A culture tough on marijuana makes a hard fight for hemp

Lexington, KY – In the previous installment of this series on the potential of industrial hemp cultivation in Kentucky, I took issue with gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett’s indirect association with a local head shop, Botany Bay. Some consider the concept of guilt by association to be unfair in this case, but to me, such questions regarding guilt or fairness are irrelevant. Guilt by association exists. When a prominent political name pops up in the same news-story paragraph as words such as “bongs” and “guns,” it just doesn’t look good, and even a casual reinforcement of the supposed link between industrial hemp and recreational marijuana doesn’t do the pro-hemp movement any favors.

This was not to suggest that Moffett is an unsuitable candidate for governor, or that Scott and Ginny Saville, the owners of the Botany Bay, are unsavory people. I’m also not passing judgment on whether or not the movement to legalize recreational marijuana, though quite different from the industrial hemp cause, is a worthy enterprise. The argument is simply that the cultural conditions in our area, and in most of the United States, are such that our elected and would-be leaders, to appease their constituencies and/or their own consciences, cannot afford to be seen as soft on illicit drugs. Likewise, the mere appearance of impropriety is often damaging, even when no actual impropriety exists.

Like it or not, these are the cultural conditions in which we live ― which we’ve constructed, in fact. And as concerns recreational marijuana, these conditions are perhaps hypocritical, when one considers that, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Kentucky is one of the six largest producers of outdoor-grown marijuana in the United States and most of that crop, per the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is sold and consumed locally. Some estimates even suggest that revenue from marijuana sales in Kentucky exceed revenues from tobacco, corn and soybeans combined.

In short, Kentuckians grow a lot of pot, and we smoke a lot of it, too.

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