Legalize Hemp: The Real Issue Behind Prop 19

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California’s Proposition 19, which would make it legal for adults to posses and grow marijuana in the state, has created a massive social and political stir. Too often ignored in the arguments over whether legalization would cause more fatal car crashes or how many billions of dollars it could bring the state in revenue is a far bigger issue: the return of hemp as a major cash crop.

hemp field 
If California's Proposition 19 passes, industrial hemp could become legal to grow in the U.S., bringing billions of dollars to American farmers and a struggling economy. Photo By Craik Sustainable Living Project/Courtesy Flickr. 

Hemp has long suffered from its association with its cousin marijuana. Although hemp doesn’t have any of marijuana’s hallucinogenic properties, the federal government lumped the two together and banned hemp cultivation with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Making marijuana legal would effectively make hemp legal—and would bring a multibillion dollar business back to the United States.

Hemp is a durable, renewable resource that can be used to make clothing, linens, rope, food, fuel, paper and even cars. Making hemp cultivation legal would funnel millions of dollars that we’re otherwise spending on imported hemp back into the ailing U.S. economy.   

Proposition 19 faces harsh opposition in California, and Los Angeles Times surveys have found that it’s trailing badly in the polls. Californians will vote on the issue on November 2.