Just a reminder Mr. President. You said "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."
Posted on May 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm
A new advocacy group called SAM (Smarter Approach to Marijuana), co-founded by Patrick J. Kennedy, a former congressman and self-admitted alcohol and oxycodone addict, proposes treating marijuana use in the following manner: “Possession or use of a small amount of marijuana should be a civil offense subject to a mandatory health screening and marijuana-education program. Referrals to treatment and/or social-support services should be made if needed. The individual could even be monitored for 6-12 months in a probation program designed to prevent further drug use.” But is this forced treatment for marijuana warranted?
In Psychology Today’s “Is Marijuana Addictive?,” the authors compared marijuana to other substances and found that it does not pose the same risks of dependence. It is estimated that 32% of tobacco users will become addicted, 23% of heroin users, 17% of cocaine users, and 15% of alcohol users. Yet only 9-10% of regular marijuana users will ever fit the definition of dependent . Moreover, the other substances are objectively more harmful than marijuana. So what is the incentive for this push for treatment centers for marijuana use when Mr. Kennedy knows from available evidence and personal experience that alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs are far more harmful? Based on my own personal experience, I think I have at least part of the answer.
About a year ago, I was put through some marijuana re-education of my own when I had to attend court-ordered Deferred Entry of Judgment classes. Every Wednesday night for 18 weeks, I met with a health department leader and other unfortunate drug war casualties. The class would start off with roll call and paying a weekly fee. We would watch a video on addiction or the teacher would read some course work to us. Then he would give us some questions that we were required to answer. Most of them were things like, “How does your addiction affect your daily life”?
At first I quietly just didn’t answer most of the questions or I just wrote in, “I’m not addicted. I use cannabis as a medicine. It helps me control my migraines.” The teacher started singling me out by reading my answers, thinking that I would buckle from public shame.
It’s important to realize that the attendees in the Deferred Entry of Judgment classes were given a free pass from the court and they are scared of going to jail. Defendants who are offered a DEJ have no prior record or they have stayed out of trouble for over 5 years and have no violent crime history. A DEJ means that after you complete the program, you can say that you were never arrested. It’s a way to run a LOT of drug related cases quickly through the judicial system using fear. If you don’t make it through the program the court will order you to jail for what ever the sentence was without any hearing because you have already plead guilty. Typically the DA overcharges a defendant in order to entice a plea deal so that is a scary prospect.
But I didn’t buckle when I was presented with quiz after quiz that asked me to admit to addiction. I stood up for myself. Without cannabis, my life would again center around debilitating migraines, which honestly were driving me toward suicide.
After I started speaking up, I was approached by almost everyone in the class. They all had heartbreaking stories and also felt like they were being herded through a BS program, but you do what you have to do and so they answered the questions as if they believed they were addicted.
In the end, the instructor graduated me early to get rid of me and didn’t even pee test me because he knew it would come up positive for THC. He was aware of my court documents stating that I could not only smoke cannabis but grow it.
Under the guise of “treatment,” what they were doing was working on creating statistics that would support a HUGE money grab for more services and create a story of crisis that doesn’t really exist!
Published in CNN Money’s Private equity’s rehab roll-up In February 2006, Bain Capital (yes, the company that clean-livingMitt Romney used to run) purchased an outfit called CRC Health Group for $723 million and proceeded to go on a shopping spree, snapping up nearly 20 new treatment facilities over the next two years. The company took a breather during the financial crisis, but in 2011 resumed its buying binge with the purchase of some smaller treatment centers.
Rehab, it turns out, is a pretty good business. Is rehab roll-up-able? In the most basic sense, the answer is yes. But are these treatment centers working to end addiction or is it all about the profit margin?
All treatment programs are not created the same. “CRC uses a cookie-cutter approach,” says Dr. Howard C. Samuels, an addiction specialist and licensed practitioner based in Hollywood. “It’s the assembly line of recovery.” Samuels, who runs his own 14-bed facility, the Hills Treatment Center, says that he used to refer patients to CRC, but ceased doing so when he felt that bureaucracy and the bottom line had overwhelmed concern for individual treatment.
