Historic Times for Hemp in Pennsylvania

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 in Blog

On October 27th the State Senate and Rural Affairs Committee voted unanimously to send the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Act, SB50 to the floor of the senate for a vote. What happens next? Well, it is up to the leadership to schedule a vote on the floor. When that will happen we just don’t know for sure. Hopefully soon because the goal is to get seeds in the ground by spring of 2016.

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Sen. Judy Schwank with Les Stark and Erica McBride at the KCC hosted Pennsylvania Hemp Conference Januray 2015.

The vote in the ag committee was 11-0. There was very little debate. State Senator Brooks had a concern that this was going to lead us down the road towards marijuana legalization. State Senator Judy Schwank, the prime sponsor of SB50 allayed her concerns and assured Brooks that industrial hemp is not marijuana and that the two issues are entirely separate. Hemp is an agricultural issue. Brooks then voted with the majority.

Pennsylvania now has two industrial hemp bills in play. On October 5th the Pa. House Senate and Rural Affairs voted on the House hemp bill introduced by Representative Russ Diamond and cosponsored by Representative Marty Flynn. There was no debate and HB967 passed out of committee with a 24-0 vote.

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Hemp hero legislators Sen. Mike Folmer, Rep. Russ Diamond and Sen. Judy Schwank speak at he Hempcrete Workshop June 2015

So now we have TWO hemp bills in play in the Pa. General Assembly – SB50 in the State Senate and HB967 in the Pa. House of Representatives. We are anxious to see which will be voted on first. We are confident that if floor votes are held we can win. After all, between the two ag committees the votes were 35-0 in our favor.

Governor Wolf will sign an industrial hemp bill into law if it is passed by the legislature. That much is guaranteed. Hemp is supported by the Lancaster Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Bernville Grange, Pomona Grange, Pa. State Grange, Pa. Farmers Union, the Pa. Department of Agriculture and hundreds of farmers throughout the state.

We are indeed in historic times. We get to witness the rebirth of a great industry in Pennsylvania. When the bill is signed into law the stage will be set for us to enter in at the top. Kentucky is a few years ahead of us but we believe that we can catch up to them and even take the lead.

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Test pressing of hemp oil in Lycoming mill.

Once hemp farming is open to our farmers a lot of people are going to hit the ground running. We know of one company looking for ten thousand acres of hemp right of the bat and that’s just for one industry!

We know of an oilseed mill in Lycoming County and farmers who intend to grow hemp seed for oil. The mill will be able to handle hemp grown in a broad radius. We know of another company who wants to invest in the infrastructure to create bio fuels from hemp. Another company is looking to make paper products from hemp. Shawn House of Hempzels wants to contract with local farmers to grow hemp seed for his Hempzels pretzels and Hempzels mustard. These are just a few of the projects planned when the green light is given.

Pennsylvania has a unique strategic geographic location that gives us close proximity to all major markets on the east coast. We have everything going for us – a strong innovative agricultural industry and some of the best soil on the face of the earth.

imagesThis is an exciting time. The political effort is just the beginning. Once we can pass legislation that allows our farmers to grow hemp that is when the real excitement will come. We anxiously await the spring when hopefully the first hemp seeds will go into the ground since the late 1930’s. Then we will watch the seeds blossom into a new multi-billion dollar industry.

~Les Stark

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Marijuana is a gateway – Yeah, let’s go with that

Posted by on Oct 25, 2015 in Blog

 

gateway-drug-pot-opens-doorHere’s how to shut down the tiresome ‘it’s a gateway’ argument:

Cannabis is not a gateway drug at all and there is lots of conclusive research to back this up. However, just for the sake of argument let’s go with that. Let’s assume that yes, it’s a gateway drug.

If cannabis is illegal does that mean that there is no illicit cannabis in Pennsylvania? Does keeping it illegal make it any less of a gateway?

Honestly, which statement is more true?

