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In Mexico, a growing push to legalize marijuana faces challenges

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 15th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Experts are recommending to the Mexican government that it change the nation's laws to permit the cultivation of industrial grade hemp. Hemp has a variety of uses and could become a major source of revenue for the government.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Julio Zenil told IPN News that "Cannabis presents possibilities for large-scale agricultural production, as it grows everywhere, and its current and potential uses represent an undeniable opportunity that is very attractive for economic development." Zenil is a well-known filmmaker and photographer, and an advocate for the legalization of hemp.

The term "hemp" refers to the industrial use of cannabis, but is also used interchangeably, and confusingly, to refer to the psychoactive version of the plant, which is used as an illicit drug. The hemp Zenil is referring to is not that kind. Instead, it is the industrial variety, which contains very little THC, the chemical which causes smokers to get high.

Instead of being smoked, industrial grade hemp can be used to create ropes, paper, cloth, and even biofuel that can run cars and fire power plants. Hemp is known for retaining large quantities of carbon, growing in marginal soil, and maturing within the space of a single year.

Ropes and paper were once commonly made of the material.

Hemp is also more effective than cotton, being stronger, more absorbent, and with greater ability to insulate. This means fabric manufactured from the plants could prove superior to cotton cloth.

Hemp can even be used as food and consumed by both humans and animals. According to IPS, "Hemp fibres are longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulating than cotton fibres. The plant can be used for food, animal feed, cosmetics, oils, textiles, paper, rope-making and biofuels. The seeds, a source of hempseed oil, are very nutritious, containing high levels of essential fatty acids, vitamins and dietary fibre."

Although it has been used for thousands of years for these purposes, and even smoked for medicinal and spiritual purposes in the past, the push for prohibition was strong in the last century. Advocates for hemp blame the push to criminalize the plant on competing industries, such as the cotton industry.

Regardless of the history, the plant has long proved its usefulness. Even the psychoactive variety has been used medicinally and to manufacture pills that help, particularly with nausea suffered as a result of chemotherapy.

However, doctors say there are better alternatives to marijuana available to sufferers.

Despite these arguments, hemp does have demonstrated commercial value. As a result, large lobbies have formed to legalize the cultivation of hemp, which includes individual activists such as Julio Zenil, as well as large international business consortiums.

Mexico already allows for the importation of some hemp for textile and rope manufacture. Advocates say that opening the country further to hemp production would permit rural farmers to develop a new, and hardy cash crop that will help provide economic stability in the region.

However critics fear that loosening the rules would simply open the possibility of farmers producing illegal varieties for the lucrative drug trade that already flourishes between Mexico and the United States. Farmers may find that producing a cottage-industry of illegal hemp may be worth more money than growing the industrial kind.

Most likely, farmers would cash in on both, selling buds and sap as drugs and the stalks and fiber to industry.

For now, there is a growing push to legalize the production of cannabis in Mexico, but amid a bloody and protracted narco-war being fought across the country, it is unlikely the petitions will gain much traction in the near-future.

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