The N.H. Legislature Should Allow Farming of Hemp

The N.H. Legislature Should Allow Farming of Hemp
Posted by FoM on October 21, 1999 at 17:36:33 PT
Sentinel Editorial
Source: SentinelSource
In an engagement of either willful misrepresentations or merely honest differences, New Hampshire legislators are heading toward a fractious debate over whether to allow commercial farming of industrial hemp. 
On October 26, the House Environment and Agriculture Committee is expected to approve a bill legalizing the cultivation of a crop that's a cousin to marijuana. The product, which looks pretty much like the leafy drug but lacks the part that gets you high, is valued in many parts of the world for fibers that go into textiles, paper and other goods. Granite State law-enforcement officials don't want hemp growing legalized, saying that okaying the look-alike plant would send the wrong message to young people. The police see a conspiracy of potheads posing as farmers, eager to sneak illegal grass between rows of legal hemp. Proponents of hemp cultivation, who in recent years have gotten the plant legalized in Canada, North Dakota and Hawaii, insist that what drug agents are really worried about is the possible loss of government drug-fighting grants if industrial hemp were declared legal. The proponents see a conspiracy of entrenched police forces, in much the same way they blame the criminalization of hemp earlier this century on large petrochemical and forest-owning enterprises that wanted the textile and paper-making industries for themselves. The hemp legalization bill has been this way before; twice it has gotten onto the floor of the House, only to lose by tiny margins, the last time by nine votes. It deserves to fare better. The committee should urge the House to take a good look at the promise -- and the speciousness of the purported dangers -- of industrial hemp in New Hampshire. For starters, industrial hemp is used in this state already. Stores in many places sell finished retail goods made of hemp, such as clothing, and one company in Portsmouth actually imports the raw stuff and makes textiles out of it. This latter point apparently does not bother state police, who say the importing is a customs issue, not a public-safety issue. Public safety, they say, is involved when farmers actually go out grow the stuff. The proposal now before the House acknowledges the perception of danger. It would require hemp growers to be registered with federal drug-enforcement officials and the state government. Further, farmers who get permits would have to buy their seeds from the government. Still further, they would have to post bonds to cover the cost of drug-enforcement actions if they were found to be sneaking marijuana into their fields of industrial hemp. And still further, farmers would be subjected to background checks, to assure they had no drug-related convictions in the prior decade. These seem to be reasonable, if perhaps overdone, safeguards to give a chance to a crop that, for a great many years, played an important role in American agriculture and that plays an increasingly large role in farming around the world. It's unlikely that, if it became legal, industrial hemp cultivation would ever dominate the farm scene. New Hampshire topography simply isn't made for that. But the gently rolling hills of the Connecticut River Valley, now given largely to grain production for dairy farms, could well accommodate large-scale hemp-farming. Given the perilous state of the New England dairy industry, it's prudent to think of possible substitute crops. Foes of hemp counter that it's prudent to consider the drug-abuse consequences of hemp legalization. Their hand is strengthened by the fact that some advocates of hemp legalization do precious little to distance themselves from marijuana. Still, hemp critics owe it to the state's people and its economy to provide specifics to support their fears of a new drug scourge if hemp-farming is made legal. The protections in the bill, and the experience of hemp-farming societies in other countries, offer assurances to the contrary. THE KEENE SENTINELPhone: 603-352-1234Fax: 603-352-043760 West StreetKeene NH 03431-0546Email our Webmaster:webmaster keenesentinel.comThursday, October 21, 1999  1999 Keene Publishing Corp.
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