Want to save rural Kentucky? Industrial Hemp!

June 30, 2009.

Tobacco is dying (along with it’s smokers). 750px-Flag_of_Kentucky.svg

Coal is on the way out (unless we find the magic “clean” kind).

Mountaintop removal is destroying everything in its path.

“Adventure tourism” is…. well, it’s fucking stupid.

And meth is destroying every young person caught in between who doesn’t escape to some other part of the state/country.

Which begs the question: is there a solution to Kentucky’s rural economy that can create jobs, while not ecologically destroying itself (and everyone else)?

The simple answer, is “yes”. But it involves a certain stigma, and necessitates politicians who are willing to look past that and focus on what can save rural Kentucky. And it looks like Oregon’s lawmakers have what it takes. But they need some additional federal help, or it’s all for not.

The answer is industrial hemp.

SALEM, OR — Today, by a vote of 46 to 11, the Oregon House passed SB 676, a bill that permits production and possession of industrial hemp and trade in industrial hemp commodities and products. “I am glad that Oregon has joined the list of states that have agreed that American farmers should have the right to re-introduce industrial hemp as an agricultural crop,” says SB 676 sponsor, Sen. Floyd Prozanski. “By passing SB 676 with strong bi-partisan support, the Oregon Legislature has taken a proactive position to allow its farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, to provide American manufacturers with domestically-grown hemp, and to profit from that effort.” The Oregon Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming majority vote of 27 to 2 on June 19. Vote Hemp is optimistic that Governor Kulongoski will sign the bill. Oregon would become the ninth state to authorize regulated hemp farming under state law.

One of those states, believe it or not, is (sort of) Kentucky. But just as in the other 8 states, Kentucky farmers aren’t allowed to grow it.

Can you imagine if, instead of importing hemp from other countries, we took advantage of a 300 million dollar (and rising) industry by becoming the #1 industrial hemp producing state in the country, and one of the top hemp producing regions in the world? Can you imagine how many jobs that would create (both growing and manufacturing), and communities that would revitalize? Can you imagine Kentucky universities taking the lead in biofuel research using hemp, possibly turning it from a 300 million dollar industry into a multi-billion dollar industry? Can you imagine an industry in rural Kentucky that not only isn’t environmentally destructive, but actually improves it?

But here’s the irony. It probably won’t happen because of people who believe in federalism and “states rights”. It probably won’t happen because of people who constantly spout off about “keeping the government off its back”. It probably won’t happen because of people that (statistically/generally speaking) are from the very same rural communities that would benefit the most from the industrial hemp industry.

Because when someone advocates for anything called “hemp”, there are too many snide assholes like David Adams who are all too willing to call them out as crazy hippie potheads. Why actually try something that will help rural Kentucky, when you can score cheap political points against those crazy liberals, right?

The fact of the matter is, this policy could be changed by the Obama Administration at the DEA with ease. Those “crazy liberals” in Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Kentucky could start growing their crops (that no human could possibly get high on) this summer. The reason Obama won’t be doing so? Because every faux “federalist” at your local teabag party or AM talk show radio station would be howling at the crazy Communist Secret Muslim pothead in the White House. And Obama, like most politicians, wants no part of that bullshit.

It’s not only a dishonest and cheap tactic that prevents such a policy change. At it’s heart, the most apt description for this self-defeating behavior is juvenile.

But that’s where we find ourselves. And it is completely irrational.

So while our “leaders” look to save this dying state with “gambling” or “zip cars” or “adventure tourism” or “flattening all of our mountains and dumping its waste into our waterways”… the answer for rural Kentucky that we all (left and right) should agree on is right in front of our face.

But that requires some of us growing up.

2 responses to “Want to save rural Kentucky? Industrial Hemp!”

  1. “But that requires some of us growing up.” — Agreed!

    I work at a local Country Club in Indiana. I have talked to many farmers as that is our life and community. They all agree that on top of the grain and corn they produce, industrial hemp would help even more. I’d say 80% of the farmers I talked to were on board!

  2. On Federalism: I suspect that the latest compromise regarding state banking regulation points to the influence of large corporations on the Congress as a culprit in the on-going eclipse of federalism. I have just posted on this, in case you are interested.

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