On February 18, a bill that would legalize growing hemp in Kentucky for industrial use cleared a state legislative committee with a unanimous vote following testimonies by Senator Rand Paul and state Representatives John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie.
“We’re just very happy and excited and very appreciative of the state Senate for their overwhelming support and we look forward to a good, open, fair debate in the House,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. “There’s a desperate need to create jobs in Kentucky and this is one way to do it.”
Currently, hemp is classified as a prohibited controlled substance along with marijuana. Both plants are of the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has only a trace of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Throughout American history, hemp has been a vital crop and several of the founding fathers even grew it on their estates. Thomas Jefferson once said “hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country” and Levi Strauss’ original denim jeans and the first American flag were made of hemp. Hemp fibers can produce furniture, rope, housing insulation, a durable alternative to tree-based paper and a multitude of other products. The sustainable crop grows very quickly and requires no pesticides, no herbicides and only moderate amounts of fertilizer. In his testimony, Senator Paul announced he was wearing a shirt made with hemp that he bought in Canada, where growing hemp crops is permitted.
“The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell affirmed.
Additionally, hempseeds and hemp oil are an extremely nutritious superfood. Hemp is the only plant that contains all of the essential fatty acids and amino acids required by the human body and it is also very high in protein and fiber. And unlike grains, nuts and legumes, hemp has no enzyme inhibitors, making it easy to digest. Hemp oil has a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids that mirrors the primitive diet the human race evolved from for 2.5 million years and offers a plentiful source of gamma linelenic acid, vitamin E, oleic acid and Omega 9s – plus it has the lowest saturated fats of any common plant oil.
Though the crop touts a great deal of beneficial uses, Rodney Brewer, the commissioner of the Kentucky State Police, argues that if hemp farming were legal, marijuana growers would hide their plants in hemp fields, where the police would not be able to tell the crops apart from one another. “They are identical in appearance when it comes to the naked eye,” Brewer said.
But former CIA Director James Woolsey, who also testified in favor of the bill Monday because of his “interest in prosperity for rural America,” believes that marijuana growers would not conceal plants in a hemp field because hemp can cross-pollinate with marijuana and lower the concentration of THC.
Marijuana growers “hate the idea of having industrial hemp anywhere near,” he said, adding arguments that hemp is a narcotic on par with marijuana is “pretty much exactly like saying you can get drunk on (the low-alcohol) O’Douls (beer). It’s very difficult.” Senator Paul agreed.
“It’s a crop that’s legal everywhere else in the world except the United States,” Paul noted. “…If I thought this was going to allow marijuana to take off in our state, I wouldn’t be for it.”
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A rally called Forward on Climate on February 17 brought more than 40,000 activists to converge on the nation’s capital calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The global grassroots movement 350.org said the turnout, which brought in 130 busloads of supporters from around the country, sent a clear message to the president: “time to live up to your rhetoric, take us forward on climate, and say no the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Many in the environmental community were encouraged by the president’s recent State of the Union address, with statements that dealt directly with the climate crisis and the need for a new energy future. Obama said in his address: “I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association responded: “President Obama understands that the stakes are high and we must not fall behind other nations as the world shifts to emissions-free clean energy technologies like solar.” And Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America, responded that “Between his second inaugural address and [the] State of the Union address, President Obama has spoken more forcefully about the need to tackle global warming than all presidents before him combined. If this strong language is any indication of his commitment to addressing global warming, which we believe it is, the next four years hold great promise for our ability to cut carbon pollution and fulfill our obligation to our children and future generations.”
But the February 17 Forward on Climate rally was about holding the president accountable—to make sure that action follows words. Speakers included clean energy investor Tom Steyer, 350.org founder and environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben and green jobs champion Van Jones.
The most visible environmental fight activists are focused on is TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta to Texas, crossing through the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water for millions of Heartland families. Construction of the 485-mile pipeline began last year and Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman recently approved a revised route for Keystone XL through his state.
Jones said at the rally: “This pipeline, if it goes through — the first thing that the pipeline runs over is the credibility of the president of the United States. That’s the first thing it runs over. He said that he’s not going to let us be a generation that cooks the earth.”
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