By John E. Dvorak, Hempologist

Welcome to The Hemp Casino, where the highest stakes, society's survival, are being wagered. The U.S. government is gambling that they can keep a lid on the nascent hemp industry by preventing American farmers from growing hemp. They are betting that the worldwide hemp boom will soon go bust. They are wagering that America's collective memory of hemp will pass away with the few remaining people who legally grew it. The powers that be are throwing the dice, hoping that America's electorate will remain asleep at the wheel while being quietly poisoned by the products that television tells them to buy. While the odds have overwhelmingly favored "the house" in the past, a new era of green activism coupled with access to information via the Internet is slowly leveling the playing field. Will their gamble pay off? Will they be able to continue to peddle their toxic solutions? Perhaps so. The hemp revolution may be blown way out of proportion. Hemp may never become anything more than a niche market. The stigma of hemp's misunderstood cousin, marijuana, may prevent society from ever accepting it. If the above is true, then the government's bet will have paid off in spades.

Unfortunately, infighting within the hemp industry is playing straight into their hands. Instead of working together to promote hemp, several companies are battling each other, wasting their finite resources. While healthy competition encourages growth, senseless litigation prompts financial ruin. By the same token, some hemp companies and organizations go out of their way to disassociate themselves from the marijuana reform movement. These "ropers" don't want the marijuana issue to muddle the picture as they try to convince America's farmers to re-embrace hemp. This is ironic because a vast majority of the hempsters who risked everything to create the current hemp revival are in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. By treating these pioneers like pariahs, the ropers will lose the experience, energy and motivation that the "dopers" bring to the table. Now who's acting with impaired judgment? Hard to tell, ain't it?

America's hemp companies operate in an industry where the basic laws of supply and demand don't apply. There is demand to research and grow hemp. Six states have introduced hemp bills in 1999 and the American Farm Bureau is once again pro-hemp. There is demand by mainstream manufacturers like Ford Motor Company, International Paper and The Body Shop to create environmentally friendly and renewable products. Perhaps most importantly, consumers are demanding higher quality hemp products at a lower price. The primary reason these demands can't be supplied is because the United States federal government prohibits American farmers from growing hemp. Fortunately, Europe, China and now Canada are helping supply this demand.

Historically, cannabis cordage, caulking and canvas supplied the muscle, skin and tendon for society's body of exploration, trade and defense. In the 1600-1700's, hemp's role as a strategic necessity is evidenced by the bounties and subsidies granted to the farmers and producers of hemp. However, throughout the 1800's, several factors came into play that impinged on hemp's reign. Alternative "hemp" fibers (abaca, jute and sisal) became economically attractive for rope and twine products. The steam engine greatly reduced the need for hempen sails and rigging. Cotton dominated as the fabric of choice and the development of the process of turning trees into paper hammered two more nails into hemp's coffin. The use of hemp oil for fuel, paints and lubricants was replaced by petroleum products. The rest, as they say, is history (breath deep humanity, you've earned it):

· coal powered steam engines;
· pesticide drenched cotton fields;
· clear-cut old-growth forests;
· overflowing landfills;
· gasoline filled skies.

The alternatives:

· cars built and powered with hemp;
· tree free hemp paper;
· biodegradable plastic;
· hemp cement & particle board;
· nutraceutical hemp foods;
· hemp scented soaps, lotions and perfumes.

I can smell it already.

Of course, even after hemp prohibition is lifted, it will take several years to regain what was lost over the last 50 years of neglect. Breeding and cultivation techniques, harvesting and processing equipment, and marketing and distribution plans are all needed. While this presents staggering obstacles, it also provides an unbelievable opportunity to be involved with helping develop an entire industry literally from the ground up. The fact that it is the HEMP industry just makes its that much better. Take your pick: from food, fabric, or fuel, to paper, pudding, or plastic, you can be sure to find a hemp related aspect. Are you interested in inventing, producing, selling, researching, or writing about hemp? Well, the hemp industry needs you to gamble some of your resources so that the earth can hit the jackpot.

What can you do? To start, I'd suggest that you learn as much about hemp as you can. You can do this quite readily via the internet. Any search engine will return numerous hemp websites. My favorite sites for cannabis hemp news are mapinc.org, kenex.org, and marijuananews.com. You can also contact the Hemp Industries Association for more hempformation (707-874-3648, info@thehia.org, thehia.org). With over 300 members, the HIA is a great resource and a powerful lobby. Their spirit of cooperation and all inclusive nature is a model for others.

I'm just asking that we work with each other, keeping the overall goal of a clean, safe and harmonious planet in mind. Is that a pot-head's pipe dream? I'm betting that it's not!