process right down to the day I sell my hemp to the local paper mill.

Too often our government thinks they know what is best for its citizens.

Trade sanctions on Cuba are more important than allowing families to visit each other, minimum wage hikes are more important than our nation’s job creation and city council members’ desire for a smoke-free environment are more important than the rights of business owners.

Industrial hemp may not be the saving grace of American agriculture. It might go up in smoke faster than Cheech and Chong’s movie career. Only the market should dictate whether industrial hemp will light up America’s economy.