Hemp Flag Flying Over Capitol Hill This July 4th
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This Independence Day, the Capitol building will fly a flag stitched from hemp, a plant that is illegal to grow in the US. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA lumps all marijuana strains as Schedule I, regardless of their THC content, so hemp is classified alongside heroin, ecstasy and LSD despite containing less than 1% THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). Colorado hemp farmer Michael Bowman says flying a hemp flag at the Capitol is a "powerful symbol" and a nod to the plant's role in colonial America, when settlers paid their taxes in hemp and used it to produce all kinds of goods, from rope to paper, including the canvas covering the iconic westward Conestoga wagons. Bowman teamed up with Colorado Rep. Jared Polis to bring the flag made from their state's homegrown hemp to the nation's capital. Colorado recently legalized hemp cultivation, joining eight other states including Kentucky, Maine, and Oregon. But as the plant's cultivation remains illegal under federal law, few farmers have been bold enough to grow it. The US is the only industrialized country in the world to prohibit hemp cultivation; it is also the largest consumer of hemp products (hemp import is legal), with total sales estimated at around $450 million. Advocates of the crop praise its versatility: it can be made into paper, rope, textiles, fuel, and food products. Many historians believe that the first American flag, sewn by Betsy Ross in 1776, was made of hemp.