One word I hear over and over again when cannabis activists get together is “WHY?” As in, “Why on earth do we continue to punish adults who simply choose to relax with marijuana instead of the more harmful substance, alcohol?” I think the answer is clear. Follow the money!!!!
by Susan Soares ~ Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform Fundraising Chair
Colorado's task force has come out with their recommendations and they are not anywhere close to what I thought they might be.
The recommendations include:
The sales taxes were expected but 15% is a bit high especially when you are double dipping by asking the establishment AND the customer to pay it. Also, limiting the amount sold to a customer in a single purchase is one of those laws set up to fail. There are so many ways around it and no real way to enforce it. STUPID! I have no clue what they mean by "Emphasize that it’s illegal for marijuana to be given away in exchange for a donation." Huh? But two of the recommendations are so bad, it's hard to imagine how they even got from pen to paper. #1 By allowing employers to prohibit off the job marijuana use by employees, you are letting them invade your personal life. What I do on the weekend should be no business of my employer! And last but not least, making it illegal to grow marijuana outdoors is irresponsible. One of the big problems with the prohibition of marijuana was the huge carbon footprint that it made because of the need to hide your grow. Free sunlight is a good thing for everyone. Why do they want it to stay indoors? Is the sight of it so tempting that people would be helpless to resist it's powers? Ridiculous! It's time for regulators to grow up and let us grow out...side. If you think about it for two seconds, it's the only thing that makes sense. What do you think?
Read the full story here:
By Peter Hecht
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 - 7:46 am
California voters favor legalizing pot for recreational use, strongly support the existence of medical marijuana dispensaries and want the feds to butt out of the California cannabis business.
In a California Field Poll released today, voters – by a 54 to 43 percent margin – say they want California to legalize marijuana beyond medical use with regulations similar to alcohol.
In the state with America's largest medical marijuana industry, the poll found that 67 percent of voters oppose an ongoing crackdown by the state's four U.S. attorneys on businesses selling pot for medicinal use.
The statewide poll was conducted little more than three months after voters in Washington and Colorado each passed measures to legalize marijuana as a mere pleasurable pursuit – upping the stakes in America's marijuana debate.
The poll results indicate continued strong support for medical marijuana as the stateSupreme Court is deliberating on whether scores of California cities and counties can ban marijuana dispensaries.
Meanwhile, California voters across party lines seem to be taking issue with federal threats, raids and prosecutions involving medical marijuana businesses.
The state's four U.S. attorneys have brought criminal cases against some medical marijuana providers and growers and sent letters threatening seizures of properties of others.
While all marijuana use is illegal under federal law, U.S. prosecutors assert California's medicinal cannabis industries have been "hijacked by profiteers" violating both state and federal laws.
In the poll of registered voters in early February, 68 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of independents said they oppose the federal crackdown.
"It's certainly not winning over the hearts and minds of Californians," state Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said of voters' reactions to federal enforcement efforts. "The getting tough policy by the feds is not impacting public opinion in a positive way."
Poll respondent Stewart Hintz, 47, a Republican from Rocklin who doesn't smoke marijuana, said the federal crackdown was inevitable because dispensaries appear to be drawing numerous people with little or no medical need. But Hintz said, it's time for pot to be legal – and for the government to back off.
"Once (alcohol) prohibition was repealed, the feds pretty much took their hands off – and I think that's the best model," he said.
Some 58 percent of Field Poll respondents also said they favor allowing medical dispensaries in their cities or towns, with the stores strongly supported by voters in Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County and modestly supported elsewhere in Southern California.
"I haven't seen any substantive negatives" about dispensaries, said Patrick Cole, an independent voter in Butte County who last tried marijuana in college nearly four decades ago. "The executive branch gets on its high horse about how insidious this is and how it's corrupting our neighborhoods. Yet there is a liquor store on every corner."
The poll results drew a spirited response from the director of California's largest medical marijuana dispensary.
"This poll … heartens me and makes me feel validated," said Steve DeAngelo, whose Harborside Health Center dispensary in Oakland is being targeted by federal prosecutors who have sued to seize the property.
He said the poll results also suggest that California politicians opposing medical marijuana and its distribution "are going to see serious consequences" at election time.
Richard Lee, who led Proposition 19, the failed ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana in California in 2010, said poll results give momentum to advocates backing an initiative to legalize nonmedical use in 2016.
