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A common-sense crop

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Four years ago, Michelle Obama picked up a shovel to make a powerful symbolic statement about America's food-and-farm future: She turned a patch of White House lawn into a working organic garden.

So I'm guessing that now, as she begins another four years in the people's mansion, the First Lady is asking herself: "What next? What can I do this time around to plant a crop of common sense in our country's political soil that will link America's farmers, consumers, environment, and grassroots economy in one big harvest of common good?"

Thanks for asking, and I'm happy to offer a one-word answer to your query: Hemp. Plant a good healthy stand of industrial hemp next to your organic garden!

Yes, hemp is a distant cousin of marijuana, though the industrial variety of cannabis lacks the psychoactive punch of pot. Industrial hemp won't make anyone high, but it certainly can make us happy, because it would deliver a new economic and environmental high for America.

Our nation is the world's biggest consumer of hemp products (from rope to shampoo, building materials to food), yet the mad masters of our insane "drug war" have lumped hemp and marijuana together as "Schedule 1 controlled substances" — making our Land of the Free the world's only industrialized country that bans farmers from growing this benign, profitable, job-creating and environmentally beneficial plant.

As Michael Bowman, a Colorado farmer, so aptly asks: "Can we just stop being stupid?" He's one of the leaders of a national, bipartisan movement to legalize hemp production.

As one small step, he's seeking 100,000 signatures on a White House petition that simply asks President Obama to include the words "industrial hemp" in his Feb. 12 State of the Union speech. To sign, go to this website: petitions.whitehouse.gov. (For more, see "Keef crumbs" in CannaBiz on p. 45.)

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

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