Archived Opinion

Hemp and the rule of law

It looks like the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” may bear fruit (or gas) when it is applied to our current energy crisis. In fact, one “alternate energy” source is already generating considerable interest in Canada, North Dakota and North Carolina. “It could end our dependence on fossil fuel,” said Jack Herer, author of the book, The Emperor Has No Clothes. “It could be enough to run America virtually without oil.”

We are talking about hemp, a plant originally grown throughout the world for its strong fiber. Its cultivation has been prohibited in the United States since 1937 due to its resemblance to marijuana — a resemblance that Herer says has led to the erroneous belief that the plant is a narcotic. At least, the non-toxic strain that is currently being cultivated in Canada doesn’t contain enough THC to produce a high.

A growing number of North Carolina tobacco farmers see hemp cultivation as a means of replacing the revenue that they have lost. That is, if they are allowed to grow it. At the present time there is a healthy movement to legalize hemp. Naturally, our state’s politicians are cautious since the movement could be interpreted as the first step in legalizing marijuana.

This controversy has attracted the attention of filmmaker Kevin Balling at Appalachian State University. Working around his schedule as a video production teacher, Balling has produced a documentary film that may have an impact on agricultural policy. At the present time, the film, “Hemp and the Rule of Law,” is available to any group that is willing to make a donation to, a crop advocacy organization.

In a recent interview with Scott Nicolson at the Watauga Democrat in Boone, Balling discussed his two trips to Canada where hemp production has started again. He also interviewed politicians, law enforcement agents and drug enforcement staff. The filmmaker concluded that the future of hemp cultivation in North Carolina is presently stalled by political and moral disputes.

Balling sees this dilemma as a thwarted opportunity to enrich this region’s economy and bring about significant changes in our current fuel crisis. In addition, his research indicates that hemp has multiple uses. “The stalk can be used for fiber and the seeds can be used for food, oils, cosmetics and body products.” Hemp has been used as petroleum replacement, “not just as source of biodegradable fuel.” In addition, the fiber can be used in the making of plastics, creating biodegradable appliances and cars. Balling adds that “37 percent of automotive bodies in Europe are made of hemp.”

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Hemp and the Rule of Law is packed with significant factual data. For example, Balling’s research indicates that hemp is an ideal crop for mountainous regions, and it grows well in a variety of climates and soils. However, successful cultivation will require planning and education. Balling foresees a series of small processing mills located near hemp fields in order to order to reduce transportation costs. However, before successful production can be established, attitudes must change.

(Gary Carden is a writer and storyteller who lives in Sylva. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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