Friday, March 23, 2018

Report from the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book - Pot and Hemp

Virginia Festival of the Book cannabis hemp Charlottesville
In a Virginia Festival of the Book program titled "Growing Hemp in Virginia: Then & Now," authors Emily Dufton and Doug Fine discuss aspects of the debates over cannabis regulation and industrial hemp. The panel discussion was moderated by University of Virginia biology professor Michael Timko.

The panel is described on the web site of the Virginia Festival of the Book like this: "Emily Dufton (Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America) and Doug Fine (Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution) discuss the history, legality, and finer aspects of growing hemp, a crop farmed nearby by Thomas Jefferson."

There was not much "then" in the "then & now" discussion.  Dufton spoke about her research into grassroots activism on both sides of the marijuana legalization question.  She looked at parents' movements in the 1970s that sought stricter laws on marijuana possession (a number of states decriminalized cannabis between 1973 and 1978, only to reverse those laws in the 1980s).  She also traced the connection of HIV/AIDS activism to the medical marijuana movement that started in the early 1990s and resulted with 29 states and the District of Columbia legalizing use of pot for medicinal purposes.  Dufton brings the tale forward to the present, when the Trump Administration, voiced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, threatens to end the leniency in enforcing federal marijuana laws in states like Colorado and California, which have legalized recreational weed use by adults.

Doug Fine, also the author of  Too High to Fail and Farewell, My Subaru, is a regenerative goat rancher, hemp farmer, and homeschooling father. He has testified before the United Nations and appeared on CNN and "The Tonight Show," and he is a regular contributor to NPR.  His presentation focused on the benefits of industrial hemp farming but warned it is not a "get-rich-quiick" scheme.  He noted the recent discovery of how hemp fibers can be utilized in electrical batteries.

An interview with Fine conducted after the panel ended can be found on "The Score" podcast on, in the episode posted on March 24, 2018.

This panel discussion was moderated by Michael Timko, a professor of biology and the director of the undergraduate program in Human Biology at the University of Virginia.

The embedded video was recorded in the chambers of the Charlottesville City Council on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

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