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Hemp Flag Recalls Independence

To commemorate freedom and the 4th, hempen stars and stripes were flown above the U.S. Capitol, yet hemp remains illegal to farm because of federal law. It’s no terrorist hoax or a cannabis coup; it was actually Congress who gave the flag the go-ahead in a strange moment of cool. But seeing as hemp has not been grown in the U.S. since the ‘50s, the news might also sit a little strange for some, for good reason.

American flag made from Industrial Hemp flying in front of the US Capital building dome in Washington DC

July 04, 2016

A peek into modern history’s dealings with cannabis: The 60s wrestled with war-torn politics and a diverging youth group experimenting with chemicals and challenging old corporate-political power structures. Soon the conservative establishment retaliated with their own "reefer madness" paranoia, which again gripped America, culminating in the passing of the Controlled Substances Act (1970).

Upon this statute, federal law continues to classify hemp as marijuana, a Schedule I drug, because a single plant might contain traces of THC, the mind-altering compound found in many strains of cannabis. This category is supposedly reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse that have no accepted medicinal value.

The irony deepens as you enter the chambers of the Capitol, seeing as hemp has been scoffed at and exiled from discussions since Nixon officially declared a "war on drugs." Until, that is, the Polis Amendment managed to capture a successful vote in the House last month. The law seems to quietly be catching up to the attitudes toward cannabis, and hemp specifically.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) also happens to be one dissenting mind behind the hoisting of the hemp flag. “Many of our founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp,” Polis told ABC News. “Many of the very first American flags were made from hemp cloths. So there’s a real tie in to our country’s history and the important rule industrial hemp played in agriculture in our country.”

In his home state of Colorado, voters legalized hemp cultivation by referendum in 2012, with plenty of help from resident advocate Michael Bowman. He initially supplied Polis with the flag to use as a prop in his amendment speech to the House. As Bowman made his way over to catch the speech, he had a vision. “I looked up and saw the flag flying over the Capitol, and I wondered, what if we put a hemp flag there?” Bowman said. “It’s an important symbol, I think, to connect where we came from with regard to hemp and where we are going in the future.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

+ The Polis Amendment is now attached to the Farm Bill and awaiting Senate approval.

+ It was reported that Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), commented that "her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they’d flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4."

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