A. Marijuana is illegal therefore there is no marijuana in Pennsylvania.

B. Marijuana is illegal therefore we have made great strides in reducing the availability of marijuana.

C. Marijuana is illegal and it seems like pretty soon we’re going to wipe it out and get rid of it once and for all.

D. Despite marijuana being illegal marijuana can be found in every city, suburb, town, borough, neighborhood, township and country hamlet in the state, in every demographic, rich and poor, black and white in all ages, shapes, sizes and colors and estimate numbers of cannabis users in the state are over a million. with 565 metric tons of cannabis and over two billion dollars annually in the underground , untaxed and unregulated cannabis economy of the state.

cavemanHow do you handle a situation like that? By keeping it illegal? Honestly, that’s barbaric thinking in this day and age and was extreme even back in the 30’s when they brought in the new laws banning cannabis based on their more ignorant and brutish understanding of the day.

The best way to deal with the “gateway” is to legalize it, regulate it, tax it at a fair rate and use some of that revenue to treat people who run into problems with the substance or with other substances.

Acting like it is not widespread already in our society is like having your hands over your eyes and your ears and does not make it go away. Trying to arrest everyone has not made a dent and can not make a dent. All it does is ruin those people’s lives in a way far worse than your “gateway”.

a60690e4942e0dc1a9d6bc842fa5d883The reason why so many people are passionate about this is because people’s lives are literally at stake. An arrest even for simple possession can have disastrous effects on a person and all because someone else thinks it’s a gateway. Not fair that one segment of society gets to punish another segment of society because they don’t like the plant they smoke.

 

 

~Les Stark

 

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Why York County PA Must Legalize Marijuana

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in Blog

York_County_pa_sealYork County, Pennsylvania is a place that most of the nation barely knows exists. During the Revolutionary War though the city of York served as the capitol of that same nation.

York City has another distinction. In an October 4th article in the Reading Eagle titled Proximity to interstate puts York in cross hairs, Nicole C. Brambila writes:

“The data shows that this small city that was briefly the U.S. capital is in an all-out battle against the drug trade.

York accounted for, on average, roughly 15 percent of the total arrests for drug sales and manufacturing across the commonwealth from 2005 to 2014, according to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System.

That number is particularly staggering when considering that York accounts for less than half of one percent of the state’s total population.”

In 2006 the city of York accounted for 22% of the Pennsylvania arrests for sale or manufacture of drugs. York County District Attorney Tom Kearney says that this is proof that York police are doing their job.

poverty-landing-page-image_1It is widely acknowledged that York has a high concentration of poverty and as a result, a high crime rate. Mayor C. Kim Bracey has projected that the city faces a seven million dollar budget deficit. Because of this York may have to eliminate 46 positions from the police department. In fact, predictions are so dire that it is estimated that by 2020 public safety will consume more than 80% of the city budget.

The current governor of Pennsylvania is Tom Wolf. He is a native of York County and he supports a rebirth of the Pennsylvania hemp industry. He supports strong legislation that will allow patients to acquire and use medical cannabis and he supports statewide decriminalization of cannabis. He is also keeping an open mind to full legalization of cannabis.

York County s not the only city with budget woes. The entire state is pretty much in the same boat. Pennsylvania is building prisons and shutting down schools. Every year the state arrests approximately 21,000 people for possession of cannabis  and another 5,500 for cultivation or sales of cannabis.

In just less than three weeks the border state of Ohio will vote on the legalization of marijuana and polls show strong support. If they vote yes on Issue 3 they will join four other states that have opted for a legal, regulated cannabis market – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska as well as Washington D.C.

In November of 2016 the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine are expected to vote yes on various cannabis legalization initiatives. In fact, there may be three other states that legalize cannabis at the ballot in 2016.

1If Pennsylvania does nothing but retain the status quo then over the next ten years more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians will have their lives ruined or severely interrupted by arrest at a cost of at least a billion dollars to the taxpayers. Meanwhile the states where cannabis has been legalized will bring in billions of dollars worth of revenue while creating tens of thousands of jobs in each respective state.

Yet the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania seems hell bent on maintaining this drastically failed and destructive policy. No matter how much it hurts the state they intend to keep their iron grip, refusing to let go of the insanity even as the government ship is sinking into stifling debt.

Chris Goldstein of Philly NORML, using conservative estimates, concludes that there are 986,000 cannabis consumers in Pennsylvania who consume 7-12 ounces a year. That amounts to a staggering 265.5 metric tons of underground, unregulated and untaxed cannabis in the state.

