I am fully aware that basically what is being proposed here is not a new idea to the Native Peoples of this continent; my contribution is only one of specificity. An excellent overview of this issue can be found in the documentary “Standing Silent Nation” (www.standingsilentnation.com).
In this essay, I begin with background information and arguments and finish with a short strategy plan that can be adopted by any Native Americans that believe it will be effective. I humbly submit this in support of all Native Americans in hope that it may serve as a plan of action that can not only increase the health, wealth and well-being of Native Americans, but also heal Mother Earth from the ravages of the oil, coal, uranium, timber, chemical/GMO agribusiness and livestock industries, along with the systematic problems of corporate exploitation/forced dependence and tyrannical sovereignty violations (by the DEA and others). Also this sustainable and self-sufficient model will be an example to Americans outside of Native Land (of course it’s really ALL Native Land) who have been thoroughly indoctrinated by corporate consumerism and participation in destructive industries and systems that harm the environment and their own health and well being.
The amazing environmental and economic potential of Industrial Hemp is well understood, especially by Native Americans. The following is from an article by Winona LaDuke which appeared in Indian Country Today, September 19, 2001:
“The federal government should grant a waiver to Native Nations who seek to legalize the production of industrial hemp… Over the long term, the DEA’s policies and actions set back the economic, environmental, and public health needs of not only Native America, but also the broader American community.”
“Decriminalizing industrial hemp is the way of the future. The sovereign status of Native Nations raises questions about the application of DEA regulations in the face of tribal ordinances. The need for alternative economies in Indian country supports the need for change.”
In a letter to the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, Oglala Tribal President John Yellowbird Steele said:
“The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 did not divest the Lakota people of our reserved right to plant and harvest whatever crops we deem beneficial to our reservation… we regard the the enforcement of our hemp ordinance and production of our marijuana laws tribal matters… we ask for your government’s compassion as we try to ease the pain of our poverty through hemp manufacturing… my nation needs to grow industrial hemp to aid our efforts at becoming more self-sufficient.”
Of course the immediate reaction of the US Federal Government/DEA will be something like: “Hemp is illegal to grow because it interferes with our ability to “eradicate” Marijuana.” One could argue that industrial hemp has no usable THC, and therefore marijuana laws are not relevant, and this is true. However, the backward politicians will always use marijuana as the excuse as to why Native (and non-Native) American farmers can not grow hemp, regardless of whether that makes sense or not. The “war on drugs” is of course a farce, the CIA and other governmental agencies have been involved in the illegal drug trade for a long time. They use this fake “war” to maximize profits and “justify” police state measures domestically and violence abroad. This is just like the “war on terror” which is based on the Big Lie known as the official 9/11 story (See the documentary “9/11 Press For Truth” (www.911pressfortruth.com) and the book “The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions” by David Ray Griffin, along with the research of Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice (stj911.org) and Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (ae911truth.org), that they use to “justify” an illegal war that has killed over a million Iraqis, and tortured and illegally detained countless others, while removing American citizens Constitutional Rights through treasonous bills like The Patriot Act, The Military Commissions Act, etc. I mention this here because it is necessary to openly reject these foundational lies if we are to move forward in the interests of sustainability, peace, justice and freedom. We must openly “honor, present and serve the truth”; it is the only way to effectively reject supposed “justifications” for the violence, oppression and destruction brought by a few ill-minded individuals in positions of power.
The oppression and tyranny imposed in the name of “the war and drugs” is well documented: illegal forfeiture (property seized from citizens who were not even charged with a crime), police-state surveillance, innocents killed in “drug raids”, Native American crops being destroyed, arbitrary arrests and unjust imprisonments, etc. All of this will go on as long as we accept the unjust prohibition of marijuana. The international illegal drug trade causes more harm then the drugs themselves, and prohibition supports the continuation of this criminal market. Drug abuse and addiction is a health problem and should not be criminal in itself; Education and treatment are far more effective and compassionate to those that suffer from drug addiction.
The hypocrisy and destructive insanity of US Federal policy can be found in numerous areas, including cannabis laws. (For more on public policy solutions see “The Progressive Manifesto”.)
