In early 1989, Jack Herer and Maria Farrow put this question to Steve Rawlings, the highest ranking officer in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (who was in charge of reversing the Greenhouse Effect) at the USDA world research facility in Beltsville, Maryland.
First, we introduced ourselves and told him we were writing for Green political party newspapers. Then we asked Rawlings, If you could have any choice, what would be the ideal way to stop or reverse the Greenhouse Effect?
He said, Stop cutting down trees and stop using fossil fuels.
Well, why dont we?
Theres no viable substitute for wood for paper, or for fossil fuels.
Why dont we use an annual plant for paper and for biomass to make fuel?
Well, that would be ideal, he agreed. Unfortunately there is nothing you can use that could produce enough materials.
Well, what would you say if there was such a plant that could substitute for all wood pulp paper, all fossil fuels, would make most of our fibers naturally, make everything from dynamite to plastic, grows in all 50 states, and that one acre of it would replace 4.1 acres of trees, and that if you used about 6% of the U.S. land to raise it as an energy crop even on our marginal lands, this plant would produce all 75 quadrillion BTUs needed to run America each year? Would that help save the planet?
That would be ideal. But there is no such plant.
We think there is.
Yeah? What is it?
Hemp! he mused for a moment. I never would have thought of it. You know, I think youre right. Hemp could be the plant that could do it. Wow! Thats a great idea!
We were excited as we outlined this information and delineated the potential of hemp for paper, fiber, fuel, food, paint, etc., and how it could be applied to balance the worlds ecosystems and restore the atmospheres oxygen balance with almost no disruption of the standard of living to which most Americans have become accustomed.
In essence, Rawlings agreed that our information was probably correct and could very well work.
He said, Its a wonderful idea, and I think it might work. But, of course, you cant use it.
Youre kidding? we responded. Why not?
Well, Mr. Herer, did you know that hemp is also marijuana?
Yes, of course I know, Ive been writing about it for about 40 hours a week for the past 17 years.
Well, you know marijuanas illegal, dont you? You cant use it.
Not even to save the world?
No. Its illegal, he sternly informed me. You cannot use something illegal.
Not even to save the world? we asked, stunned.
No, not even to save the world. Its illegal. You cant use it. Period.
Dont get me wrong. Its a great idea, he went on, But theyll never let you do it.
Why dont you go ahead and tell the Secretary of Agriculture that a crazy man from California gave you documentation that showed that hemp might be able to save the planet and that your first reaction is that he might be right and it needs some serious study? What would he say?
Well, I dont think Id be here very long after I did that. After all, Im an officer of the government.
Well, why not call up the information on your computer at your own USDA library? Thats where we got the information in the first place.
He said, I cant sign out that information.
Well, why not? We did.
Mr. Herer, youre a citizen. You can sign out for anything you want. But I am an officer of the Department of Agriculture. Someones going to want to know why I want all this information. And then Ill be gone.
Finally, we agreed to send him all the information we got from the USDA library, if he would look at it.
He said he would, but when we called back a month later, he said that he still had not opened the box that we sent him and that he would be sending it back to us unopened because he did not want to be responsible for the information, now that the Bush administration was replacing him with their own man.
We asked him if he would pass on the information to his successor, and he replied, Absolutely not.
In May, 1989, we had virtually the same conversation and result with his cohort, Dr. Gary Evan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Science, the man in charge of stopping the global warming trend.
In the end, he said, If you really want to save the planet with hemp, then you (hemp/marijuana activists) would find a way to grow it without the narcotic [sic.] top and then you can use it.
This is the kind of frightened (and frightening) irresponsibility were up against in our government.
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