"I think it shows that it's going to win in 2016, and it's just a matter of writing the best law that we can."
Bishop Ron Allen of Sacramento's International Faith Based Coalition, a member of Californians Against Legalizing Marijuana, said the poll results show that "we have to do a better job of educating the community about the harms of marijuana."
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/27/5220454/field-poll-california-voters-favor.html#storylink=cpy
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —A new bill is aimed at cracking down on people driving under the influence of drugs.
Under SB 289, introduced by state Sen. Lou Correa, it is illegal for a person to have in his or her blood any detectable amount of drugs while driving, unless it was taken in accordance with a valid prescription from a doctor.
The drugs are from those classified in Schedules I, II, III, or IV of the California Uniform Controlled Substance Act.
Former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness, who represents the California Peace Officers Association, supports the bill.
“You’re talking about something that’s per se unlawful, prohibited -- so therefore, its mere presence, coupled with the operation of the motor vehicle, is a threat to the safety of the public,” McGinness told KCRA 3, adding that he is waiting for details on how the bill would be enforced.
The most current draft of SB 289 does not make an exception for marijuana, for which patients receive a doctor’s recommendation, rather than a prescription.
“It would impact thousands and thousands of patients across the state who are not impaired,” said Lanette Davies, a spokesperson for Crusaders for Patients Rights. “There’s nothing in their system that’s impairing them, but they would be driving illegally if this bill is passed.”
Davies said a better way to ensure safe driving would focus on the nature of impairment, rather than the medication in the driver’s system.
However, supporters believe SB 289 is a good start in getting drugged drivers off the roads.
“The goal is to minimize the likelihood of anybody operating a motor vehicle on the highways in California when there’s evidence to show they have some level of impairment that will compromise your safety and mine,” McGinness said.
According to a recent study released by the Office of Traffic Safety, more California drivers tested positive for drugs that may impair driving at 14 percent, than they did for alcohol at 7.3 percent.
Read more: http://www.kcra.com/news/politics/New-bill-aims-to-crack-down-on-drivers-impaired-by-drugs/-/11797268/18979288/-/7eiiaiz/-/index.html#ixzz2LMQevgyl
11:39 AM ET
Marijuana could be the next gay marriage -- a contentious social issue that suddenly picks up broad, bipartisan support for change. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out in favor of legalizing hemp, joining Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and fellow Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to cosponsor a bill that would allow Americans to grow it, NBC News' Kasie Hunt reports. Of course, hemp is not the same as regular marijuana. Industrial hemp has much less THC, the chemical that gets people high. But right now, hemp is classified in the same category as drugs like heroin and LSD. On Thursday, the Kentucky state senate voted to legalize hemp if the federal government legalizes it too. Oregon has legalized hemp cultivation, but farmers risk federal prosecution.
Again, hemp is not the same thing as marijuana, "but some law enforcement groups say it is a step that could lead to the legalization of marijuana," Hunt writes. Other lawmakers -- yes, even conservative Republicans! -- have addressed legalizing the drug itself. The most fascinating example was last week, when Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said twice he was "evolving" on the issue of marijuana legalization when political science students at the University of Virginia asked him about voters legalizing weed in Colorado and Washington last fall. "I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [in terms of marijuana legalization]," Cuccinelli said. "But I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out." He explained it as a federalism thing: "I don't have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing. I think that's the role of states."
Cuccinelli is expected to be the next Republican nominee for Virginia governor. He's a very conservative dude. He led the states' rebellion against Obamacare. He's said conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia isn't conservative enough. In the same UVA appearance, he said he didn't support public pools because they distort the free market.
More remarkable is that Cuccinelli later clarified his comments -- but not in the traditional political definition of the word, which is "retract all previous statements." Instead, he questioned the war on drugs:
"What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It's been phenomenally expensive...
[If the government] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who's pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I'll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal."
Rand Paul has gone further in talking about marijuana legalization than his pro-him pal McConnell. In November, like Cuccinelli, Paul said, "States should be allowed to make a lot of these decisions... I think, for example, we should tell young people, 'I'm not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don't want to put you in jail for 20 years...'"