Industrial hemp is the tough, course fiber of the cannabis sativa plant, which contains less than 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol – THC – the main active ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana is a strain of cannabis that contains much higher levels of THC. You can’t get high from smoking hemp, and eating hemp foods will not make you test positive for marijuana use in a drug test.
Hemp can easily replace trees for paper and building materials with a higher-quality fiber, significantly reducing the deforestation that accelerates global warming and the extinction of wildlife and plant species. Hemp is also an alternative to cotton for clothing that does not require the use of toxic pesticides. Hemp seeds are a nutritious food source, and the high cellulose content of the hemp plant makes it ideal for conversion into ethanol fuel, which can be used by flexible fuel vehicles.
Industrial hemp is legal to grow in more than 30 countries, including Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, New Zealand, Romania, Russia and Spain. The U.S. federal government is certainly out of step with other countries concerning hemp policy. However, things are better at the state level: Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia have removed state-level barriers to industrial hemp production and research.
Drugs are placed into one of five schedules under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, the most dangerous category, defined as having a high potential for abuse and having no currently accepted medical use in the United States. Claiming that natural marijuana has no medicinal value by placing it in the Schedule 1 drug category goes against the findings of doctors throughout the world, and is contradicted by the 17 states that have laws allowing seriously ill patients to use natural medical marijuana with their doctors’ recommendation. It is also contradicted by the existence and use of artificial marijuana, known as Marinol, which is legal.
Many prohibitionists discredit the need for a hemp industry, saying hemp relegalization is being used as a vehicle to relegalize marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Administration said hemp legalization would interfere with its marijuana eradication program because of the similarities between the two types of cannabis plants. Therefore, hemp will probably never be relegalized as long as marijuana remains prohibited. Marginalizing the legitimacy of the call to legalize marijuana by focusing solely on hemp relegalization would be fruitless as well as wrong. After all, marijuana prohibition is an unconstitutional and oppressive policy, violating citizens’ right to control their own bodies without harming others or their property. Therefore, the call for legalization should be for industrial hemp, medical marijuana and the private and responsible recreational adult use of marijuana.
The many materials that hemp can produce including paper, cloth, and Biomass fuel, can be of great benefit to Native Americans and the environment. Why are we using toxic polluting fuels instead of cleaner renewable fuels like Biofuel, Solar and Wind energy? Why are we destroying forests, drastically altering the Earth’s ecosystem for the worse, when we can use hemp to create higher quality paper and construction products instead? One is left to conclude that the reasons for the restrictions on the use of this plant are not based on the well being of the American people (and certainly not Native People either), but rather this law serves the financial interest of industries/agencies that would lose money and power if hemp and marijuana were a legal commodity.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act has been introduced in Congress, along with state -level legislation, but they have not passed because of “concerns about marijuana”. This will always be their excuse and that is why I believe we should reject both laws restricting the growing of industrial hemp and marijuana for responsible adult use. Only if marijuana is legalized is it likely that hemp will be legalized, and marijuana should be legal, so there is no good reason to separate the issues; the US Federal government continues to use lies about marijuana as their supposed justification to continue the destructive and oppressive status-quo.
Why are marijuana’s many medicinal properties ignored by the federal government? Its placement as a Schedule 1 drug is in defiance to the conclusions of doctors and medical professionals from around the world. The debatable negative health effects of marijuana are minuscule when compared to the dangers of alcohol or tobacco, not one death has ever been attributed solely to marijuana use, while hundreds of thousands die from tobacco and alcohol every year in America. Defending the continued prohibition of cannabis in the interest of public health is completely ridiculous. The truth is the cannabis plant has been used as a safe and effective medicine throughout the world for centuries. A citizen’s responsible personal use of marijuana should no longer be a crime, it is an act that is certainly no more criminal then drinking wine or smoking tobacco.
The argument that marijuana prohibition protects our children is also not based in reality. Illegal drug dealers do not care how young a buyer is, and without legalizing and regulating marijuana, many children find it easier to buy than alcohol or tobacco. In Holland, where the sale of marijuana to adults is not criminalized, the percentage of teenagers using marijuana is less than half that of American teenagers.
Cannabis should be removed from the Schedule 1 category and be legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco – a minimum age of 21 for purchase and use, illegal for use while driving, and so on.
