Thursday, August 30, 2012

Journalist makes the economic case for cannabis legalization in 'Too High to Fail"


A few years ago, Doug Fine was giving a talk on sustainability when he happened to share an airport shuttle ride with a woman who was a USDA-approved expert on biofuel.

The two struck up a conversation about the possibilities of biofuel when Fine asked, "Well, what about hemp?"
"Instantly, she said, Oh, that's the best one of all. Hemp can provide benefits that corn and soy can't. But we can't look at it as an alternative fuel,' " Fine said.

Now it is Fine who is making that case and more in his new book "Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution." He comes to the Capitola Book Café to discuss the current political and economic status of cannabis tonight.

The book, he said, is an economic argument that the prohibition against cannabis and the larger War on Drugs is hurting the American economy. The book has already gotten the attention of pop culture's most prominent critic of the drug war, comic and talk-show provocateur Bill Maher.

Maher reviewed the book for the New York Times and wrote, "He has written a well-researched book that uses the clever tactic of making the moral case for ending marijuana prohibition by burying it inside the economic case. We've become a ruthless society, and almost everything has to be sold as first, it's good for business.' To his credit, Fine doesn't do what so many of us do and scream, Can't we just stop jailing potheads because that would be the right thing?' "

In the book, Fine illustrates the state of the marijuana industry by following one particular plant from Mendocino County in its journey from seed to a medical-marijuana patient. He describes the unique pot culture in Mendocino County, perhaps the nation's most tolerant county of the cannabis industry. And he outlines the potentially enormous economic lost opportunity that cannabis prohibition engenders.

But the Obama administration, despite the widespread hope that it would be more open to the idea of decriminalization, has instead cracked down on cannabis growers. Citing a Rasmussen poll released in May, Fine said of the Obama administration, "Journalistically speaking, it's just very confusing. Polls show that 56 percent of Americans say they support legalizing and regulating cannabis and 80 percent support medical marijuana. I mean, you have people like Pat Robertson and George Schultz coming out for this and it seems clear the American people are ready to address it. You would think that, as a candidate, Obama would want to take advantage of that."

Fine -- who lived in Santa Cruz for a few years in the 1990s and, in fact, worked as an intern with the Sentinel -- admits that his book is not exactly a dispassionate journalistic examination of the issue. He is not afraid to speak out as an advocate as well, particularly when it comes to his disappointment in the Obama approach to the issue. "As an American father and taxpayer and patriot, yes, I'm frustrated. The drug war has cost taxpayers a trillion dollars. It is one of the worst policies in our history, right up there with segregation, and clearly, it's time to end it. We would be a safer and better off country."

Fine often invokes American's failed experiment with Prohibition in the 1920s. But, unlike some cannabis proponents, he doesn't point to a vast conspiracy of industrialists and conservatives holding back legalization.
"I think it's simpler than all that. I think it's just bureaucratic inertia. There's $30 billion a year that goes into law enforcement to fight the drug war, and that's a hard tap to turn off. The only industry that really has a strong vested interest in the status quo is the private prison industry, and that's just not enough to hold back legalization on its own. It's more about a tipping point in public opinion and that's coming."

A little hemp may help that concert

By: Martin Cash

Simon Potter of the Composites Innovation Centre shows off a prototype of a speaker made with Manitoba hemp.
the Composites Innovation Centre shows off a prototype of a 
speaker made with Manitoba hemp.

ARENA concert sound systems deliver a much cleaner sound than they did back in the day.
But there's room for improvement. For instance, who can ever actually hear the words of the lead singer's between-song banter?
Daryl Lazarescu thinks he may have a solution and it comes from an unlikely source -- Manitoba-grown hemp.
Lazarescu's company, Pro Sound & Communications, and the Composites Innovation Centre are developing a large-format speaker horn using a hemp-fibre mat to replace the fibreglass material traditionally used in audio speakers.
"The target market is aimed primarily at venues that are a bit more difficult acoustically, like arenas and large churches with reflective walls and surfaces," Lazarescu said. "The idea is to get the sound on to the listener and away from the reflective surfaces."
The 96 cm X 66 cm X 117 cm speakers are large enough to contain all of the speech range so that the listener won't hear the reflected sound.
Simon Potter, a product innovation specialist at the Composites Innovation Centre in Winnipeg, said the CIC has developed all sorts of prototypes -- everything from bus doors to motorcycle parts to spectacles and caskets -- replacing items made with traditional materials with bio-fibres made with locally grown hemp or flax.
"We'd never done anything with sound-reproduction systems, but we thought it would be very cool," Potter said.
"We knew hemp had some unique acoustical properties and we thought it might have a warmer sound quality to it."
Lazarescu says he thinks the results are better than what is commercially available, but he's waiting for the actual scientific data to compare with traditional systems.
"I'm very happy with the results. It sounds a little better than conventional fibreglass, and once we get the data we will know more," he said. "Warmer is subjective. Data is quantifiable."
And Lazarescu knows what he's talking about. For the past 12 years he's been in the business of designing and installing audiovisual systems for large facilities from his business, formerly based in Bellingham, Wash.
But the downturn in the U.S. economy inspired a change in focus for Lazarescu, who grew up in Regina.
He decided to move to Winnipeg (where his parents live) to try to develop a differentiating product like the bio-horn while he revives his sound-system integration business in Winnipeg.
Aided by a $25,000 NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) grant with the University of Manitoba, the bio-horn project is already at the state where Lazarescu is able to pitch it to venue operators.
While the actual sound quality from a system of 30 or 40 such horns in a large arena has yet to be demonstrated, Lazarescu said the environmentally friendly and unique acoustic features of the design have already been enough to pique the interest of some large facility operators.
Sean McKay, the CEO of the Composites Innovation Centre, said working on a project like this one fits the CIC's strategy.
The centre has been very successful as a research centre for all sorts of mission-critical composite technologies, including important projects with the aerospace and transportation industries.
Although its bio-composites work is regionally self-contained, one thing that's still missing is a local manufacturer that can convert the hemp or flax fibres into a mat material that allows the bio-fibre to be machined into parts.
For instance, the hemp used in the bio-horn is grown in Manitoba, shipped to Pennsylvania where it's made into mat material, and then shipped back to Winnipeg.
The CIC's strategy is to fill a technology gap, use demonstrated products to get industry to start pulling material through the supply chain and then eventually develop that supply chain to include the establishment of a mat manufacturer in the province.
"The bio-horn may not be huge in terms of the amount of commercial opportunity for a mat manufacturer but in terms of profiling the material in an exotic application it really is a good fit," McKay said.

