Posts Tagged ‘marijuana’
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability
(This is the first of three posts about the Industrial Hemp Farming Act Bill sponsored by Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.)
For nearly four decades, industrial hemp advocates have extolled the virtues of hemp (cannabis sativa, variety sativa), a plant whose cultivation is still banned in the US, thanks to its scandalous distant cousin, cannabis sativa, variety indica. The latter is the source of the illicit drug marijuana. The former produces good quality fiber and has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) concentration of 1% or less. The latter produces negligible usable fiber and has a THC concentration of 4-20%.
Hemp happens to be one of the most versatile plants known to man. Hemp fiber is used in the production of paper, textiles, rope, sails, clothing, plastics, insulation, dry wall, fiber board and other construction materials; while hempseed oil is used as a lubricant and base for paints and varnishes, as well as in cooking and beauty products. The hemp plant, a “bioaccumulator,” is also used in phytoremediation. This is a process that uses living plants to remove nuclear contaminants and toxic chemicals from soil. Massive hemp fields were planted in the Ukraine following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, to soak up radionucleotides (http://www.hemp.net/news/9901/06/hemp_eats_chernobyl_waste.html).
I recently became interested in the importance of hemp in green technology following the relocation from Ashville North Carolina to New Plymouth (New Zealand) of Hemp Technologies (www.hemp-technologies.com), a construction company that produces low cost, energy efficient hemp homes and construction materials. Up until the 1990s, interest in industrial hemp was limited to the movement seeking to legalize marijuana. However growing public concern about the need to urgently reduce fossil fuel use (both to reduce carbon emissions and to conserve dwindling reserves) has given industrial hemp a major shot in the arm. Because hemp cultivation is still illegal in the US (except for the Pine Ridge Reservation and small “research” plots), the US is the world’s largest importer of hemp (http://www.naihc.org/hemp_information/content/hemp.mj.html). Ironically they import most of it from the their main economic rival, China, which is also the world’s largest producer. This is yet another example of how communities, small businesses and states are leaving behind a short sighted, corporate controlled federal government and forging ahead to save their communities and the planet from economic and ecological collapse.
The Fiber Modern Synthetics Replaced
The use of hemp dates back to 10,000 BC in Taiwan (http://www.hemphasis.net/History/history.htm). In fact hemp-based paper, textiles, rope, construction materials and even plastics are the tried and true low tech alternative to modern synthetics that consume large quantities of fossil fuel during manufacture. Prior to the industrial revolution, the vast majority of textiles, clothing, canvas (the Dutch word for cannabis), rope and paper was made of hemp. It was only with the industrial revolution and the proliferation of machinery run on cheap fossil fuels that more sophisticated alternatives, such as cotton, wood-based paper, and eventually petroleum based plastics became cheaper alternatives. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin in the 1820s, 80% of the world’s textiles, fabrics, and clothing were made of hemp. By 1883, hemp was still the primary source of 75% of the world’s paper. Prior to the crippling hemp tax the US government passed in 1937, most bank notes and archival papers were made of hemp (owing to its greater durability) and most paints and varnishes were made from hempseed oil.
Hemp has always been such a vital community resource that a long series of laws, dating back to Henry VIII (1535) required farmers to grow hemp or be fined. In 1619 Jamestown Virginia enacted a law requiring residents to plant hemp. Massachusetts and Connecticut passed similar laws in 1631 and 1632. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp. The Declaration and Independence and Emancipation Proclamation are printed on it.
Using Hemp to Control and Reduce CO2
A hemp crop takes approximately four months to reach maturity. This contrasts with twenty years for the fastest growing trees. Hemp absorbs four times as much carbon dioxide and produces four times as much raw fiber (per unit weight) as trees (http://www.hempforus.com/hemp_carbon_footprint.htm). In addition to its low carbon footprint, hemp has a number of other advantages over the synthetic and highly processed products that have replaced it. Paper manufactured from hemp is finer, stronger and lasts longer (http://www.hemphasis.net/Paper/paper.htm). Likewise hemp-based products used in home construction are unparalleled thermal insulators, as well as being non-toxic, waterproof, fireproof and insect and mold resistant (http://www.hemp-guide.com/hemp-building-materials.html).
Prior to visiting the Hemp Technologies website (www.hemp-technologies.com), I was under the mistaken impression that hemp was mainly used for home insulation. I was very surprised to learn that hemp (in the form of HemPcrete) can be used in the construction of the outer walls, as well as a non-toxic replacement for dry wall (Magnum Board). In addition Hempboard (100% hemp) is an inexpensive, non-toxic replacement for fiberboard in interior paneling, countertops, shelving, sheathing and furniture.
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in The Global Economic Crisis, Things That Aren't What They Seem
This is the last of three posts on ending the War on Drugs.
Unlike the federal government, states aren’t allowed to run deficits. Since the 2008 economic collapse, both Democratic and Republican dominated states have been extremely proactive in reducing law enforcement costs by enacting drug liberalization legislation. This mainly takes the form of laws legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes and laws reducing personal marijuana use to a misdemeanor punishable by a fine.
While marijuana decriminalization is typically associated with liberal Democratic states, it enjoys growing support in Republican states facing harsh budget realities. According to Mother Jones magazine, among Republicans, 61% support legalizing marijuana for medical use and 33% support total decriminalization. Approximately 50% of Americans overall support marijuana decriminalization. http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/09/tea-party-marijuana-legalization
Tea Party Support for Decriminalization
The Georgia Tea Party also supports decriminalization (http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=115334838544068&topic=56), as does a Kentucky Tea Party group called Take Back Kentucky. The latter, who were instrumental in Rand Paul winning a 2010 Senate seat strongly back hemp legalization, in part as an alternative crop for tobacco farmers hurt by anti-smoking legislation (http://www.willowtown.com/promo/blogfpnov10a.htm).
