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5 Reasons Why Oregon's Weed Legalization Initiative Is the Most Radical on the November Ballots

Oregon's ballot is breaking new political ground -- maybe too fast for its citizens and the country's pace of drug reform.

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3. It’s set up as a “scientific experiment.”

Which almost sounds like it’s prepared to fail. But this sentence, says Stanford, is a partial step toward making the act legally viable. The UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the treaty that is still the standard for international drug law, states that cannabis and other drugs are allowed, so long as they are “consumed for medical and scientific purposes.” If the legalization process itself is an experiment, then it could get around breaking any long-standing international laws. “We carry it out like a scientific study,” says Stanford, “to show that the end of cannabis prohibition is beneficial, and not detrimental.”

However, this phrase is more than just legal maneuvering. The OCC will be required to study the hell out of the cannabis plant and how ingesting it affects the human body. In conjunction with the State Board of Pharmacy, they’ll fund studies for everything from the optimal intake methods, to the extent of lung damage caused by cannabis smoke, to the best ways to test for intoxication. Not only will these be published to help understand the effects of cannabis, they will be neatly printed into pamphlets and available at OCC retail shops to peruse as you wait in line for your carefully packaged eighth.

4. It would mean that hemp products could be grown from ANY cannabis plant.

As many legalization advocates point out, cannabis has been around for thousands of years, compared to less than a century of regulation.

“Archeologists agree, cannabis is among the first crops purposely cultivated by human beings,” explains Stanford. “Carl Sagan, in his book Dragons of Eden, postulated that it could very well be the first. So we've taken the oldest agricultural crop, one that produces more fuel, more fiber, more feed, more medicine than any other plant on this planet, and that's the one that's illegal.”

There are currently about 20 states that have passed laws allowing industrial hemp, a plant that has a wide range of uses, is naturally pest-resistant, and could, according to some, single-handedly save our economy. However, there is not even one large-scale legal hemp farm in the United States at this point—because of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (and the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act before it), even though it contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychotropic chemical in pot, it is illegal to grow without a DEA permit. And thus far, the agency is staunchly opposed to issuing them. Another complication for US hemp farmers, Stanford explains, is that other countries—like Canada and France—that allow large-scale industrial hemp rely on certain patented low-THC seeds that the DEA will not allow into the US.

“There's only one company in the world that produces seed that's less than three tenths of one percent,” says Stanford, “and that's a special patented French variety from a French company. So without a DEA license to import those seeds, there's no way that the farmers can cultivate that, what I call dwarf hemp.”

But in the Oregon Tax Act, Stanford makes a clear distinction between marijuana and hemp: marijuana is the “flowering tops…derivatives and preparations” that contain enough cannabanoids to get high, while hemp is the leaves, stalks and seeds used to make everything from biodiesel and plastic to paper and T-shirts. Under the new law, the board would heavily regulate marijuana production and sale, but hemp would be license-free, a new “cash crop” for anyone who wanted in.

It doesn’t, however, denote which strains of the plant could be used for industrial hemp. The seeds and young plants of all varieties would be considered non-regulated “hemp”—which means that any variety of cannabis, so long as it’s grown to be harvested for food, fuel or fiber, will be considered completely legal to grow without a permit.

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