It's easy to be overburdened with activism in San Francisco -- there's only so many Meatless Mondays one can squeeze in between bans on Arizona, hepatitis awareness days, resolutions in opposition to whale-hunting, declawing cats and other causes key to the national character's health.
But this week isn't any ordinary week: It's the inaugural Hemp History Week. And this isn't any ordinary town: This is medical marijuana mecca San Francisco. But while activism is flowering across the state for all things hemp -- with fashion shows in Santa Cruz, Grange Hall exhibits in Sacramento, and music at Joshua Tree to mark the occasion -- here in San Francisco, we have... a sale on hemp products at Rainbow Grocery.
That's it. Just cheaper- than-usual Dr. Bronner's soap.
One would think that a land of hemp-wearing pot smokers would be more than friendly to a week dedicated to Jack Herer's miracle fiber, on which the U.S. Constitution is written, out of which fuel oil can be procured, rope spun, clothes made and, shit, just about anything done, according to some people.
Has medical cannabis stolen industrial hemp's fire completely?
"Your guess is as good as mine on this," said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports legalizing hemp - banned in the U.S. as indistinguishable from "maurihuana" in 1937 - as well as smokable cannabis. Of course, if Tax Cannabis 2010 does pass, there will be nothing to stop California farmers from growing industrial-strength hemp instead of Granddaddy Purple (and there is a notable difference between the two plants). And that could be a start."I think that by ending marijuana prohibition," Smith added, "the hemp issue will begin to take care of itself."
But therein lies part of the problem -- for decades, the hemp movement has politely but firmly asked the cannabis movement to leave it alone, according to Adam Eidinger, a Washington, D.C. hemp product store owner and one of the organizers of this first Hemp History Week.
"We have always said that we're not advocating any drug legalization, and we have no position on the drug marijuana, whether it's for recreational or for medicinal use," said Eidinger, who noted that Iowa and Missouri farmers would face much stiffer penalties for cultivation than Californians. "We've never wanted to confuse the messages ... [so] we have natural allies in San Francisco who are not mobilized."
Eidinger has in the past tried to get San Francisco in on the act. In 2005, he helped convince then-Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduce a bill to encourage California farmers to grow hemp. But with a national ban still in place, the bill went unsigned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "That was sort of demoralizing," Eidinger said. "At that point we kind of gave up on organizing in California."
Ending the hemp ban has been a pet cause for everyone's favorite curmudgeon, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). The erstwhile presidential candidate and would-be destroyer of the Federal Reserve this month introduced yet another bill that would allow U.S. farmers to grow the material on which our founding document are written; it, like its four predecessors, appears destined to die in committee.
So, for now, medical cannabis will take preference over the "Indian hemp seed" so favored by George Washington, and once planted on ground in Arlington, Va. on which the Pentagon now sits. In San Francisco, meanwhile, both hemp and cannabis are taking a back seat. Didn't you know National Hepatitis Awareness Day is right around the corner?