Camira goes from fabric to farming to secure bast fiber supply


Soft to handle, naturally inspired and manufactured using locally grown materials, Hemp is Camira’s most sustainable fabric. Photo: Camira Fabrics
Soft to handle, naturally inspired and manufactured using 
locally grown materials, Hemp is Camira’s most sustainable 
fabric. Photo: Camira Fabrics

Textile innovator Camira Fabrics has stepped back into the supply chain to work directly with farmers who grow the innovative raw material input for the company’s sustainable bast fiber fabric Hemp. The fabric uses hemp cultivated as agricultural crops to provide 40 percent of the fiber blend; the rest comes from wool.
Camira’s hemp is grown as agricultural crops under license from the U.K. government on farms in England. This bast fiber plant—like nettles, flax and jute—contains naturally occurring textile fiber just inside the outer bark to give the stem both strength and flexibility. Hemp is sown from seed in the springtime and is one of the fastest growing biomasses known, reaching over 10 feet in just 120 days, without the need for agro-chemicals. After harvesting, the long stems are left in bundles on the field, while the leaves decompose and act as natural fertilizer for the following year’s crop. A process called dew retting breaks down the fibers inside the stalks, which are then baled ready for final separation. Mechanical decortication breaks the brittle, woody stems, which gradually fall away from the lighter, flexible fiber. The woody shive is used for biodegradable animal bedding, while the textile fiber is blended with pure new wool.
The wool hemp yarn is blended and spun locally near the Camira manufacturing facility in England. The fabric is woven on energy-efficient high speed dobby looms, and then piece-dyed in low liquor dye vessels using non-metallic dyestuffs and a natural water supply flowing directly from local hills. The combination of blending bast fiber with pure new wool makes an inherently fire-retardant fabric without the requirement for FR chemicals, post treatments or backcoating.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GOP Champions Legalization of Hemp


High-profile supporters of industrial hemp will rally for their cause at the Kentucky State Fair this week. U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer will hold a news conference on Thursday morning on the fairgrounds. Paul is the co-sponsor of a Senate bill that would make hemp legal again across the U.S. And Comer supports a state-level bill that would allow it in Kentucky. He does not support legalizing hemp's cousin crop, marijuana.
Comer says Kentucky has always been well-suited to growing hemp, and the crop could be helpful at a time like this.
“It’s more resilient to drought conditions than any crop I know," he says. "It’s a green crop, you don’t have to put out nitrogen fertilizer out for it, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Comer is also expected to discuss the decade-old Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which has been dormant since it was created.
“Industrial hemp is gonna be legal in the United States in a few years, if not next year," he says. "Now, will Kentucky will be one of the first states to do it, that’s up for the Kentucky General Assembly to decide.”

Cannabis Science, Dupetit Natural Products Launching Hemp-Based Skin Products

Press Release

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Cannabis Science (CBIS), a U.S. biotech company that produces pharmaceutical products, finalized a deal with German botanical product company, Dupetit Natural Products GmbH.

The duo has teamed together to develop new products using their combined cannabinoid expertise. The products include capsules, creams, extract and essential oils targeting critical ailments such as cancer, AIDS, pain management, PTSD, skin issues and other critical ailments.

The joint venture agreement is designed to release products immediately in the developing European market and the United States. The deal will bring new products, revenues and executive management to Cannabis Science’s expanding operations. Dupetit has established itself in the European markets and around the world, while meeting Cannabis Science’s standards to ensure the utmost in quality control and stringent procedures. Cannabis Science has great confidence the new jointly developed products and the current Dupetit product line will be embraced nationwide and internationally.

In the nutraceutical, over-the-counter (OTC) market, Dupetit and Cannabis Science are releasing lip balms, skin creams and sun block and in Europe a line of natural scented cosmetics, organic hemp oil.

The joint venture will produce a variety of natural food products and many more naturally sweetened products, including CannaBiscuits, lollipops, colas, lemonades, chocolates, chewing gum, mints and many more items. Additionally, the JV will target clothing lines, perfumes, fertilizers and seed genetics, as well other exciting new developments to be announced.

Grow hemp to replace trees

By Rafe Sunshine

Re: "Beetle puts forestry's future at risk," Aug. 16.

The government's report on the depletion of B.C.'s forests has been known for the last decade and a half.

Forestry companies and the government have been complicit in taking too much timber at an unsustainable rate of cut, and now, due to the devastation of the mountain pine beetle from climate change, our timber resources are becoming scarce.

With a warmer climate, and uncertainty as to what species of trees are best to replant, what is wrong with considering the planting of hemp? (And no, this isn't a plug for the planting of marijuana.) This product is currently grown in Alberta for fibre and replenishes on a yearly basis instead of every 50 years.

