Community Cannabis Forum
John R. Stahl
The Evanescent Press
The Church of the Living Tree
I am a paper maker, forming sheets at the vat with a mould and deckle in the traditional manner. Since I know that hemp is the oldest and best material for fine papermaking, and has been the mainstay of the industry for the last 2000 years until the advent of wood pulp mills, I began to use the locally available stalks, which were donated to me by marijuana growers, as a source of hemp fiber for my paper mill. My experiments with hemp have been most favorable, and so I want to grow fiber varieties myself in the traditional way that maximizes the fiber yield, not the flowering tops. I wanted to get larger yields of the more valuable bast fiber (the outer part of the stalk), and I wanted to grow it densely, so they would put up tall single stalks, without branches, so that it would be easy to pull off a fat layer of bast fiber from every stalk. This is the opposite of the way marijuana is grown, which is short and bushy, to maximize the flowering tops.
There is practically no THC in fiber varieties, and no reason in the world why I shouldn't be allowed to cultivate them for my paper mill. There are a great many varieties of industrial hemp, since it has been so widely cultivated for thousands of years all over the world, but they all have very little THC, mostly around 1/2%, but certainly below 1%, which is the dividing line in the scientific literature between industrial hemp and marijuana. For reference, wild drug varieties are in the 3-7% THC range, while cultivated marijuana today is in the range of 10-15%.
But not only is fiber hemp low in THC, but it is also high in CBD, another chemical which interferes with the high, and produces headaches and discomfort. Most varieties of marijuana, on the other hand, have naturally low levels of CBD. What this means is that there is no potential for drug use whatsoever from any variety of fiber hemp.
I made application to the DEA five years ago, and after several years of building fences, and lights, and alarms, they were finally satisfied that I was in full compliance with their regulations. They said that I was the first and only applicant to comply. Since their regulations are way beyond absurd, it is no wonder that no one else has complied. (Compare the situation in Europe, where the European Union pays a subsidy to hemp farmers. Here, in addition to all the hassle and expense of compliance, there is also an $875 non-refundable annual fee!)
So now we have worked our way along at the State level, where we expect the introduction of the Industrial Hemp Act of 1998, either in the legislature, or by initiative, in which “marijuana” will be redefined to exclude “hemp” at the 1% THC line. If this passes, it might only be another year before we can finally put our first crop in the ground.
But something is wrong with this picture! Why should I have to put up with all of this nonsense? By what right, and for what earthly reason does anyone oppose my right to cultivate the world's premier fiber plant for my paper mill?
Hemp is not the only fiber plant that I grow. I have about eight Paper Mulberry trees that I planted a few years ago. And I grow and use kenaf, and yellow dock, and teasel, and thistles, and other plants that I experiment with as sources of fiber for paper pulp. Now I want to grow hemp, and I find it very annoying that my freedom to do this is obstructed. It seems to me that I have a right to live my life in freedom, on my own property, as long as I am not interfering with the freedom of others.
I am certainly not an anarchist. I believe that there is a very small but essential role for a central government, mainly to keep the peace, maintain justice, and safeguard personal freedom against tyranny from any source or direction. But just because Congress is seated, to carry out the functions assigned to it by the Constitution, it does not have the right to pass laws beyond its clearly limited jurisdiction. If any agents of federal, state, or local government try to interfere in the private affairs of free citizens, they exceed their authority. They become the very tyranny that we put them there to protect us from.
Our “Government was instituted, deriving its just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, to secure the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” That is, our Government was instituted to protect us from infringements to our Liberty, not to become a new Master to shackle us in new chains. And “whenever any Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.” (Thomas Jefferson, from theDeclaration of Independence)
The People have never consented to arbitrary Laws which interfere with the natural Rights of free Citizens. The Powers of Congress have been carefully limited by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, and the Rights of the People have been guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Over the years, state, federal, and local governments have tried to spread their dark shadow over more and more areas of our lives over which they have never had any authority.
If the Government wants to wage a war on drugs, for example, there is only one weapon which they have a right to use: Education, not legal process. Smoking marijuana should be considered a health issue, the way it is in most European countries, not a legal issue.
It is one of the legitimate functions of government to bring facts to our attention so that we may make informed choices (as in the mandate to “promote the general Welfare”), but no food or drug or even medical process should be prohibited by law. Why should the use of ozone in cancer or AIDS therapy, for example, be prohibited in this country in spite of a history of very promising results in many other countries? The government may set up bodies to examine any of these things and publish their findings and recommendations, the way it does with the use of tobacco. A board of medical examiners may declare that they have found ozone therapy to be a dangerous and ineffective medical procedure, and require its practitioners to publish that message, but we must all retain the freedom to make our own final choice.
The abuse of any harmful substance may be opposed by education. The more people know the facts about smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or sniffing glue, the less they use them. If anyone has any data that support a claim that marijuana is harmful, when used in moderation, then we urge them to publish their findings, so that we can make our choices based on accurate information.
In this country, serious drug abusers are forced underground by the dark shadow of the law. Some of them resort to robbery or to the deliberate addiction of school children to support their expensive habits. In Holland or Switzerland, on the other hand, they are given clean needles, along with food and counseling. The idea of Harm Reduction is one which is understood by most of the rest of the world: if laws create more problems than they are intended to address, then it doesn't make sense to implement them. Laws of Prohibition fall into this category.
In the case of marijuana, I don't think that the issue has anything to do with the medical merits of marijuana for any particular condition. The issue has to do with the right of Free Individuals to consider the facts and make up their own minds about what they want to do with their own lives.
When our Government wanted to institute a prohibition against the use of alcohol, they had to pass an Amendment to the Constitution, because otherwise they had no authority to propose such a measure. Nothing is different in the case of marijuana, except that alcohol is far more harmful, both to the user and to the rest of us, than marijuana could ever be. Until and unless there is a Constitutional Amendment establishing a prohibition of marijuana, then no one has any authority to interfere with our freedom.
The Marihuana Problem
Address at Hemp Fest West '99
The Evanescent Press