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Vote Hemp Encourages Support for Proposed Amendment by Senator Wyden on Industrial Hemp in the Farm Bill Amendment Would Exclude Industrial Hemp From the Definition of Marijuana Vote Hemp released an action alert on Thursday encouraging support for Senator Ron Wyden's submitted last-minute amendment to the Farm Bill, S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, which would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana." According to Vote Hemp, Senator Wyden's amendment will empower American farmers by allowing them to once again grow industrial hemp, a profitable commodity with an expanding market. The cultivation of industrial hemp will be regulated by state permitting programs, like North Dakota's, and will not impact the federal government's long-standing prohibition of marijuana. [ Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon: "My amendment to the Farm Bill will change federal policy to allow U.S. farmers to produce hemp for these safe and legitimate products right here" "Industrial hemp is used in many healthy and sustainable consumer products," Sen. Wyden said. "However, the federal prohibition on growing industrial hemp has forced companies to needlessly import raw materials from other countries. My amendment to the Farm Bill will change federal policy to allow U.S. farmers to produce hemp for these safe and legitimate products right here, helping both producers and suppliers to grow and improve Oregon's economy in the process." To date, 31 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and 17 have passed legislation, while eight states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research. However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in these states risk raids by federal agents and possible federal prohibition of their farms if they plant the crop, due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive drug varieties. "This is the first time since the 1950's that language supporting hemp has come to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. "The last time such language was presented was the Miller's Amendment to the Marihuana Tax Act. The time is past due for the Senate as well as President Obama and the Attorney General to prioritize the crop's benefits to farmers and to take action like Rep. Paul and the cosponsors of H.R. 1831 have done. Hemp Industry Insider Eric Steenstra, Vote Hemp: "This is the first time since the 1950s that language supporting hemp has come to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote" "With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $400 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits," Steenstra said. The Farm Bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. The comprehensive omnibus bill is passed every five years or so by the United States Congress and deals with both agriculture and all other affairs under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year, for the fourth time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States more than 50 years ago, a bill was introduced by Rep. Ron Paul in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed the bill H.R. 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011, would remove restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. Senator Wyden would like to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. "Senator Wyden's effort is unprecedented and totally commendable, but in my view the existing prohibition of hemp farming stems less from current law, but rather the misinterpretation of existing law by the Obama Administration," Steenstra said. The amendment comes on the heels of the Obama Administration's reply to Vote Hemp's "We the People" petition. The response conflates industrial hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance. This contradicts the clear definition of marijuana presented in Title 21 of United States Code 802(16) that explicitly excludes the oilseed and fiber varieties of the hemp plant that are legal to manufacture, consume, process and purchase throughout the United States without penalty of controlled substance violation. The hemp farming petition and the administration's response can be found at http://wh.gov/gKH. The timing of Senator Wyden's amendment also coincides with the third annual Hemp History Weekcampaign, June 4-10, which he supports. The national grassroots education campaign organized by Vote Hemp and The Hemp Industries Association is designed to renew strong support for the return of hemp farming to the U.S. The 2012 Hemp History Week campaign will feature over 800 events in cities and towns throughout all 50 states. The language of the Sen. Wyden's amendment to the Farm Bill mirrors that of H.R. 1831, a bill introduced in the House this session. To view the amendment, please go to: http://votehemp.com/legislation About Vote Hemp Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, nonprofit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for industrial hemp, low-THC oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to grow the crop. More information about hemp legislation and the crop's many uses may be found at www.VoteHemp.com or www.TheHIA.org. Source: Senator Adds Hemp Legalization To Farm Bill
