"The War on Drugs is Lost"
Response #589 (noah) Friday, May 18, 2001
I've lived in eastern NC for the last 22 years and I've seen tobacco go from being the staple of the economy to its current death-rattle status. When I was in jr. high, I worked (like every other male my age) in tobacco. It was the only place we could get decent money ($6 an hour) despite back-breaking work. When the crop came in late, they delayed the start of school (this was in 1985). As a reporter covering E. NC, I covered the opening of the tobacco markets, the reports of blue mold, did behind-the-scene coverage of the production of seedlings and greenhouse technology, and of course, farmers losing their land and having to become hog farmers (a whole 'nother problem) or trying to find alternative crops. In 1997, the opening of the tobacco market was a party. The governor was there. State and federal representatives were there. It was huge. We sat down to huge plates of scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, country ham, sausage, biscuits, grits, coffee and of course, everyone was smoking. Then they announced that there was a change of plans in the program. The first speaker couldn't make it...he...uhh..had a heart attack. His replacement had cancer...and uhh, the next guy they called died on Tuesday. Two years later, the opening of the market was like a funeral. The only gumm'nt official was the mayor and the state ag. commissioner. What had been a warehouse filled to the brim with gold leaf tobacco two years ago was maybe 1/3 full. That's when I started writing about how hemp could replace tobacco as the state's big cash crop. I wrote about hwo tobacco damaged the soil and how hemp actually helped it. I detailed the list of products that could be produced, how much revenue the state could receive, how many jobs could be saved and did a detailed piece on the difference between growing hemp and growing marijuana. We got bombarded with letters wanting to know why we didn't Just Say No (tm), why we wanted the Youth of America to become a bunch of dope-trippers, why we were looking to destroy the fabric of this great nation, etc., etc... It was pretty depressing.
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