Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What happened to the Guyana Hemp Society?

Letter to the Editor
By Rudolph Singh
Source: kaieteurnewsonline.com

Dear Editor,

Sometime last year Dr. Turhane Dourga a former director of the now closed Alesie Rice Mill made a valiant attempt to create the Guyana Hemp Society. I met Dr Dourga on one of his visits to the Essequibo Coast where he spoke to the now defunct Essequibo Paddy Producers Association of which I was a committee member. I was enthralled by his knowledge of rice production and marketing on a worldwide scale. I am of the opinion that Dr Dourga could have been the most competent Minister of Agriculture had he been given the opportunity.

Albeit, the coalition choose to go for patronage over competency. Having lost the Venezuelean market for rice and Guysuco growing more indebted each passing year, Dr Dourga being the brilliant agricultural mind that he is, knew that the only alternative for Guyanese farmers to survive is hemp; hence his thrust to form the “Guyana Hemp Society”. “Hemp” was the first plant to be spun into usable fibre 10,000 years ago.”Hemp” can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, clothing, bio-fuels, animal food, ropes etc. It is also used in the manufacturing of many other products. Hemp or industrial hemp as it commonly called is grown for its fibre and seeds. Hemp belongs to a group of plants called “cannabis sativa” to which marijuana also belongs. The controversy sorrounding hemp stems from the fact that hemp contains 0.3 to 0.5 of the psychoactive ingredient (THC) that is found in the marijuana plant .THC is a substance that induces the high in marijuana users.

Dr. David West who did extensive research on hemp and marijuana for the North American Industrial Hemp Council said that both plants contain two ingredients, Tetrahydracannabinol (THC) and cannabinoids (CBD) in different proportions. Hemp is low in THC 0.3 to 0.5 % and high in CBD while marijuana is high in THC 2 to 20% and low in CBD. CBD is an anti-psychoactive ingredient. Dr West stated that “the THC levels in industrial hemp are so low that no one can get a high from smoking it.”
Moreover; hemp contains a high percentage of CBD that blocks the marijuana high. Hemp, it turns out is not only not marijuana; it could be called anti-marijuana “contended Dr. West. He further stated that trying to extract the tiny percentage of THC from hemp would be more difficult and costly than extracting gold from seawater because of the high anti-psychoactive CBD in hemp. Dr. West opined that;”marijuana planted near to hemp will result in the reduction of the THC levels of the marijuana because of cross-pollination making the marijuana ditchweed (no good)”.

In short hemp could be the terminator of marijuana cultivation in Guyana. Also hemp is planted 4 inches apart like rice and harvested faster than marijuana. West said that police in hemp growing countries have no problem differentiating between hemp and marijuana. Dr West stated; “In 1994 by executive order the (then) US president designated hemp as a strategic crop of importance to national security.” Moreover! Hemp is legally grown in 29 countries around the world, half of which legalised it in the last four years and each year the US identifies those countries that it considers to be drug exporting nations. None of the major hemp growing and exporting nations has ever been listed. Yet the US Drug enforcement Agency (DEA) remains adamant. Industrial hemp was outlawed as a crop in the US in 1970 by the narcotics act that classified marijuana and hemp as one. Dr David West said. “The Federal Goverment has long recognized the distinction between marijuana and hemp. This distinction is codified in numerous domestic laws and statutes and in international treaties to which we (America) are a party.”

The DEA has it in its own authority to recognize this history and drop hemp from its narcotics schedule. Instead the DEA, unlike its predecessor, the Bureau of Narcotics, is aggressively trying to persuade Americans that hemp and marijuana are identical plants. The US has a DEA presence in Guyana. It seems highly plausible that the Government of Guyana is sacrificing our freedom to cultivate a crop that can better the livelihood of all Guyanese farmers to please an American institution, the DEA, because it refuses to accept the scientific facts that hemp and marijuana are two different plants. Hemp made the news for a few days and disappeared.

Obviously the Government didn’t want anything to do with it! Rural Guyana (a local organization) is crying out for a crop to cultivate to earn a decent living. The brilliant Dr. Dourga had the answer (hemp) and the government turned its back. William Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the American constitution once wrote that “the greatest contribution a person could make to his country would be to introduce a new crop.”

Dr Dourga was denied the opportunity to introduce a crop which in his estimate is ten times more profitable than rice because the Government choose to bow to the dictates of an American institution. Rice farmers are going bankrupt and sugar (Guysuco) which has accumulated a debt of over 80 billion dollars, continues to depend on yearly subventions from the state for survival ; our main agricultural pillars (sugar and rice) of the economy have gone dead . In this scenario one would have expected any prudent government to grab hemp for its people with both arms. Hemp should have been the crop of choice for the diversification of Guysuco. In the past there was a saying that agriculture is the “backbone” of Guyana. Now that having been broken in the form of rice and sugar, the dependants in the rural areas are finding it very difficult to survive. Hopelessness and frustration are eating into the sinews of the rural folks.

We are going to see more suicides, increase in crimes and drug abuse all because of the government’s lack of vision or the ease at which it could be coerced. Hemp’s multipurpose usage lends itself to a wide range of economic activities only surpassed by crude oil refining. As such hemp can create jobs from farming to manufacturing on a large scale. As such the government should follow the research and change its position or explain to the public why farmers in 29 countries around the world, including Canada, America’s neighbour to the North can cultivate hemp and we are being denied that right. The Minister of Agriculture should apologize to the Guyanese public for misinforming us, that hemp and marijuana are the same or confess that he was just echoing the sentiments of the DEA.

Rudolph Singh

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