Many products can be made from this plant, including clothing, oil from seeds, biodegradable plastics and biomass for biofuel. Similarly, with the pine beetlekilled timber that has become dangerous to mill, the plant could be shredded and processed in a biodigester to provide ethanol fuel. This would reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions of our province from the continual buildup of forest debris that contributes to fuel for forest fires and greenhouse-gas emissions through decomposition.

If the carbon-tax funds were directed toward the clean-energy biomass technology development instead of allowing the near-sighted government's forestry policy of unsustainable cut allowances, our province would be better off.

Rafe Sunshine

“Protestival” Organizer: Drug Policies Disproportionately Affect African Americans

by Candice Richardson

African Americans and the hemp plant have a long history together. Often cannabis reform advocates bring up the fact that hemp was grown and harvested alongside cotton by slaves as a key textile resource for our country (the first American flag was made out of hemp and the first drafts of the United States' Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper). African Americans have also long carried the burden as targets of prohibition policies passed in our nation – none the worst being the current prohibition against marijuana. 

In 2007 Dr. Jon Gettman, Ph.D wrote a report on the disparity of arrests between Blacks and Whites for possession of the drug, stating that “Blacks account for 12% of the population, 14% of annual marijuana users, and 31% of marijuana possession arrests. While these are national survey figures it is unlikely that local variances in the prevalence of marijuana use among Blacks and Whites account for the tremendous disparities in arrest rates.”

While this may not come as new news for those in the Black community in the Northwest, what may be surprising to some is that there is someone in Seattle who’s been incredibly vocal about these disparities and has organized an annual gathering dedicated to marijuana law reform as a social justice issue. His name is Vivian McPeak and he is the Executive Director of the Seattle Hempfest. 

Many in town are aware of Hempfest, often viewed as a weekend where weed heads and hippies get a free pass to “smoke out” on city property. In fact, Hempfest seizes about 400 pounds of illegal baked goods every year and no sales are allowed. The festival’s website makes sure to mention that city, state and federal laws are still in effect during the three days it takes over Myrtle Edwards Park. According to McPeak, the constant vigilance also means that annually there are few to zero arrests. “It’s a political statement,” he says regarding the event he helped found in 1991.

Few are aware of the educational and legal forums that take place throughout the three day festival, or of the White man who works year round tirelessly advocating for the rights of terminally ill patients, first time offenders, and, yes, Blacks who’ve been unfairly targeted as a result of the “war on drugs.” 

McPeak, the organizers and volunteers don't feel that non-violent people should be locked up as though they've committed violent crimes. This self-proclaimed ''Protestival'' states that it is all about reforming the legality of marijuana primarily as it pertains to social injustice. Hempfest includes appearances and speeches by lawyers and politicians such as attorney Jeffrey Steinborn who sits on the board of NORML and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. These are legalization advocates who are aware that it is often the poor, and disenfranchised who are most likely to be forever ''tagged'' as a drug user or pusher as they tend to lack the financial means to hire adequate legal representation for the same activities their White or more affluent counterparts engage in. This creates a downward spiral that is now including terminally ill patients who choose to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“African Americans are the primary victims of these policies” says McPeak who is of slight build with grayish brown dreadlocks tied in a ponytail down his back. “The entire prohibition movement has been drenched in racial inequality. Blacks are routinely scapegoated and selectively enforced and in the prison population they are 13 times more likely to be prosecuted than a white male of the same age. Prosecution in White neighborhoods is drastically lower than Blacks.”

McPeak is passionate and blunt when he speaks. His mind is an encyclopedia of facts, figures, and names. His manner is shrewd and his eyes are compassionate. Despite the ‘locks nothing in his demeanor says “stoner.” If anything he’s all business as he takes me on a tour of Hempfest’s new offices in Lake City and introduces me to volunteers working at computers and answering phones. Despite the civil rights issues at the heart of his work, I see no one of color in the Hempfest office. This is not a fact that is lost on McPeak. 

“Hempfest hasn’t done a great job of reaching out to the Black community,” says McPeak. But, “we do work at getting people involved through culture programming like music.”

According to McPeak, in the 20 years the annual festival has been occurring, what started out as an almost exclusively white gathering has expanded into a broader racial demographic of attendees in the last five to 10 years. This is due to certain festival features like the diversity of musical performances on six different stages and what McPeak views as the overall growth of the movement.

“Hip Hop and cannabis has received similar treatment by the media,”McPeak states. “Both have been feared and used as scapegoats and Hip Hop is one of the ways Hempfest tries to reach out to communities of color.”

To be fair, inclusion in the movement is a two way street. The Black community at large has not been very vocal about the need for marijuana reform and with good reason some might say if you look back into our recent history. The crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s that led to the explosion of gang violence and the fall of high profile figures like Marion Barry, still serve as painful reminders of a promising time in our culture that was decimated by drug addictions. 

“I believe that communities of color are in a catch-22 when it comes to cannabis reform” says McPeak. “Many work hard to distance themselves and find it hard to get behind the movement.”

After 40 years of bloodshed and the exponential growth of Blacks in prisons, the NAACP finally called for an end to the “War on Drugs” in July 2011 with President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous stating that “these flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America.” 

When asked if the war on drugs, and particularly the prohibition of marijuana, has been a tool for systematic and institutionalized racism, McPeak doesn’t hesitate.

“Absolutely! The book, The New Jim Crow, written by Michelle Alexander very accurately explains how these policies have been used to silence and suppress communities of color by locking up as many of them as possible.”

McPeak says Blacks in the justice system being charged with felony possessions result in the deliberate stripping away of constitutional rights making offenders unable to vote or obtain a career or education. He states that those prosecuted with felony drug possessions are no longer eligible for welfare, public housing, medical financial assistance or Pell grants. By comparison, these are rights and privileges convicted murderers still retain.

