From Potties to Pot, How Low Can Asheville Go?

hemp RS

Western North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places on earth; especially in springtime. It has been described by UNC-Asheville professors as the most biodiverse region in the Southeast. The county commissioners stress the importance of protecting our green mountains. Tourists and hikers come from all over to enjoy the scenic beauty. We’re told in other walks of life to embrace diversity, so why should we be ganging up on one little plant because he is different and we don’t understand his ways? Why is the biosystem not strengthened by diversity and horticulture enriched with in-migration?

As a community, we have many needs. In some local schools, 50 percent of children are food-insecure. Asheville has for two decades been in an affordable housing crisis. As climate changes threatens to make our Appalachian home the next Atlantis, the search for biofuels to replace fracking products is on. Are we casting judgment too soon on a plant bursting at the seams with potential?

A little bit of research informs us that knotweed is indeed good for salads. Its stems are crisp with a spicy, lemony flavor. More importantly, perhaps, its flowers produce a form of nectar for the endangered honeybee when other flowers are scarce. One would think this would matter in a city that recently beecame an official Bee City. There are even claims the plant relieves pain. But perhaps most importantly, it has very strong roots. As it grows like wildfire on riverbanks, it could control stormwater runoff far better and more naturally than orange, plastic fences. What’s more? Since it looks and grows like bamboo, it could be a great source for mats or building materials, like thatched roofing if our ordinances would allow it.

But they won’t. Asheville City Council prefers a different weed.

Since 2010, local activist Timothy Sadler has been working to support by way of proclamation “Hemp History Week.” Sadler is a regular at local government meetings, sharing how he has contributed to shaping policy in public hearings and offering advice on a wide variety of topics during open public comment.

This year, Sadler insisted he is only advocating for the industrial use of hemp. He has, in the past, advocated with locals like Todd Stimson for the legalization of medicinal marijuana – er, cannabis. Sadler first came to Asheville from Pennsylvania to help construct the first hemp house in the country. Made of Hempcrete, it is now the home of former Asheville Mayor Russ Martin.

Councilman Cecil Bothwell read the proclamation naming June 6-12, 2016 “Hemp History Week.” Speaking as one who had advocated legalizing hemp for industrial purposes for at least thirty years, Bothwell said he was pleased with the gradual progress. “It’s long past time to return to the days of our colonial ancestors in embracing a crop that is really good for the world,” he began.

While schools today teach that every word about limited government pronounced by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington is to be flushed because both men held slaves; the two were the men of the hour Tuesday night because they not only used hemp paper but “actively advocated” for the use of hemp in industrial applications. Bothwell, and then Sadler, went on to make George Washington Carver’s work with peanuts pale in comparison to the world of things that can be done with the marijuana plant – the idea of smoking for recreational pleasure not remotely crossing the mind of any of the presenters, to be sure. In addition to being a great source of paper, pot plants could be used in fabricating lighter-weight vehicles, biodiesel fuels, and biodegradable plant-based plastics.

Sadler quoted himself as saying, “Industrial hemp is the love child of economic development and environmental protection,” and added, “It’s the most profitable crop a farmer can grow.” The written proclamation closed with the mayor “encouraging all citizens to learn about and appreciate industrial hemp.”

Three people Sadler described as “social justice activists” then spoke about their work with industrial marijuana. There were giggles throughout the presentation. One came when Will Oseroff, founder of the Blue Ridge Hemp Company, rambled on a little long. Oseroff wears his hair in dread and, well, the loquaciousness sort of made him look like he might be under the influence of the psychoacative components of hemp to which his company, which sells pain management cannabidiols (CBD’s), is no party. He quickly cut himself short saying, “Cannabis is going to save us. So, thank you.”

Hemp History Week has been celebrated in various settings throughout the nation since 2010. The logo bears an amazing resemblance to the personal emblem of a now world-renowned former member of the Choom Gang.

Legalization in North Carolina is making advances. In 2013, the state formed the NC Industrial Hemp Commission to oversee a pilot agricultural project. Colorado, Washington, and Alaska have now legalized weed for toking. Congressmen Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) failed last year in an attempt to prevent legalization in the nation’s capital. While 2/3 of voters thought it would be cool to have legislators getting contact highs from second-hand THC’s; Chaffetz and Meadows argued the campaign illegally relied on federal funding lacking the requisite Congressional appropriation.

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