The US Drug Enforcement Agency announced today that it is banning the growing of cotton. The stated reason was that its agents are unable to tell the difference from afar between it and the poppy variety that yields the drug opium.
Poppy field (left) image source: http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com
Cotton field (right) image source: http://soilcrop.tamu.edu/
Well, not exactly, but hey, it could happen. It already has with another crop:
Hemp, an incredibly resilient, useful and valuable crop, is banned from being grown in the US. The cited reason is that the DEA can’t discern hemp plants from marijuana plants. (The conspiracy theory explanation is that the cotton industry sees hemp as an economic threat.)
A current multi-partisan Senate bill, S.3501, co-sponsored by arch-Republican/Libertarian Rand Paul, Democrat Jeff Merkley and our hero in the Senate, Independent Bernie Sanders, would legalize farming of hemp, clarifying that it is not a drug. (The amount of THC in it is negligible and you cannot get high from it.) Despite it being eminently sensible from both economic and environmental points of view, I wouldn’t give the bill a snowball’s chance in hell (or in a global-warmed cotton field) if not for Senator Paul’s sponsorship.
Hemp is incredibly versatile. Until 1619, farmers in Virginia were required to grow it. During WWII, its growth was temporarily legalized because of the military need for products made from it, including rope and parachutes. The federal government promoted a “Hemp for Victory” program. Image source: http://hempproteinhealth.com/