It's important to explain what's radical and what isn't in this position. Few people who get caught with marijuana go to jail for 20 years, so opposing that isn't a big deal. It's the boring part of Paul's comment -- let states make the call on weed -- that actually is radical. As Reason's Jacob Sullumexplained, a Republican senator supporting "devolving drug policy decisions to the states is pretty bold in the current political context." He writes:
It is the policy embodied in the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). How many of their fellow congressmen joined them? Nineteen, all but one (Dana Rohrabacher of California) a Democrat.
So, how are the states doing? On Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced people arrested on minor pot possession charges won't be booked and held for arraignment anymore, The Wall Street Journal reports. Instead, they'll be released with appearance tickets, which means the person is free until his or her court date. But the issue is being addressed outside liberalism's East Coast capital. In state legislatures like Rhode Island, Maine, and Pennsylvania, the push for legalization in 2013 has, so far, been dominated by Democrats. But there are signs Republicans might ease their opposition, too. This week, Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach toldRaw Story that if her marijuana legalization bill was voted on by "secret ballot," it would pass. Privately, Leach said, some of the "most conservative" lawmakers agree on legalization, because it's "just another government program" that doesn't work.
In New Hampshire, some Republican lawmakers are willing to go on the record. "Marijuana can let them die in peace, and if this helps them, so be it," Republican state Rep. Will Infantine said after hearing testimony from people with debilitating illnesses, The Dartmouth reports Friday. A bill to legalize medical marijuana is expected to pass by mid-March and make New Hampshire the last New England state to allow it. Last year, the Democratic governor vetoed two medical marijuana bills, but current Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she won't veto the current bill.
One of the most fascinating marijuana moments this year was when conservative former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo announced he would smoke pot to make good on his bet with Adam Hartle, a stand-up comic, over whether Colorado would legalize weed. "Look, I made a bet with the producer of the film that if Amendment 64 passed ( I did not think it would) that I would smoke pot," Tancredo said. "I will therefore smoke pot under circumstances we both agree are legal under Colorado law." His family eventually peer pressured him out of it.
Posted: 02/14/2013 1:58 pm EST | Updated: 02/14/2013 1:59 pm EST
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday that those arrested in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana will no longer have to spend a night in jail.
The new measure, set to take effect next month, was announced during Bloomberg's State of the City speech. From the speech:
“But we know that there’s more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record. Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor and we’ll work to help him pass it this year. But we won’t wait for that to happen.“Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We’re changing that. Effective next month, anyone presenting an ID and clearing a warrant check will be released directly from the precinct with a desk appearance ticket to return to court. It’s consistent with the law, it’s the right thing to do and it will allow us to target police resources where they’re needed most."
Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed decriminalizing the possession of under 15 grams of marijuana.
New York City is one of the highest rates of marijuana arrests in the world. From a report by the Drug Policy Alliance:
In the last decade since Michael Bloomberg became mayor, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost of $600 million dollars. Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos.In the last five years, the NYPD under Bloomberg has made more marijuana arrests (2007 to 2011 = 227,093) than in the 24 years from 1978 through 2001 under Mayor Giuliani, Mayor Dinkins, and Mayor Koch combined (1978 to 2001 = 226,861).
Ethan Nadelmann Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Posted: 02/12/2013 11:04 am
I firmly believe that at some point during his second administration President Obama is going to address the issue of mass incarceration in America. What I fear is that he is going to wait so long, and ultimately do so with such caution, as to minimize his potential impact.
I'll be listening to his State of the Union tonight, hoping against hope that he says something, and says something bold. He's made clear he has other priorities -- the economy, immigration, climate change and now gun violence -- but what a difference it would make for him to speak to this issue when he addresses the nation.
There's no question he gets it. Barack Obama was a strong proponent of criminal justice reform as a state legislator. He spoke about it when he ran for president the first time. His administration worked hard during his first years in office to eliminate the racially disproportionate disparity in federal sanctions for crack and powder cocaine, winning a bipartisan compromise to at least reduce the disparity from 100:1 to 18:1. And he made clear in a Time magazine interview just two months ago that he views over-incarceration for non-violent offenses as a real problem:
Well, I don't think it's any secret that we have one of the two or three highest incarceration rates in the world, per capita. I tend to be pretty conservative, pretty law and order, when it comes to violent crime. My attitude is, is that when you rape, murder, assault somebody, that you've made a choice; the society has every right to not only make sure you pay for that crime, but in some cases to disable you from continuing to engage in violent behavior.
