Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hey California, Legalize Hemp While You're At It

marijuana hemp leaf, prop 19, legalize industrial hempWhen Californians enter booths this November, many will vote to legalize small amounts of marijuana, both hippies and the fiscally conscious. If Prop 19 passes, allowing personal marijuana (up to one ounce) to be cultivated and used by those over 21, then a slew of questions will arise: most notably if the federal government will do much about it.
There's another question flying under the radar: when to vote on legalizing hemp? In effect, Prop 19 would legalize hemp in amounts up to an ounce. The problem is that you can't do much with an ounce of hemp. Maybe make a pair of earrings or some lip balm.
Hemp is a cousin of marijuana; both are strains of the plant, Cannabis Sativa L. Like Shepherds and Chihuahuas, they're selectively cultivated for different needs. Marijuana comes from the flowering tops of strains potent in THC while hemp, or industrial hemp, is grown for its seeds, oil, food and fiber. It's not for getting high but hemp has thousands of uses.
Many argue that hemp is the real reason marijuana was made illegal in the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Hemp was heavily grown in backyards, a cash crop that was difficult to tax by the government. "Yellow journalist," William Hearst, a newspaper mogul owning timber fields and paper mills, teamed up with Andrew Mellon, the wealthiest American and investor in DuPont Chemicals. Each stood to lose millions at the prospect of hemp producing paper, nylon and medicines.
Some interesting facts on hemp:
  • It's been grown by humans for over 10,000 years, the oldest known crop for textiles. Anything made from cotton, timber, petroleum and plastics can be made by hemp. (In most cases hemp can make them better.)
  • George Washington grew hemp. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on its paper.
  • In WWII the Japanese cut off our supply of Manila hemp and the "Hemp for Victory" campaign was promoted in the US to support the war needs.
  • Ironically, it was legal to pay taxes with hemp from 1631 until the early 1900s. Refusing to grow hemp during the 17th to 19th Centuries was against the law and even punishable by jail-time in Virginia from 1763 to 1769.

Henry Ford was such an advocate he built a car with hemp plastics that was much lighter than steel and ten times as strong. The car also ran on hemp oil. See this video and others on hemp uses.
Californians will vote on legalizing marijuana. If Prop 19 passes, maybe some election soon they'll vote on legalizing hemp. Does this seem backwards to anybody else, or is it just me?


What are your thoughts?
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Monday, October 11, 2010

New Age: The Free Lunch

Article first published as The New Age: Free Lunch on Technorati.
Remember the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” or “You have to spend money to make money?” The lunch saying began when saloon owners gave away “free” food to anyone purchasing drinks, an effective marketing ploy that was noticeably not without cost to customers. Spending, or investing, to make money was demonstrated beautifully by George Steinbrenner though the recently deceased Yankees owner was merely quoting a traditional adage.
To me, these phrases go hand in hand. The concepts are that nothing is without cost, and those who want more money must use some money wisely to make it happen. While it appears these dogmas are ingrained in the American psyche, the fact is these beliefs contradict the American Dream; opportunity exists for anyone with ability and effort regardless of their means. Thankfully, these outdated concepts are also changing before our eyes.
The internet is the true champion of all things free. I’m continually amazed at the plethora of free online resources and how much they’ve impacted my life. To name just a smidgen, how valuable are Google, Facebook and Twitter? Hard to put a price tag on what those services would be worth if I had to pay for them.
Here’s a fun headline that you’ll read someday soon (or maybe already have); Homeless Person Creates Empire with Free Tools at Library. Imagine a homeless guy; let’s call him Hal, visiting the public library daily to use the computers. Hal makes a website at a free web design venue with hosting included. He writes articles and uses public domain images to bring attention to the homeless in his city. He asks for donations. Personal checks and PayPal clicks start coming Hal’s way. He adds video and interviews to better demonstrate the plight of his friends. The website booms. Months later he’s the CEO of an upstart company that assists the poverty stricken in his city. Years later Hal’s company has gone worldwide. He raises billions and aids countless people from a venture that began with absolutely nothing invested and services available for free.
I just imagined this scenario, but there’s probably an example of Hal already in action. The naysayers clinging to tradition might argue, “Our tax dollars paid for the library, the computer, the internet connection and the electricity.” Well, sure, that’s right. Naysayers are good at that.
Do they recognize what’s happening to the price of music or video rental? Do they see the possibility of a virtual MBA from Harvard professors at the lower class home of a student in the near future?
The naysayers can stick with whatever money mantra that makes them feel secure. I firmly believe we’ve entered a new age that’s being ushered in by the internet. The Free Lunch is the latest chapter of the American Dream. Will it be prosperous for everyone like it is for Hal? Probably not, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Thoughts or comments?
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