At an average cost of $250 per ounce that means that 2.3 billion dollars of cold hard cash changes hands every year in the Pa. underground economy. If that cannabis was taxed at a similar rate of other states Pennsylvania could raise 585 million dollars a year, a staggering SIX BILLION DOLLARS OVER THE NEXT DECADE! Meanwhile we would save perhaps a billion dollars that we are currently spending to enforce cannabis prohibition.

New York has already decriminalized cannabis and is starting to implement their limited medical cannabis program. They also plan on growing industrial hemp next year. New Jersey has over 5,000 people enrolled in their medical cannabis program. Delaware has decriminalized cannabis and is beginning their medical cannabis program and have also passed industrial hemp legislation. Maryland has decriminalized cannabis and is also beginning to implement their medical cannabis program. Philadelphia has decriminalized cannabis, making possession a summary offense and a $25 fine. With Ohio going legal how long can Pennsylvania hold on to a drastically failed policy?

The citizens of York have been feeling the brunt of the war on cannabis more than anywhere else. York has been so relentless in prosecuting cannabis crimes that they have spent themselves to the verge of collapse. The status quo simply can not be maintained and change is so obviously coming that it can be seen by all – even those who oppose it.

yorkeventbannerOn Saturday, October 24, Keystone Cannabis Coalition will hold the third annual cannabis reform rally on Continental Square in the city of York from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. The purpose of the York Hemp Freedom Rally is to take a strong stand against the madness of prohibition that has gone on for too long.

unityWe need statewide decriminalization of cannabis as an interim measure as we figure out the best way to legalize and regulate it. We need a sound system of medical cannabis. We need to revive the Pennsylvania hemp industry and create jobs.

The city of York does not have to wait though. York City Council should act immediately to decriminalize marijuana and embrace the model now in effect in Philadelphia.

The city of York does not have to be doomed to poverty and bankruptcy. With proper measures the city of York, the county of York and the entire state of Pennsylvania can finally begin to prosper and thrive and finally dig our way out of this mountain of debt, gloom and despair.

~Les Stark

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Guess what is more controversial than hemp in PA!

Posted by on Oct 7, 2015 in Blog

untitledYesterday was a great day for hemp. There was a committee vote to move the house side bill HB967 out of committee. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was confident that it would pass, but then again it’s politics and you just never know. Les and I walked in and saw many familiar faces. We had met with many of them and we were greeted with lots of waves and smiles. This certainly added a level of comfortability and confidence.

The meeting then got under way and the first bill up for consideration was a bill regarding transparency in milk prices. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the bill and I don’t have an opinion on it. The representative spoke briefly about it and the chairman opened up the floor. There was opposition and they went about discussing the matter before calling the vote. The bill did pass out of committee with a vote of 15-9, if I remember correctly.

12112092_790852044370652_1704416255635466310_nThen it was time for the hemp bill. I thought, here we go! The sponsor and champion of the bill, Representative Russ Diamond spoke very succinctly about the bill and what it does as well as the amendment largely suggested by the Dept of Ag.

12088164_790851987703991_6357287617280737703_n Chairman Causer then asked if there were any comments. Representative Michael Carroll, who replaced Rep. Sabatina as the minority chair of the committee, then spoke. He talked about an amendment he was proposing to broaden the bill, said that if we are going to do it we should aim to make it as expansive as possible . This was exciting and encouraging to hear, but in the end he said that in the interest of keeping the the bill moving to the full house for further discussion and consideration, he was withdrawing the amendment at this time. I expect he is going to be a strong ally as the bill moves forward. He also pointed out that Rep. Flynn worked with Diamond on the bill and highlighted that this is very much a bipartisan effort. That is always wonderful to hear!

So after that the Chairman asked if there were any other comments…..

download*crickets chirping*

Then he asked if there were any no votes.

*more crickets*

Then it was announced that it was being recorded as unanimously passed.

That was it, it was done. Seemed like it should have been at least a little more dramatic. It wasn’t even drawn out enough to savor hearing each rep vote yes. Nevertheless, it was unanimous! The meeting was adjourned.

I had brought some samples of our new line of Hemp Heritage soaps and lip balms. And I happily handed some out. Then I had the opportunity to give some to both the Majority and Minority Executive Directors. I had met both of them previously and both are wonderful women. It was good to get the opportunity to chat with both of them at the same time for a while.

stanpac-glass-milk-bottleWe were talking about the bill and it came up that it was funny that they had reserved the room for an hour thinking for sure there would be a lot of debate over the hemp bill.

