Debate Over Hemp Leaf Grows in Connecticut

Since it is past March 21, I’d give anything to see a bright, green, pretty leaf. Just one. Something that is a sign of spring. So, you’d think that-as winter temps rage on- residents of Connecticut wouldn’t find offense a big botanical, flowering on a neighbor’s home. Unless of course it is a pot leaf.

Ironically, this all happened on High Street in Winsted, Connecticut. (I’m serious.) Chris Seekins’ neighbors complained to police about the leaf painting, but police say there is nothing they can do about it. They complained to town council and got the same reasoning as the officers gave them. Seekins’ symbolic art is protected under the First Amendment. So, regardless of neighborly disputes, his message about legalizing hemp will continue to be displayed on his home’s exterior.

So we know the hemp dude’s rights were indeed protected. But let’s look into the issue of what is really offensive and what is really useful. First of all, it’s a leaf. (Granted, a big leaf.) But, it’s not like his chimney is shaped like a giant bong. I can find far more offensive things on people’s property: junk cars, high weeds (no pun intended) or whole houses in painted in ridiculous colors for whole houses – like aquamarine, sea green and coral. So really? What is the big deal about a pot leaf painted on a suburban home? You see that’s the first problem. It’s really a hemp leaf. There is a difference.

Hemp.com states that hemp is not marijuana; both are from the species cannabis sativa. They liken hemp to non-alcoholic beer. That’s logical to me. If one man is served a glass of fizzy, yellow O’Douls and another a glass of fizzy, yellow Miller Light, only one will get a buzz. Just because side by side these products look alike does not mean they will have the same intoxicating effects. In fact, according to HempNation.com when properly grown, hemp has virtually no psychoactive effects when consumed. There are very, very low levels of THC (in short, the chemical that makes you high and hungry). Hemp is grown by farmers solely for industrial use. But for you and me, it’s treated like marijuana. In the late 1960s, the Controlled Substances Act was enacted, leaving the difference between hemp and marijuana to be a very gray area.

I once bought a bar of hemp soap and a hemp necklace from a cool, hippy dude at the Pocono Blues Festival. Aside from that, I never really gave much thought to the other uses of this versatile plant family. My own ignorance of hemp products I am ashamed. However, perhaps this is because the general public is not really educated about hemp. Perhaps many more hemp supporters are stopped before their message gets out. Perhaps, afraid they are pushing something illegal, mainstream media aren’t telling the masses about the plant’s many benefits. For those who aren’t familiar with the uses for this versatile vegetation, here is just a sample. Hemp fibers can be used to make clothing – which by the way is ten times stronger than cotton and more breathable. Hemp seed contains many essential nutrients and hemp seed oil contains necessary fatty acids, so many food products are made with this healthy component like burgers, cookies and dog biscuits. Hemp oil can also be used for varnishes, soaps, cosmetics and more. Hemp hurd can be used to make paper, plastic, textiles and fuel. In the early 19th century, hempnation.com says, 90% of ship sails were made from hemp. Even Henry Ford in the 40s made a hemp-fueled car. In the future, houses may be made of hemp – sorry big bad wolf. It’s pretty durable.

Here’s a thought. Can the legalized murdering leaf tobacco do any of that? Perhaps tobacco should be outlawed and all the former Phillip Morris employees can make a career change and harvest hemp.

So, with all these health and environmental benefits, why are people griping about the big hemp leaf? Perhaps the big deal with this case lies in the fact that the ‘artist’ was also arrested last year for growing over 100 hemp plants – not marijuana – in his home for “research purposes.” (That battle is still in court.) So, does this mean someone accused of drunk driving cannot hang a Budweiser-clad Dale Earnhardt Jr. flag from his porch? Does this mean that someone who was found guilty of possessing a weapon on a routine traffic stop has to scrape off his NRA bumper sticker? Do these people who complained have American flags on their homes? If they are patriotic, then why would they try to take a right, protected under that flag, away from a neighbor?

Instead of stopping the message, the neighbors’ complaints indeed helped Seekins’ get the word out beyond High Street and Winsted. I guarantee you that, just like I did, thousands of others were intrigued by the story and googled “hemp”. And like I was, maybe they were fascinated by all hemp can do. Perhaps if these hemp hypocrites dug a little deeper before they opened their mouths, they too would have ran out to their local hardware stores for some green paint to pass around the message.

So, hemp dude did nothing wrong in his High Street hemp house. But he sure did light a good one up for the nation’s media.

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