“There are valid concerns about the negative side of marijuana use,” said McPeak. “For some it has marginalized and demotivated and resulted in developing dependencies. Those are important issues that need to be equally addressed and are talked about at [Hempfest]. We need to be honest and we need to be comprehensive. That’s not happening with prohibition.”

What’s more, McPeak says it’s time to unify everyone who is negatively affected by the current policies as they stand. 

“We need help to reach out to communities of color and we need a better connection than we have right now.”

Each year Hempfest assigns a theme that speaks to significant current topics and trends. This year’s theme? “Building Bridges.”

Can Pot Treat Cancer Without The Devastating Effects of Chemotherapy?

 By Martin A. Lee

Research shows THC and other compounds found only in marijuana don't just soothe symptoms; they can shrink tumors and slow the spread of cancer.

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Acid Dreams author Martin A. Lee's new book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana -- Medical, Recreational, and Scientific  (Simon and Schuster, 2012):

Peer-reviewed scientific studies in several countries show THC and other compounds found only in marijuana are effective not only for cancer symptom management (pain, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and so on), but they confer a direct antitumoral effect as well.

Animal experiments conducted by Manuel Guzmán at Madrid’s Complutense University in the late 1990s revealed that a synthetic cannabinoid injected directly into a malignant brain tumor could eradicate it. Reported in Nature Medicine , this remarkable finding prompted additional studies in Spain and elsewhere that confirmed the anticancer properties of marijuana-derived compounds. Guzmán’s team administered pure THC via a catheter into the tumors of nine hospitalized patients with glioblastoma (an aggressive form of brain cancer) who had failed to respond to standard therapies. This was the first clinical trial assessing the antitumoral action of cannabinoids on human beings, and the results, published in the British Journal of Cancer , were very promising. THC treatment was associated with significantly reduced tumor cell proliferation in all test subjects.
Guzmán and his colleagues found that THC and its synthetic emulators selectively killed tumor cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed. No Big Pharma chemotherapy drugs could induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells without trashing the whole body. Up to 90 percent of advanced cancer patients suffer cognitive dysfunction from “chemo brain,” a common side effect of corporate cancer meds that indiscriminately destroy brain matter, whereas cannabinoids are free-radical scavengers that protect brain tissue and stimulate brain cell growth.
There is mounting evidence that cannabinoids may “represent a new class of anticancer drugs that retard cancer growth, inhibit angiogenesis [the formation of new blood vessels] and the metastatic spreading of cancer cells,” according to the scientific journal Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry . Studies from scientists around the world have documented the anticancer properties of cannabinoid compounds for various malignancies, including (but not limited to):
• Prostate cancer. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that the administration of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN-55,212–2, a CB-1and CB-2 agonist, inhibited prostate cancer cell growth and also induced apoptosis.
•Colon cancer. British researchers demonstrated that THC triggers cell death in tumors of the colon, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
• Pancreatic cancer. Spanish and French scientists determined that cannabinoids selectively increased apoptosis in pancreatic cell lines and reduced the growth of tumor cells in animals, while ignoring normal cells.
• Breast cancer. Scientists at the Pacific Medical Centers in San Francisco found that THC and other plant cannabinoids inhibited human breast cancer cell proliferation and metastasis and shrank breast cancer tumors. 1.3 million women worldwide are diagnosed yearly with breast cancer and a half million succumb to the disease.
• Cervical cancer. German researchers at the University of Rostock reported that THC and a synthetic cannabinoid suppressed the invasion of human cervical carcinoma into surrounding tissues by stimulating the body’s production of TIMP-1, a substance that helps healthy cells resist cancer.
• Leukemia. Investigators at St. George’s University and Bartholomew’s Hospital in London found that THC acts synergistically with conventional antileukemia therapies to enhance the effectiveness of anti-cancer agents in vitro (in a test tube or petri dish). Scientists had previously shown that THC and cannabidiol were both potent inducers of apoptosis in leukemic cell lines.
• Stomach cancer. According to Korean researchers at the Catholic Uni- versity in Seoul, WIN-55,212–2, the synthetic cannabinoid, reduced the proliferation of stomach cancer cells.
Skin carcinoma. Spanish researchers noted that the administration of synthetic cannabinoids “induced a considerable growth inhibition of malignant tumors” on the skin of mice.
Cancer of the bile duct. The administration of THC inhibits bile-duct cancer cell proliferation, migration, and invasion and induces biliary cancer cell apoptosis, according to experiments conducted at Rangsit University in Patum Thani, Thailand.
• Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s and Kaposi’s sarcoma. Researchers at the University of South Florida ascertained that THC thwarts the activation and replication of the gamma herpes virus. This virus increases a person’s chances of developing cancers such as Hodgkin’s, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma.
• Liver cancer. Italian scientists at the University of Palermo found that a synthetic cannabinoid caused programmed cell death in liver cancer.
• Lung cancer. Harvard University scientists reported that THC cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and “significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread.” Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the world. More Americans die of lung cancer each year than any other type of cancer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Green Home Construction Commences at First Florida Hemcrete Project

