Last Monday, as everyone was talking about the Stormy Daniels interview with Anderson Cooper, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader dropped a little quiet bombshell. He’d like to see a bill brought up in Congress that would re-legalize hemp, aka Cannabis Sativa.
The cultivation and sale of hemp, like marijuana, was effectively banned through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This is in spite of the fact that hemp doesn’t have nearly the level of the psychotropic compound THC that regular marijuana has. This law required a government stamp in order to produce marijuana (after you paid a huge excise tax), and effectively made possession or transfer of marijuana illegal throughout the United States.
Up until the 1930s, it was legal to grow hemp in the US. In fact, during the early colonial days, land owners were expected to provide the government (or the Crown) 100 hemp plants per year. This was used to make the ropes that the Navy required. In the government’s view, if trade was the lifeblood of the nation, hemp ropes were the veins and arteries.
Some modifications were made to the 1937 law during World War II. When the Philippines fell to the Japanese in 1942, the US government encouraged the cultivation of hemp, and issued more stamps—the Navy needed its ropes! However, the last legal commercial field of hemp was planted in 1957. While hemp was illegal, it wasn’t placed on the Controlled Substances list until the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
Hemp was given a Schedule I classification, because it was “deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use – thereby prohibiting even medical use of the drug. The classification has remained since the CSA was first signed into law, despite multiple efforts to reschedule. Other drugs in the Schedule I category include heroin, LSD, and peyote.”
So, why on earth, would a man like Mitch McConnell, who was adamant in 2014 that he wouldn’t support marijuana legalization-No, sir! You don’t’ want that element in your neighborhood!!-suddenly decide that it’s OK to bring back hemp? Is he now on the side of individual liberty?
I have long believed in the old maxim—Follow the money. I think there are two big, HUGE, reasons, Mitch McConnell is heading down this path, and both involve Other Peoples’ Money.
First, is the opportunity for agricultural subsidies. Big Agriculture LOVES subsidies. How awesome it must be to be given grants to try out new varieties of soybean, or be paid to not grow certain crops. And certainly, get paid to grow corn that will get turned into ethanol, but not cornbread. Legalizing the production of hemp just adds a new opportunity for a new agricultural subsidy.
Of course, the legal marijuana industry has been thriving quite nicely without these subsidies, but I digress. It’s a new way to transfer some of your money to Other People. And who doesn’t like farmers?
Besides, this is just a way to catch up with Canada and Europe, where hemp is enjoying a resurgence. Oh, and 38 states have already ramped up hemp production. Pennsylvania is looking to triple the acreage under cultivation to 5000 acres in 2018 alone. When that happens, the federal treasury is opened up, and the money starts to flow. There isn’t a Congress critter in the world that doesn’t like the ability to hand out cash to voters.
The second reason I think Mitch is suddenly on the hemp bandwagon is Big Pharma.
For decades, Big Pharma has been one of the four pillars of our Prohibition-Prosecution-Prescription-Prison national drug policy. Why allow research on your biggest potential rival?
According to the Addiction Center, the five most addicting substances are heroin, alcohol, cocaine, barbiturates, and nicotine, with heroin being the most addictive. Let’s face it—Big Pharma makes A LOT of money treating pain, treating alcoholism, treating cocaine & downer addiction, and developing smoking cessation drugs. A LOT of money. But, things may be a-changing in Big Pharma world.
I’m talking about the possibility of opioid product liability lawsuits. By some estimations, opioid addiction to prescribed painkillers has claimed nearly 300,000 lives since 2000. Some product liability lawsuits started in the early 2000s, but they have been accelerating in recent years. The earliest suits against opioid manufacturers — typically Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin (oxycodone) — were personal injury claims brought on behalf of persons with addiction who overdosed.
However, Big Pharma is now facing the prospect of class action lawsuits, and more governmental oversight (think Tobacco settlement), and this can be bad.
Being rational business people, Big Pharma managers are now looking to Big Marijuana for an avenue out of the opioid dungeon. If Big Pharma encourages hemp cultivation and production, it can then start researching medicinal benefits, potentially leading to some lucrative future patents on medications.
And some of that research might even be funded by you and me.
With guys like Mitch McConnell, it’s never about increasing the liberty of the individual. It’s always about the money.