Among the goofiest laws in the United States are those that prohibit the growing of industrial hemp, one of the most useful of plant materials.
The anti-industrial hemp laws were passed by a past Congress concerned that people would grow it because it contains a negligible amount of THC — the compound in marijuana that produces the psychoactive result otherwise known as a high.
It is true that industrial hemp and marijuana are from the same family, but there the resemblance disappears. One would have to smoke many pounds of hemp to inhale the save amount of THC provided by marijuana, say botonists.
Hemp is grown without restriction in places such as Canada, China and Europe.
Hemp has many uses. It can be made into cloth, for example, and is used as animal feed. Oil pressed from hemp seeds has many applications.
Industrial hemp is not unlike another of its botanical cousins, hibiscus cannabiss, otherwise known as kenaf, which is legal to grow. Kenaf is used to make specialty papers, among other products, and at one time was thought to be a replacement for wood pulp in the manufacture of newsprint.
One of my former bosses, newspaper publisher Donald Soldwedel of Yuma, Ariz., was a member of a group of newspaper owners who experimented with manufacturing newsprint using pulp made from kenaf fibers. The experiment was successful, Don said, but it was hard to get papermakers to commit to switching to kenaf without a commitment from farmers to supply enough kenaf to keep the paper mills running. And, as you might imagine, the timber industry, which sells a lot of trees to paper mills, didn’t want to see their product replaced by one that could be grown from seed to harvestable crop in less than four months.
The latest Farm Bill, which has yet to pass Congress, has language in it which would loosen restrictions against the growing of industrial hemp, but the bill has yet to pass. Let’s hope that provision does pass eventually. Meanwhile, foreigners will clean up selling us hemp and hemp products.