Conclusion: Legalize, tax and regulate it
Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere.
– George Washington
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Cannabis is probably the most beneficial plant known to humankind. It can feed, clothe, house, transport, and heal us, all in ways that are environmentally sustainable.
Its long and supple fibers are more absorbent, stronger, insulate better, and are more durable than cotton. Hemp clothing can keep us cooler in summer and warmer in winter, while providing protection from ultraviolet rays.
Hemp paper is finer, stronger, and more durable than wood-pulp paper. It needs less acid and bleaching to manufacture, substantially reducing water pollution. And it requires only a fraction of the energy needed to make wood-pulp paper.
Cannabis seed provides the richest and most balanced source of essential oils that human health requires, along with B vitamins and dietary fiber. It contains all 21 known essential amino acids, and in proportions that are more balanced than in eggs, meat, milk and soy. But it is more digestible than soy.
Cannabis-seed oil’s mix of fatty acids makes it a superior base for lotions and other body-care products. And paint and lacquer manufacturers who now seek environmentally friendly binders and solvents need look no further that what they used before the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
In Construction, cannabis can be made into almost any building material—roofing, flooring, wallboard, caulking, cement, paint, plaster, plywood, reinforced concrete, insulation, and bricks, which are all fire resistant and heat- and sound-insulating. Washington State University researchers found that hemp fiberboard was twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard, but was lighter and required no additional resins. Cannabis can make biodegradable plastics for every use, from cellophane to injection-molded products.
Hydrocarbons in cannabis biomass can be processed into fuel pellets, methanol, ethanol, and gas, all with less carbon emissions and higher octane than petroleum. Unlike fossil fuels, cannabis is carbon-neutral. One crop reabsorbs the CO2 that was released by burning the previous crop.
Henry Ford operated a biomass pyrolytic plant that used cannabis fuel. He bragged that his experimental hemp car bodies were ten times stronger than steel. And he questioned why we should cut down forests and exhaust mineral resources when we can simply grow cannabis.
Indeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that 1 acre of cannabis will provide as much paper and building materials as 4.1 acres of forest. And it requires few or no pesticides or herbicides. Moreover, it can be used as a “mop crop” to remediate polluted sites by clearing out wastewater impurities and certain toxic chemicals.
Although researchers have published over 20,000 studies and reviews worldwide, we are only beginning to fully appreciate cannabinoids’ broad medical efficacy. They can inhibit cancers, strengthen the immune system, manage pain, prevent seizures, reduce heart-attack and stroke severity, prevent nausea, slow MS, strengthen bones, reduce incontinence, treat skin diseases, relieve gastrointestinal disorders, and much more.
Most modern prescription drug compounds are less well researched than cannabis. Listen to television commercials and you’ll learn that they bring risks of fainting, stroke, liver disease, tooth decay, reduced immunity, allergic reactions, and giving birth to a child with the head of a Chihuahua. But as Judge Francis Young wrote in his 1988 ruling, “marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Economic opportunities for cannabis research, development, production and processing abound. China produces 79% of the world’s crop, France, 15%, and Chile, 4%, while in the United States we arrest people who grow or possess it at the rate of 87 per hour. We pay for this foolishness by ruining nonviolent individuals’ lives, breaking up their families, feeding a voracious prison-industrial complex, and bearing an unnecessary fiscal burden.
Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that legalizing marijuana would save governments in the U.S. $8.7 billion per year, exclusive of saved “drug war” costs. Taxing it at rates similar to those on tobacco and alcohol would raise another $8.7 billion.
While using cannabis as an intoxicant involves real risks, they are trivial in comparison to those associated with tobacco and alcohol use. And we’ve known since the 1944 LaGuardia Report that the notion of cannabis as a “gateway drug” is a myth.
Inevitably, America will evolve a rational cannabis policy: legalize industrial production; legalize recreational use for adults; carefully regulate and tax it; and support medical research and drug-use prevention.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions the great science historian Thomas Kuhn coined the term “paradigm shift.” A community of scientists in a particular field shares a paradigm regarding basic assumptions, appropriate questions to ask, how to formulate experiments, and how to interpret outcomes.
As results pile up that the old paradigm cannot account for, revolutionary scientists articulate a new paradigm, which more accurately accounts for all the results. Examples are the germ theory of disease, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, or Einstein’s theory of relativity.
We are at a moment of paradigm shift regarding our understanding of cannabis. But the paradigm is not scientific. Science has known the virtues of cannabis for 5,000 years. The paradigm is political.
What makes the new paradigm so revolutionary? George Orwell said it: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
Kuhn concluded that a scientific community does not change paradigms because the mounting evidence persuades those who embraced the old paradigm. It changes because they die off.
I pray that, as a nation, we will not have to wait for the Pharisees to all die before we can accept this gift of God to humanity.