“I’d like your opinion on the Cannabis vs Hemp issue,” writes Jeanette Doney of Fort Bragg. “Last week the house in CA passed AB 684, industrial hemp for farming. It now goes to the senate, and then to Arnold, as it did last year… Cannabis growers fear industrial hemp as a cross-pollinator. But I am with those who claim there should be no fear protecting small, indoor, legal cannabis crops from hemp crops.”
The “vs” never made sense to me, Jeanette: cannabis is hemp. It’s a myth that the plant grown for food and fiber has to be low on THC, or stalky. Japanese hemp fiber is the finest of all, and it comes from plants that are compact and bushy. If and when low-THC hemp is legalized, and low-THC strains are growing all over Mendoland, is there any doubt the local Burbanks will find ways to keep growing potent sinsemilla? Who’s afraid of wind-borne pollen? “If you don’t find a couple of seeds, it means the plant has been neutered,” says Bob Cannard, a most observant farmer. “It’s been short-changed… You’ve got to allow a plant to have a few seeds. How can it be a truly content plant without sexual fulfillment?”
Reform advocates have created niches for themselves and convinced their backers that legalizing the cannabis plant for food and fiber is a project that is and should be kept distinct from legalizing the plant for medical use (which they distinguish from legalizing it for “recreational” use, which they distinguish from legalizing coca and poppies). As if the single-issue trap wasn’t constrictive enough, these people focus on issues within issues. They think they’re being slick, they think they’re politically sophisticated, our leaders, the pros from Dover.
Last year, as you know, Schwarzenegger -who claimed while running for governor that he was “for” medical marijuana, whatever that means- vetoed the hemp bill. Because the hempster masterminds had kept their distance from the pot-smoking masses, there was nobody to hold Schwarzenegger’s veto against him. With no political price to pay, why shouldn’t the Governator do the same thing this year?
In late February I called the office of Assemblyman Mark Leno and told an aide named Bart Broome that the Society of Cannabis Clinicians wanted to get cannabis rescheduled in California in a way that jibed with medical reality, i.e., on a schedule all its own to reflect its unique range of effects and mechanism of action. (Each state has its own Controlled Substances Act and the state CSAs don’t have to mirror the one adopted by Congress in 1970.) The SCC docs were hoping Leno would sponsor a bill to reschedule cannabis and hold hearings at which they could present evidence that it is medically useful. They hoped he would move swiftly so that the discussion in California would be taken into account when Congress reconsiders whether cannabis belongs on Schedule I.
Broome said that Leno was reintroducing the hemp bill and therefore it was out of the question that he sponsor a rescheduling bill. I told Broome his boss was making a tactical mistake in treating “hemp” and “medical marijuana” as discrete issues. He said (as if educating me) that politicians were afraid to support any bill reforming the drug laws because opponents would then call them soft on crime. He said law enforcement in particular would oppose rescheduling marijuana in California because the ensuing conflict with the federal controlled substances act would put them in a terrible bind, as had Prop 215 itself.
It was a mind-blowing little sermon. Ten years after I first heard the head of the California Narcotics Officers Association complain that Prop 215 had created a “nightmare” for her members, I had to hear it from Mark Leno’s point man for drug policy reform! Young Broome seemed to assume that my real goal was “legalization,” and confided that he’d “seen some polling” indicating that a majority of Californians might vote for a legalization initiative, and that he’d recently heard from “some folks in Orange County… conservatives with ties to Lou Sheldon” that they were thinking about launching a legalization initiative… As if I should find that heartening. As if it had any relevance to the purpoe of my call on behalf of a doctors’ group.
Broome opined that changing the state CSA so that it didn’t mirror the federal CSA was probably not possible, “you’ll have to have some lawyers take a hard look at that.” I said, “Gerry Uelmen told me that in Arkansas cannabis is on Schedule Six. Rescheduling in California is definitely do-able.” Dropping the famous lawyer’s name produced an immediate change in tone. Broome asked if the doctors had money to hire a lobbyist. I told him to consider my call the first step in our lobbying process. He said “It would be very good if the doctors could hire a lobbyist.” Next I contacted the office of assemblyman Sandre Swanson and got a much friendlier reception. Stay tuned.
FRED GARDNER edits O’Shaughnessy’s, the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice (soon to have a presence on the web). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org