Slow, but progress on hemp

Congress and President Obama took a too-small step toward common sense with an amendment tucked inside the mammoth farm bill the president signed on Feb 7. But a step nonetheless. A provision legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes in states where industrial hemp is already legal under state law. Washington is among 10 states whose colleges and universities that can now grow hemp for research purposes.

The law supersedes our Legislature’s attempts to achieve the same results, according the Hemp Industries Association and the Washington Farm Bureau. The law defines and distinguishes industrial hemp from marijuana. It’s about time, if not decades overdue. The Drug Enforcement Agency, however, trying to confuse the issue to the end, opposed the amendment.

Marijuana and hemp are cousins, but while the plants look similar, their properties are totally different. Mainly, hemp doesn’t contain any of the psychoactive ingredients that give marijuana its “high.” A person cannot get high off hemp, a hardy and easy-to-grow crop. (Marijuana is “fussy,” not hardy and difficult to grow.) What one can do with hemp, however, is seemingly endless: It can be made into soft shirts and strong rope, it can be made into paper more easily, and with less chemicals, than wood. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council. And the DEA may be surprised to know, it was grown commercially in the U.S. until the 1950s. All the hemp products now available here, of course come from somewhere else.

In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products, up from $1.4 million in 2000. Most of that growth was seen in hemp seed, which finds its way into granola bars and other products.

Which is why the new law, while finally acknowledging reality, doesn’t go far enough. What’s the point of only allowing hemp to be grown for research purposes? The whole point is to allow farmers to cultivate it and others to make products from it. Farmers and industry are still shut out of a lucrative market as more than 30 countries, including Canada, but dominated by China, grow hemp as an agricultural commodity.

“The market opportunities for hemp are incredibly promising — ranging from textiles and health foods to home construction and even automobile manufacturing,” said Eric Steenstra, the president of Vote Hemp. “This is not just a boon to U.S. farmers, this is a boon to U.S. manufacturing industries as well.”

Well, once it gets beyond the research phase, it will indeed be a boon.

More in Opinion

States’ report puts voter fraud claims in proper perspective

Editorial: A review by the state shows questionable ballots by only 74 of 3.36 million votes cast.

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 20

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 20… Continue reading

Burbank: Underfunding college shifts burden. debt to students

A student at EvCC pays about $19,000 for tuition and other costs, 72 percent of per capita income.

Parker: No Labels backs a strengthening centrist movement

Its policy arm, The New Center, is aiming for mature, practical and (refreshingly) boring.

Milbank: One Trump lawyer has a Cobbsian talent for errors

Lawyer Ty Cobb, like the baseball great he’s named for, is prone to errors that help the other team.

KSER public radio needs support during fund drive

Public radio covers local news and community events, all types of music,… Continue reading

Auditor’s decision on Eyman statement was reasonable

This letter is in regard to Tim Eyman’s contested dismissal of a… Continue reading

Letter’s headline misstated intent of writer

Regarding my recent letter to the editor regarding the pardon or former… Continue reading

How is it a hardship to report income for EITC?

Let me see if I understood Catherine Rampell’s Sept. 14 column correctly… Continue reading

Most Read