You know that America’s drug policy is totally cattywampus when farmers in North Dakota go to court to try to force the Drug Enforcement Agency to lift its ban on industrial hemp, a harmless lookalike cousin of the Evil Weed.
The feds call industrial hemp (photo) a controlled substance — the same as marijuana, heroin and LSD — but it is in fact a harmless and renewable cash crop with thousands of applications that are good for the environment.
In one of several legal actions that cut to the core of the principle of states’ rights in challenging the federal government’s authority to prohibit states from legislating limited use of a comparatively harmless substance like marijuana and a completely harmless substance like industrial hemp, North Dakota farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson filed filed a lawsuit against the DEA.
The federal agency says that it’s merely enforcing the law.
The farmers say comparing industrial hemp to marijuana is like comparing pop guns and M-16s. They’ve successfully petitioned the state legislature — of which Monson is a member — to authorize the farming of industrial hemp.
Marijuana and industrial hemp are members of the Cannabis sativa L. species and have similar characteristics. But hemp won’t get you high because it contains only traces of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that gets pot smokers stoned. However, the Controlled Substances Act makes little distinction, banning the species almost outright.
Efforts to decriminalize marijuana to ease pain and nausea in critically ill people have succeeded through public referenda in 12 states, but the DEA and Department of Health and Human Services continue to claim that it has no currently accepted medical use.
A nonprofit group, Americans for Safe Access, is challenging the government’s position in a lawsuit. An earlier effort by two terminally ill women to challenge Washington’s active opposition to California’s medical marijuana law in the Supreme Court in the fascinating Gonzalez v. Raich case was rejected by a majority of justices because of their view that federal drug law trumped local law.
Meanwhile, for the fourth year in a row, marijuana arrests in the U.S. set an all-time record in 2006, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
Arrests totaled 829,627, an increase from 786,545 in 2005. Similar to previous years, 738,916 or 89 percent were for possession, not sale or manufacture, and marijuana possession arrests again exceeded arrests for all violent crimes combined.
For more on my take on medical marijuana and to learn why my parents and I engaged in what the federal government considers to be criminal behavior, please click here.