Drug Foes Say Hemp Ads Blow Smoke At Pot Issue

Drug Foes Say Hemp Ads Blow Smoke At Pot Issue
Posted by FoM on December 08, 1999 at 23:34:00 PT
By Bill Cole
Source: Daily Herald 
Driving past the billboard at highway speed, Michele Somerville saw what most people see: a prominently displayed marijuana leaf and the equally large word "hemp." Like most people, what the Harvard mom didn't note was the company name - Alterna - the shampoo bottle, and the words "Drug Free." 
"When I first read it I thought - and this is going to sound crazy - that it was (medical marijuana) for terminally ill people," she said. Somerville's review is one of the more benign. The controversial ad campaign for Alterna hemp hair-care products and shampoo - which the anti-drug group DARE America called "a subterfuge to promote marijuana" - blew into the Chicago area in October. Los Angeles-based Alterna Research Laboratories say the eye-catching hemp leaf billboards are intended to be "thought-provoking" and "dialogue-generating" as it and other hemp products companies wage an uphill battle for cultivation of the crop in the United States. But some see something else in the ads. "By seeing a leaf, you would think it (Alterna shampoo) is made from marijuana," said Kim Frasier, president of the Illinois DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Officers Association. Alterna's trendy hair-care products - stars Kathie Lee Gifford, Pierce Brosnan and Sandra Bullock reportedly are among its users - are derived from hemp seed oil. According to the New York Times, the psychoactive agent responsible for giving marijuana users a high - THC - is in such small doses in hemp as to be negligible. Separating marijuana from hemp on the billboard ads isn't easy to do, however - especially at 50 or 60 mph. The shampoo bottle is camouflaged against the leaf, and the words "Drug Free" are dwarfed by the questionable foliage. "I'm in school telling children drugs are dangerous, marijuana is a dangerous thing," said Frasier, who also is an Algonquin DARE officer. "If they are making it look like the shampoo is made out of this stuff, it's sending a mixed message to kids." Company spokeswoman Kimberlee Mitchell said the ads are part of a campaign to create a new identity for marijuana's much-maligned cousin. According to Alterna, 10,000 acres of hemp can produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of trees. The first pair of Levi's jeans were made from the durable fiber. Henry Ford used hemp in his early Ford automobiles, and BMW uses it to this day. Hemp shoes, clothing and bags are now widely available. Even though hemp is grown commercially in Canada, China, England, Germany, France and other countries, it's illegal to grow in the U.S., although it can be imported. Alterna, meanwhile, is just one player in a larger effort by the industrial side of the hemp movement to gain wider acceptance. Last month, the North American Industrial Hemp Council held its annual convention in Rolling Meadows and Schaumburg to discuss the newest trends in the industry that this year is estimated to make about $250 million worldwide. A ground swell of support for what used to be called "ditch weed" has sprung up in some states. Hawaii, Minnesota and North Dakota have passed legislation requesting Congress and President Clinton to pressure the Drug Enforcement Administration to lighten restrictions on the plant. In Illinois, one of the top hemp producers during WWII and the earlier part of the century, the legislature has formed a fact-gathering committee that is likely to recommend the same sort of legislation by January. Overcoming the "reefer madness" stigma of hemp has come with controversy for Alterna both here and elsewhere. Mitchell said the prominent use of the leaf is absolutely intentional. "It's aimed at gaining awareness and spurring conversation," she said. "Hemp has a bad image because it's related to marijuana. What we're working on is an image campaign. We're taking that image of a leaf and getting the public to see industrial hemp as a miraculous, non-drug agricultural crop." Mitchell added, "We could have put seeds on the billboards, we could have put stalks on the billboards, but no one would have looked twice." Some 70 of the billboards are sprinkled around the Chicagoland area. They are expected to remain up through this month. Among other communities, the ads have been placed in Barrington, near Hanover Park and Lombard, in Schaumburg and Gurnee, as well as in Harvard and Woodstock. The national campaign by privately held Alterna - which, according to one report, racked up $20 million in sales and spent $3 million on marketing by March of this year - already has stopped in Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, San Francisco and Boston. In Los Angeles, it wasn't greeted with the warmest reception. DARE America, the national branch of the local effort, was successful in getting Alterna to remove its hemp leaf ads from 106 bus benches. And then one of its officials was promptly sued. Glenn Levant, the president and founding director of the Los Angeles-based group, said in a newspaper article, the shampoo "is a subterfuge to promote marijuana." After Alterna filed suit claiming defamation, the bus bench ads returned. Locally, the billboards have received a lot of double takes, but no real organized opposition. When a billboard popped up a half block away from North Side College Preparatory High School, a magnet school in Chicago, interim principal James Lalley contacted the company. Alterna's Mitchell explained to Lalley, "It's hemp, it's just the same family, you can smoke a whole field of it and just get a headache," he said. But Lalley still doesn't like it. "It confuses images," he said. "It (suggests) marijuana is something used in a wonderful product." Lawrence Hamer, a DePaul University assistant professor who teaches marketing, takes the criticism a step farther. Hamer finds it "worrisome" Alterna is using the confusing symbol of a hemp leaf. "People will take that as a marijuana leaf," he said. "They know people will see that as a marijuana leaf. It (the hemp leaf claim) is a cop-out." But Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, notes a marijuana leaf is even more prominently displayed by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Nor is Alterna the only hemp seed oil products company to use the leaf for advertising. "Those opposed to using the marijuana leaf (for advertising) should take equal umbrage with the Partnership and DARE using the leaf," St. Pierre said. Mitchell takes the criticism in stride. "The reaction doesn't surprise me," she said. "I just hope bringing it to the public's attention will show the other side so they can get beyond the fear and get to the knowledge."Published: Wed, 8 Dec 1999Copyright: 1999 The Daily Herald CompanyNews Article Courtesy of MapInc.
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Comment #4 posted by scott cole on April 11, 2001 at 11:55:41 PT:
f off
this is so much a lie i dont beleve you,you pice of shit 
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on December 09, 1999 at 20:12:42 PT
Know what you believe!
It's time for everyone to know why they believe what they do and be prepared to defend that opinion.Plus the feet of clay statement is right on!
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on December 09, 1999 at 16:03:02 PT
So, the cop doesn't like it when some kid asks him,"Isn't shampoo made from hemp? Aren't shoes, jeans, rope?"... on and on. So, he doesn't like the challenge to his dogma? Doesn't like it when he now has to explain in a rational way why he holds his opinions? As was told to me ad nauseum when I was in the Army: Opinions are like a------s; everybody has one, and they all smell. The cop bases his entire DARE tirade about cannabis on not one shred of scientific fact but on the opinions of a group of racist bigots who lived 63 years ago. Just the facts for me, if you please.He doesn't like it when some kid asks him to PROVE his statements? Can't stand it when someone asks him questions he heretofore could simply shrug off or attempt to squelch by intimidation of his youthful audience?Tough. The more 'authority' is questioned, the more we see that it has 'feet of clay'...and deserves no reverence.
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Comment #1 posted by Insanity on December 09, 1999 at 06:25:27 PT
Hemp ads
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