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August 28, 2006
Time To Legalize Hemp? And Perhaps Marijuana?

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a decision to make on hemp. The California legislature delivered a bill legalizing the plant for industrial purposes last week, a measure jointly authored by a San Francisco liberal and an Orange County conservative:

Seven states have passed bills supporting the farming of industrial hemp; their strategy has been to try to get permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration to proceed.

But California is the first state that would directly challenge the federal ban, arguing that it does not need a D.E.A. permit, echoing the state’s longstanding fight with the federal authorities over its legalization of medicinal marijuana. The hemp bill would require farmers who grow it to undergo crop testing to ensure their variety of cannabis is nonhallucinogenic; its authors say it has been carefully worded to avoid conflicting with the federal Controlled Substances Act.

But those efforts have not satisfied federal and state drug enforcement authorities, who argue that fields of industrial hemp would only serve as hiding places for illicit cannabis. The California Narcotic Officers Association opposes the bill, and a spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington said the measure was unworkable.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican running for re-election, has been mum on his intentions, with the political calculus of hemp in California difficult to decipher. The bill was the handiwork of two very different lawmakers, Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat best known for attempting to legalize same-sex marriage, and Assemblyman Charles S. DeVore, an Orange County Republican who worked in the Pentagon as a Reagan-era political appointee.

The calculus in California should not be hard to discern. More than a decade ago the state legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes despite the fact that no official therapies exist involving its use. This measure would require hemp farmers to test their crops for the presence of THC, which would indicate that they are farming marijuana rather than hemp, which makes this more conservative than the medicinal allowance that enjoyed such wide acceptance. Had this been offered as a referendum, it surely would have easily passed.

This bill isn't really about hemp as such, but about the continuing criminalization of marijuana. California has long signaled that it wants to dump anti-marijuana laws but have been stymied by the federal government. The hemp bill is another demonstration of the difficult task in declaring a crop illegal, especially one that has such positive potential as hemp, simply to support a failing front on the war on drugs. Even conservatives in the Golden State have begun to question the resources spent on fighting marijuana.

Libertarians and conservatives share an impulse against government intrusion, but often split on anti-drug efforts. Conservatives have supported government impositions in the drug war that they would never tolerate anywhere else, such as confiscation laws, asset freezes, and the like. While conservatives will still likely support an effort to interdict narcotics and other strong drugs, at some point we have to ask ourselves if the power we grant to the federal government is worth the effort specific to marijuana.

The Governator is asking himself that question right now. It will be interesting to see the federal reaction if he signs the bill.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 28, 2006 6:50 AM

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» California Election 2006 Watch: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sign Industrial Hemp Bill? from FullosseousFlap's Dental Blog
Charles Meyer, who farms 2,600 acres south of Fresno, Calif., is among a growing number of people who advocate legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp. “The fact we’re not growing it is asinine,” Mr. Meyer said. New York Times: California ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 28, 2006 8:57 AM

» Industrial Hemp: Its not just for third world cou from Our House
Cruising through the blogs this morning I see Captain Ed is reporting that the crusaders for the legalization of industrial hemp are making some er headway in (guess where?) California. (I am not going to go into the whole legalization of pot arg... [Read More]

Tracked on August 28, 2006 11:05 AM

» Should Arnold Legalize Hemp? from Right Voices
Should hemp be legalized? How about marijuana? That is the question that continues to be asked. The NYT’s ran California Seeks to Clear Hemp of a Bad Name today and it brings up some very good points. Arnold Schwarzenegger needs to make a dec... [Read More]

Tracked on August 28, 2006 3:31 PM


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