Even if hemp cultivation becomes legal, would other regulations eliminate its economic advantage

RE: “Defending the most versatile crop on Earth” [Viewpoint, June 5]:

It is interesting that hemp is defined differently from marijuana. Sadly, genetically, they are the same species. In fact, there is only one species within the cannabis family and it is cannabis sativa.

You can plant varieties with low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient of marijuana, but it is difficult to guarantee that future generations will also be low in THC.

I suspect that the Canadian hemp industry is being used as a model. Up here in Canada, hemp seed must be certified that it will only produce non-viable cannabis with unusually low levels of THC.

The non-viability means the farmer must always have to buy seed from a supplier and the cost is not cheap. It can be as much as half the value of the harvested crop.

The low-THC requirement might not seem like much of an issue for industrial purposes until you consider that it arbitrarily eliminates nearly every variety out there. The regulations simply ensure that the crop be too expensive to be economical for many uses, such as paper and fuel.

Until the 1920s, when the petroleum industry was being developed, people considered all varieties of cannabis to be beneficial. If a farmer could choose a variety to grow based upon real industrial specifications, such as yield potential, and if the farmer could reserve some of the seed to plant for the next harvest, the cost of the harvest would be so little that the plant could even displace petroleum as the most practical source of fuel for transportation. Imagine buying fuel grade ethanol for less than $3 per gallon.

All this would be possible only if people were not so afraid of cannabis.

I would challenge anyone to prove me wrong, but such a challenge would be moot so long as it remains illegal for scientists to experiment with growing different varieties. Even if you did prove me wrong, it would be a felony to do so.

Why did the whole world become so afraid of cannabis in the 1920s? Before the 1920s, the world required hemp. Now, because of this fear, we must use petroleum and wood pulp and other commodities just to get by. We even use petroleum sources for medicine these days. It makes me sick.

Gasoline is a very dangerous drug when poured into a plastic bag and sniffed. In many northern Canadian communities, people who have little or no access to ethanol and cannabis often abuse gasoline in that manner. If I had my way, gasoline would be an internationally banned schedule one drug. The stuff is so volatile, you can use it to burn on top of water.

What a crazy, mixed-up world that lets children play with gasoline, but forbids even adult scientists from growing their own varieties of cannabis for research. Have the gods become crazy?

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