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Rope-a-dope won't work for industrial hemp

September 23, 2013 - Rob Weaver
Twenty states, plus the District of Columbia, now allow marijuana for medicinal purposes. That has been legal in California for almost a generation.

In the states of Washington and Colorado, recreational use is to be legal beginning next year. With the federal government apparently not objecting, 10 other states could follow soon.

But that's not the reason a variety of cannabis could be part of the gubernatorial race in Ohio. In an industrious state such as Ohio, that plant would be industrial hemp.

“It's a cannabis plant,” Charlie Earl said while kicking off his campaign to be Libertarian candidate for governor. “But ... you'd have to do a whole bunch of it if you want to get funky.”

That's because hemp plants, bred for negligible THC content, aren't meant for smoking. But they can be refined into products such as hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper and fuel.

Think rope, not dope.

It's not far-fetched. The U.S. House voted 225-200 June 20 for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, which would legalize the industrial farming of hemp fiber. The amendment's sponsor, Jared Polis, D-Colo., claimed “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp — but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here.”

At least, not without a permit. In Canada, however, it's just another crop. Earl said that could happen in Ohio, too, which would add another cash crop to the Buckeye State.

Ohio may be well-suited to growing hemp. Ironically, hemp doesn't like being high, preferring altitudes less than a quarter mile above sea level. It naturally crowds out weeds (irony yet again) and its leaves are said to return nitrogen to the soil, making it a good crop to add to the rotation.

Now, however, industrial hemp also is part of Ohio Cannabis Rights Act, primarily a medicinal marijuana issue. Backers are seeking signatures to put it before voters in 2014, which means the issue could be on the same ballot as Earl.

The proposal would declassify hemp as a drug and allow it to be grown as a crop with oversight by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Wile that would be a tough sell, I think Ohioans would buy it -- but not tied to the medicinal marijuana issue.

That's a shame, because hemp products already are sold in Ohio; it would be beneficial to see those products crafted from domestically grown plants.


Article Comments

Sep-26-13 1:09 AM

The market for hemp is very small when compared to other fiber, timber, grass and food products. It is a one season crop and unlike timber, must be stored to be processed during the 11 month non harvest season. Commercial viability is a pipe dream of the coffee shop set.


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