I don’t normally toss this much opinion fodder at you at once. But since industrial hemp is a smoking-hot issue stoked to new highs by media, academic researchers and would-be commercial entrepreneurs, I’m going to douse it with a little cold hard reality. So take a deep breath of fresh air and read on.
• Promising crops can become pestilence. The list of such crops is long. But most of us remember multiflora rose and johnsongrass. And when such a plant pops up in unintended places, it is what it is — a weed.
Years ago, I encountered such a ditch bank weed near the edge of a field destined to be a Farm Progress Show site a few weeks later — a very healthy-looking marijuana weed. No, I didn’t cut and dry and smoke it. I notified the sheriff; it vanished a day later.
Ah, you argue, hemp isn’t marijuana, and its guaranteed THC levels won’t give you a high. True. But consider what happens under real out-in-the-country growing conditions.
Female hemp plants are profuse seed producers. Most get harvested, but many hit the ground or are winged away to be seeded elsewhere — ditch banks and noncrop buffer zones, for instance. There, Mother Nature can work her magic.
• Wild hemp THC levels can rise. Despite all the pro-hemp literature, hemp and marijuana go back to the same cannabis root species. The little-mentioned secret is that in-plant genetics used by the marijuana industry to hike THC levels can do the same for hemp. That’s why all hemp seed sold is carefully tested.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s how Colorado State University’s John McKay, one of the nation’s foremost hemp researchers, put it: “If you’re putting out a variable population, then maybe, even likely yes, natural selection may converge if THC is not being selected against.”
• It’s the gateway to legalized marijuana. This is what scares me the most. That’s why industrial hemp has huge well-funded crossover lobbies in many states. Powerful pharmaceutical and tobacco firms gleefully and intentionally blur the lines between hemp and marijuana. It’s all about money, and hemp will come out a loser.
First to come will be legalized medical marijuana. Investment companies taunt investors about becoming marijuana millionaires. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has already proposed selling recreational marijuana through the state liquor stores.
Within 10 years, farm-grown hemp and marijuana could be impossible for law enforcement to police. If that happens, there won’t be any need to import the latter from south of the border.
Let’s hope this political can of wriggling worms won’t turn into writhing snakes. There you have it — my conservative viewpoint. What say you?