Nearly 98 percent of the marijuana seized under the DEA's "Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program" is feral hemp - a non-psychoactive variety of marijuana, according to figures published in latest edition of the US Bureau of Justice Statistics Sourcebook.
"The government is literally spending tens of millions of dollars to pull up weeds," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation. "From a health and safety standpoint, they'd be better off plucking dandelions."
Of the 133.6 million pot plants seized under the program in 1999 - the last year for which data is available - more than 130 million were "ditchweed," defined as "wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing or tending." Feral hemp, which contains only minute traces of THC, grows plentifully throughout the southern and midwestern United States. Many of the plants are remnants from government-subsidized plots grown during World War II.
Six states - Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota - eliminated more than a million hemp plants each. Of these, Missouri seized the largest volume of hemp, a whopping 73.3 million plants. North and South Dakota anti-drug task forces eradicated virtually nothing but hemp. DEA figures show that DCE/SP efforts netted roughly 37.6 million hemp plants in South Dakota, compared to only 255 cultivated marijuana plants. In North Dakota, 4.2 million wild hemp plants were seized by law enforcement, compared to only 721 marijuana plants. Ironically, a 1999 North Dakota law recognizes industrial hemp as commercial fiber crop and licenses farmers to grow it. However, the state statute offers no protection from federal law prohibiting hemp cultivation.
St. Pierre said the DEA's hemp eradication program was not only wasteful, but also economically counterproductive. "While the DEA is needlessly destroying domestic American hemp, US retailers and manufacturers are annually importing 1.9 million pounds of hemp fiber, 450,000 pounds of hemp seeds and 331 pounds of hempseed oil from Canada and dozens of other nations that license and regulate hemp farming," he said.
The federal "Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program" provides funding, training, equipment, investigative, and aircraft resources to participating states' marijuana eradication efforts.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.