Legalization of Cannabis and Hemp

Classifying Marijuana and Hemp

There is some confusion as to what makes a plant marijuana or hemp. A general rule of thumb is when describing a cannabis plant with high THC concentrations, the plant is generally called marijuana, or cannabis. Hemp on the other hand is used to describe cannabis plants with trace amounts of THC and is generally used for industrial purposes.

Legalization of Marijuana

With effort, the responsible legalization and sale of marijuana can be implemented into the state of Illinois. Several other states and the District of Columbia have went ahead of the rest of the U.S. and legalized marijuana. After Congress approved the legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia, many more states are looking towards legalization.

Last year, Colorado made over $100 million in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana. Illinois has over twice the population of Colorado, and it is therefore highly plausible for Illinois to make over $200 million a year in tax revenue. However, if cannabis sales cannot be implemented in a safe and responsible manner, it should not be done.

Cannabis Offenders in the Prison System

Illinois has about 50,000 people locked up in their prison systems, and depending on which source you find, taxpayers spend $22,000 to $35,000 a year housing each inmate. Of the 50,000 people incarcerated, about 2% are for marijuana only related charges. This amounts to about 1000 people in the Illinois prison systems. Based on the previous numbers of $22,000 to $35,000, Illinois taxpayers spend about $22 million to $35 million each year housing individuals for marijuana only offenses. Bubba Harsy does not believe marijuana is so dangerous that taxpayers need to spend this much money on people caught with or selling marijuana.

The $22 to $35 million figure does not include costs associated with daily police enforcement of marijuana laws or the costs associated with the court cases that follow enforcement.

Disproportionate Marijuana Arrest Rates based on Race

The biggest law enforcement issue when enforcing marijuana laws is that black people using marijuana are arrested 4 times as often as white people using marijuana, even though usage rates are the same. This was one of the major motivating factors for Congress to approve the legalization of cannabis in the District of Columbia.

Legalization of Hemp

By legalizing hemp, new industries will be created in Illinois. Farmers will have another crop to plant, processing plants will have to be opened to process hemp into usable raw materials, and new markets will open utilizing these raw materials. Even if the legalization of marijuana cannot be accomplished, there is no excuse not to legalize hemp

There are almost endless uses for hemp and thousands of examples of how hemp can be used. Hemp seeds can be used for flour, beer, and animal feed. Hemp oil can be used in paints, detergents, salad dressing, and as fuel. Hemp fiber can be used to make fabric, insulation, and paper. In fact, many historians believe Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper due to the abundance of hemp paper in circulation at that time.

The greatest environmental benefit of using hemp paper is that hemp can be grown and harvested every year. While trees have to be grown for 12-20 years prior to being harvested. In 1916, the United States Department of Agriculture released a report saying that  10,000 acres of hemp has the same paper producing capacity of 40,500 acres of timber. Due to the increases in industrial processing efficiency, it is now believed this ratio is less than 4:1, but even if the ratio is 1:1, an acre of trees requires at least 12 years to grow, where as an acre of hemp can be cut down every year.

The legalization of this industry would allow for new economic growth and development in the state of Illinois. It would allow farmers a new crop to grow expanding the agricultural market, it would allow for industries in order to process and manufacture hemp products providing jobs and new streams of revenue for our state.