DEA to Outlaw Cotton Growing. Says Fields are Indistinguishable from Opium Poppies.

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.

Cotton farmers disputed the claim, saying the “real force” behind the ban was the synthetic textile industry, which sees the inexpensive crop as a threat to their market share.

Poppy field (left) image source:
Cotton field (right) image source:

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.

Lest you be getting your hopes (or your opposition) up, this would not change the legal status of marijuana.










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:

5 thoughts on “DEA to Outlaw Cotton Growing. Says Fields are Indistinguishable from Opium Poppies.

  1. Johnnie Moore

    Aren’t they still going to need to be able to tell the difference between opium and cotton to press charges to those who continue to grow cotton? Sheesh!

    Oh my lord – why not just hire smarter people?

    Well, there’s the rub. We need to educate ourselves better to be able to distinguish between Opium and Cotton. Eco-Education please!

    Thanks for this post. I will go and harvest hemp to make into paper to write treatises about the importance of growing cotton in the US.


  2. Grant

    Hey, EcoOptimist-

    Tell us more about why hemp is such a positive choice from an environmental perspective, please. Should “Big Cotton” really feel threatened by this plant? I know cotton has a reputation for being very hard on the soil it’s grown in.

    Of course the law banning hemp production is silly… but isn’t it also cutting off our environmental noses to spite our own faces?

  3. Lorne Craig

    Maybe Monsanto could genetically modify hemp, then everyone would feel all warm and fuzzy about it and millions of dollars would be spent to support its growth.

    1. David Bergman Post author

      I think you’re on to something Lorne. Especially if they can modify it so it doesn’t look like marijuana! Of course, they’ll then patent the non-reproducing seeds, but that’s another story…


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