Alibi V.26 No.50 • Dec 14-20, 2017 

Baked Goods

Hemp Gains Popularity … Everywhere Else

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Rob M.

At least 30 states have legalized growing hemp since 2016. And get this: New Mexico is one of only two states where the governor vetoed proposed hemp legislation.

Hemp's federal legal status is … counterintuitive. As most everyone knows by now, hemp is the non-psychoactive form of cannabis (technically, it has trace amounts of THC, but not enough to get anyone high). That fact alone makes hemp's illegality bizarre. Start listing off the staggering number of uses that have been found for the plant, and its status seems downright criminal.

To wit: Hemp can be (and has been) turned into a high-strength industrial textile used for clothing, rope, sails and—infamously—to make American flags (ahem). Paper made from hemp is stronger, lasts longer and can be recycled many more times than paper made from trees. It can be used to produce a plastic substitute that's strong and environmentally-friendly and a fiberboard that is lighter and stronger than wood. Hemp plants also have a much shorter life cycle than trees do, meaning it's a “cheaper” resource that does less environmental damage. Legalizing hemp would save manufacturer's money as well as put a huge dent in the deforestation of the planet. Seeds from the hemp (cannabis) plant have their own variety of uses—as a source of protein and healthy fats and as a skin treatment, for instance—and hemp seed oil can be used as a non-toxic biofuel as well as having numerous industrial uses.

And why is it illegal? Because, despite what hemp enthusiasts are prone to tell you, hemp is cannabis. You will often hear that hemp and “marijuana” are two different plants in the “cannabis family,” which is not actually the case. According to the 2014 Federal Farm Bill, “hemp” is defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of such plant … with a tetrahydrocannabinols [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” That means “hemp” is just weak (psychoactively speaking) cannabis. Weak cannabis—even cannabis that no one is consuming to alter their consciousness—is still cannabis according to the nation's lawmakers.

But here in the Land of Enchantment—where farmers and poverty abound—why would our governor block research and production of a cheap money-maker in a year when industrial hemp production in the US doubled? Search me.

Heavy Cannabis Use Linked to Vomiting Illness

Some emergency physicians in Colorado and California are warning the public of a rare illness that can affect long-term, heavy cannabis users (you better believe that perked my ears up). The obscure condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which was only recently acknowledged by the medical community, was first documented by Australian doctors in 2004.

The syndrome involves extreme nausea and stomach pain leading to violent cyclical vomiting, coupled with mental fog. According to doctors, the condition is hard to treat, since traditional anti-nausea medications usually fail to help relieve the pain. Worse, diagnosing the issue comes with its own set of problems. Symptoms are nearly identical to a number of other illnesses, and no test exists that can detect the syndrome. It also doesn't help that cannabis is known as a treatment for nausea, meaning most patients are skeptical when they hear that its causing them stomach pain.

The exact cause of the syndrome is unknown, but it's possible that some people have a genetic disposition for it. Unfortunately the only treatment is cessation, meaning some folks are going to have to pass by cannabis as a medicine. The good news is it seems to be rare, although there aren't any numbers to confirm this, as of yet.

Medical Cannabis Protection Extended Again

Last week, President Donald Trump signed a stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government running through Dec. 22. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which blocks the Department of Justice from using any funds to prosecute cannabis patients and producers in states where it's legal for medical use, was also extended once again by the House. But all of us medical cannabis advocates are starting to get sick of the constant cycle of panic being brought on by the need for the provision to renew.

In a statement to the press following the extension, Oregon's Rep. Earl Blumenauer, one of the most outspoken cannabis advocates in Congress, said that while he was pleased with the extension, “two weeks is not enough certainty for the millions of Americans who rely on medical marijuana for treatment and the businesses who serve them.” He went on to say, “… ultimately, Congress must act to put an end to the cycle of uncertainty and permanently protect state medical marijuana programs—and adult use—from federal interference.”

In a related story, Blumenauer also announced the formation of a political action committee aimed at unseating anti-cannabis lawmakers. The Portland Democrat's Cannabis Fund will raise money to promote cannabis-friendly candidates and policies, while campaigning against those who openly speak against the plant. So far, the fund has only raised $2,000, but Blumenauer announced that he has already decided on a first target: Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas. Sessions helped block the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment last September.