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Hemp is No Laughing Matter. Seriously. 

Never in my wildest dreams did I suspect that I might take home the “Best Excuse for the Munchies” editor’s pick honors for my work seeking to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp. I confess that such a feather in my cap gave me a bad case of the giggles.

That said, I believe a few key points were omitted in your efforts to shed light on the issue of industrial hemp:

* Cultivation of industrial hemp is not a half-baked idea.

* It is high time that we as Americans and Idahoans start taking this issue seriously.

* We just need to let legislators hash this out—a joint effort between Democrats and Republicans.

Obviously, I can take a joke and I may have been asking for it by dragging out the frozen hemp based treats during a committee hearing. But the more we laugh about hemp and over emphasize its biological relationship to marijuana, the longer we’ll have to wait before we can take advantage of a domestically grown and remarkably versatile hemp crop potentially worth millions to Idaho farmers.

Is this a fringe issue? Hardly. A Sept. 12 article from USA Today touts the use of hemp in green buildings. A company in North Carolina is starting to build homes using hemp-based walls, conferring the benefits of energy efficiency and environmental health: “Hemp-filled walls are non-toxic, mildew-resistant, pest-free and flame-resistant.” As the green building movement blossoms in this country, it only makes sense that we should have access to a domestic source of hemp, rather than relying on imports.

Our society has been using hemp for centuries for a wide range of applications—everything from the sails and rope used by Christopher Columbus to the paper used for the Declaration of Independence to the fabric covering the Conestoga wagons. Even the first Levis were made out of hemp-based material. And I recently learned that during the restoration of the Idaho Statehouse, workers discovered a hemp fiber binding material inside the columns and underneath the marble panels.

What other plant can yield clean fuel, medicinal products, high-quality protein, lubricating and fuel oils, plastics, building material, clothing and paper? It’s inexplicable that we’ve banned this crop in the United States even as hundreds of U.S. companies are now using it to forge hemp products for which there is a huge demand.

I recognize it is fun to make “pot jokes”—I face the same battle even amongst my colleagues in the Legislature. But as Canadian and European farmers sell hemp to American companies and our own farmers are prohibited from doing so, the joke is on us. And that, dudes, is lame.

Rep. Brian C. Cronin is a Boise Democrat representing District 19.

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