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Day is dawning for industrial hemp

July 6, 2018 12:00 am

The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes was conceived to relieve pain and offset the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder in veterans. Relaxing or abolishing laws on possession or use of marijuana became the first step on the road to decriminalize pot. Now, a little-known, cannabis-related product is grabbing some attention. The product is industrial hemp.

On a visit to Hudson on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced legislation to make farming industrial hemp legal is likely to pass the House and Senate as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. The legislation has local ties.

Bob Dobson owns Old Mud Creek Farm at 67 Pine Wood Road in Hudson. He has been farming organic produce for almost five years. For the last two years, he has been exploring a different crop: industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp has thousands of uses, including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel. It is one of the fastest-growing biomasses known and one of the earliest known domesticated plants, according to the website Hempethics.com.

It also runs parallel with the “green future” objectives that are becoming increasingly popular. Hemp requires little to no pesticides and no herbicides. It controls erosion of the topsoil and produces oxygen.

Hemp can be used to replace many potentially harmful products, such as tree paper — the processing of which uses chlorine bleach, which results in the waste product polychlorinated dibensodioxins, commonly known as dioxins, which are carcinogenic, and contribute to deforestation. Most dioxins are petroleum-based and do not decompose easily. The strongest chemical needed to whiten the already light hemp paper is non-toxic hydrogen peroxide.

If the bill, known as the Hemp Farming Act, is passed, the legislation would declassify industrial hemp as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, empower states to be the principal regulators of hemp, allow hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.

It’s time for cultivation of industrial hemp to be legalized. It is as vital to manufacturing as it is to the food we eat. It fits in with the “green” movement. It doesn’t need toxins to be controlled or protected. It enriches both the soil and the air. Last but not least, it is good for local agriculture, which means it is good for the local economy.

Progressive farmers like Bob Dobson are the leaders of a powerful new environment-friendly movement. We support Dobson and others like him 100 percent.