Marijuana and hemp prohibition costs billions every year to enforce, creates a black market that generates violence and corruption, and makes criminals out of millions of productive and harmless adults. Americans (both Native and non-Native) should once again have the legal right to use the cannabis plant for its many beneficial uses including medicine, paper, fuel, clothing and food. The book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer (http://jackherer.com/) and the documentary “The Hemp Revolution” directed by Anthony Clarke are two great resources for further information on the benefits of hemp.
For those who wish to use this plant responsibly for medical or private use, and those who wish to use industrial hemp to help end deforestation and provide a source of income, food, clothing, shelter and fuel for their families, the US Federal government acts as an oppressor. Legalizing marijuana and hemp for adult use would not be a promotion of drug use, it would be a promotion of freedom and liberty that we are all entitled to.
There is no reason why we should allow lies, propaganda and outright oppression and tyranny to continue on for another generation; they are few, we are many. All we need is an effective plan of non-violent action to overthrow the destructive paradigm with a sustainable, just and healthy one.
There are many hemp products on the American market today, and their popularity grows every year. There are hemp clothing stores (www.hempstores.com) throughout the country as well as hemp food products (www.manitobaharvest.com, www.naturespath.com, etc.) on the shelves of countless markets coast to coast as well All of the hemp that is used in these products is imported from other nations since it is “illegal” for Native and American farmers to grown hemp. There has been a lot of resistance to this from both Native and non-Native American farmers. There is the organizations Vote Hemp (www.votehemp.com), the Hemp Industry Association (www.thehia.org) which has a Hemp Business Directory, among many other environmental groups that support hemp legalization. There are online hemp stores like Hemp.com, the Hempest.com and SantaFeHemp.com. All of these should be business partners with Native Americans growing industrial hemp. The millions of dollars being made in this industry today can be made by Native Americans along with other hemp growers throughout the world.
When I buy hemp bread, cereal, hummus, waffles, hemp milk (www.livingharvest.com, a personal favorite), protein powder, hemp seed oil, etc. and I see the label “Product of Canada” etc., I think it should say “Product of the Republic of Lakota” (or any other tribe)! And I know I am not alone with this sentiment. Millions of Americans would support Native American business if given the opportunity; many Americans are aware of the history of European colonization, the genocide, the tyranny, the treaties that were all broken, etc. Many Americans of European descent like myself would love the opportunity to do anything, however small, in supporting Native American sovereignty and enterprise, especially when incorporating the industrial hemp industry, that all well-informed Americans support for the environmental and health benefits it offers. We would not only be helping Native Americans, we would be helping ourselves through the expansion of a sustainable industry that can replace the destructive and harmful petrol-chemical/coal/timber/nuclear, etc. industries currently dominating the market. Industrial hemp, used for biofuel, paper, clothing, etc., when coupled with renewable clean energy like solar and wind power, has the potential to save our planet’s ecosystem, our health and economic well-being.
All of the stores that carry hemp products currently would certainly purchase from Native Americans instead of other nations if given the choice. And yearly, there are Hemp Festivals held throughout the country (www.hempfest.org, www.bostonhempfest.com, etc.) that promote the hemp industry and speak out against cannabis prohibition, these festivals would be ideal for spreading the word about Native American grown hemp. Also along the many cannabis law reform organizations that have chapters throughout the country like NORML (www.norml.org), MPP (www.mpp.org), the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org) would surely support the movement for a Native American Hemp Industry.
If multiple tribes worked together and called on the support of these already existing businesses, organizations and festivals that support Hemp Legalization, it would be an unstoppable force. The Feds/DEA would be powerless once the lies behind their “war on drugs” and “war on terror” are fully exposed.
The potential for economic growth on Native reservations is astronomical, and of course this income is urgently needed due to the extreme poverty that currently exists on reservations. Who better than Native Americans to prosper from a new sustainable paradigm that incorporates the most beneficial plant known to man? Who better to openly reject and lead non-violent rebellion against the hypocrisy, ignorance, destruction and oppression of US Federal governmental policy? Like Winona La Duke said: “Decriminalizing industrial hemp is the way of the future.”
p.s. Watch the great documentary, “The Hemp Revolution”: