Hemp Pioneer Opposes Bill on Schwarzenegger's Desk

A bill to legalize hemp cultivation in California is opposed by Jack Herer, the man most responsible for making hemp a household word in the state. The bill, AB1147, is on the desk of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has until September 30 to sign or veto it.

The California bill would allow only cannabis with a miniscule amount of THC (0.3 %) to be grown, and Herer worries that without its natural sunscreen, yields of the crop will be insufficient to justify hemp cultivation in the state. Cross-pollination is also an issue for medicinal and recreational farmers, who generally grow sinsemillia by separating the males from the females.

A provision that seeds originate from native California hemp strains was struck from the bill at the last minute. According to an aide for bill-sponsor Mark Leno, this was so that California and other states could import hempseed, should the hemp industry prevail against the DEA in the almost certain court action to follow the bill if it is signed.

Native hemp strains contain about 1% THC, and 0.3% became a benchmark when French seed suppliers marketed strains with that amount in the late 1990s. Lower THC strains grown in Canadian studies have resulted in lesser yields and shorter stalks than those with natural amounts of the cannabinoid, which serves as a sunscreen for the plant, says Herer.

Herer would allow any amount of THC in industrial hemp. “Why would they want to take the best plant on the planet and make it a midget?” Herer asks, adding, “People do die from marijuana, because they don’t get enough.”

John LaBoyteaux of Humboldt county testified on behalf of the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) for AB1147 before the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 29. He praised hemp's usefulness in making products, as grain substitute for the livestock industry, and as a rotation crop for weed suppression, which is especially important for the organic farming industry.

LaBoyteaux added, "I would like to say, just to be a little candid here, that there are a number of Southern counties that have now surpassed Humboldt county's reputation for marijuana cultivation, which is not to say that illegal cultivation is not still a serious societal problem in Humboldt county, it is. I talked to a few other farmers before I came down to address this bill and some of the reaction I got was, 'Bring on the industrial hemp.' If we have a few industrial hemp fields scattered around Humboldt county what this will tend to do is keep marijuana cultivation out of our traditional agricultural areas because the hemp pollen will simply overwhelm the marijuana plants and make them unsaleable."

LaBoyteaux’s comments echoed those of ex-CIA chief James Woolsey, who declared, "Hemp is nature's own marijuana-eradication system” when he was a lobbyist for the North American Industrial Hemp Council (NAIHC).

Of another part of the "Emerald Triangle" where medical marijuana is legally grown, Johanna Schultz, public relations director and board secretary at the Hemp Industries Association told the Ukiah Daily Journal, "I am trying to advise not to grow hemp here in Mendocino County because of the chance of cross-pollination between the plants used for medical marijuana. We are trying to help hemp agriculture stay generally within the Central Valley [where most of the state's cotton is grown]."

Co-sponsoring the bill with the progressive Leno, who has also advanced medical marijuana, is Republican Chuck DeVore of Orange County who, according to the 8/28/06 New York Times article "California Seeks to Clear Hemp Of a Bad Name" worked in the Pentagon as a Reagan-era appointee. The California Narcotics Officers Association didn't show up at the 6/29 hearing on AB1147, and committee members were told CNOA might have pulled their opposition. But the CNOA says they continue to oppose the bill.

Chris Boucher, who grew industrial hemp in San Diego county in 1994 on the same field as a 1917 experimental hemp field, predicts hempseed grown in the lower latitudes of California will be two to four times larger than what is currently being produced in Canada. “There is no doubt that industrial hemp will exceed all current predictions of growth,” Boucher said. He cautioned, however, “We must all keep our eye out for large GMO seed companies trying to enter the hemp market.”

On August 15, Monsanto, the world’s largest seed enterprise, acquired Delta and Pine Land Company, which is notorious for its early development, with the US Department of Agriculture, of Terminator technology - plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. D&PL claims that it is already growing genetically modified cotton and tobacco containing Terminator genes in greenhouses.

Dave West (Ph.D), a plant breeder who ran the Hawaii Industrial Hemp Project from 1999-2003, predicted Schwarzenegger will send back the bill until it’s watered down to a study, as happened in Illinois. “That’s not a victory,” West said. “It will mold in some university papermill.” West does think the scarce remaining germplasm of native U.S. hemp needs to be collected and studied at the University level.

Jack Herer’s book The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy has sold over 700,000 copies in the U.S. and Germany, plus sales in Canada and the U.K., and foreign-language versions in France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Hungary, Poland, Russian, Czechoslovakia and other countries. It has been compared to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in terms of social import.