Press Release


American Lime Technology, the North American leader in sustainable hemp and lime-based green building construction materials is proud to announce construction is underway at the first green home in Florida utilizing Tradical Hemcrete.
Located just blocks from the coast, this green home will offer extraordinary benefits to occupant health, comfort, fire resistance, pest resistance, sustainability and energy consumption, as well as protect its occupants from Hurricane force winds. With a design typical of single family homes in Florida, this house is subtle, practical and quietly makes a bold statement about green construction for mainstream consumers.
Hemp and lime-based binder are cast over a largely conventional wood frame. Lime render (think breathable stucco without portland cement) exterior finish will be directly applied to the Hemcrete walls. The interior of the Hemcrete walls will be a coated with a thin layer of breathable natural hydraulic lime plaster that will allow the beautiful organic hemp aggregate texture to show through. The plaster will be finished with a limewash color coat.
The developer making this project a reality is Bob Clayton, a retired mechanical engineer with a deep interest in creating awareness of sustainable building technologies. This green building is not intended as a one-of-a-kind project, it will be available for sale. The home is a prototype (designed in typical Florida ranch style) showcase for affordable green home construction projects planned across the state.
Wall and ceiling materials including the Hemcrete are hygroscopic, fire-proof, and breathable. The exclusive use of lime and natural minerals in the building envelope materials ensures that no VOCs will off-gas and pests will find the wall absolutely unappealing. All construction will comply with the currently adopted Florida Building Code 2007 with Florida Building Code Supplements 2009 as well as Florida Fire Prevention Code 2007. In addition the house is designed to withstand wind speeds of 123 MPH.
Mario Machnicki, president and CEO of American Lime Technology will visit the construction site Tuesday August 14, 2012 to review construction progress with the developer, general contractor and architect. His visit will include a demonstration of lime render and lime plaster application.
Chicago, Il based American Lime Technology offers a range of construction materials and services to support forward thinking architects, engineers and building owners in their efforts to develop sustainable high performance residential, commercial and industrial building envelopes. Learn more about Tradical Hemcrete and other sustainable high performance building materials at

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hep on hemp: Why industrial-grade hemp should be a vital part of our economy

By Larry Gabriel

Photo: , License: N/A

The United States government has cried wolf about cannabis so many times that its credibility on the subject must be at an all-time low. Nowhere is that more apparent than when it comes to hemp. 
Hemp is a strain of cannabis sativa, but is sort of the nerdish, boring, industrious cousin of the plants people use for medicine, and to just get stoned. Hemp doesn't get you high at all, but it is useful in many other ways as textiles, paper, food, fuel and much more. A Jan. 19 paper from the Congressional Research Service titled Hemp as an Agricultural Product estimates that the global market for hemp includes some 25,000 products.
So why is this product prohibited rather than a vital part of our economy? As far as I can tell it's because the government thinks people are stupid. The simple reason given for hemp prohibition is that law enforcement is too dense to recognize the difference between a field of marijuana and a field of hemp. It would probably take about 10 minutes to explain it to a 10-year-old. Marijuana is grown for its THC-rich buds, which form on the end of its leafy branches. The more branches, the more buds. Most marijuana growing operations feature shorter, bushier plants with lots of branches that are planted several feet apart so that the sun can get to its lower branches. These are created by pinching off the ends of the stems, causing them to branch out.
Hemp is grown for the fibrous main stem, its trunk, so to speak, and its seeds. In order to get the longest stem, hemp plants are sown a few inches apart so that the plants literally compete for sunlight by reaching up. Anybody who has visited a dense forest has seen the phenomenon of a canopy of tall, skinny trees with few lower branches and very bushy tops. That's the way hemp is produced, in order to maximize the harvest of fibers. Pinching the ends to make the plant bushy is a no-no.
It's true that the leaves are identical. However, cannabis is grown for the THC; hemp contains only negligible traces of the substance. As for any law enforcement officer who can't figure it out, technology has advanced to the point where you can actually test the stuff. It's not that hard. There is no need for cops to stand around in a field sniffing at a plant to try to figure out what it is.
You could come across a situation where a hemp farmer hides a few marijuana plants among the rest of his crop. It could happen. But by that standard it would be akin to prohibiting cars because some people drive too fast, or prohibiting alcohol because some people drink too much. (Blogger's note:  wouldn't happen, the cannibis plants grown for THC content would cross-pollinate with the hemp plants and would reduce the quality of both crops.) 
At the same time you have the weird situation of a vast, multibillion-dollar marijuana underground wherein people pretty much use pot with impunity in order to get high. Yep, a lot of people get arrested for marijuana use or distribution, but that doesn't seem to stop much of the action. 
Nobody is producing underground hemp — at least that I've heard of. There is not enough profit in it to risk running afoul of the law. Instead, we import piles of it from China, Canada and other countries where they grow it. Oh, yeah, we get a lot of marijuana from other countries too.
I'm not going to wax poetic about all the wonderful products that can be made from the hemp plant or how it could boost our economy. There are a lot of folks out there talking about those things, and I'm no economist. It's just that I find hemp prohibition to be flat-out stupid — way stupider than marijuana prohibition. When it comes to marijuana, there are effects that just make some people uncomfortable. But with hemp, there is simply nothing to object to other than the plant looks like marijuana.
Regardless of that anomaly, the two are cousins and seem to get treated the same. Since marijuana is coming out to the light of day through medicinal use, decriminalization and legalization initiatives, hemp is following a parallel path toward respectability. 
In June, Sen. Ron Wyden  (D-Ore.) introduced the Industrial Hemp Act as an amendment to the Farm Bill. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ken.) and Jeff Merkley ( D-Ore.) co-sponsored the amendment. But it was pulled from the Farm Bill because, in Wyden's words, it was considered "non-germane" since the Controlled Substances Act would have to be amended to allow hemp farming. Had it passed, though, the amendment would have been a watershed for hemp farming. 
"It [the amendment] defines industrial hemp and excludes it from the definition of marijuana and leaves decisions on hemp farming up to the states," says Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp and a spokesman for the Hemp Industry Association. "Wyden is interested in reintroducing it as a stand-alone bill. We were hoping to have it introduced before the August recess."
It's not just federal legislation in the works. Nine states — Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia — have legalized cultivation and research of industrial hemp. However a grower still must get a permit from the DEA in order to grow hemp. The DEA has not handed out any permits for hemp farming.
The state-by-state strategy is the same one used by medical marijuana activists and by those who want to legalize it outright. If you get enough states on board, eventually making a national move could be much easier. In Michigan, it could be a county-by-county strategy to get the state there, but we are far from that. Only three of Michigan's 83 counties have passed resolutions calling on the state to support hemp farming. 
"Michigan would be a great state for hemp farming," Murphy says. "Sen. Debbie Stabenow has the Grow It Here, Make It Here initiative. A number of car manufacturers use natural fiber in reinforced plastic for car parts. It would be a great boon for the state, not only for farmers; it has industrial applications."
Murphy points out the changes that have taken place regarding hemp during the last couple of decades: "We have made big strides; industrial hemp is grown again in Canada. That started in 1998. In Germany, they figured out how to run hemp seed through a modified buckwheat machine that makes it incapable of germination. The shelled seed is an important import; it is exempt from the definition of marijuana. The United States is a large market for hemp food. The hemp food and cosmetics market is more than $418 million a year."
Sharing in that is not going to rescue our economy, but every little bit helps when it comes to putting Detroit back on its feet.
The folks at Vote Hemp plan to continue their state level work, supporting legislation and resolutions, encouraging activists to work locally to change the tide. It's not flashy work, but hemp and marijuana seem to be traveling the road to respectability together. Public opinion polls show that the people are about ready to make some changes. That might not be the same for legislators. 
Cannabis of any kind just seems to make them stupid.

