Monday, December 18, 2006

Rejuvenate American Agriculture: Legalize It

The legalization of marijuana and industrial grade hemp could rejuvenate the American agricultural industry and small farmers across the country. According to the LA Times article linked HERE:
A report released today by a marijuana public policy analyst contends that the market value of pot produced in the U.S. exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay, which are the top three legal cash crops.
The report estimates that marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past quarter century despite an exhaustive anti-drug effort by law enforcement.
The information report author Jon Gettman used to derive his data used conservative figures.
Using data on the number of pounds eradicated by police around the U.S., Gettman produced estimates of the likely size and value of the cannabis crop in each state. His methodology used what he described as a conservative value of about $1,600 a pound compared to the $2,000- to $4,000-a-pound street value often cited by law enforcement agencies after busts.

In California, the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting seized nearly 1.7 million plants this year — triple the haul in 2005 — with an estimated street value of more than $6.7 billion. Based on the seizure rate over the last three years, the study estimates that California grew more than 21 million marijuana plants in 2006 — with a production value nearly triple the next closest state, Tennessee, which had an estimated $4.7-billion cannabis harvest.
And California is one of nine states that produces more canabis than its residents consume demonstrating the export value of the crop.

But the feds refuse to accept the obvious. They make a lot of money from the War on Drugs and the increased prison popluation that America's medieval drug laws produce.
Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, cited examples of foreign countries that have struggled with big crops used to produce cocaine and heroin. "Coca is Colombia's largest cash crop and that hasn't worked out for them, and opium poppies are Afghanistan's largest crop, and that has worked out disastrously for them," Riley said. "I don't know why we would venture down that road."
Of course it hasn't worked out for them. US DEA and military planes and Columbian forces are burning and bombing the coca fields of poor farmers in Columbia. US anti-drug money provides nearly a quarter of Columbia's military budget. According to a recent documentary DVD release:
"Plan Colombia" is a $ 3 billion U.S. Government program intended to eradicate drugs in Colombia. With $ 110 million earmarked to protect Occidental Petroleum alone, did you know that most of this money will end up supporting U.S. oil interests in Colombia? What kind of "war-on-drugs" is that?
The "push into southern Colombia," a cornerstone of the US aid package, ignores the fact that an estimated 40% of the country's coca cultivation takes place under paramilitary control in northern Colombia. It cannot be an accident that the US aid package trains its sights on the south, a major coca-producing area to be sure, but one under the control of the FARC.
So fighting commies and protecting oil are the real priorities. Not eradicating coca.

In Afghanistan, opium production was all but eliminated under the Taleban, but with the neo-colonial US-led invasion, occupation and regime change now in its fifth year, opium production is at a record high (pun intended). The bad news for the US and its allies is that the Taleban now permits the growth of the crop, and uses the profits it reaps to fund the continuing insurgency against NATO. Had NATO forces accepted the opium crop's value to Afghan farmers, and given them the nod (pun intended) instead of (tacitly) condemning production, the farmers would be their allies, not the Taleban's.

In 2006 North Dakota became the first state to re-legalize the cultivation of industrial grade hemp in a move designed to take advantage of a cash crop our neighbors to the north have been growing since 1998. Industrial grade hemp has many potential uses from seeds to oil to being processed as a biofuel. Traditionally the chemical industry has been the biggest opponent of industrial hemp in the US, but because it has a very low THC level the plant is regulated as a drug.

But again, the DEA is an obstacle. Potential growers in North Dakota will have to obtain state licenses and federal approval, must submit to criminal background checks, their fields must be outfitted with GPS instruments and the hemp plants they produce must have a THC level of 0.03% - Canada allows ten times that amount at 0.3%.

Despite the potential profits, the war on drugs and the war on small farmers continues in America. Why are US interests so opposed to a crop that would be such an obvious stimulant (pun intended) to the economy?


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