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article imageJuly 4: Hemp flag flies over Capitol

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jul 4, 2013 in Politics
A US flag made out of hemp, marijuana's less intoxicating "cousin," will fly over Capitol Hill building on July 4. It is believed to be the first hemp flag to fly over the Capitol since the government began outlawing both hemp and marijuana in the 1930s.
The Washington Post reports that a Colorado hemp advocate, Michael Bowman, made the flag from Colorado-raised hemp and got it screen-printed with the stars and stripes. He had been part of lobbying efforts for pro-hemp measures to be included in the farm bill to allow colleges and universities to research industrial hemp in states where it is legal.
According to the Washington Post, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) assisted Bowman to get the flag accepted at the Capitol's flag office. The Atlantic Wire reports the Capitol has a flag program that allows members of the Congress send in flags to be flown above the Capitol. The program also allows people to buy flags flown over the Capitol.
Polis had used the flag in the debate on the Farm bill to support his argument in favor of more research into industrial hemp (see video). During his speech, Polis mentioned that the first American flag ever made, the Betsy Ross original, was made out of hemp fiber. Although the House passed the Polis-Massie-Blumenauer amendment, the farm bill to which it was attached did not.
Colorado and eight other states have legalized hemp production. However, federal law continues to prohibit its cultivation. It remains illegal in the United States alongside heroin, LSD and cocaine. The US Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana on the Schedule I list of controlled substances regardless of the concentration of the psychoactive substance THC, according to the Huffington Post.
Hemp strains of the plant contain very little THC. Although, it is legal to import processed hemp fabric into the US, authorities impose stiff penalties for its cultivation in the country.
The Washington Post reports Bowman said that the flag flying over the Capitol recalls the important role hemp played in the early history of the United States; which is why the hemp flag is appropriate on the fourth of July.
He said: “It’s a powerful symbol," and noted that the 1776 Betsy Ross was made of hemp. He said that the Colonial settlers paid their taxes in hemp and used it to manufacture a variety of goods such as rope, fabric and paper. According to Bowman, the Conestoga wagons of the 18th and 19th centuries were covered in canvas fashioned from hemp fibers.
After it flies over the Capitol on the fourth, it will be returned to Colorado where it will fly over the state capitol in Denver. It will then be sent on a tour of state houses where it is legal or where relevant legislation is pending.
The Atlantic Wire comments:
"That this is newsworthy is a reflection of the country's oddly bifurcated approach to marijuana laws. Hemp and marijuana are different plants that look similar. The latter, as you may be aware, can get you high. Both were outlawed by Congress in the 1930s when the legislative body was going through its reactionary anti-marijuana phase... Opponents are leery of expanding the use of hemp, in part because growing hemp could mask the growth of marijuana. Advocates of marijuana legalization support the expanded use of hemp, in part because doing so could serve as a step toward broader acceptability of its intoxicating cousin."
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