Sunday, April 23, 2006

Earth Day and Hemp Awareness

Saturday’s Earth Day celebration at Sellwood Park, in southeast Portland, was about what I expected -- an eclectic mix of the curious and clueless, of passionate progressives and extreme environmentalists, of posturing politicos and crusading capitalists. Whether they came to learn or to teach, to share ideas, to promote public or private agendas, or just to enjoy fresh air and sunshine and music, everyone who showed had a personal reason for being there.

My own reason for showing up was straightforward, no less altruistic nor more selfish than any other. I wanted only to ask one question and gauge people’s response. The question, of course, is one that I’ve asked, in varying forms, for more than a decade. In essence, the question is this: Do you support the legalization of cannabis hemp, and if not, why not?

Responses varied from adamantly opposed to wildly enthusiastic. It’s not surprising that opponents outnumbered proponents by more than three to one, but it is discouraging. That so many people can remain ignorant in this age of computers and the Internet and Google searches and alternative media is truly mind-boggling.

In striking up a conversation with Jim Hill, democratic candidate for Oregon Governor, I asked, “Mr. Hill, if you’re elected governor, will you support the legalization of cannabis hemp?”

“Uhmm, no!” he replied, as if my question had triggered an automatic response. “With the medical marijuana laws we already have in place I don’t think we need to expand . . ..”

“But Mr. Hill, I wasn’t talking about marijuana, per se. I’m talking about cannabis hemp, about its industrial and commercial applications that go beyond what you’re likely to find in a sandwich bag.”

“Uh, oh, well . . ..”

Thus did Jim Hill reveal his ignorance. That someone who aspires to solve Oregon’s environmental, economic, educational, healthcare and energy crises, all of which loom large on the horizon, can remain so uninformed in a deluge of positive knowledge about something that can help achieve those worthy goals goes beyond belief. Ignorance of this magnitude strains credibility and speaks loudly of incompetence.

You can’t denounce hemp and save the planet at the same time, Mr. Hill. That’s being hypocritical. Especially on Earth Day.

To Jim Hill’s credit, he did indicate a willingness to reevaluate his position if presented with a suitable amount of credible evidence that hemp legalization would be a net gain for society. In which case I’ll have to reevaluate my decision not to vote for him.