hempRep. Ron Paul of Texas recently introduced another bill in Congress (with Barney Frank, of all folks!) to allow farmers to cultivate legally industrial hemp. It’s about time! Decades ago, Congress banned the production of hemp in its incremental war on drugs—one of the more ill-thought changes in public policy this country has weathered. Industrial hemp has only trace amounts of THC—you’d have to smoke a few acres to get a high, most likely getting a headache in the process—but because of fear mongering and competing lobbies in DC, we’re stuck with a dinosaur of a policy.

Oh, you can buy hemp products—the $20 body butter at mall chain stores, the granola from Trader Joe’s has it, and it’s even used in car doors such as the Dodge Viper. Uh . . . but you can’t produce it. So, we import it from big hemp producers such as Canada and France. So imagine if you liked to drink beer but couldn’t . . . legally drink it out of bottles or cans . . . or was allowed to buy cigarettes but . . . it was illegal to walk into a tobacco store? This is basically the logic behind our government’s policy on industrial hemp. We have to import it, adding 10-15% to the cost, and meanwhile, American farmers are being cheated out of a potentially lucrative crop.

Hemp has all kinds of uses. It’s a strong fiber—George H.W. Bush’s parachute that saved his life during WWII was supposedly made of hemp fiber. Unlike cotton, it’s more environmental because it doesn’t require toxic insecticides or other agrichemicals. Hemp is used in cosmetics, can be processed to purify soil and water, and yes, it has Omega-3’s acids, which are supposed to keep your arteries clear and heart pumping. But wait, there’s more! Hemp also has great potential as a substitute for wood pulp in paper.

Furthermore, it grows like a weed (pardon the pun!), so it has potential as a renewable energy source. Rudolf Diesel—remember him?—used hemp oil to fuel his self-named engine, and Henry Ford was reputed to have grown it on his estate in the late 1930s in proving that hemp was a viable fuel source.

So why is it still illegal to grow industrial hemp in the US? Well, our wise leaders in Congress, ever fearful of losing reelection (I thought gerrymandering took care of that?), won’t allow it (Paul himself admitted that he’s not optimistic about this current bill’s passage), because well, if you’re for hemp, you’re for marijuana, if you’re for marijuana, you’re for hard-core drugs . . . you get the picture . . . though I want to ask some of these politicians, “If you could screw France, your favorite whipping garçon, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?”

It seems to me that with all the excitement over algae, switchgrass, wind and solar, we could make room for industrial hemp. But I think of Congress, and I’m reminded of what Mark Twain once said, “The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.”

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.