In 1992, during his first run for President, Al Gore was asked about The EmperorWears No Clothes while on the campaign trail in West Virginia. According to a New York Times reporter, Gore's answer was "meaninglessly vague and vaguely meaningless" and managed to convey that the candidate was against both hemp and nudity. Herer’s book (which has nothing to do with nudity, but rather was named for the Hans Christian Anderson tale about government corruption) contains a 1989 exchange between the author and Steve Rawlings of the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland. Rawlings realizes that hemp could be the answer to global warming, but tells Herer because marijuana is illegal it can't be grown. "Not even to save the world?" Herer asks. "No, not even to save the world," came the reply. An inconvenient truth, indeed.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: BACKGROUND ON HEMP AND GMOs

A 2003 Hemp Report from the Saskatoon Research Center in Canada by Cecil L. Vera of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada concludes that of six hemp cultivars grown in Melfort, SK that year, the one with the best yield also had the most THC. A 1999 study from Thunder Bay showed marked differences between 1% cultivars vs. 0.3% ones. See: http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/speccrop/publications/ind_hemp.htm

A 1998 Vermont State Auditor's report evaluating the DEA's marijuana eradication efforts in the U.S. revealed that over 99 percent of the 422,716,526 total cannabis plants eliminated nationwide by the agency in 1996 were "ditchweed," non-psychoactive hemp. Many of those plants were remnants from government-subsidized plots grown during World War II's "Hemp for Victory" campaign. See: www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=4401

Commenting on the study in Summer 1998, publisher Mari Kane wrote in HempWorld magazine, "That hemp cultivation is not currently legally allowed in the United States has not stopped seed and chemical corporations from developing low-THC hybrids using European seed stock. Once they patent these new strains, I suspect that hemp prohibition will magically become a thing of the past, with the usual players monopolizing the seed supply. The wild hemp growing on the prairies is a threat to these companies' plans to control hempseed, and government-sponsored eradication is the simplest way to eliminate the competition. Perhaps that is what this plan is really about." [Plant breeder Dr. David West says that hemp seed is not hybridized, also that extrapolating from studies is speculative, since factors other than seed type affect yields.]

Of the Monsanto/D&PL merger, Ibrahim Coulibaly, President of the National Coordination of Peasants' Organizations of Mali, said, "This merger guarantees an intensification of the already immense political pressure on West African governments to accept genetically modified seeds.” Monsanto and D&PL together account for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. See: http://www.banterminator.org/

Under the guise of a group called CropLife America, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont and other corporations spent $621,000 to oppose Mendocino county, California’s anti-GMO Measure H in 2004. In response, Measure H backers brought in 73-year-old Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, whose canola crops were contaminated with Monsanto's patented "Round-up Ready" GMO/GE canola, causing him to be sued by Monsanto for "property theft" and "patent infringement." Measure H passed, but Mendocino and a handful of hamlets across California are fighting off a state bill that would undo the law and preclude other cities and counties from outlawing GMOs. See: http://www.gmofreemendo.com/

The use of seed oils for fuel has been on the international stage as far back as 1992, when George H.W. Bush raised tariffs on seed oils as his first act as president. (In retaliation, France raised their tariff on wine.) At BIO 2006, the annual convention of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, held in mid-April in Chicago, "biofuels" -- renewable fuels made from plant materials -- were the center of attention, with biodiesel and ethanol as the industry's two leading hopes for spurring renewed interest and investment, wrote Charles Shaw of AlterNet.

On the heels of Bush's "addicted to oil" speech, heading into the convention, BIO released a letter to Congress on March 13 requesting full funding for programs that would support research and development into ethanol production.

At a BIO conference plenary session on biofuels, former CIA head and NAIHC lobbyist R. James Woolsey claimed that "Biotechnology will be for the 21st century what physics was to the 20th," unlocking the secret potential of the planet in ways never before imagined, while at the same time rescuing us from the social and environmental perils of the petrochemical system. "For every billion dollars we shift from foreign oil to domestic biofuels, we can add anywhere from 10-20,000 American jobs," Woolsey said, "and at least half of our gasoline needs can be grown here with cellulose".

Biodiesel fuel is primarily made of soy, grown by farmers in the Midwest. Although there's no sure way to say how much soy-based biodiesel comes from genetically modified stock, as of 2003, 81 percent of the U.S. soy harvest was genetically modified. See: http://www.alternet.org/envirohealth/35243/