Associate Editor, StoptheDrugWar.org
In response to an online petition sponsored by the White House, which I signed seven months ago, I’ve finally received a response from Obama’s Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, explaining why we can’t let American farmers grow industrial hemp. It’s written in rather plain language, but nonetheless betrays either appalling ignorance or rank dishonesty on the part of our nation’s top drug policy official.
Unfortunately, while President Obama’s misleading claims about medical marijuana policy have generated considerable attention, the drug czar’s recent comments about hemp have gone almost entirely unnoticed and unreported. This is his entire response right here (which apparently took many months to prepare):
OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO Allow Industrial Hemp to be Grown in the U.S. Once AgainWhat We Have to Say About Marijuana and Hemp Production
By Gil Kerlikowske
America’s farmers deserve our Nation’s help and support to ensure rural America’s prosperity and vitality. Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant. While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The Administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety. [WhiteHouse.gov]
The drug czar oddly begins by declaring that, “federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances,” which is simply irrelevant in the context of hemp. Hemp isn’t a Schedule I controlled substance and it can legally be consumed, distributed and possessed in a variety of forms. The soap I use every day is made of it, and you can buy hemp foods at any grocery store without fear of arrest. The drug czar’s failure to even acknowledge this basic fact makes his statement terribly confusing in its entirety, but it actually gets worse.
The central issue here, and the whole point of the petition, is that the DEA won’t let American farmers grow hemp for the purpose of manufacturing the various legal products that are made from it. As a result, all hemp products in the U.S. are made from imported hemp, eliminating a lucrative economic opportunity for American farmers. Instead of explaining why that is, the drug czar persists in blurring the distinction between hemp and pot, even implying that hemp can get you high:
While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance.
Here, the drug czar implies that hemp and marijuana are separate parts of the same individual plant, as if to suggest that allowing hemp cultivation would require that psychoactive marijuana be produced as a byproduct. This is false. Though both are types of cannabis, the hemp plant is genetically different from marijuana plants that produce the drug. In other words, the plant that’s used to make soap won’t get you high, and the plant that gets you high isn’t used to make soap. This is basic stuff, but the drug czar’s statement mischaracterizes it to the point of complete incoherence.
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