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Hemp Is Not Pot: It's the Economic Stimulus and Green Jobs Solution We Need
(Dara Colwell, AlterNet, Posted on March 26, 2009)
While Uncle Sam's scramble for new revenue sources has recently kicked up the marijuana debate -- to legalize and tax, or not? -- hemp's feasibility as a stimulus plan has received less airtime. . . . But with a North American market that exceeds $300 million in annual retail sales and continued rising demand, industrial hemp could generate thousands of sustainable new jobs, helping America to get back on track. . . . "We're in the midst of a dark economic transition, but I believe hemp is an important facet and has tremendous economic potential," says Patrick Goggin, a board member on the California Council for Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp-farming advocacy group. "Economically and environmentally, industrial hemp is an important part of the sustainability pie." . . . With 25,000 known applications from paper, clothing and food products -- which, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal this January, is the fastest growing new food category in North America -- to construction and automotive materials, hemp could be just the crop to jump-start America's green economy. . . . But growing hemp remains illegal in the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Administration has lumped the low-THC plant together with its psychoactive cousin, marijuana, making America the planet's only industrialized nation to ban hemp production. We can import it from Canada, which legalized it in 1997. But we can't grow it. . . . "It's a missed opportunity," says Goggin, who campaigned for California farmers to grow industrial hemp two years ago, although the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, citing the measure conflicted with federal law. . . . Considering California's position as an agricultural giant -- agriculture nets $36.6 billion dollars a year, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture -- Goggin's assessment is an understatement. Especially if extended nationwide. . . . "Jobs require capital investment, which isn't easy to come by at the moment, and we need hemp-processing facilities, because the infrastructure here went to seed. But this is a profitable crop, and the California farming community supports it." . . . Just how profitable? According to Chris Conrad, a respected authority on cannabis and industrial hemp and who authored Hemp for Health and Hemp, Lifeline to the Future, the industry would be regionally sustainable, reviving the local economy wherever it was grown. . . . "Hemp will create jobs in some of the hardest-hit sectors of the country -- rural agriculture, equipment manufacturing, transportable processing equipment and crews -- and the products could serve and develop the same community where the hemp is farmed: building ecological new homes, producing value-added and finished products, marketing and so forth," he writes in an e-mail from Amsterdam, where he is doing research. "Add to that all the secondary jobs -- restaurants, health care, food products, community-support networks, schools, etc., that will serve the workers. The Midwestern U.S. and the more remote parts of California and other states would see a surge of income, growth, jobs and consumer goods." . . . Considering today's economic crisis and the combined threats of peak oil and global warming, there is increasing pressure to move toward sustainable resources before everything goes up in smoke. If there was any time to revisit hemp, it's now. . . . "Industrial hemp is the best gift a farmer could have. It's the ideal alternative crop," says Gale Glenn, on the board of the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Glenn, now retired, owned and managed a 300-acre Kentucky farm producing burley tobacco, and she immediately launches into hemp's benefits: It's environmentally friendly, requiring no pesticides or herbicides, it's the perfect rotation crop because it detoxifies and regenerates the soil, and it's low labor. . . . "You just plant the seed, close the farm gate and four months later, cut it and bale it," she says. . . . And there's more. As a food, hemp is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids; the plant's cellulose level, roughly three times that of wood, creates paper that yields four times as much pulp as trees; hemp is an ideal raw material for plant-based plastics, used to make everything from diapers to dashboards. . . . In fact, Germany's DaimlerChrysler Corp. has equipped its Mercedes-Benz C-class vehicles with natural-fiber-reinforced materials, including hemp, for years. Even Henry Ford himself manufactured a car from hemp-based plastic in 1941, archival footage of which can be found on YouTube, and the car ran on clean-burning hemp-based ethanol fuel. . . . This leads to the most compelling argument for hemp: fuel. Hemp seeds are ideal for making ethanol, the cleanest-burning liquid bio-alternative to gasoline, and when grown as an energy crop, hemp actually offsets carbon emissions because it absorbs more carbon dioxide than any other plant. . . . As the world rapidly depletes its reserves of petroleum, America needs to create a renewable, homegrown energy source to become energy independent. Luckily, unlike petrol, hemp is renewable, unless we run out of soil.



posted by Lorenzo 7:31 PM


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