(MintPress) – Though states have yet to hear word from the federal government on how the Obama administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will handle recreational legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, many states have begun working to pass their own marijuana laws.
While most of the new laws being introduced across America legalize the use of medical marijuana, the spike in the amount of ganja-friendly legislation could also be a sign that federal reform of marijuana laws is inevitable.
At least nine states have pending medical marijuana legislation, including: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and Oklahoma. If the bills pass, the states would join with 18 other states, plus Washington, D.C. in allowing those with medical conditions to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Other states like Montana have announced plans to expand medical marijuana laws it already passed. Montana’s 2011 law was reportedly intended to make it difficult for persons to obtain medical marijuana cards. But the law is proving to be too strict, as in 2011 Montana was home to 30,000 medical marijuana cardholders, but as of February 2013, only 7,500 cardholders remained.
Montana Sen. Dave Wanzenried, (D-Missoula), is behind the revamped medical bill. He says the law written as is has not proved workable and adds that all of the litigation surrounding the issue is unnecessarily costing taxpayers.
Under the new bill, marijuana’s name would change to cannabis, physician assistants would be able to recommend medical marijuana to patients, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would be added as a condition that would allow someone to obtain a medical marijuana card, and more.
Lawmakers in other states, like North Carolina, have taken a different route and defeated legislation that would have legalized medical marijuana, citing the reason that lawmakers were being “harassed” with phone calls and emails from constituents who support the legalization and regulation of medical marijuana.
A Public Policy poll in January found 58 percent of North Carolina constituents supported legalization of medical marijuana, and a study from Elon University released on March 6 found 76 percent of voters surveyed supported medical marijuana legalization.
“I think some of the people who allege harassment may have also fallen into the mindset of not being inclined to support the measure in the first place,” said Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg).
“If you are not inclined to support something and all of a sudden you see a public poll saying the measure is possible and you also have people who politely want to have meetings with you to discuss their positions and their views — you get it at a volume that you didn’t think was possible – I could see how you could convert that into harassment.”
But the prohibition of all things cannabis related is not relegated to just marijuana. In Minnesota, a bill to legalize industrial hemp was introduced last week by state Sen. D. Scott Dibble (D-Minneapolis).
Though a person can’t get high even if they smoked an entire garbage bag of hemp, and hemp was once the most important cash crop in the U.S. economy — more valuable than corn and wheat combined — the production of industrial hemp was banned by the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which also led to the classification of hemp as a Schedule 1 drug.
While some hemp products are available for purchase in the United States, it’s illegal to grow the hemp to make the products. Since the plant was so widely associated with marijuana, farmers had to obtain a special tax stamp to grow the crop. Currently farmers can only grow the plant if they obtain a permit from the DEA.
Before hemp was banned, the material was used to produce a wide variety of materials including cloth, paper, cosmetics and even cars. In 2008, Minnesota attempted to pass a similar industrial hemp bill. One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D-Minneapolis), said that Betsy Ross used hemp to create the first American flag and that a draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp.
Since the 1600s, hemp has been used in the United States and even former Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson noted that they grew hemp on their land.
Part of the attraction to hemp was that it was a versatile and adaptable crop. But in the early 20th century, hemp was labeled as a dangerous threat as part of a propaganda campaign by large corporations whose profits were reduced because of the usefulness of hemp. They did this by associating hemp with marijuana.
While the validity of how hemp was first stigmatized is debated, the most well-known theory is that William Randolph Hearst, owner of the Hearst Paper Manufacturing Division, who had a large stake in timberlands. A newspaper man, Hearst’s company supplied paper products, but because of the availability of hemp, his business was not as successful as he had hoped.
Hearst ran stories in his newspapers that told horror stories about marijuana, which led to the creation of films such as “Reefer Madness,” “Marihuana: Assassin of Youth,” and “Marihuana: The Devil’s Weed.” The idea was to convince the public marijuana was the same thing as hemp, and to encourage the public to pressure congress to ban the substance.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s Standard Oil of California had a lot to gain if hemp was made illegal, as did the owners of General Motors and Firestone — and those are just a few oil-related companies who benefitted from the prohibition of hemp.
Hemp is not marijuana
But hemp isn’t marijuana and politicians are aware of this. A report from the Congressional Research Service says that “although marijuana is also a variety of cannabis, it is genetically distinct from industrial hemp and is further distinguished by its use and chemical makeup.”
If anything, the ban on the use of industrial hemp only proves how much power corporations have in Washington. Hemp was a major competitor of the paper industry, along with lumber, fossil fuels, steel, plastics, alcohol and food. Henry Ford even constructed an early version of the Model-T almost exclusively from the hemp plant, even running the car on ethanol made from hemp.
The car was reportedly so strong, Ford could hit the car with an ax and not leave a dent, as hemp is supposedly ten times stronger than steel, yet one-third the weight.
Because processed hemp creates such strong fibers, the material was also used to build homes, ships, planes and trains. Since its ban, corporations in sectors that oppose the legalization of the plant have seen profits increase.
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