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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

March 30, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Commentary: Hemp’s potential clouded by Schedule 1 title

Last year, I began learning about an intriguing plant that’s benevolence is masked by its unfortunate public misconception as an illegal intoxicant. I’m talking about industrial hemp, which is legally considered a Schedule 1 drug by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration despite its proven health benefits and low-to-nonexistent levels of THC. This is the psychoactive ingredient that is prevalent in higher percentages in marijuana plants. Schedule 1 drug classification means that a substance has a high potential for addiction, which I would argue is true, but in a different way. I’m addicted to informing others and myself about the incredible potential industrial hemp has to help us rein in a more sustainable era of American socioeconomic policy and practice.

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Parker Chen//The IthacanSenior Sam Goldman browses products made from hemp last Friday at the Ithaca Hemp Company on The Commons. The plant can be used to make more than 25,000 products around the world.

According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, hemp can be made into more than 25,000 products that we currently produce from toxic and/or unsustainable resources like petroleum, cotton, timber and corn. Every other industrialized country has acknowledged hemp’s potential, and ours is starting to follow suit, made evident by our rising demand for imported hemp fiber, oil and seeds primarily cultivated in China, Canada, Spain and France. But why should we continue to import a plant that grows wild on our own soil when we could simply change the law?

Thousands of American hemp activists are working to do that, such as Ron Paul, who has tried for four years to pass a bill to remove industrial hemp’s status as a Schedule 1 drug. University professors, native people, former tobacco farmers and other Americans are applying for permits from the DEA to grow hemp for research and ultimately to promote the restabilization of economically injured communities in the U.S. However, since Henry Ford’s research with hemp-based and fueled cars, the DEA has only issued one permit for a tiny, privately funded research project in Hawaii in 2001 — five long years after the state passed a resolution to conduct such research in an effort to see if hemp could help improve its economic standing.

I see potential in our local community members who support industrial hemp policy reform and for Cornell University to join the national movement and apply for a research permit. Cornell has the resources necessary to meet the DEA’s unrealistic demands that prevent average citizens from successfully pursuing a permit. Cornell’s Ivy League reputation could help restore industrial hemp’s status as an extremely useful and vital crop. I hope they will take the steps toward this application knowing they have the support of their community.

We have the power to make a meaningful change in our lifetimes by educating ourselves about our country’s cannabis laws, which is vital to understanding our current socioeconomic situation that is entrenched in government-industrial ties. Let’s stand together and make a significant change.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the IC Environmental Society are cosponsoring a presentation by Dr. Anil Netravali of Cornell and David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, about industrial hemp fiber at 8 p.m. April 18 in Textor 101. This will include a screening of a work-in-progress documentary called “Bringing It Home.”

Come learn about hemp and pick up your own hemp-friendly local business guide so you, your family and friends can support our growing hemp market and learn how wonderful an addition it can be to our lives.

Sam Goldman is a senior writing major and educational coordinator of the college’s chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. Email her at sgoldma1@ithaca.edu.