Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Some call it marijuana

Found all across Nebraska, "ditchweed" is a legacy of the Second World War: with the Philippines under Japanese control, the United States needed a domestic source of fiber for rope and canvas, and encouraged the planting of hemp. (Etymological reminder: canvas is a cognate of cannabis.)

Because it derives from industrial hemp strains, ditchweed has very low THC levels. "That stuff will give you nothing but a headache." It has been reported, however, that growers of high-quality ganja sometimes use wild-harvested ditchweed to cut their product and increase profits accordingly.

Nebraska policy, officially or otherwise, has been to recognize that the stuff grows wild, and to tolerate it accordingly—as long as it's not being actively cultivated or harvested. (The stand above, photographed by Jessa, is actually on state land, a wildlife management area in the north-central part of the state.) Legislation passed last year would permit the growing of industrial hemp for research purposes, but regulations are still under development, and both full-scale commercialization and medical marijuana will apparently have to wait. I liked this remark posted by another photographer: "I found this patch growing along a remote dirt road. The only other thing in sight was the vast fields of corn being watered by a plethora of gigantic sprinklers. I will not comment as to how the priorities might be backwards..."

I remember Mike Cox talking about an early (1970s) Nebraska Falconers' Association field meet, held just outside Yutan. The group was camped in a cow-pasture woodlot, which happened to contain a large stand of hemp. Apparently a sheriff's deputy stopped by, and had some trouble believing that all these long-haired, bearded young guys with the fringed suede jackets were there for bunnies, not the local plant life...

Although non-native, ditchweed is not particularly invasive, and is a high-value plant for wildlife, specifically seed-eating birds. (As Peter Tosh notes, "Birds eat it...and they love it," and the Bob Marley song "Three Little Birds" was inspired by ground-doves eating marijuana seeds at his home/studio in Kingston, Jamaica.)

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