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Ralph Nader > Uncategorized > Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

Six states — Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia — have already passed laws that support growing industrial hemp and it is time for California to clear the way for California farmers to start growing this important crop.
There is a surprising number of major corporations who use large quantities industrial hemp. These companies include: Ford, GM, Chrysler, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Patagonia and Walt Disney.

All of this is happening with DEA’s knowledge and permission. And it is instructive that the State Department, which is charged with certifying that our foreign allies are cooperating with the war on drugs, has not sanctioned nations and corporations that grow and export industrial hemp. Our government continues to look the other way, and with good reason. Industrial hemp is no drug at all, though the DEA insists on treating it not only as a drug, but as a “Schedule One” substance, along with Heroin and PCP.

Why do these contradictions in the U.S. government policy exist? DEA permits the importation of industrial hemp, but it refuses to let American farmers grow the fiber. Our European Union allies and our Canadian neighbors actually subsidize the growth of industrial hemp for their farmers. U.S. buyers import over $7 million worth of hemp products annually, according to the USDA.

More than 30 industrialized democracies are able to distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana. The trace amount of THC (the psychoactive component in marijuana) found in industrial hemp has no intoxicating effect when consumed. You could smoke a bushel of industrial hemp and experience nothing but a terrible headache and charred lungs. International treaties authorize industrial hemp. DEA’s claim that law enforcement officials would be unable to distinguish one plant from the other is severely undercut by the fact that at least 30 other countries in the world are able to do just that.

State Governments, meanwhile, have taken a more realistic approach to this potentially lucrative crop. Twenty-six State Legislatures have introduced legislation to facilitate the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. The potential upside is tremendous to the environment, manufacturers and American farmers.

Industrial hemp can be made into quality paper that can be pulped using less energy and chemicals than wood. The fiber’s natural brightness eliminates the need to use toxic chlorine bleach during processing. Kimberly Clark, a Fortune 500 company, produces hemp paper for premium-grade bibles used in America and around the world because of the paper’s extreme durability.

Construction products such as wall panels, flooring beams, studs, and posts can all be made out of the versatile industrial hemp fiber. The long industrial hemp fiber results in composite materials that are stronger, more durable and lighter than their counterparts made of wood. Companies like Patagonia, Interface Inc., and Ford all use industrial hemp in their products. From clothing to fuel, from automobile trunk and door panels to nutritious food products, industrial hemp has too many beneficial uses to enumerate.

Hemp grows extremely well in adverse conditions. It is naturally resistant to pests (reducing the use of toxic pesticides), and it requires much less water than other crops. According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, hemp crops can yield 3‑8 dry tons of fiber per acre. This is four times what an average forest can yield, offering the prospect of preserving fast-dwindling forestland.

So why should we deny California farmers the right to cultivate a crop with myriad beneficial uses while we freely allow its importation?

A broad coalition of organizations — coupling allies as seemingly unlikely as The Body Shop and former CIA Director James Woolsey — are firmly in favor of a more sensible policy on industrial hemp.

Even conservative Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) has displayed good common sense and courage by introducing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act — HR 3037. The Congressmen currently cosponsoring this bill include Tammy Baldwin, Sam Farr, Barney Frank, George Miller, Jim McDermott, Pete Stark, and Raul M. Grijalva.

It is time for California to let this venerable plant, with its 5,000 known uses, grow in California.

I urge you to sign AB 1147, the bipartisan California Industrial Hemp Farming Act.


Ralph Nader
Consumer Advocate

John Passacantando
Executive Director
Greenpeace USA

Rob Weissman
Director, Essential Action