If and when Tea Party hero Sen. Rand Paul visits San Francisco and goes shopping, he'll find friendly faces in the aisles of Rainbow Grocery more quickly than he will any Safeway (especially the Castro location). In addition to the destruction of all government, the Kentucky Republican has legislated in favor of crunchy lifestyle staples raw milk and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the latter made from hemp, the only commodity legal in the United States to import, sell, and possess, but not grow.
Rand is lending bipartisan support to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who last week introduced an amendment to the titanic Farm Bill that would remove industrial hemp from the federal government's definition of "marijuana." That would officially turn over regulation of hemp-farming to the states, supporters say. But it won't plant any seeds: The Office of National Drug Control Policy in April reaffirmed that hemp, like marijuana, contains prohibited THC. Opposition from the DEA has thwarted farmers in North Dakota, where hemp farming was approved in 2007, and helped convince Gov. Jerry Brown last fall not to sign into law a California hemp-farming pilot program.
Drug laws are why David Bronner, current CEO of Dr. Bronner's, was hauled off to jail for marijuana possession after setting up hemp plants in front of the White House on Monday. Bronner, whose company is part of an estimated $400 million domestic hemp market, says Wyden and Paul are "commendable," but the real blame lies with "regressive drug warriors entrenched" in the Obama Administration, which shot down nascent hemp hopes with the pro-enforcement statement.
The Choomer In Chief himself is to blame yet again. Never mind Congress's contentment to let every hemp farming bill die before a committee hearing.
Hemp's history is particularly dysfunctional: The crop was grown on the current site of the Pentagon in the 1920s, and farmers across the Midwest were encouraged to grow hemp during World War II. That's before hemp was illegal.
Today, Bronner sends "well over a hundred thousand dollars" to Canada to buy the raw material he uses to make his soaps. The hemp oil he pressed on Pennsylvania Avenue is high in omega-3 fatty acids and is being used as a folk cure for cancer -- and appears to have few serious backers in Congress.
The author of Congress's repeatedly spurned hemp-farming bills is retiring libertarian lion Ron Paul. Rand Paul may be his son, but his politics aren't necessarily in step with the Texas Congressman. Hemp farming does not appear to be one of his priorities: Rand Paul co-sponsored the hemp amendment without issuing a peep of support.
Mention of the hemp amendment is absent from amendment sponsor Wyden's Web presence and news release archive. In other words, hemp ranks somewhere below obesity and food stamps in terms of importance -- perhaps justifiably so, but relegated to "another time" status nonetheless.
Bronner won't face any hard time for his publicity stunt; he was arrested in 2009 for planting hemp in front of Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters. The ban on hemp, unlike marijuana prohibition, has no avowed backers, yet just enough tacit institutional support to stay effective.
"We've lobbied and campaigned for over a decade and feel abandoned by
our president, who as an Illinois state legislator voted twice for hemp
Bronner said in a statement, which pointed out that an executive order could free hemp from its illogical yoke. "I expected more from President Obama."
Which is more than can be expected from Congress, unless a new hemp hero steps up.
Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly.