Marijuana’s sober sibling “hemp” — used for millennia as a food, fuel, and fiber — returns to American fields this year in another sign of the end of prohibition.
The State of Colorado — which legalized hemp farming at the ballot in 2012 — closed the application period for hemp farmers this week, and roughly, 1,300 acres of the drought-resistant, tough, cane-like plant could be sown, reports state. America has a half-billion dollar hemp industry for hemp oil, seeds, and fiber — and that is despite a federal war on marijuana and hemp which has prevented its legal, domestic cultivation. US hemp revenue is handed over to importers from Canada and China.
That Sunday sprinkle of rain was not enough.
The New York Times over the weekend issued a dire report on California’s ongoing drought, with a nod to how pot farmers are going to be affected in the coming year.
“Unlike other agriculture, there is no crop insurance for marijuana growers. That means that many farmers will use any means necessary to guarantee a return on their investment — even when it means spraying harmful chemicals or draining a creek dry that is home to endangered fish. This needs to change,” he writes in a companion article for Huffington Post. “... we must move beyond debates on whether or not it should be legal. It is time we start discussing how we can guarantee that marijuana is not destroying the environment or poisoning the people who smoke it.”
Hemp - the straight-laced cousin to marijuana - had been used as a fuel, food, and fiber until the feds banned it as part of the War on Pot starting in the 1930s. But now, California has legalized the production of hemp in the state — if the feds get out of the way, and that's a big if.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer's Jake Ellison asks Monday "can marijuana culture hold onto [its] bonds, the embrace of the weird, the goofy, the camaraderie of stoners as it becomes — with amazing speed — a commercialized industry?"
The analysis reflects a growing unease among die-hard legalizers who fear Big Marijuana as much as their anti-pot counterparts the Drug Free America foundation and major police lobbies.
Fresno County police have uprooted more than 136,000 weed plants this year, up from 24,000 in 2003, and have found 343 pot farms in 2013, up from 72 for all of 2009, the Wall Street Journal reports today.
It's a classic case of the balloon effect: the nation's pot supplies normally come from Mexico, augmented by illegal grows in the Northern California wilderness. Now that cops have squeezed pot growers in US national forests, and the US-Mexico border is at its biggest military build-up since the Spanish-American War — weed growers have moved into Central Valley farmland where they can hide plants amid vast acres of bitter melon, tomatoes, and other produce.
Pretty much all of California is listed as in a state of "severe drought" according to the current US drought report from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
And it's appearing to affect some illegal pot farms.
All across California, spring is bringing a bumper crop of bans and restrictions on outdoor medical pot cultivation. The latest: The City of Concord voted unanimously to ban all outdooor cultivation of medical marijuana last night, though affected growers promise to sue the East Bay suburb.
This just in from the North Coast Journal: "Over the last couple of weeks, Humboldt County has been virtually crawling with federal law enforcement agents on the prowl for big-time weed dealers."
"Clearly the county’s black market marijuana industry is booming, and while local law enforcement didn’t want to say much about the recent raids, referring all questions to equally tight-lipped federal agencies, Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey said the backup is welcome. As a matter of fact, he said, 'I’m the one, I hope, who initiated it.'