State should let its farmers grow hemp
Published July 3 in the Concord Monitor:
Marijuana laws based on fear, not facts
by Matt Simon
In his June 22 article ("Shea-Porter's gravitational pull") for the Monitor, GOP boss Fergus Cullen blasted Democrats for advancing the Nanny State and going too far, too fast on a number of issues. I agree with much of what he had to say.
For example, like most New Hampshire citizens, I prefer to wear my seatbelt voluntarily rather than because I'll be pulled over, fined and harassed for noncompliance. And who really thinks there should be a fine for releasing helium balloons? (Wouldn't a public service announcement suffice and be less insulting to the average citizen?)
However, Cullen is spreading pure disinformation (and defending one of the worst excesses of the Nanny State) with his dishonest assertion that Democrats nearly legalized marijuana.
There was a bill submitted, HB 92, which really would have legalized marijuana outright, but it received little support from legislators.
The bill Cullen is blasting Democrats over is actually HB 774, a medical marijuana bill which nearly passed the House despite opposition from leaders in both parties.
Republicans voters I talk to understand perfectly well that HB 774 would not have "legalized marijuana." In fact, the marijuana prohibition as we know it would have continued in New Hampshire for everybody except for the estimated 100-200 seriously ill patients who would have been permitted to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Extending this exemption to seriously ill patients is a matter of simple compassion.
Fortunately, many rank-and-file Republicans understand this better than their party bosses, and they also know better about industrial hemp (another area where Cullen says Democrats are trying to go too far, too fast).
It is illegal to grow hemp anywhere in the United States, but we import far more hemp than any nation in the world, and hemp markets are rapidly expanding.
Farmers and scientists say hemp is more environmentally friendly than cotton or corn, and they also say it has shown great potential as a healthy source of food, a clean source of energy (ethanol and bio-diesel), a forest-friendly source of paper, and a natural source of quality cloth and rope.
In fact, any reasonable person who studies the issue can see that the federal ban on industrial hemp is senseless, hysterical and sustained only by propaganda. Experts agree that regulated hemp farming would have no effect whatsoever on the marijuana trade, and considering hemp's promise as an eco-friendly crop that would help the U.S. become more economically self-sufficient, the ban is simply contrary to the public interest.
It's also worth mentioning that the hemp bill (HB 424, which passed the House and died in the Senate) would not even have given New Hampshire farmers the liberty to grow hemp, at least not until the federal Drug Enforcement Administration lifts its own ban. By contrast, legislation passed this year in North Dakota directly challenges the DEA's authority, and North Dakota farmers have filed suit against the DEA with the full support of their own state's commissioner of agriculture. Meanwhile, consumers get to buy hemp moisturizer at the local Wal-Mart and hemp waffles at the local Shaw's, but the profits have to be sent to Canada, Europe, and even China.
At the very least, New Hampshire Republicans should understand that these decisions should be made in Concord by citizen legislators, not by politicians in Washington, D.C., many of whom we know are beholden to the pharmaceutical industry and the rapidly growing prison-industrial lobby. We've become far too comfortable with federal intimidation (and federal gravy) from the so-called war on drugs.
(Matt Simon of Pembroke is executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common sense marijuana Policy.)