A coalition of President Donald Trump's allies are looking into whether they could privately fund a wall along the Mexican border … made of hemp.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said that the group, which also includes former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Sheriff David Clarke, is consulting with a Kansas-based hemp company about the possibility of erecting a hempcrete wall along the southern border.
The thinking is that, because congressional Democrats are unlikely to budge and include taxpayer funds for a border wall in appropriations legislation, the group will pool their capital and influence to get the job done themselves.
“Do you understand the irony of using hempcrete to keep out marijuana?” Bannon told Politico, which first reported on the potential cannabis-constructed border barrier.
That said, when Trump has spoken about his reasons for wanting a border wall when it comes to impeding drug trafficking, he usually focuses on opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine, and hasn't mentioned cannabis in relation to the project.
And of course, the wall isn't singularly about preventing drug trafficking. According to Trump, it's also meant to deter illegal immigration, which has already been decreasing steadily since 2007. The president's claim that there's an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the southern border that demands a physical barrier has been characterized by Democratic lawmakers as a xenophobic attempt to rally his base and make good on a campaign promise that initially involved having Mexico foot the bill.
“Do you understand the irony of using hempcrete to keep out marijuana?" says Steve Bannon, of the effort to build a private border wall, which he has secretly helped orchestrate. Hempcrete is a building material made out of hemp. https://t.co/AXkSnfP1AV
— Ben Schreckinger (@SchreckReports) February 5, 2019
Either way, drug enforcement officials have found that marijuana seizures have steadily declined as more states have legalized.
It's not clear whether the president would back a proposal to erect a privately funded wall made of hemp. A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Marijuana Moment.
America's Hemp Academy, the company that Bannon's group reportedly partnered with, also did not reply to a request for comment by the time of publication. The company — founded by a “serial entrepreneur” who also owns a chain of delis, a bread manufacturing company and an outdoor wildlife hunting retreat — launched just in late December 2018, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
One thing is for sure: Using hempcrete for a large-scale infrastructure project would've been harder to achieve just months ago, when the crop was federally illegal to grow in the U.S. outside of limited research programs, and only imports from other countries were allowed. But since Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law, legalizing hemp, more widespread domestic cultivation is on the way and costs for products including hempcrete are likely to drop.
Experts expressed strong doubts to Politico, though, that Bannon's group could raise enough funds to actually execute their plan. Whether it's made of hemp or some other material, coming up with enough money to build a wall stretching thousands of miles would set investors back by billions of dollars — not to mention the potential regulatory complications a private company would face dealing with federal departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
Still, as far as border wall proposals go, a hempcrete barrier would at least represent a more environmentally sustainable material compared with normal concrete. But again, the practical and political hurdles that the White House and outside groups face in securing funding for any kind of barrier have proved daunting.
— Kyle Jaeger