New Bill Could Finally Legalize Hemp in the US

By Phillip Smith

The legislation would get around the DEA's refusal to differentiate hemp from marijuana and allow American farmers to grow it.

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The bill, if passed, would get around the DEA's refusal to differentiate hemp from marijuana and could result in American farmers being allowed to grow the industrial crop.
The bill, Senate Bill 3501 , was introduced last week by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and cosponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). It would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make clear that hemp is not a drug, even though it is part of the cannabis family. Hemp has much lower levels of THC than marijuana grown for recreational or medicinal purposes.
The bill marks Wyden's second attempt this year to get hemp de-listed. He tried to offer an amendment to the farm bill the Senate passed in June to do just that, but the Senate leadership ruled the amendment was not germane.
"I firmly believe that American farmers should not be denied an opportunity to grow and sell a legitimate crop simply because it resembles an illegal one," Wyden said. "Raising this issue has sparked a growing awareness of exactly how ridiculous the US's ban on industrial hemp is. I'm confident that if grassroots support continues to grow and Members of Congress continue to hear from voters then common sense hemp legislation can move through Congress in the near future."
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Meanwhile, another hemp bill, House Resolution 1831 , which would also clarify that hemp is not marijuana for the purposes of the Controlled Substances Act, languishes in the Republican-controlled House.

Five Scientific Conclusions About Cannabis That The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want You To Know

By Paul Armentano

The government and mainstream media like to push studies touting the purported dangers of marijuana, while ignoring scientific evidence that demonstrates the opposite.

While studies touting the purported dangers of cannabis are frequently pushed by the federal government and, therefore, all but assured mainstream media coverage, scientific conclusions rebutting pot propaganda or demonstrating potential positive aspects of the herb often tend to go unnoticed. Here are five recent examples of scientific findings about pot that the mainstream media (and the Feds) don’t want you to know about

