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Lawrence F. London, Jr.



Thursday, February 27, 1997

You can eat it, for it has great cooking versatility and even more nutritional value than soybean foods. Doctors use its oil to boost your immune system and fight heart problems. You can wear it, for it makes a light, longlasting fiber that "breathes" beautifully. It even makes a wonderful shower curtain, because it is light and -- now get this -- it does NOT mildew. You can write on it too, for it makes one of the finest papers ever known.

The "it" is not some new miracle compound invented in the science labs of industry, but an ancient plant that is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world: Hemp. The first known rope was made from it. The Chinese used it to make the first fish nets 6,500 years ago. The ancient Greeks wore hemp garments. Thomas Jefferson raised hemp on his Virginia farm, and he drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.

Plus, this renewable resource is an environmental Godsend. It requires very little fertilizers or pesticides to raise; it uses very little water; it produces four times as much fiber per-acre as wood does, so it can drastically cut deforestation. Hemp is simply a natural for our country and it can be a terrific cash-crop for America farmers.

There is only one problem with this remarkable plant: Our government outlaws it.

Hemp is a first cousin of the marijuana plant, you see, so our dead-head, drug-obsessed authorities will not let todays farmers raise it, even though industrial hemp cannot make you high -- indeed, all it gives you if you try to smoke it is a headache. Among the "hippie potheads" who are pushing the idea of bringing-back hemp as a vital crop for our country is the International Paper Company and the conservative Farm Bureau Federation. To them, it makes no sense to import hemp, when we could be growing it right here.

This is Jim Hightower saying . . . Hemp is not about getting high . . . it's about getting sensible.

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