But there's a big chunk of that prison population, a great huge chunk of our criminal justice system that is involved in nonviolent crimes. And it is having a disabling effect on communities. Obviously, inner city communities are most obvious, but when you go into rural communities, you see a similar impact. You have entire populations that are rendered incapable of getting a legitimate job because of a prison record. And it gobbles up a huge amount of resources. If you look at state budgets, part of the reason that tuition has been rising in public universities across the country is because more and more resources were going into paying for prisons, and that left less money to provide to colleges and universities.
But this is a complicated problem. One of the incredible transformations in this society that precedes me, but has continued through my presidency, even continued through the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, is this decline in violent crime. And that's something that we want to continue. And so I think we have to figure out what are we doing right to make sure that that downward trend in violence continues, but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process.
Read that last line, that last clause, again: "but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." He didn't say a few; he didn't say thousands; he said millions. And the fact is that the president's not exaggerating -- not when this country has less than 5 percent of the world's population but almost 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population; not when our rate of incarceration is roughly five times that of most other nations; not when we rely on incarceration to an extent unparalleled in the history of democratic societies; not when almost six million Americans can't vote because they were convicted of a felony; not when one of every 32 adult Americans are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, with all the indignities, discriminations and disadvantages that that entails; and not when the tens of billions of dollars spent each year incarcerating fellow citizens displaces expenditures on education, research and non-incarcerative infrastructure.
James Webb, who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate for the past six years, said it well: "There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice."
During President Obama's first term, I occasionally had opportunity to ask senior White House aides why the president was so silent on this issue. Some simply said he had to focus on other priorities. Others suggested that his being the first black president made him particularly wary of taking the issue on given the extraordinary extent to which over-incarceration in this country is about race and the mass incarceration of black men. But wasn't that precisely the reason, or at least a key reason, I asked, why President Obama needed to address the issue, and needed to provide the leadership that only he could provide. Maybe in a second term, they replied.
Well, that second term is now -- and what the president says tonight is going to frame his proactive agenda for the next four years. "Millions of lives," he said; millions of American lives "being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." If ever there was a time and an issue for President Obama to assert his moral leadership, this is it.
Say it, Mr. President, please say it now.
Follow Ethan Nadelmann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EthanNadelmann
February 10, 2013 9:30 am • BY ELLEN KOMP California NORML
In Hillary Clinton’s farewell speech as secretary of state, she said, “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek.”
Clinton was referring to Venice, Calif.-based architect Frank Gehry, who molded a unique style of laid-back architecture and is the world-class architect of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the forthcoming Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial.
Someone who worked with Gehry in the 1980s reported him “coming out of rooms with clouds of [marijuana] smoke behind him.” It wouldn’t be too surprising. Even Meghan McCain says pot smoking is everywhere in LA.
I raise this in answer to the op-ed you printed recently from an employee of a drug testing company touting her company’s services as the means of achieving a safe and productive workforce, even in the wake of marijuana smokers winning their rights back in Colorado and Washington.
I beg to differ.
First of all, drug testing has never been scientifically shown to be effective at improving workplace safety or productivity, and studies indicate that the great majority of drug-positive workers are just as reliable as others. Medically, the consensus of expert opinion is that drug tests are an inherently unreliable indicator of drug impairment. Dr. George Lundberg of the American Medical Association has called them “Chemical McCarthyism.”
Second, by screening out marijuana smokers, we’re weeding out (so to speak) some of our most creative and, I would argue, productive employees. If you doubt that marijuana smokers have contributed to our society, see veryimportantpotheads.com. In the case of someone using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s downright discrimination to deny them employment for using what a doctor has legally recommended under state law.
Silicon Valley, the brainchild of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who both admittedly smoked pot in their youth), notoriously does not drug test its employees, knowing they’d lose much of their talent that way. Yet the region is responsible for much of California’s economic productivity, in one of the few nonmilitary industries the U.S. has.
Henry Ford’s method of sending investigators into his workers’ homes to observe their drinking habits seems outrageous today, yet employers are basically doing the same thing by demanding its workers pee in a cup on Monday to find out what they did on Friday night. Is it really their business?
