In 1998, Canadian Paul Wylie was happily tending a government-approved hemp plantation in Nicaragua. The experimental hemp crop was a demonstration project, but it turned into an incarceration experience for Wylie, who was arrested at gun-point by masked government agents in late 1998 and thrown into a vile prison (CC#17, Hemp bust in Nicaragua).
Wylie’s business partners and his girlfriend, along with the Canadian ambassador and The Ohio Hempery’s Don Wirtshafter, struggled to get him out of the dungeon cell where his health was deteriorating rapidly.
After a year of suffering and unjust court sessions, Wylie finally got out of prison and left Nicaragua for Canada, only to learn that his son had been killed while Wylie was in custody (CC#27, Nicaraguan hemp nightmare).
Wylie healed himself by writing a memoir of his ordeal, and by helping draft a massive, scientifically-backed proposal for hemp plantations throughout the world. The proposal, co-written by a hemp scientist, is academically and economically savvy.
In November 2001, Wylie traveled back to Nicaragua for the first time since he had run through a forest and crossed dangerous rivers to get out of the country two years before.
“We are filing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Nicaraguan government seeking compensation for what they did to me and our hemp company,” he said. “The government had agreed to let me grow hemp there. I was growing hemp. If you had smoked all of it, you would have had nothing more than a sweaty headache. Then they came and did that to me, and ruined the crop that we had worked hard to grow.
“If they would grow hemp in Central America and throughout the world, in all its forms and for all its uses, including for medicine, we would have a better world. When they attacked us, they attacked something that would have helped their country.”
While Wylie files suit in Central America, attorney Don Wirtshafter and other American hemp industry representatives have filed court proceedings of their own in the United States.
“The Bush administration interpretations of the legality of industrial hemp appear to have outlawed hemp products that have always been legal before,” Wirtshafter said. “They seem to be saying that food products containing hemp are illegal. Probably they will later actuate a ban on cosmetics containing hemp.”
Wirtshafter said that the hemp industry had just recovered from the effects of a previous DEA ruling made two years ago, which was rescinded only after causing severe economic damage to the North American hemp market (CC#26, Hemp seed border wars).
“We came back from that,” Wirtshafter said. “We improved the quality of hemp seed and oil processing so that hemp food products are very marketable, and then the government tries to kick the legs out from under us again.”
Wirtshafter says the government’s official explanation for its draconian change in policy is that scientific testing has determined that hemp products contain trace amounts of cannabinoids and are therefore potential drugs.
“I guess that if you ate 100 pounds of hempseeds all at once, you might get as much THC as if you took one hit off a joint of ditchweed,” he quipped. “It’s really stupid for them to say that hemp products can get you high or impair you. We suspect that it has more to do with their fears that trace THC could compromise urine testing rather than any legitimate view that hemp really is marijuana (CC#18, Hemp urine testing).
“In a realistic world without this stupid prejudice against hemp, the government would allow hemp on the open market, treating it just like any other legal agricultural commodity. That’s the honest remedy that we seek in court. But we know they probably won’t do that. So what is a minimum that we would accept? For us to be able to sell hemp foods, fibers, lotions and other products anywhere we want to.”
Both Wylie and Wirtshafter expect to know the results of their legal filings by the end of the year.