Native Americans and Industrial Hemp Farming

Updated on November 25, 2016

The Crop

The Farm Bill

In 2014 President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 or the 2014 Farm Bill which included Section 7206 that allowed universities and state departments of agriculture to start growing industrial hemp for research purposes. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015. This would allow farmers to produce and cultivate Industrial Hemp. It would also mean that hemp would be removed from the list of controlled substances list as long as it contained no more than .3% of T.H.C. On August 12, 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture released a statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp that informed the general public of their decisions related to hemp starting with the 2014 Farm Bill. Legislation was passed by 30 different states in regard to the productions of industrial hemp.

Industrial Hemp Farming

Pine Ridge Reservation

One of the groups of farmers that would benefit from the legalization of industrial hemp is the Native Americans living in the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is by far the poorest county in the United States. As of 2007 the unemployment rate of the people was 80 to 90 percent and the per capita income was $4,000 a year. The people have eight times the rate of diabetes and five times the rate of cervical cancer. They also have twice the rate of heart disease and eight times the rate of Tuberculosis. The rate of alcoholism is estimated to be around eighty percent. The number of people who commit suicide is twice that of the national rate. The life expectancy of the people on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and second lowest in the Western hemisphere coming behind Haiti as having the lowest rate. Due to their extreme poverty, the Lakota wanted to start growing industrial hemp.

Pine Ridge

Government Intervened

Helping the planet is a cause very close to the Native Americans, which is one of the reasons why they wanted to grow a crop that was good for the environment like industrial hemp. On August 24th, 2000, the D.E.A. cut down the first industrial hemp crop on Pine Ridge in a highly public raid. It was conducted under the auspices of the C.S.A. At the time of the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868, the Lakota Indian Nations were allowed to grow food and fiber crops which changed their culture from nomadic hunters and gatherers to one that survives on subsistence farming. Hemp was very commonly grown at the time of this treaty. In the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 the production, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances including marijuana were criminalized. Industrial hemp was defined as the same as marijuana despite the fact that the T.H.C. content in industrial hemp is not high enough to be used as a drug.

Tribe verses the Government

The states of Nebraska, Kentucky, the Dakotas, and Hawaii among others tried to distinguish between industrial hemp and cannabis used as a psychoactive drug based on the content of T.H.C. The Lakota nation passed an ordinance that distinguished industrial hemp as Cannabis sativa plants containing less than one percent T.H.C. by weight which was exactly how other states distinguished the crop in an attempt to legalize it. Yet, this ordinance did not go against the existing status of marijuana being illegal in the Oglala Lakota Nation. The Native Americans felt that they did not have to abide by the laws of the C.S.A. and that they had the right to grow the crop under the Fort Laramie Treaty. The United States government said that anyone growing hemp on the Pine Ridge reservation would be prosecuted with a minimum of ten years to life in prison.

What is Your Opinion

Do you think that the Native Americans should have been allowed to grow Industrial Hemp?

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Industrial Hemp is Good for the Environment

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that one acre of hemp can produce four times more paper than one acre of trees. Hemp can produce newsprint, computer paper, stationary, card board, envelopes, toilet paper, and feminine products.
  • Trees must grow for twenty to fifty years after planting before they can be harvested for commercial use while after four months hemp grows ten to twenty feet tall and is ready for harvesting. This means that growing hemp would save rain forests, wildlife habitats, and would eliminate erosion of topsoil due to logging. By reducing topsoil erosion, there would be a reduction in the pollution of lakes, rivers, and streams.
  • Fewer caustic and toxic chemicals are used to make paper from hemp than are used to make paper from trees.
  • Hemp fiber is ten times stronger than cotton and can be used to make clothes.
  • The hemp repels the growth of weeds and has few insect enemies.

A More Renewable Product

  • Hemp would decrease pesticides being used because 50 % of all pesticides in the U.S. are used on cotton.
  • Hemp can make building materials that are stronger than wood. The manufacturing of these products would be cheaper than wood that comes from trees.
  • With hemp being non-intoxicating, it is a source of nutritious high protein oil that could be used for both human and animal consumption while being less expensive than extracting proteins from soy beans.
  • The majority of hemp-derived products are nontoxic, biodegradable, and renewable.
  • Industrial hemp would help create less water pollution because it requires only moderate amount of fertilizer, which runs off into the water ways and ground water.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Obama administration started changing the laws that would allow the growing of industrial hemp and not the hemp used for psychoactive drug use. This would be very beneficial for the planet as well as the people of the world considering it is far more of an environmentally friendly crop and and produces far more durable products. It would also give people like the ones on Pine Ridge Reservation jobs and an economic base in which to support a community. As we go into 2017, these laws may or may not be changed under a new administration. It's time to make our voices heard. The laws need to be changed to support economic growth and infrastructure especially for the Native Americans in the United States.

Do you think that the American government should legalize the growing of industrial hemp?

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