Coalition Urges Legalization of Hemp

by Wayne Luers

Daily Lobo 3/10/1992

"I grew hemp," George Washington says on U.S. dollar bills handed out by members of UNM's Hemp Coalition.

The bills are symbolic of the fact that hemp - the marijuana plant -- was once a large part of this country's economy, said Michael Piper, a UNM Hemp Coalition member.

George Washington, who kept meticulous records, was a hemp grower and Ben Franklin made paper from hemp fibers, he said.

"We got the idea for hemp dollars from 'High Times,' a major hemp-oriented magazine," Piper said, "and thought it was a good way to get our message out. And I love pushing hemp dollars."

"Much of our information comes from a book called 'The Emperor Wore No Clothes.' The author, Jack Herer, compiled all the information from public records."

Piper said farmers were growing millions of acres of hemp when the federal govemment decided to prohibit its growth by passing the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. The word "marijuana" was used to get the law passed because it probably wouldn't have had a chance if the word "hemp" had been used.

"The law could also be considerd racist because it is probably the only law on the books with a Spanish word in the title." Piper said.

Bryan Krumm. another member of the coalition said. "All the the information we use is basad scientific evidence that is referenced and documented, not lies."

He said the group Partnership for a Drug Free America has been caught and confronted about using erroneous information in its anti-marijuana TV commercials. In one such commerciaI, the supposed brain wave scan of a teenager was actually that of a comatose person.

Thc legalization of marijuana could be a crucial act that could help save the environment, Krumm said. He said hemp can be used for food, fuel and fiber. It also grows fast, using up carbon dioxide faster than any other plant , which, could help reverse the greenhouse effect, he said.

A new mythology is growing up around Washington displacing the cherry tree myth," said the coalition's- faculty adviser, UNM history associate Professor Richard Berthold "He did grow hemp, but, despite rumors otherwise, there is no evidence that he smoked Pot. "lt is stupid to keep marijuana outlawed," Berthold said. "I would support legalization without question."

The UNM Cancer Center used marijuana as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting from 1979 to the mid-'80's, after New Mexico adopted The ControIled Substance Research Act that had been established by Congress. New Mexico was the first state in the union to adopt thc legislation.

Susan Champerlin, program development director for the cancer center, said the program has since been stopped because better and less controversial drugs have been developed.

The University policy on marijuana is that of a drug-free environment, as mandated by the federal govemment and current laws, said Don Burge of UNM Public Affairs.

If an individual is caught smoking marijuana on campus, any officers called can use their own discretion in the matter, Burge said. But. if the person is charged with possession, including anything from probation to firing or expulsion can be used to deal with the offender.
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