Having provided this disclaimer, I want to come out completely in favor of legalizing cannabis. One, we really need the hemp industry for all sorts of ecological reasons. (And there's evidence that the wood pulp paper industry had something to do with criminalizing cannabis in order to destroy the the hemp paper competition.) Two, I want cannabis available if I get cancer.
Anyway, this came up because I found an article on Alternet entitled "The Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal". The article is good but what is more fascinating is reading all the comments after it.
Here's the point about hemp:
Marijuana's legalization would simplify the development of hemp as a valuable and diverse agricultural crop in the United States, including its development as a new bio-fuel to reduce carbon emissions. Canada and European countries have managed to support legal hemp cultivation without legalizing marijuana, but in the United States opposition to legal marijuana remains the biggest obstacle to development of industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. As US energy policy continues to embrace and promote the development of bio-fuels as an alternative to oil dependency and a way to reduce carbon emissions, it is all the more important to develop industrial hemp as a bio-fuel source - especially since use of hemp stalks as a fuel source will not increase demand and prices for food, such as corn. Legalization of marijuana will greatly simplify the regulatory burden on prospective hemp cultivation in the United States.
Read the article and the comments if you have time and let me know what you think.
UPDATE: Here're some interesting facts from the website I linked to above:
Marijuana and hemp both come from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa L., but from different varieties or cultivars. There are different varieties of Cannabis, just as Chihuahuas and wolves are different breeds of Canis lupus.
Marijuana is the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive varieties of Cannabis that are grown for their high THC content.
Hemp, also referred to as industrial hemp, are low-THC varieties of Cannabis that are grown for their seeds and fiber. Hemp is grown legally in just about every industrialized country except the USA.
Notoriety obscures the history and value of hemp. Hemp has a long history in America, from the first plantings in Jamestown, where growing hemp was mandatory, to the hemp sails of 19th-century clipper ships and the hemp canvas covers of pioneer wagons, to World War II's massive "Hemp for victory" program. Hemp is a major part of humanity's agricultural and commercial heritage, having been used extensively for millennia in cultures around the world.
Hemp seed was known long ago for its healthy protein and rich oil. The stalk's outer fiber was used for clothing, canvas, and rope, and textile rags were recycled into paper pulp. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, and the finest Bibles are still printed on hemp-based paper. The woody core fiber of hemp stalks was used for construction and fuel. In the early 20th century, hemp-derived cellulose was promoted as an affordable and renewable raw material for plastics; Henry Ford even built a prototype car from biocomposite materials, using agricultural fiber such as hemp.
Beginning with the passage of the "Marihuana Tax Act" of 1937 and continuing after the World War II "Hemp for Victory" program, misplaced fears that industrial hemp is marijuana and harassment by law enforcement discouraged farmers from growing hemp. The last crop was grown in Wisconsin in 1958, and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 formally prohibited cultivation.