A Job Creating Opportunity Overlooked

by Curt Kovener

A couple of weeks back I poked fun at the Kentucky and Indiana legislatures. In Indiana for a bill (which went nowhere) to coerce everyone to sing the national Anthem the same way; in Kentucky for a law that was passed allowing the hunting of Sandhill Cranes.
This is not a fun poking dissertation.
The Kentucky legislature is considering a bill to legalize the growing of hemp. And for the majority of the populace, hemp, otherwise known as Cannabis sativa, is one of the world’s oldest crop plants, but it has been outlawed for decades because of its association with marijuana (Cannabis sativa indica), even though hemp has almost none of the chemical that gives users a high.
The relationship is rather like soybeans, which can be used for a mulitude of products, and greenbeans, which are primarily raised for homecanning and the family dining table.
Hemp was grown in the US until the mid-1930’s when it was outlawed because it was in the same family as marijuana. It is rather like corn in the making of ethanol and moonshine: it is the same product and the same process. The end product just gets used in different ways.
Hemp is grown for its fiber which can be used for making cloth, rope, alternative fuels such as ethanol and paper. Newsprint could be made from hemp, an annual crop, rather than cutting down trees.
U.S. Representative and Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, of Texas, has filed legislation to lift current federal restrictions that keep farmers from sowing the seeds and growing hemp.
Hemp grows in soils and areas which traditional row crops do not. And since it grows like a weed (pun intended), it is a low maintenance farm crop.
It is a good alternative to tobacco and could be planted in some of the reclaimed strip-mining areas in the Bluegrass State, according to Kentucky Ag Commissioner James Comer.
And if a fiber producing plant is grown then textile producing factories should logically follow providing jobs.
I discussed industrial hemp with an undercover police officer friend and was surprised by his response.
“The biggest people against legalizing hemp, other than the religious folks, would be the illegal marijuana growers,” said the scruffy looking law enforcement officer who must remain unnamed.
He said marijuana growers are only interested in the female plants. The male plants, whose only purpose is for pollination are removed to allow the unpollinated females to produce greater amounts of THC (the part of the marijuana which gives the high).
“The marijuana growers are going to hate it if hemp is legalized because the hemp will cross pollinate with the marijuana decreasing the buzz making chemical,” said the law enforcement officer.
So creating a new farm product market and letting nature fight the illegal marijuana growers would seem to make good sense.
Which is probably why the ultra-conservative Indiana legislature won’t be considering any such law. Even if it does create jobs, is environmentally friendly, and supports Hoosier agriculture.