1. Cannabis use is associated with lower mortality risk in patients with psychotic disorders
In the years immediately prior to the passage of the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, exploitation journalists routinely, yet unfoundedly, claimed that cannabis use triggered psychotic and violent behavior. For example, a news story from the July 6, 1927 edition of the New York Times pronounced, “A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say there is no hope of saving the children’s lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life.” While virtually every American readily dismisses such absurd claims today, nonetheless, decades later many of these same sensationalistic contentions continue to make their way into the mainstream press.  A case in point: within hours after the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, ABC News Philadelphia reported that shooter James Holmes’ rampage was likely brought on by smoking marijuana. Similarly, weeks earlier, various media outlets speculatedthat cannabis may have motivated the unfathomable actions of Rudy Eugene, the so-called “Miami Cannibal,” after toxicology reports found trace levels of marijuana byproducts in his system.
Conversely, mainstream media outlets often turn a blind eye to scientific studies refuting the notion that pot causes psychosis or in any way exacerbates mental illness, such as a 2009 Keele University Medical School study which found that increased levels of cannabis use by the general public is not associated with proportionally rising incidences of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. This was the case, again, in May when an international team of investigators from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Inje University in South Korea determined that the use of cannabis is associated with lower mortality risk in patients with schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders.
Writing in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, investigators assessed the impact of a lifetime history of substance use on mortality in 762 subjects with schizophrenia or related disorders. Researchers “observed a lower mortality risk-adjusted variable in cannabis-users compared to cannabis non-users despite subjects having similar symptoms and antipsychotic treatments." They speculated that this association between marijuana use and decreased mortality risk may be because "cannabis users may (be) higher functioning" and because "cannabis itself may have some health benefits."
"To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to examine the risk of mortality with cannabis and alcohol in people with PD (psychotic disorders),” the study’s authors concluded. “This interesting finding of decreased mortality risk ... in cannabis users is a novel finding and one that will need replication in larger epidemiological studies.”
A ‘novel’ and ‘interesting’ finding indeed; too bad no one in the corporate media cared enough to report it.
2. The enactment of statewide medical marijuana laws is associated with fewer incidences of suicides
Can cannabis use quell thoughts of suicide? Not a chance, claim the mainstream media and the Drug Czar . But a little-noticed discussion paper published this past February by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany provides dramatic evidence to the contrary.
Researchers at Montana State University, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State University assessed rates of suicide in the years before and after the passage of statewide medical marijuana laws. Authors found, “The total suicide rate falls smoothly during the pre-legalization period in both MML (medical marijuana law) and non-MML states. However, beginning in year zero, the trends diverge: the suicide rate in MML states continues to fall, while the suicide rate in states that never legalized medical marijuana begins to climb gradually.”
They reported that this downward trend in suicides in states post med-pot legalization was especially pronounced in males. “Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males,” they determined.
Authors theorized that the limited legalization of cannabis may “lead to an improvement in the psychological well-being of young adult males, an improvement that is reflected in fewer suicides.” They further speculated, “The strong association between alcohol consumption and suicide-related outcomes found by previous researchers raises the possibility that medical marijuana laws reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption.”
They concluded: “Policymakers weighing the pros and cons of legalization should consider the possibility that medical marijuana laws may lead to fewer suicides among young adult males.”
Predictably, no federal policymakers – many of whom recently voted in support of the Justice Department’s efforts to aggressively undermine existing state medicinal marijuana laws – have yet to comment on the study’s findings.
3. The effects of cannabis smoke on the lungs are far less problematic than those associated with tobacco
Inhaling any type of smoke is never particularly advisable. That said, when it comes to the purported effects of pot smoke on health, the corporate press can’t help but become hysterical. Such was the case not long when Reuters declared, ‘Cannabis is a bigger cancer risk than cigarettes.’ In a story carried internationally in hundreds of mainstream news outlets, the news wire pronounced, “Smoking a joint is equivalent to 20 cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk,“ before concluding that “an ‘epidemic’ of lung cancers linked to cannabis” was on the horizon.
Or not.
This past January, investigators writing in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that exposure to moderate levels of cannabis smoke, even over the long-term, is not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function.
Investigators at the University of California, San Francisco analyzed the association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over a 20-year period in a cohort of 5,115 men and women in four US cities. The study’s researchers "confirmed the expected reductions in FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in the first second of expiration) and FVC (forced vital capacity)" in tobacco smokers. The effect of cannabis smoke on the lungs, however, was a very different story. Investigators found: "Marijuana use was associated with higher FEV1 and FVC at the low levels of exposure typical for most marijuana users. With up to 7 joint-years of lifetime exposure (e.g., 1 joint/d for 7 years or 1 joint/wk for 49 years), we found no evidence that increasing exposure to marijuana adversely affects pulmonary function."
The UCSF researchers concluded, “Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana ... may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function.”
The study's results were consistent with previous, yet equally underreported scientific findings determining no demonstrable decrease in pulmonary function associated with moderate cannabis smoke exposure. Notably, a 2007 literature review by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, reported that pot smoking is not associated with airflow obstruction (emphysema), as measured by airway hyperreactivity, forced expiratory volume, or other measures.
And what about Reuters’ similarly specious claim of a coming cannabis-induced cancer epidemic? Bullshit, says the results of the largest case-controlled study ever to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking, which concluded that cannabis use was not associated with lung-related cancers, even among subjects who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints over their lifetime.
4. Cannabis use is associated with only marginal increases in traffic accident risk
“Cannabis drivers ‘twice as likely to cause car crash.’” So declared a BBC News headline in February, following the publication of a meta-analysis of nine studies assessing drug use in drivers involved in auto accidents. But a more thorough systematic review and meta-analysis of additional traffic injury studies published in July in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention reached a different conclusion.
An investigator from Aalborg University and the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo assessed the risk of road accident associated with drivers’ use of licit and illicit drugs, including amphetamines, analgesics, anti-asthmatics, anti-depressives, anti-histamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, opiates, penicillin and zopiclone (a sleeping pill).  His study reviewed data from 66 separate studies evaluating the use of illicit or prescribed drugs on accident risk.
After the author adjusted for publication bias (editors’ tendency not to publish studies that fail to show significant risks), the study found that cannabis was associated with minor, but not significantly increased odds of traffic injury (1.06) or fatal accident (1.25).
By comparison, opiates (1.44), benzodiazepine tranquillizers (2.30), anti-depressants (1.32), cocaine (2.96), amphetamines (4.46), and the sleeping aid zopiclone (2.60) were all associated with a greater risk of fatal accident than cannabis. Anti-histamines (1.12) and penicillin (1.12) were associated with comparable odds to cannabis.
The study concluded: “By and large, the increase in the risk of accident involvement associated with the use of drugs must be regarded as modest.  … Compared to the huge increase in accident risk associated with alcohol, as well as the high accident rate among young drivers, the increases in risk associated with the use of drugs are surprisingly small.”
Although the previous review, which appeared in the British Medical Journal, garnered worldwide, screaming headlines, to date no mainstream media markets have reported on the more recent, contradictory findings published in AAP.
5. The schedule I classification of cannabis is a lie; the science says so
Congress’ present classification of cannabis and its organic constituents as Schedule I substances under federal law, which defines said substances as lacking any therapeutic value and possessing health risks on par with those of heroin, is no longer a subject of legitimate debate. It is scientifically inaccurate and untenable. Those were the conclusions drawn from a multi-million dollar series of FDA-approved, gold-standard clinical trials, conducted over a 12-year period at the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research , which reported, “[S]moked and vaporized marijuana, as well as other botanical extracts indicate the likelihood that the cannabinoids can be useful in the management of neuropathic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, and possibly other indications.”
Summarizing this body of research in May in the Open Neurology Journal, the program's director, Dr. Igor Grant of UC San Diego concluded: "Based on evidence currently available, the (federal) Schedule I classification (of cannabis) is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking."
In particular, the CMCR’s findings rebuffed the Obama administration’s recent rejection of an administrative petition filed by NORML and others that sought federal hearings regarding the present classification of cannabis. In its rejection, the administration alleged, “The drug's chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.” None of the Obama administration’s justifications hold any merit in light of the CMCR’s scientific findings. 
Nevertheless, the corporate media have by and large responded to the CMCR data, and its obvious implications on federal marijuana policy, with little more than a collective yawn. By now, why would we expect much else?
Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Maine women finding success with organic, sustainable clothing lines

By Katie Day

Brook DeLorme stands in her organic clothing shop, Brook There, in Portland.
Brook DeLorme stands in her organic clothing shop, Brook There, in Portland.

