If George Washington were alive today, the federal government would consider him a criminal. Why? Because he cultivated industrial hemp for commercial purposes, something that’s currently banned by an unconstitutional federal law.

Most Americans probably know George Washington farmed tobacco at Mount Vernon. However, they may not be aware he also grew industrial hemp. According to Mount Vernon, Washington grew hemp throughout his life at all of his five farms. Although some may think of it in the same category as marijuana or pot, industrial hemp differs in that it has almost no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is what gives the marijuana plant its potency as a drug. In the 1700s, industrial hemp’s strong fibers made it ideal for making rope, clothing and fishing nets.

While at one point he tried to determine if it could be cultivated for profit, Washington later decided its many uses justified growing it purely for his own use.

Sadly trying to emulate Washington’s agricultural spirit in this manner today can land a person in prison.

Industrial hemp falls under the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970. Recently the feds have allowed limited hemp production for research purposes by colleges and universities, and state agriculture departments, but all industrial production like the kind George Washington engaged in remains banned under federal law.

It’s absurd to think that people could be arrested and charged with a federal crime for growing the same industrial crop as one of our founding fathers.

Fortunately some states are taking the first step toward ultimately decriminalizing a valuable and useful crop.

TJ Martinell

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