Don’t know what a Ricky is? Well, it is not something that you get in the back seat of a car at the drive-in movies. It is a new word in our lexicon. The definition is “a statement or comment that appears insulting or outlandish but nevertheless remains potentially useful in advancing ideas.” (See Ricky Gervais monologue for the Golden Globe Awards Show).

The Ricky is named for Mr. Ricky Gervais, host of the first of the self-aggrandizing entertainment biz award shows of the season. Ricky roasted the Hollywood crowd for their disingenuous and uninformed preaching on all subjects political. Outlandish and in-your-face as it was, Gervais’ words had a ring of truth about them.

My Ricky this morning has to do with hemp and the regulation there of.

Perhaps it is time to rethink all of the regulation, in place and still under consideration. The comments received by the Department of Agriculture indicate that the idea that we have to treat industrial hemp as an automatic precursor to a Schedule 1 drug is a bad one. First of all, because industrial hemp is not marijuana. The THC level in a commercial hemp plant never really goes past 1.5%. It never reaches the realm of a psycho-active drug of choice. The strain of hemp that produces marijuana starts its buzz production at around 5% and it can run all the way to 30%.

So here is my Ricky.

Cut the crap. Get the USDA out of the drug war business when it comes to industrial hemp. We simply don’t need another layer of regulation which offers nothing in return for the millions of dollars that will be spent harassing farmers who grow a crop legitimized by the Congress of the US. The Farm Bill last year pretty much set the bar. Hemp is an agricultural product. It needs to be treated no differently than corn or pinto beans.

Having regulations, state or federal that can make a legal crop a Schedule I drug is just plain silly. Declaring a field full of hemp a dangerous drug because it might contain a statistically insignificant amount (<1.5%) of a mind altering substance does nothing more than add another target to the on-going and seriously ineffective War on Drugs. A cannabis user (legal or otherwise) wouldn’t even bother to roll up and light a doobie made of industrial hemp. What he wants is something that makes his bong sing to him, not the flower of a plant that you can make lumber or arthritis medicine.

Let’s be clear. Industrial hemp is different from marijuana. It is grown differently, in tall stocks not as lower level shrubs. At timely harvest it will never have that Rocky Mountain High. Is it possible that a grower could have a bad crop that would go past 1.5%? Yes. Most likely it would come from a bad bag of seeds. But, Colorado already has a great seed program that certifies the intended strain.

The bottom line is that government types see industrial hemp as a reason for whole new regulatory infrastructure and as a way of keeping their power, control, and personal income – which when you think about it, is them wanting your taxpayer money. Hemp has high dollar potential, although not as high as the hype. CBD oil is a real product. It has real positive effects. The federal Drug Administration has issues with claims some that marketers make, but the market will sort that out. CBD used to an extreme can cause side effects, like dry mouth or drowsiness. And, here is one you probably haven’t heard. Any effect of THC that may exist in the oil is blunted by the CBD, according to the researchers at Web MD — the most trusted medical site online. Even doctors use it.

So there’s that.

Here is another way to look at it. Ask the guys who wrote the constitution if hemp as a cash crop needs regulation. They would not be amused. In fact, you might end up in the stocks of Philadelphia yourself. You see, Washington, Jefferson, and others who were involved in the birth of our nation were all hemp farmers. For, I don’t know, almost 200 years, hemp was a big deal in this country. It was raised as a food and fiber source. Among other things, fine fabrics and construction materials rivaled only by the finest hardwoods and stone come from the Cannabis plant. Hemp is the base for excellent papers of all weights and types. It is a livestock feed.

From colonial times until 1970, hemp was a legal crop. Then, the federal government passed the Controlled Substances Act. The act targeted, among other things, the whole spectrum of hemp plants, only a fraction of which were ever used for fun (or medicine). In one of those stupid Congressional, “we have to save humanity from themselves” moments, our government wiped out the livelihoods of thousands of US hemp growers. The balance of payments between imports and exports took a hit. Any hemp fiber needed for its many uses had to come from other countries. And no other country in the world stopped producing hemp.

The USDA released, back in October, their sophomoric attempt at providing regulations for an industry that needs none. They even lied in the preamble, saying that hemp was not important anymore as fiber, yet the authors made allowances for the regulation of imported hemp fiber. Somebody must want it. They claimed hemp wasn’t used for fiber because of the cotton gin – ergo the phrase ginning or making up the answer.

If you think my reference to the War on Drugs is over the top, look who the USDA wants as the testing entity for industrial hemp, none other than the Drug Enforcement Agency.

A cursory read of the regulations draft leaves one feeling like, the Farm Bill notwithstanding, the USDA still thinks it is dealing with a dangerous drug as opposed to a farm crop. The unrealistic THC level requirement and testing expectations already have and will continue to create chaos and hardship.

The state of Colorado has done a remarkably competent job in setting the framework for a viable industrial hemp business. That said, their testing procedures and 0.3% THC hot crop level are going to need addressing. Our legislature is already working on those issues.

What we don’t need is another layer of regulations, bureaucrats, overworked drug cops, and lawyers who leave our producers open to more threats to their businesses and personal freedoms then we already have.

So that’s my Ricky. Now it’s your turn to send your hemp Ricky to the USDA.

Michael A. Cox is a Montrose-based content provider. He may be reached at michaelc@agwriter.us

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