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Poll: Cannabis sativa, medical marijuana and cities

I’ve inhaled once, the year was 2005 and I was 38 at the time (There Is A First Time For Everything). I was with three friends, all very responsible adults, and I was curious.  I see marijuana as less destructive than alcohol or tobacco.

ABOVE:
ABOVE: The Cannabis sativa plant. Image from Wikipedia
It was not medicinal.  But in more and more cities medical marijuana is being legally sold:
DENVER — Medical marijuana dispensaries are springing up in Colorado’s major cities like coffee shops, nail parlors, tanning salons or taco shops.

It’s been 10 years since Colorado voted to allow the use and sale of marijuana for medical reasons. But in the past six months, the number of patients and dispensaries has skyrocketed.  (USA Today)

I should note that a friend, who is a doctor, sent me studies showing connections to cancer.  I don’t doubt the connection.  She questions the need for many that have prescriptions, where legal. As states begin to legalize medical marijuana the cities in those states are faced with policy issues about dispensaries.

OAKLAND, Calif. – Like hip-hop, health food and snowboarding, marijuana is going corporate.

As more and more states allow medical use of the drug, and California considers outright legalization, marijuana’s supporters are pushing hard to burnish the image of pot by franchising dispensaries and building brands; establishing consulting, lobbying and law firms; setting up trade shows and a seminar circuit; and constructing a range of other marijuana-related businesses.  (NY Times)

Cannabis sativa is often misunderstood:

Cannabis sativa is an annual plant in the Cannabaceae family. It is a herb that has been used throughout recorded history by humans as a source of fiber, for its seed oil, as food (see hemp), as a drug (see cannabis (drug)), as medicine (see medical cannabis), and for spiritual purposes (see spiritual use of cannabis). Each part of the plant is harvested differently, depending on the purpose of its use.

While hemp is not a drug, growing it is illegal.  Environmentally friendly hemp products are imported or hemp material is imported so products can be made.Federal lawmakers need to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.

The poll this week is designed to get your thoughts on Cannabis sativa.  I hope I have a good variety of answers.  This week I’m testing the ability for you to select up to three answers.

– Steve Patterson

 

Congress Wake Up & Let Farmers Grow Industrial Hemp!

December 11, 2007 Drug Policy, Environment 10 Comments

One of the most green products in the world, able to be fabricated into many diverse products, is banned in only one industrial nation — the United States. Sure, we can import product made from Hemp such as all manner of clothing, bedding, ropes, paper, and so on, but our farmers cannot grow this product as the feds fear the farmers or others might grow its hallucinogenic cousin, pot.

Both industrial hemp and pot are members of the cannabis family, although the latter has a mind-altering impact when injested that the former does not. Under this logic we need to ban gardeners from planning the lovely poppy plant and stop the sale of poppy-seed bagels at St. Louis Bread Co because some folks use a cousin of those to manufacture heroin. Unlike a pretty flower or a damn fine bagel variety, industrial hemp has so many uses in society. Similarly, pot and heroin are not even in the same league.

I’ve smoked pot all of one time — and yes I inhaled (see post). It still smells funny to me. So while I have little desire to run out and buy pot I think we need to let up. I say we just legalize it — that will certainly remove allure to do something illegal. It will also remove the stigma of getting caught as well as pull the rug out from under the street value. But, this post is not about pot, it is about industrial hemp.

More so than a quick toke I want to buy clothing made from hemp. It’s available, but boy is it pricey. How does $40 for a t-shirt sound? Some of it is borderline reasonable but a far cry from being affordable. If the US were growing industrial hemp the raw materials would be much more affordable — manufacturers could continue to pay their workers decent wages and still sell at a profit, even when the retail price drops. Basic supply and demand at work. The problem is the demand is there but the feds have forced a market shortage on the supply side.

Recently farmers in North Dakota sued the federal government for the right to grow industrial hemp.  The judge, however, said they need to take it up with congress.  From a Reuters story:

“Obviously we are disappointed with the decision,” says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, a grassroots group working to bring industrial hemp farming back to the U.S. “The Court’s decision shows it understands that the established and growing market for industrial hemp would be beneficial for North Dakota farmers to supply. Yet the decision overlooks Congress’s original intent – and the fact that farmers continued to grow hemp in the U.S.for twenty years after marijuana was banned. If the plaintiffs decide to appeal the case, we would wholeheartedly support that effort. We are not giving up and will take this decision to Washington, DC to prompt action by Congress on HR 1009, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007, which would clarify a state’s right to grow the crop,” adds Steenstra.

If you share my concerns, contact your U.S. Representative, and your U.S. Senators, to ask them to support industrial hemp farming.  All those candidates for President and all the state-level folks need to be asked about positions on industrial hemp as well.  It is about time we once again grew one of the products that helped get this country through WWII.

 

There Is A First Time For Everything

Everyone goes through a long list of first times in their lives — walking, going to school, riding a bike, flying, etc. Over the weekend, at age 38, I took my first hit of pot.

The when and where isn’t important. Neither is the how and why.

Marijuana is not an urban drug. Cannabis can be found throughout the world everywhere from the most rural places to the most urban and everywhere in between. Even in the posh suburbs.

Unfortunately our laws don’t seem to distinguish between a simple joint and crack. The dealers, users and social implications in an urban context are radically different.

Drugs — hard drugs — are indeed an urban problem. Not that crack & cocaine don’t exist in other places. It is the open presence of drug dealing in the city that you simply don’t see in other places.

I’ve witnessed, first hand, various drug transactions. In at least two former residences I have had drug dealing across the street from me. Spotting the deal became routine — you can see a lookout on the corner, the person that takes the money and then another person that is radioed to give them their merchandise.

If I wanted any sort of hard drug today I can think of several corners within a mile where I’d find plenty. The police know the same locations but seem helpless to do anything about it. These dealers move from place to place seemingly on a monthly basis yet hang out at the same corners.

I’m not even going to pretend that I have a full understanding of the complexity of the issue. I do not.

What I do know is I have many friends that partake of a hit of pot now and then. They are responsible citizens and far from being pot heads. They do not drive around looking for some dealer on a street corner. Their suppliers likely don’t carry guns or engage in gang warfare to protect turf.

Another first happened last week. Denver, known as the mile high city, became the first U.S. city to decriminalize the possession of a small amount of marijuana. Colorado law, however, still criminalizes the possession regardless of quantity. From USA Today:

Mason Tvert, who led the Denver campaign for legalized pot, said he will encourage people who are charged under state law to fight their arrests in court.

In Colorado, having an ounce of marijuana or less is punishable by a $100 fine but no jail time. “It’s like a speeding ticket, and only a fraction of people end up going to court over it,” said Tvert, founder of SAFER, or Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation.

Tvert said his group also will seek a state initiative to license and regulate the sale of marijuana. His campaign argued that legalized pot is a safer alternative, considering the problems that arise from alcohol abuse such as violent crime and health risks.

I think it is time we differentiate between soft and hard drugs in our laws and enforcement policies.

– Steve

 

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