U.S.: As More States Legalize Marijuana, Supporters See Big Future For Hemp
By Steve Elliott
With a tide of marijuana legalization poised to sweep across the United States, supporters of industrial hemp see a burgeoning market opening up and big profits for American farmers if they are allowed to grow the crop.
Hemp, like marijuana, is a variety of the cannabis plant; even though most industrial hemp contains little or no THC -- the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana -- federal drug laws don't differentiate between the varieties, reports Angela Kocherga at KING 5.
"Although it comes from the same plant, it's like non-alcoholic beer," explained author Doug Fine, whose book Too High To Fail predicts a new "green economy."
"I can't give a rational explanation as to why something as valuable as hemp -- which other countries are making so much money off and importing to us -- why we're not growing this by the millions of acres," Fine said.
Federal law prohibits American farmers from growing the crop; a special permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with lots of security, would theoretically be required. But the DEA has never issued a single industrial hemp license, ever.
The National Farmers Union recently urged the Obama Administration and Congress to direct the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana and adopt policy to allow American farmers to grow industrial hemp under state law without requiring DEA licenses.
The U.S. is the world's largest consumer of hemp products -- sold mainly at health shops and nutrition-conscious grocery stores -- but the hemp seeds and fiber used in the milk, soap, clothing and other products are from plants grown in other countries, including Canada and China.