Police in Oregon say a view from space helped them bust a medical marijuana operation that may have been just a little too productive…
Authorities said images from Google Earth taken in June showed dozens of plants in neat rows. The producer was registered to grow for five people, which amounts to 30 mature plants. But when authorities raided the operation in September, they seized more than 90 plants….
But public attitudes on marijuana are shifting. A Gallup Poll released this week revealed 58 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana. That’s up 10 points since last November, just after Colorado and Washington voters approved measures legalizing the recreational use of pot.
And even though the Obama Administration says it likely will NOT pursue arrests of users in those two states, those who grow marijuana – and the non-intoxicating form of weed better known as hemp – find themselves in legal limbo.
And that was the case in Colorado earlier this month when workers harvested America’s first acknowledged crop of hemp in more than 50 years.
After citizens in Colorado voted last year to make marijuana legal for recreational use, Ray Loflin and a handful of others decided to test federal laws that make it illegal to grow marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, hemp.
Ryan Loflin, Colorado Hemp Farmer: “And that really kinda’ opened the country's eyes to, well, you know, to marijuana. And that opened the door for the legislature for hemp to be able to be, you know, planted.”
Colorado won’t start granting hemp-cultivation licenses until next year, but Loflin felt he had little to fear after the U.S. Department of Justice said federal enforcement officials would generally defer to state marijuana laws.
Jason Louve, Executive Director, Hemp Cleans: “Over the next three years you're going to see these fields get denser and denser and denser.'
Jason Lauve is the head of a Denver nonprofit that advocates for hemp cultivation. While this year’s crop is modest he dreams of a return to the good ol’ days when hemp was in high demand to be used in rope and other fibers.
According to the Department of Agriculture, U.S. hemp production peaked in 1943 with a crop of more than 150 million pounds. But growing hemp has been illegal for more than five decades and in 2000, a USDA study concluded markets for U.S. hemp “are and will likely remain” small and thinly-traded markets. Nevertheless, the U.S. demand for hemp is growing dramatically. In 2011, for instance, $11.5 million worth of hemp products were imported… up more than 700 percent from the year 2000.
Jason Louve, Executive Director, Hemp Cleans: “I dreamed of this day for many, many years and to see this right now, gives me chills.'
The Rocky Mountain State’s hemp status is not unique. Ten other states have industrial hemp regulations that conflict with federal drug laws. And an amendment in the proposed Farm Bill would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp nationwide. But it is far from certain that the provision will be included in the Farm Bill when it is approved.