Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was in Reno Saturday to open the campaign season for the 2016 Nevada GOP presidential caucus.
During a private interview before his meeting with voters, Paul was asked about his support of growing hemp as a commercial product.
Sure, he’s all for it, but lacked knowledge on just how Nevada law stands on the subject.
"I got a hemp jacket in Las Vegas (last Friday), somebody gave me one," Paul said jokingly. "I asked if I was breaking any laws wearing it. I put it on and had some pictures taken in my new hemp jacket."
Seriously, Paul views hemp is a cash crop for his Kentucky farmers. It comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, like marijuana. Yet hemp does not have enough of the intoxicate (THC) to get you high – even if you smoked a bushel.
"Kentucky used to be a big producer of hemp," Paul said.
In 1850, Kentucky produced 40,000 tons of it, according to historical records.
"You can make clothes out of it," Paul said "You can actually make paper out if it. It takes 15 years to grow trees and you can grow hemp in one year and be the equivalent of what it would take in 15 years to grow trees to make paper out of. So we think there are a lot of things that could happen by growing hemp."
Uses for hemp are endless, from clothes to cars, plastics, paints, building materials, rope, paper, linens, food, medicine and ointments.
IN NEVADA, SEN. TICK SEGERBLOM, D-Las Vegas, is sponsoring a bill for the 2015 Legislature about hemp. It would allow the growing of hemp as part of a federal pilot program that allows state departments of agriculture to oversee industrial hemp growing, in conjunction with university research programs.
The federal hemp program was part of the 2014 Federal Farm Bill that passed Congress with the help of Sen. Paul.
"I helped to get that (hemp growing) put into the Farm Bill," Paul said. "Sen. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell helped me and we got that passed so you can have some hemp growing. There may still be some state laws needed to accommodate it. But from a federal perspective, we have a lot of universities growing it."
Segerblom noted that George Washington, the father of our nation, grew hemp at his Virginia farm. In doing research that found Segerblom’s assertion correct, I also learned that Ben Franklin owned one of the first paper mills in America and it processed hemp into paper.
Segerblom notes that hemp takes about half the water to grow as a Northern Nevada staple – alfalfa.
And Segerblom, who is considered one of the most liberal members of the Legislature, may soon have a conservative co-sponsor to his hemp bill in Assembly Whip Jim Wheeler, R-Minden.
"I am definitely going to look at it," Wheeler said. "I don’t see a big problem with hemp."
Segerblom is considered the champion of the 2013 effort to set up Nevada’s medical marijuana governmental infrastructure. Wheeler wants to read Sergerblom’s bill before co-sponsoring it.
"I want to see what he has written into the bill; we know Tick," Wheeler joked.
Paul’s concern about saving trees by growing hemp for paper is nothing new. In 1916, the federal government predicted that by the 1940s, all paper would come from hemp, so there would be no need to cut trees for paper, according to the Collective Evolution website.
Yet in 1937, Congress passed the "Prohibitive Marihuana Tax Law" and hemp – an American staple since colonial times – was outlawed.