There are actually three facets to the fight to legalize marijuana. Most of us are familiar with the controversy about recreational marijuana and medical marijuana, but not to many of us know that the whole thing started with the banning of growing hemp, (the plant that pot comes from), in the United States back in the twenties.

Hemp is a valuable and very green resource that can be used to make pretty much anything that cotton can be used for; everything from tents, to rope, clothing, and shoes. We all know the story of cotton and how important it was to the agriculture of the south, but back in the twenties, hemp was one of its chief rivals.

Then plastic came along and DuPont Chemical, a forerunner in the development of materials like rayon and nylon, pushed congress to make hemp illegal because of its illicit use as a recreational drug, (and eliminate a major competitor.) They probably would have tried to make growing cotton illegal too, but you can’t smoke cotton. (You could, but it would probably not get you high.)

Products made from hemp are still available in the United States, but they are very expensive and have to be imported from other countries. In these dire economic times, the argument for legalizing all types of the cannabis plant is getting stronger and stronger. Legalizing it would create new jobs and add billions to the tax base. It may also cut down on the money and manpower that we spend each year fighting the “war on drugs,” a war that we are surely losing. And we may even be able to stop putting about half a million of our young people in jail on drug charges, another added benefit that will save taxpayers a lot of money.

Medical marijuana and the growing of hemp are two separate issues that are closely intertwined with the marijuana as a drug controversy. With issue of medical marijuana, it has proven effective in helping cancer patients as well as those with glaucoma, as well as those suffering nerve pain from conditions like multiple sclerosis and neuropathy, with far fewer side effects than other narcotics like morphine.

But there may be hope. Several states have legalized the use of medical marijuana and several more, including my neighbor, Illinois, are considering it. But as far as I know, in those states where it is legal to use it for medical purposes, you still can’t grow it to make rope, or a shirt. And really, why make it legal in a state just so you can be busted on federal charges if you use it?