We all had a bigger laugh when the Majority Director said with a smile, who would have thought that milk would be more controversial than hemp!

And that is just how it should be.

It was a great day for Hemp in PA 🙂

 

~Erica McBride

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82 Years of War in Pennsylvania On a Plant

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Blog

We just passed a grim anniversary that marks the 82 year anniversary of the war on cannabis and hemp in Pennsylvania.

“Marihuana” prohibition went into effect in the Keystone State on September 1, 1933. It had been passed and signed by Governor Gifford Pinchot on May 22, 1933.

11817238_10204480297231363_3449084201562045393_nCannabis was always grown in Pennsylvania, from 1681 until it was banned. We do not have any idea how many people smoked cannabis for intoxicating effects but we do know that from at least the 1840’s until the 1920’s it was widely used in tincture form as medicine.

Cannabis medicines were advertised in the early newspapers for many decades and sold in every pharmacy throughout the state. There were many companies in Pennsylvania who manufactured cannabis extracts and often grew the cannabis in their “pharma farms”.

clipping_3212858In the 1870’s and 1880’s we know that there were hashish parlors in Philadelphia and believe they existed in other cities in Pa.

By the 1880’s hemp was holding strong in the Schuylkill Valley and a few other parts of the state but was no longer a huge industry here anymore. Still, it was a common garden crop and tens of thousands of acres grew wild. Many farmers grew hemp for poultry feed and other non-commercial purposes.

11800613_10204480296911355_8138877764338128244_nIn the early 1900’s there was resurgence of interest in hemp and the industry went through a revival, especially in York, Adams and Cumberland counties while farmers continued to grow it in Lancaster, Berks, and elsewhere for non-commercial purposes.

Although we do not know to what extent Pennsylvanians smoked cannabis before the 1920’s we do know that during that decade the use of cannabis buds became widespread and that is an absolute fact.

You see, a curious thing had happened. In 1919 the 18th Amendment was passed making alcohol illegal.

During the whole time period of 1919-1933 when you couldn’t legally get a drink a person could go out and grab all the armfuls of wild hemp that they wanted.

There are many reports of people smoking the wild hemp. Some say that weed was very mild while others say it was shockingly strong. This is probably because some of the wild hemp was descended from crops grown for fiber and other fields descended from seed marketed as birdseed.

People were also more sophisticated than you might think. If they were not growing the good stuff before the 1920’s they definitely were then. By the 1930’s it was reported that there were people growing “marihuana” all over the state and many large scale “reefer merchants”.

reefer-madness-poster-WARNINGBy 1932 the Pennsylvania State Department of Health had become alarmed. They issued warnings. It was claimed that Mexican migrant workers had brought the weed here and that it was sparking industrial unrest among labor unions, causing people to lose their minds and increasing crime.

In November of 1932 a man named Chester A. Mohn from West Lawn in Berks County was elected as State Representative. He hit the ground running and by March of 1933 he introduced his proposal to ban “marihuana”. The amendment sailed through and in two short months it was signed by the governor. Five months later it went into effect.

Many people barely took notice because they were excited about something else. The month that the prohibition of cannabis and hemp went into effect the sale of beer became legal in Pa. Two months later the national prohibition of alcohol fell.

Immediately the arrests started and the war on cannabis and hemp began. What has happened in the last 82 years? Are there more people smoking cannabis now or less than in 1933?

I think it is recognized by all that cannabis and hemp prohibition in Pennsylvania has been a devastating failure. They have not stopped the widespread use of cannabis for relaxation or fun. The only thing they have prevented is sick people from getting medicine and farmers from growing industrial hemp.

THIS MADNESS MUST STOP!

imagesWQW7MA22Keystone Cannabis Coalition is fighting to end the insane prohibition of cannabis and hemp. We intend to stop the 82 year war on our citizens over a plant. On this anniversary we recommit ourselves to the fight and invite all of you to join us as we take back our essential freedoms.

If the spirit is moving you, please make a donation to continue our important work. Thank you.

~Les Stark

 

 

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