So, amidst this strange national debate about marijuana, there exists a conversation that could be a lot easier – making industrial hemp more clearly legal. It's the same species of plant, but it can't get you high, it just makes ropes and stuff. It's got a pretty long American history, during which it's been pretty unobjectionable. George Washington grew a lot of industrial hemp, and saying it helped GIs in World War 2 seems like a pretty pathetic way for me to convey how good this thing is – surely you could say similar things about utterly morally neutral substances like cotton – but it's worth making the context clear: industrial hemp is fine.
But it's not a topic that gets brought up much, on the national stage. The few exceptions are the libertarian-leaning Republicans, like Thomas Massie and Rand Paul. They've been strong advocates on the right side of this issue for a long time – and I'm not sure they've received opposition so much as the blandest pushback of inertia. You need more than two people to pass a law, but they're trying. Sometimes you'll also see Mitch McConnell (Cocaine Mitch, as we lovingly refer to him) get in on this. He's not libertarian-leaning, and we'll return to why he supports it.
Of course, I'd prefer they make a more principled defense of industrial hemp. I know, I know, beggars can't be choosers – finding something to agree about is tough enough, we don't have to agree about why too. But there's a role for libertarian voices, and that's to say clearly: things shouldn't be illegal for no reason!
I'm not trying to force the entire country into a civics lesson. But it totally stinks to make things illegal for no reason, and people ought to say that more. Much more frequently, though, you see this style of defense, from Rep. Thomas Massie:
Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers. [...] My wife and I are raising our children on the tobacco and cattle farm where my wife grew up. Tobacco is no longer a viable crop for many of us in Kentucky and we understand how hard it is for a family farm to turn a profit. Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed.
Because the thing I didn't mention about all this is that everyone invovled, even the Democratic co-sponsor Massie got, everyone is from Kentucky. That's why Cocaine Mitch is so supportive.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't anticipate him having a lot of principles about this. But Massie and Paul probably ought to? They have the principles, I think, they just don't mention them in these conversations. But that pitch, telling people, I can expand your liberty, and that will help you make yourself richer – that's an essential idea to modern civilization. And I don't want them to make the more expedient political argument when the much better – and more principled one – would do.