The following is a guest post…from my wife! She doesn’t have a site of her own but really wanted to get this story out in public, so I hope you guys like it.
Last night I attended a screening of “Standing Silent Nation”, a heartbreaking documentary about a Lakota Sioux family trying to make a living growing industrial hemp and the DEA’s seemingly illegal raids on their tribal lands.
Industrial hemp is an ecologically friendly crop that is totally sustainable; it grows very quickly without needing a great deal of care or water, it does not sap the nutrients out of the soil the way many other crops do, it is resistant to fungus and insects so it does not require toxic pesticides, and it commands a great deal of cash. Hemp can be used to make a wide variety of eco-friendly products including paper, clothing, shoes, lotions, soaps, lip balms and biodegradable plastics. It can be pressed into oil or milled into a very nutritious flour to be used in food products, and it can even be pressed into bricks and used like adobe to build homes with. Here’s the catch: while it is legal in this country to possess products made from hemp, it is not legal to grow hemp as a crop. This means that great costs and carbon miles are incurred to import this sustainable product when it could be grown right here in the US, creating good jobs and enlivening local economies.
Now, for those that do not know, there is a vast difference between industrial hemp and the marijuana plant. The marijuana plant contains about 20% THC (the active drug) while industrial hemp contains less than 1%. There is no way to use industrial hemp to produce marijuana, and many other countries such as Canada, England, Spain, China, and France, have found a way to differentiate between the two plants. In fact, our own government used to separate industrial hemp from marijuana and many of the products used in WWII were actually made of hemp; American farmers were even encouraged to grow hemp by the USDA to support the war effort. Clearly, it is possible to separate industrial hemp from illegal marijuana production, so the question is, in light of all the ecological and financial benefits of hemp, why does the government refuse to acknowledge that the hemp plant is not marijuana?
The Lakota people portrayed in “Standing Silent Nation” are incredibly poor and underemployed, mainly because the federal government has effectively destroyed their indigenous way of life and made it nearly impossible for them to escape poverty. The entire Black Hills region used to belong to the Lakota people; however, the federal government has repeatedly taken more and more of their sacred land away, until the present day Lakota are left with only a series of disconnected parcels of land. While the Pine Ridge reservation highlighted in the movie consists of a couple of million acres, only a small percentage of the land is suitable for farming or raising animals. This leaves thousands of people without work, even though they are willing and able to do so. Enter the White Plume family, who learn about the amazing properties of growing industrial hemp. The White Plumes believe that this could be the way to get themselves, and many of their people, out of poverty while at the same time producing a product that is completely sustainable and good for the earth. They are under the impression that, due to an agreement made with the United States government in 1868, they are free to grow any crop that they wish on their own sovereign land. When their crop is almost ready for harvest, DEA officials come illegally onto tribal land with semi-automatic weapons and conduct a “raid”, destroying this family’s entire livelihood and their hope of overcoming poverty. This atrocity happens again at the next two harvests as the family goes to court and tries to fight on two accounts:
1. That growing industrial hemp should be separated from growing marijuana
2. That they have the right to grow hemp on tribal lands, even if it is not legal in the rest of America.
You can read more about the plight of the White Plume family here. And while this case seems to be over and this family will probably never get back what was taken from them, the best thing we can do is educate people about the benefits of hemp and help get legislation passed that will make industrial hemp production legal in this country. If you want to get involved and see what you can do to help, check out the Take Action page on Standing Silent Nation.
Photo by prairiedustfilms .
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