By John E. Dvorak (boston.hemp@pobox.com)

The global hemp industry is re-developing at an amazing pace. As the recent symposia in Vancouver and Frankfurt demonstrated, tremendous advances are being made with respect to hemp breeding, cultivation, harvesting, processing, and marketing. Unfortunately, the United States' prohibition on marijuana prevents the residents of the land of the free from fully realizing the environmental and economic benefits of low THC, or "industrial", hemp. The Federal Government will not allow farmers to grow industrial hemp because of its association with marijuana (both plants are Cannabis Sativa L.). Industrial hemp bills in several states have been defeated as a result of testimony from federal law enforcement agents (i.e., the DEA) who incorrectly insist that industrial hemp is indistinguishable from marijuana. These officials remain willfully ignorant of the fact that low THC hemp is being successfully cultivated without incident in Europe, Asia, and Canada.

Canada's hemp industry has an advantage over America's in that Canadian farmers are each allowed to grow a few acres of hemp for research purposes. However, the hemp/marijuana connection results in a lengthy application process which includes a background check, paperwork delays, hassles over importing viable seeds, and field security concerns. These bureaucratic obstacles are enough to dishearten all but the most determined hempster. It is therefore understandable that many people involved with growing or researching hemp in Canada do not want to be associated with individuals, groups, or publications which can be construed as advocating the end of marijuana prohibition. This situation translates to America as some groups working to re-legalize hemp attempt to disassociate themselves from the marijuana activists. This is ironic because many of the North Americans involved in the current industrial hemp revolution, be they retailers, wholesalers, producers, researchers, or farmers are aware of (or have personally experienced) the negative aspects associated with marijuana prohibition. They see the billions of tax payer dollars spent each year tracking down, arresting, adjudicating and incarcerating non-violent adult cannabis consumers as a national crisis. However, if hempsters publicly voice their opinions, the drug warriors are only too happy to use this to illustrate their theory that legalizing hemp is but a first step toward the total legalization of all cannabis products, especially marijuana. They will claim that the hemp advocates are really wolfish cannabis activists sheepishly hiding in hempen clothing. In some cases, it may therefore be appropriate to keep the rope and dope issues separate.

Prohibitionists simply cannot accept the fact that, when used responsibly, marijuana's effects are innocuous. While they sip their manhattans and smoke their cigarettes, the concept of legalizing marijuana represents a diametrically opposed philosophy to these zero tolerance hypocrites. Reintroducing industrial hemp to the populace may be the best way to begin the "un-brainwashing" process. The monetary considerations for farmers, manufacturers, and consumers coupled with the environmental benefits such as tree free paper and lowered dependence on fossil fuels will undoubtedly convince people that hemp is good. Then, as they learn of the medicinal and spiritual properties of cannabis, they may be ready to once again grant adults the right to partake in it without automatically becoming felons.