Decriminalization to Reduce Budget Deficits
Fifteen states and Washington D.C. have passed medical marijuana laws. This includes a number of traditionally Republican states (Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska, Alaska, Montana, and Nevada). Sixteen states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania) have passed laws making any marijuana possession (and in some states cultivation) for personal use a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine. The California law was signed by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before leaving office last year. Local authorities in eight other states (Arkansas, Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Montana, Missouri, Michigan and Kansas) have made marijuana possession a misdemeanor within city limits.
Eight states are considering bills to fully decriminalize marijuana. Connecticut, the first state to enact paid sick leave, is also expected to be the first make marijuana possession a civil offense, like a traffic ticket, punishable with a $150 fine.
Decriminalization Efforts in California
With marijuana its largest cash crop, California has the strongest decriminalization movement. At $14 billion annually, cannabis-generated revenue is double that of vegetables and grapes combined.
A decriminalization initiative on the November 2010 ballot was narrowly defeated (53.8% No to 46.2%). A recent analysis in the Nation attributed the defeat to a conspiracy theory circulating among pot growers and elderly users that the tobacco giant R J Reynolds was buying up land and planning a corporate takeover of California production and distribution once personal marijuana use became legal. This was despite an absolute denial by the cigarette manufacturer that have any interest in expanding into marijuana. http://www.thenation.com/article/157001/altered-state-californias-pot-economy
Enter Big Pharma
The rumors have some basis in reality, given the way Big Pharma has moved into the medical marijuana market. In 2007, the British drug company GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had partnered with the Japanese company Otsuka to bring “Sativex” – a liquefied marijuana sprayed under the tongue – to the U.S. Sativex recently completed Phase II efficacy and safety trials studies, and the manufacturer is in discussion with the FDA regarding Phase III testing. Phase III is generally thought to be the final step before the drug can be marketed in the U.S.
Sativex is already in use in Britain, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Canada, the Czech Republic and New Zealand.
by stuartbramhall in The Global Economic Crisis
Thanks to the recession and debt crisis, progressives seeking to end the failed War on Drugs have some curious bedfellows, including the ultra-conservative Cato Institute, grassroots Tea Party groups and even mainstream Republicans. Drug Policy Alliance founder and executive director Ethan Nadelmann draws interesting parallels between the decision to end the Prohibition on alcohol during the Great Depression in the 1930s and recent calls to end the prohibition on marijuana – and possibly other drugs (http://reason.com/blog/2011/04/15/reasontv-drug-policy-alliances)
Like Prohibition during the 1930s, the War on Drugs is an immense burden on cities and states forced to lay off teachers and cops due to budget deficits. On June 23, Representatives Ron Paul and Barney Frank made the first attempt to tackle this fiscal disaster on a national level with the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. The goal of HR2306 isn’t to legalize marijuana, but to remove it from the register of federally controlled substances, while allowing the states how to regulate it. Obama, predictably, opposed the bill, insisting the War on Drugs is working.
Six weeks ago analysts predicted HR 2306 had no chance of getting out of committee. However the recent debt downgrade and market crash means there’s a whole new ball game in Washington. Former sacred cows, such as defense spending, are no longer sacred with the market down more than 7%. Lawmakers who oppose legislation that could save taxpayers $9-41 billion dollars annually (according to a 2010 Cato Institute Study) will have a hard time answering to voters in 2012.
Pouring Money Down a Rat Hole
Drug policy experts across the board recognize that using the criminal justice system to “punish” drug addicts – as when Prohibition was used to punish alcoholics – is like pouring money down a rat hole. Studies show that criminalizing addictive drugs, significantly worsens the drug problem, in part by creating a highly lucrative black market. The financial incentive for drug dealing and money laundering is so massive that criminal penalties are no deterrent.
It’s not just corner dealers we’re talking about. Judging from past Department of Justice indictments for drug money laundering, nearly all major financial institutions in the US and some in Europe have a piece of the action (Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Union Bank, Bank of America, American Express, Wachovia, Thomas Cook, Citibank, Chemical Bank, Chase Manhattan, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, among others – I blog about specific dates and fines at http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/05/06/the-scope-of-corporate-drug-money-laundering/). Moreover the CIA role in trafficking heroin from Vietnam, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan and cocaine from Central America has been well documented by the 1986 Kerry Committee report, Alfred McCoy, Peter Dale Scott and Gary Webb.
The Only Solution is Reducing Demand
As retired Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice and former police commissioner Ray Price pointed out at the 2011 American Bar Association (ABA) meeting in Toronto, the only effective strategy for curbing the drug problem is to lessen demand through prevention and treatment. According to Price, decriminalizing addictive drugs enables us to shift resources from criminal justice to public health, where they will do real good. At the same time it puts criminal dealers out of business, as with bootleggers in the 1930s, reduces crime and makes streets safer.
During the ABA Drug Control Panel, Price revealed that the federal government currently spends $26 billion annually across several agencies on the War on Drugs. Of this 34% goes to treatment, 7% to treatment and 36% to support local law enforcement. Cities and states spend around $30 billion annually on the drug war, with only $9.5 billion of this coming from the federal government.
To be continued.