[ OUR OPINION ]
End federal hysteria
about growing hemp
REFUSAL by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to grant a permanent permit for an experimental industrial hemp project in Wahiawa has resulted in its closing. The drug agency's confusion of hemp with marijuana was responsible for its silly recalcitrance. The agency should end its hallucination and allow a long-lasting project to develop a crop that could be a profitable part of Hawaii's growing diversified agriculture.
An experimental hemp farm at Wahiawa has been closed after investors declined to continue funding.
Products containing hemp already bring in as much as $200 million in retail sales nationally, but hemp and its products must be imported from Canada and Europe because it is illegal to be grown in the United States. Hemp is used to make paper, clothing and rope and is an ingredient in soap, skin cream, cosmetics and food products such as energy bars, waffles and bread. The DEA's absurd attempt to ban its use in food products is being challenged in court.
The ban on growing hemp carries "zero tolerance" to a ridiculous dimension, a throwback to the "reefer madness" hysteria. Marijuana leaves and buds contain 7 percent to 20 percent THC, its mind-altering ingredient, which accounts for only one-tenth of 1 percent of industrial hemp. David P. West, a plant geneticist who operated the Wahiawa project, says hemp also contains another cannabinoid, CBD, which blocks the marijuana high, making it "antimarijuana."
Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) initiated the 1999 legislation authorizing the Wahiawa project. The DEA, which lists hemp as a Schedule 1 drug, granted a string of brief temporary permits for its operation, beginning in December 1999. "The DEA's action on the temporary permits put the project into a nebulous status and it raised questions," resulting in the evaporation of funding from the private sector, Thielen says.
Retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffery, the White House drug czar in the Clinton administration, mistakenly assumed that ingested foods containing hemp would set off workplace drug-testing equipment and that hemp was a "stalking horse" for legalization of marijuana. The Bush administration has been even more fearful of hemp as a cousin of marijuana.
That posture is based on ignorance. As West has pointed out, hemp was so important to colonial America that Jamestown passed a law in 1619 making it illegal not to grow hemp. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew it, and the government launched a "Hemp for Victory" campaign in World War II to reduce the reliance on Philippine hemp for use in rope, canvas and uniforms.
Following the war, the country returned to enforcement of a misguided 1937 law that made no distinction between marijuana and hemp. The government finally needs to make that distinction so a promising industry can return.
BACK TO TOP
Help is just 3 digits,
$200 million away
WHEN a woman seeks to escape an abusive partner, when a young man wants training for a job, when a mother has run short of food for her children or when a lonely elderly fellow wishes to socialize with other seniors, they all can get help simply by pressing three digits on their telephones: 2-1-1.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to authorize funding to establish 211 as a nationwide call center for those in need.
Since its inception last year, Aloha United Way's 211 service has fielded more than 47,000 calls for help. The free program is a one-stop center for myriad services offered by 4,000 community resources in Hawaii. The idea is to provide coordinated information and referrals to solve problems for people who aren't sure where to go or what services are available. It matches donations and volunteers to organizations that can best use them. In addition, 211 collects information on the needs of residents to aid in planning social service responses.
In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission assigned the three-digit code to be used exclusively for community information and referral purposes. AUW adopted 211 last July as a statewide, 24-hour, 7-days-a-week number, figuring the ease of dialing would prompt more people in need to seek help.
Trained specialists field calls, evaluate the individual's situation and connect the caller to groups that can help. They will follow up to see if needs have been met and steer the individual through the maze of eligibility requirements and other requisites.
Under the 211 umbrella, people can get assistance for food, child and medical care, substance abuse treatment, youth programs, job training, domestic violence, disabilities, business start-ups, elder care and free health insurance for children, immunizations and tax preparation.
Hawaii is one of only four states with statewide 211; 22 others have limited coverage. Last month, federal legislation was introduced in Congress to authorize $200 million annually for 211. The funds would be used to start and sustain 211 call centers nationally. Hawaii's delegation should support this effort. It will be money well spent.