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When is a DEA Schedule I Controlled Substance — which is equal to heroin and LSD — not even a drug?

Industrial hemp, which has insignificant amounts of THC and cannot get you high is considered a harder drug than Schedule II opium, cocaine and crystal meth.

Hemp is cannabis sativa and cannot get you high, while pot is cannabis indica and can. The feds call both marijuana. Both are in the cannabis family, but are different species, just as modern man and a neanderthal are different species of the same family.

Labeling industrial hemp as a drug is absurd. This country was literally founded on hemp.

The first few drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on paper from Benjamin Franklin’s hemp paper mill. The rigging and sails of the USS Constitution were hemp. Hemp and tobacco were taxed to clothe and arm Washington’s troops. The uniforms were made of hemp.

Washington, Jefferson and Adams advocated its cultivation to keep our economy strong. We were rolling along with a healthy hemp sector until 1938 when the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted and the newly created Bureau of Narcotics (now DEA) saw marijuana as a means to enlarge its domain.

At this same time, petrochemical giants influenced the government to do some clever tinkering with the marijuana definition to include all cannabis species, regardless of their buzz content.

Nylon was created by DuPont in 1935 and other synthetic fibers were being created. Hemp cultivation was conveniently curtailed, not out of drug concerns, but out of conglomerate lobbyists stacking the deck against their main competition. These were the days of the “reefer madness” movement.

Industrial hemp and pot do not even have the same growing habits. Hemp grows tall and gangly for the fibers in the stalk and pot grows squat and bushy for the leaves and buds.

Hemp is planted in rows about four inches apart, growing about 10 feet tall. If a pot grower were dumb enough to grow his plants within a dense hemp field, it would look like a UFO crop circle from above.

Also, the first thing a pot grower does is eliminate the male plants so they won’t pollinate the flower buds of the females and decrease potency. No pot grower would plant in a field with millions of mongrel hemp males. In fact, one of the best ways to ruin pot potency is to plant hemp nearby.

The THC level of industrial hemp is below 0.3 percent but pot can be as high as 30 percent.

Industrial hemp, as a commodity, has tremendous economic development potential for agricultural parts of America like Washington County. Its uses are widely varied from food stuffs, vitamins, body care products, textile and paper fiber, fuel, to fodder, etc. Pressed seeds are 45 percent edible oil and 35 percent protein. The outer bast surface of the stalk is used for fiber while the inner hurd portion makes good animal bedding or woodstove pellets.

If hemp were not called marijuana, there is no reason why the American hemp industry could not have become larger than cotton. We are the world’s largest economical consumer of hemp, which is ironic because you can legally import parts of the plant but you cannot grow it.

In 2012, the estimated total retail value of all U.S. hemp products was about $500 million and it increases every year. Most of our hemp oil comes from Canada and most of the textile fiber comes from China.

Canada allows 27 different varieties of industrial hemp to be grown. China plans to expand their plantings to more than 1 million acres. It does not take a rocket scientist to see the potential for domestic hemp. We need the New York Legislature and governor to exempt industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana and switch control from the DEA to NY agriculture markets.

Dana Haff is the supervisor in the town of Hartford in Washington County.


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