The great divide between politicians and the people is showing itself in California where polls show the voters support Proposition 19 and where the mainstream politicians mostly oppose it. To many Americans, there are few policies more bankrupt than the prohibition on marijuana use, a recognition that a blue-ribbon panel reached four decades ago, urging an emphasis on drug education rather than incarceration. In 1970, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended ending the illegality of marijuana in the United States. The Dutch also had a national commission that reached the same conclusion. The difference was the Dutch listened to their experts and President Nixon and other American politicians ignored the U.S. experts. Well, the results are in – the experts were right and the politicians were wrong, even on the issue of how many people use marijuana. It turns out prohibition was less successful than decriminalization. According to surveys conducted by both governments: in the United States 41 percent of Americans have used marijuana, compared to 22.6 percent in Holland. In 2001, based on recommendations from a national commission, Portugal went further than Holland and abolished all criminal penalties for possession of marijuana and other drugs. The result – reduced use, reduced costs and reduced damage from marijuana to people’s lives. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the European Union, a mere 10 percent. Further, Portugal reports that use dropped among teens: rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1 percent to 10.6 percent; drug use in older teens also declined. Yet, rather than listen to the experts four decades ago, President Nixon doubled down on the already failed and mistaken policy. The result was 100,000 additional arrests the year after the experts said people should no longer be treated as criminals for marijuana use. And, since the experts said it should not be a crime nearly 15 million Americans have been arrested. Only four states have populations larger than the number of people arrested for marijuana since the experts said people should not be arrested for marijuana offenses. Still, the status quo politicians in California – people like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Gov .Arnold Schwarzenegger – continue to want to ignore the experts and, more important, they want to ignore the people. Polls have consistently shown Proposition 19 to be 7 to 11 points ahead of those who oppose the initiative. Nationally polls show large pluralities and even a majority of Americans oppose keeping marijuana illegal. How can police continue to enforce laws that half the people oppose? What kind of legitimacy does enforcement of such laws have? Won’t enforcing illegitimate laws undermine police relations with communities? That is why smart, experienced police officers like Neil Franklin, a 33-year law enforcement veteran at both the state and city levels supports Proposition 19. Officer Franklin sees Prop. 19 as a step toward healing the division between the people and the police. He recognizes that marijuana prohibition undermines the relationship between police and the people they serve because when they come into their neighborhoods it is to search homes, cars and people. It creates distrust and undermines effective community policing. So, this Nov. 2, the people of California have an opportunity to tell the professional politicians that most voters want to end policies that do not work and undermine law enforcement. It is obvious to most people that the war on marijuana has been a destructive failure, but the politicians still don’t get it. Of course, if I were a politician who supported marijuana being illegal throughout my career, I would not want to admit I was wrong. Hard to say “sorry we arrested you and ruined your life for something that should not have been illegal.” It is hard to admit an error so large and so destructive to millions of lives. Time magazine reports that the instincts of Officer Neil Franklin are right. Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual's "drug czar" and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, told Time that police are now able to re-focus on more serious crimes. In fact, the experience in the United States is the same. In 1982, the National Academy of Sciences issues a report entitled “An Analysis of Marijuana Policy.” It recommended going beyond decriminalization and beginning to regulate the sale of marijuana. In making this recommendation, the report looked at states that had decriminalized marijuana possession and found the reform had “not led to appreciably higher levels of marijuana use than would have existed if use were also prohibited.” The NAS also reported savings in tax dollars by ending criminal enforcement against marijuana possession, noting “substantial savings in states that have repealed laws that prohibit use.” And, as Officer Franklin noted, the NAS found “alienation from the rule of law in democratic society may be the most serious cost of current marijuana laws.” Such savings are also predicted if California passes Prop. 19. The California Legislative Analyst says it would enable California to put police priorities where they belong saying it "could result in savings to the state and local governments by reducing the number of marijuana offenders incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as the number placed under county probation or state parole supervision. “These savings could reach several tens of millions of dollars annually. The county jail savings would be offset to the extent that jail beds no longer needed for marijuana offenders were used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space." The findings of the experts are consistent: criminal laws are not an effective way to control marijuana; removing criminal penalties does not lead to increased use; decriminalization creates savings in law enforcement and better relations between community and police. In the year of supposed voter outrage against politics as usual, California voters may send one of the clearest messages to the politicians, that it is time to end the decades-old criminal prohibition on marijuana use by adults. Kevin Zeese is President of Common Sense for Drug Policy (www.csdp.org). © 2010 CounterPunch All rights reserved. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148533/