Organic food has been a rising trend in the last few years, but now more and more clothing designers are jumping on the organic bandwagon. Brook DeLorme and Suzanne MacFadyen are Maine designers whose clothing companies, Brook There and Arrowhead Clothing, are using organic and sustainable materials to create clothing.
“Organic clothing means it’s made with organic fabric. And organic fabrics are either organic cotton or organic wool,” DeLorme said. “Organic cotton is grown without pesticides and it’s processed without unnatural chemicals. If it’s organic wool, the sheep are tended in an organic way, no pesticides or chemicals.”
“My last line is 100 percent hemp. Then I used another 100 percent hemp, which is a heavier weight, for bottoms, and then I use organic cotton and wool,” MacFadyen said. “Hemp is really a cool plant. It doesn’t need an organic label because it doesn’t need pesticides. And it can be planted anywhere. It’s a great fabric; it’s incredibly strong.”
Both DeLorme and MacFadyen have always been environmentally conscious and interested in fashion. Bringing the two together was inevitable.
“I started making clothing when I was kid, for myself. When I was in college, I went to Maine College of Art, I started selling things.” DeLorme said. “They weren’t organic, I was just using any fabric I could find.”
In 2006 DeLorme started Brook There in her home. The business grew to a small studio in Longfellow Square and now is located on Wharf Street in Portland. DeLorme currently has three women helping her sew, dye and cut her collection. She also works on organic pieces for a partner store, Seawall, located next door. Both stores are focused on incorporating as many organic and local products as possible.
As for MacFadyen, her design career started in 1970 with a company that manufactured in India. She fell in love with the attention to detail and frugality of their manufacturing and design processes. They found creative and environmentally friendly ways to use every piece of fabric.
“It was very cool. It was hippie.” MacFadyen said. “They didn’t waste anything. That sort of stayed with me. They didn’t have chemicals to put on to process fabrics.”
From there she designed children’s clothes, worked in manufacturing, and even ventured into real estate before her husband mentioned designing organic clothing. His words sparked an interest and led MacFadyen to start Arrowhead Clothing last winter.
In order for a fabric to be considered organic it must meet certain guidelines. The USDA has an accreditation program, which requires that all organic fabrics follow the National Organic Program Regulations. Due to these regulations and restrictions, there is currently a limited amount of organic fabric being produced, and DeLorme and MacFayden have faced challenges with obtaining organic materials.
“It’s very limited, which is why we dye it and why there’s a lot of texturing through either details or applique,” DeLorme said. “Being a small producer, I’m limited to what the mills are offering off the shelf. But it forces [me] to be creative in other ways.”
DeLorme deals with manufacturers who get the organic material from all over the world. There are currently no local options for organic fabric, although DeLorme is able to get the majority of organic cotton from the Carolinas. She also uses bamboo rayon and silk in her products, both of which are not organic, but she said they are very sustainable materials.
As of 2010, only 0.76 percent of global cotton production is organic, according to the Organic Trade Association. The OTA also said that 22 countries grow organic cotton, the top three producers being India, Turkey, and Syria. Organic cotton is more expensive to grow than regular cotton, since it requires special care, and according to a survey done by OTA and the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative farmers are concerned that there won’t be a market for this higher priced material.
Organic wool faces the same struggles as organic cotton. And as MacFadyen said, that makes it difficult to find any variety.
“For instance, for wool I only have one organic company, and they do two fabrics,” MacFadyen said.
But despite the challenges these women are making it work. DeLorme uses the back of her store as a workspace. She has sewing machines, patterns galore, and an area to dye the fabrics, giving her more variety. The material is dyed with a low-environmental-impact dye. DeLorme has considered using fully organic vegetable dyes, but that raises concerns of color control.
“I’m always balancing customer expectations. They expect them to not shrink and they expect them to be colorfast. And then how do I make it all sustainable?” DeLorme said.
MacFadyen has run into the same issue with dying her fabrics. She’s looking to experiment with vegetable dyes, like she saw when she worked for the company in India, but for now she’s working with indigo.
“I found a woman in Connecticut, she makes her own fabrics and dyes them and it’s 100 percent indigo. In November, she’s going to start dying some of my fabrics. And she’s also going to do one print that I really like,” MacFadyen said.
MacFadyen sews all of her organic clothing herself in her small studio, where even her tags and business card are environmentally friendly. For her, customer satisfaction is a big concern. She focuses on making her clothes be best they can be, and said she doesn’t cut corners.
“When I worked for this company that manufactured in India there was a sample maker and she said, ‘You’ve got to be able to wear your clothes inside out,’” MacFadyen shared.
Both owners have expectations of expanding in the coming year. Along with the storefront, Brook There is also sold online to a fan base mainly based on the West Coast and larger cities. DeLorme has also done a trade show in Los Angeles, where she was gifted the booth for being a sustainable designer. She is looking to attend more trade shows in addition to renewing her collection and coming up with fresh ideas.
MacFadyen has an online site where she does the majority of her business. She also attends trade shows and is working on a deal with a resort in Greece. She currently works out of her home, filling requests on a made-to-order basis. She would love to have a small industrial style store with a workspace in the back some day.
Designing “makes me relax. It’s second nature to me,” MacFadyen said about her passion for her work and her fabrics. “If you can do [organic], why not!”
Find Brook There online at, and Arrowhead Clothing