In the marijuana family, hemp is the Jan Brady to cannabis sativa's Marcia. Hemp is boring. It doesn't get you high and doesn't smell quite as nice, but it sure is awfully useful. Rope, soap, fuel and food can all be gleaned from the lone American commodity that's legal to buy, sell, import, and export -- but illegal to grow.
This odd situation nearly came to an end two years ago, when a bill that would allow farmers in select California counties to grow hemp passed the Legislature, only to receive Gov. Jerry Brown's veto.
This year, another hemp bill has cleared the Legislature in Sacramento -- but in order for Dr. Bronner's lovers to enjoy an all-California product, they'll need help from the feds.
Currently, nine states allow hemp cultivation by farmers -- who also risk associated problems with the DEA. Because, despite still growing wild in some Midwestern states and being about as fun a party drug as jenkem, hemp is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.
Like last time, the California hemp bill is authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. And he has a Republican cosponsor: Assemblyman Allan Monsoor of Costa Mesa.
But unlike last time, the hemp bill is directly tied into similar efforts in Congress: California farmers only get to grow hemp if members of Congress can get the federal government to drop its ban.
The feds were the killjoy in 2011: in his veto message, Brown said it is "absurd" that Californians could not grow an otherwise legal plant, but could not open up the state's farmers to federal prosecution.
And there is real progress in D.C. to talk about. For the first time in 50 years, a hemp-related piece of Legislation was voted on and approved in Congress, when Colorado Rep. Jared Polis's amendment to the Farm Bill to allow hemp research passed. And for the first time in recent memory, a bill to allow farmers to grow hemp isn't just the pipe dream of Rep. Ron Paul (who is retired anyhow).
There's still a ways to go before hemp can be grown locally and not imported from Canada -- this year's hemp bill in Congress has 47 cosponsors, but has yet be called out of bill purgatory and into a committee hearing.
But, if and when Washington -- where hemp was grown and where the Pentagon now stands -- gets with it, California will be ready.