Archive for March, 2009

Fight for Hemp, Against Coal

March 12, 2009

Apologize for the long delay in writing. I’ve been dealing with a number of political issues, and haven’t been able to divide my time devoted to working on my blogs.

In my absence, much has happened in getting America back on course. The environmental legacy of the preceding administration has been discredited, rightly.

In matters pertaining to our bodies and the health of the planet, our new President has delivered on his campaign promises. These include the abolition of restrictions on stem cells.

Much remains to be done by the new President to change the direction of our government towards sustainability. In the field of energy, we need a great deal more emphasis put on conservation. Americans were fooled into believing we could drill our way out of our energy glutton.

While many of the attitudes in place before Obama’s historic election may not have changed, leadership at the top has. We can now count on American progress in the field of stem cell research, now that medieval-era sanctions on the use of cells harvested from non-viable embryos.

Obama has also ordered a reduction in federal interventions in medical marijuana clinics. These depositories had been raided off and on during the previous two administrations, despite the passage by over a dozen states of laws making possession of marijuana by duly qualified patients completely legal.

I don’t know how deeply I can express support for the value of medical marijuana. The list of symptoms it can reduce or offset is simply miraculous. In the past I may have brought up links concerning  first person examples of medical marijuana and its benefits.

It goes without saying that if thirteen and counting states have reviewed the evidence, that the case for medical marijuana can be made in any forum where truth and justice are welcome. Too many Americans have been punished for using a drug that isn’t backed by pharmaceutical companies, one that can be had for a fraction of the price of costlier drugs.

God-given, marijuana is also accepted in numerous mystical organizations, and other peace-loving groups like fans of the Grateful Dead. Its use is commonplace in American society. At some point, states strapped for tax revenue WILL legalize, regulate, and tax the sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes as well.

I detest any reference to the drug war, which has been a complete policy failure. Not only has drug use NOT slowed down, the ongoing prohibition has created a vibrant prison industrial complex that now houses as many as 1 in 31 Americans, a new study reported. Over 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession, a number that hasn’t declined, nor will any time soon.

States like California show high levels of tolerance for the legalization of marijuana, and not just for medical marijuana. As reality and policy goals get closer to matching, it will at some point become essential that we admit we are getting nowhere on stopping the flow of illegal drugs into this country. Perhaps we also need to look at the effectiveness of drug interdiction versus treatment of addiction, a method which has been proven to be far more cost-effective that para-militarization of an ongoing failure.

I guess trying to be hard in one of these quasi-wars, “war on _____”, means failing. We can’t make interdiction the sole operating principle. If these policies are to be judged at some point, we can only conclude they aren’t working, or at least as they are being fought.

This being said, I’m coming out in full support of medical marijuana, decriminalization of marijuana, and support for a federal mandate allowing nationwide production of industrial hemp.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, House Bill 1009, would allow hemp farming and I hope you’ll contact your Congressperson on its behalf. Here is a Message Composer service with pre-written letter advocating sponsorship of the bill. The link was supplied through VoteHemp.com.

I customized the letter as follows:

We need hemp now! The United States desperately needs to produce more marketable agricultural products. Hemp is wonderfully easy to grow and doesn’t require herbicides or pesticides!

For its health benefits, we’ve heard much about the benefits of medical marijuana, a plant which contains the psychoactive ingredient THC, not found in industrial hemp. What we don’t hear much about is how strong hemp fiber is, and how safe it is as a cotton substitute. Cotton is typically treated with chorine, which raises issues about how much contact we want on something we wear, as chlorine our bodies enters through our skin.

Hemp-growing is so much easier on soil. Cotton growing uses more pesticides than any other crop, which can contribute to higher body burdens of carcinogenic chemicals whose long-term effects are unknown. So if we want lower longer-term health care costs, we should grow and wear hemp. If we want cleaner water, we should grow hemp.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Also, during World War 2, hemp oil was used in aircraft engines as a substitute for petroleum based oils which were in short supply. Hemp is also great for rope-making, and makes a wonderful replacement for polyurethane foam, which contains  the polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), or polyester fill, which contains dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Knowing more will allow Congress to make better decisions. In this case, an existing harm needs redress, and a wrong should be undone. Repealing prohibitions on hemp at the federal level would reject the misinformed hysteria that ignores scientific facts and has no place as the basis of law.

Please let farmers decide what to grow free of government controls. In hemp’s case, it’s clear that “he who governs best, governs least.”

For more, see http://www.industrialhemp.net/

Pet-owners might like http://www.doggyarchy.com/organicdogbeds

End letter.

Unfortunately some hemp farmers have faced persecution from agencies of the federal government because no distinction is made between industrial hemp and consumer-grade marijuana, which contain THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. The DEA has no place raiding farms that grow hemp for industrial purposes. That role exceeds the any anti-drug mandate, because industrial hemp is simply not a drug as well as violating common sense.

Protect our mountains, air, and water

In the past I’ve come out with support of specific environmental causes and included links to resources through which you can take action. Note that I do this only quite seriously, only when the cause is an important one AND a timely one. Nowhere was the urgency needed more to stop mountaintop coal mining. Since I published last, a massive coal slurry dam broke near Harlan, Tennessee, resulting in one of the worst coal-based disasters ever. We need to abandon coal as the primary source of fuel, and we need to do it NOW. These coal slurry dam breaks are just a canary in the coal mine as it pertains to the use of coal–the fossil fuel presents all kinds of problems.

All the way through coal’s production and use cycle, it causes environmental problems. In mining, mountaintops in Appalachia are literally getting blasted to bits, in a betrayal of our more fundamental principles of preserving our natural heritage for our children. Burnt, coal generates massive amounts of lead and mercury. These heavy metals are extremely dangerous to pregnant women and children, impairing brain function and fetal development.

Dust and ash from coal processing is stored in massive dams, which fill with water and need to be constantly maintained lest they break. The slurry combination which comes out hardens and must be jackhammered once it dries. The costs of the state of Tennessee for the Harlan dam break will be massive, hopefully they’ll do a better job of monitoring other coal slurry dams in the state as a preemptive cost-cutting measure. And with the new administration, now maybe the Bureau of Land Management will get off its ass and actually start to regulate and enforce laws protecting the environment. 

Under the preceding administration, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), alongside the MMS  (Minerals Management Service) served up a bonanza of giveaways. Enforcement was lax. Many regulators were intimately connected to the companies they were overseeing. (I bet many have returned to their former employers, if they ever really left!) Unfortunately for government people like those at Interior Department, they will find free booze, drugs, and prostitutes harder to acquire, at least for free–see the NYTimes article.

The Clean Water Protection Act is pending before Congress. It would basically force the government to obey the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, which were passed long ago but forgotten under Bush. Here is the action item from the anti-MTR people. By the way, their effort to convert a mountaintop into a renewable clean wind power resource gained the attention and interest of West Virginia Gov.  Mancini, who appears sympathetic to ending mountaintop removal.

Cited in an e-mail from ilovemountains.og, here is what Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had to say about the Clean Water Protection Act:

“The Clean Water Protection Act is the first broad Congressional initiative aimed at reversing the Bush Administration’s eight-year effort to savage our national waterways and the popular laws that protect them.”

The letter goes on to link to a blogpost at environmental site Grist:

“..the [CWPA] was introduced originally to challenge the outrageous executive rule change by the Bush administration to redefine “fill material” in the Clean Water Act, which has allowed coal companies to blast hundreds of mountains to bits, dump millions of tons of “excess spoil” into nearby valleys, and bury hundreds of miles of streams. An estimated 1,200 miles of waterways have been destroyed by this extreme mining process.

The end result: Toxic black waters and poisoned aquifers that have denied American citizens in the coalfields the basic right of a glass of clean water.

The timing of the bill couldn’t be more urgent: On the heels of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court decision that overturned greater environmental review of mountaintop-removal actions by coal companies, scores of mining permits are flooding through the gates of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this month.”

Please stay informed on issues like these. And more importantly, take action. Getting involved in some small measure can be the difference between getting positive results of letting the status quo win. While your individual contribution to the cause may only require a few minutes, if enough people participate, the impact can be immense. Participation preserves the efficient functioning of our government, by holding it accountable for its policies and discouraging ongoing failure and waste.