Page 25


JIM HIGHTOWER Drug Warriors and Rope Smokers Imagine a natural plant that could be used to make beautiful fabrics, fine paper, inexpensive fuel, safe pain-relievers and dozens of other worthwhile productsall from one plant A plant that would be a huge job producingcash-crop for America, that requires very little water and no pesticides to produce it and is so prolific it literally grows like a weed Well, such a plant does exist. But the government won’t allow our farmers to grow it. Imagine that! The plant is cannabis sativa, or industrial hemp. The same hemp that makes the ropes used on U.S. warships, the same hemp that made the paper our U.S. Constitution was drafted on, the same hemp that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew on their farms, the same hemp that the U.S. Department of Agriculture urged on farmers until the 1930s, distributing its seed for free and promoting it as an All-American crop. So why does government now nix this plant? Because industrial hemp is first cousin to the same species that produces the no-no weed: marijuana: But wait a minute. Industrial hemp is to marijuana what near beer is to beerit has practically zero “delta-9 tetrahydro-cannabinol,” which is the elemental oomph in marijuana that makes you get high. You could smoke a hemp rope all day long and you wouldn’t get off the ground, much less get high. But the government, puffed up with ignorance and arrogance, just says no. So our farmers are not allowed to grow one of the world’s best crops. More than a hundred U.S. companies now sell all kinds of hemp products from hemp shoes to hemp paper, but the hemp they use has to be imported from our European and Asian competitors. If you think this is as quacky as I do, contact the Coalition for Hemp Awareness, at SAVE THE RICH! When a hurricane, a flood, an earthquake or other natural disaster strikes, it’s good to know that federal assistance is standing ready to help repair such essential public fa cilities as schools, hospitals and yacht slips. Yacht slips? Yes, and golf resorts, luxury beach clubs and other recreational facilities used mostly by the hoity-toity. Under current law, a marina is just as eligible as a hospital to receive repair funds from us taxpayers through FEMAthe Federal Emergency Management Agency. A report by the Office of Inspector General finds that a quarter of a billion tax dollars have gone to such facilities since 1989. In Miami, for example, the posh Dinner Key Marina got $3 million from us to restore its yacht dockings after Hurricane Andrew. Technically, this marina is open to the public, but DO NOT try to dock your bass boat therethis place accepts no boats less than thirty feet long, and slip fees are as high as $850 a month. This eliminates about 99 percent of “the public.” Also, out near Palm Springs, California, a 1993 flood damaged “The Golf Resort At Indian Wells.” Never mind that this grandiose golf club was built in a dry wash subject to flash floods, and never mind that a round of golf can cost you $120 thereits owners still collected some three-quarters of a million bucks to repair erosion, cart paths and sprinklers on their links. Likewise, the rich folks of Loch Arbor Village in New Jersey, a tiny and exclusive enclave of only 380 people living in houses with a median value of $230,000 each, took $320,000 from FEMA after a 1992 storm damaged their Beach Club. These perverted payments for disaster relief prove once again that the rich are different from you and methey get more federal handouts. LONGNECKS OR LONGNOSES I’m no big boozer, but I have been in my share of bars over the yearsjust doing anthropological research, you understand. I’ve been in Oklahoma honky-tonks, California fern bars, Portland brew pubs, Mississippi roadhouses, Boston neighborhood bars, Napa Valley wine barsbut I’ve never been in a place like the 02 Spa Bar in Toronto, Canada. This is a bar where all the hip patrons come to consume nothing but oxygen. Yes, air. And they charge you for it. This latest bar fad has been all the rage for some time in Japan and Europe, and now it is loose on our continent, poised perilously close to our own nation’s border. Lissa Charon, co-owner of the 02 , says oxygen bars are “the ’90s alternative” giving you an all-natural “oxy-high” that leaves you feeling energized and alert! I wonder if they have cigar rooms in them? Probably not. A doctor with the American Lung Association says, “From a purely scientific point of view, it’s hard to substantiate what the benefits could be.” Those doctorsalways the party poopers. The benefits to the owners of the oxy-bars themselves, though, are pretty obvious: they get sixteen bucks for a twenty-minute pop of pure oxygen. How does the system work? Well, you sit on a barstool, like in every other bar, but instead of a glass of whatever, you are set up with a small plastic tube running from an oxygen canister. This tube has tiny prongs, whichI am not making this up you hook into your nostrils. Then…you breathe. So there’s everybody in the joint acting like everything is perfectly normal, chatting about the ballgame or some such, while they’ve got plastic tubing in their schnozzes and are getting giddy on snootfuls ofwell, air. Shouldn’t we seal off the Canadian border, and stop this before it’s too late? Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor and Texas Agriculture Commissioner. His new nationwide radio show broadcasts daily from the Chat & Chew Cafe in Austin, Texas, where he continues to preach the populist gospel. DECEMBER 20, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21