Change in laws and attitudes towards hemp could benefit society
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 22:09
Hemp is not marijuana, and that can’t be stressed enough. It is not a drug scientifically, it’s not a drug medically, and it is not a drug legally. It is, however, an incredible economic resource that has been held down by its stoner cousin for far too long. Its opponents are misinformed, invested in its continued prohibition or simply afraid if they appear weak on hemp they will also appear weak on drugs.
Hemp of the variety we are talking about is of the same species as marijuana. These plants are known collectively as cannabis sativa. A chemical in these plants tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short, is the cause of marijuana’s psychoactive effects. However, according to Dr. David P. West, who has a PHD in plant breeding from the University of Minnesota, the levels of THC in hemp are negligible. Furthermore, he goes on to say “The washed hemp seeds contain no THC at all. The tiny amounts of THC contained in industrial hemp are in the glands of the plant itself.” This is important because hemp-based foodstuffs are typically made from sterilized seeds in which any THC in those products would be both incidental and trace.
It’s not illegal to buy and sell hemp products in the United States, nor is it illegal to consume hemp- based products. According to a 9th circuit court ruling Hemp Industries Association U.S.A. LLC v. Drug Enforcement Administration, non-psychoactive hemp products are not schedule 1 products and therefore are not illegal. This is why you can buy sterilized hemp seeds, hemp oil and even hemp chips at almost any whole foods store in the country. That being said, there are still laws regarding hemp, and it is illegal to grow hemp in the United States, which is a shame given the economic potential that hemp possesses.
Hemp represents a truly valuable economic resource. Hemp can be used to make paper, corn, building materials and biofuels. It’s a hearty plant and can grow in a variety of environments. Also, as a foodstuff it might just be the next big super food and, more importantly, and it can’t get you high. I’m not going to pretend like hemp is some magical plant or pretend like it’s going to solve any of our country’s problems. That being said, it is a valuable product with genuine uses.
The least we can do is give the hemp industry a chance and on that front support is coming from some unlikely sources. Historically Republicans tend to be skeptical of anything that could make them look even a little soft on crime, but that isn’t stopping high-profile Senators from speaking out on hemp. Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party darling, and the Senate’s Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come out in support of industrialized hemp both in their home state of Kentucky as well as nationally. Yet even with support at this level adverse laws and poor attitudes remain.
As a matter of fact, some negative attitudes and misinformation have unsurprisingly made their way onto campus. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, or SSPD, have a bake sale scheduled for Monday Sept. 23, 2013 along Fairfield Way. What makes this noteworthy is that the scheduled bake sale is supposed to have a rather special theme: SSPD wants to cook with hemp. So they did what any club would do--they got a food permit, reserved a spot and sought out all other necessary permissions. Problems arose when Student Event Services and the UConn Police Department raised concerns about the use of hemp as an ingredient. UConn event services, under advisement from UConn PD, established that because hemp contained THC, the active chemical in Marijuana, it was illegal. SSPD made the case for hemps legality, but the UConn PD seemed concerned that any amount of THC was subject to Connecticut DUI laws and represented a major liability to the University.
However, “A person is under the influence if his ability to drive is affected to an appreciable degree” according to cga.ct.gov’s summary of Conn.’s DUI law. That would mean trace amounts of THC that are unlikely to be detectable would not be included. Simply put, if the police are right about the law, the law needs to be changed. In any case, the attitudes, the suspicion and the fear surrounding hemp needs to be put to rest.