There is an alternative called impairment testing that has been shown to be more effective than drug testing at assuring workers’ safety. But chemical tests are entrenched in our political process and with businesses and insurance companies, and the more forward-thinking ideas are, so far, crushed under the Greek architecture of the old days.
Carl Sagan, one of the many productive members of society who enjoyed marijuana, said, “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
It won’t do us much good to end the injustice of marijuana prohibition if only the unemployed can exercise their right to use it. And those companies that exercise drug testing will have only a piss-poor workforce.
Ellen Komp is the deputy director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Her column is a response to an opinion piece supporting workplace drug testing that appeared in the Star-Tribune on Feb. 3.
State, Federal Efforts Back Farmers in Calling for Excluding Crop From Drug Laws
By ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES
Like many farmers in Kentucky, Brian Furnish has for years struggled to find crops to replace tobacco.
He thinks he has one candidate: industrial hemp, the cousin of marijuana used to make everything from cosmetics to car parts. It grows well in small plots, and demand for some hemp-based products is on the rise. The problem is that federal law makes it virtually impossible to grow the crop in the U.S.
David Kasnic for The Wall Street JournalBrian Furnish, a farmer in Cynthiana, Ky., grows tobacco, corn, wheat and hay, and says he would further diversify into hemp if it were legalized.
"We grew it here for years until the '50s," when it was still permitted, said Mr. Furnish, 37 years old. "I don't see any reason why we couldn't again."
He can take heart from efforts gathering steam from a wide political spectrum in Congress to again authorize hemp production. U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Ky.) introduced a bill in the House on Wednesday that would exclude hemp from the federal drug law that now lumps it together with marijuana. U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) say they plan to file similar legislation in the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) last week said for the first time that he supported growing the crop.
Meanwhile, pro-hemp legislative measures have been introduced or carried over this year in seven states. Several states have already removed barriers to hemp production. "We've never had a better situation than we do right now," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a not-for-profit advocacy group.
Significant obstacles remain. Previous pro-hemp bills in Congress went nowhere. And the White House has taken a dim view of the crop. "Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant," wrote Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, last year. He added that hemp contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.
Yet proponents point out the amount of THC in hemp is minimal—usually less than 1%, which is considered the threshold for potentially generating a high, according to researchers. By comparison, THC levels in marijuana average 10% and can reach 30% or more. Hemp legislation in the U.S., as well as in European countries where growing it is legal, usually sets the ceiling for THC content at 0.3%.
Farmers cultivated hemp legally throughout much of America's history. By the late 1950s, production ceased, partly as a result of high taxes imposed by the federal government.
The 1970 Controlled Substances Act made no distinction between varieties of cannabis. So while it isn't illegal to grow hemp, a farmer must register with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which Mr. Steenstra said means prohibitively expensive security requirements.
Still, it is legal to import hemp-based products—such as shirts and carpeting—and components of the plant, like hemp oil, used to make beauty products. Industry groups estimate that retail sales of hemp-based products in the U.S. exceed $300 million a year.
The size of that market has enticed advocates in Kentucky, which was a leading hemp producer in the 1800s. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is championing a bill that would set up a regulatory framework for hemp if the federal government eliminates barriers to production. It is similar to the laws in the eight states that have authorized hemp growing, though all these measures still face the prohibitions under federal law.
"We could be the Silicon Valley for industrial hemp manufacturing," he said. Several makers of hemp-based products have expressed interest in buying from Kentucky farmers, he said.
Among them is Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, an Escondido, Calif., company that imports about 20 tons of hemp oil a year from Canada. "We want to buy from American farmers," said President David Bronner.
The Kentucky effort has drawn support from both tea-party groups and liberals, the latter because the crop is considered sustainable. "People on the right like it because it's a liberty issue," said Mr. Comer, a Republican. And "people on the left like it because it's a green crop."
But some law-enforcement groups argue hemp looks similar to marijuana, which would make it a challenge to conduct aerial surveillance aimed at eradicating pot. "Hemp farming would greatly complicate drug law enforcement activities," the Kentucky Narcotic Officers' Association wrote last November.
Analysts say the measure has a decent chance of passage in the state Senate but faces a steeper climb in Kentucky's House, where Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, has expressed reservations.
Write to Arian Campo-Flores at email@example.com