‘Honk for Hemp’ sign holder not satisfied with legalization of the crop, will continue to picket for marijuana

photo by: John Young

Thomas Trower, better known as the "Honk for Hemp" guy, holds his sign on the corner of 11th and Massachusetts Street on Sunday, May 26, 2013.

He’s been asking drivers in downtown Lawrence to honk their car horns in support of hemp for years. But now that the plant is a legalized crop in Kansas and no longer a federally listed controlled substance, Thomas Trower recently told the Journal-World he isn’t satisfied.

He plans to continue picketing with his large white sign that says “honk for hemp” until he can legally enjoy the recreational use of the THC-laden marijuana.

“It’s a futile and symbolic gesture, but someone has to do it until it’s fully legal,” he said of his picketing downtown. “I want the right to grow my own — any variety I want.”

Trower has been picketing for more than 30 years, he said. While his sign calls for the approval of hemp, he said his activism is really to support the legalization of all cannabis plants, which would include marijuana.

While hemp and marijuana are cannabis-plant cousins, hemp produces less THC, the chemical that causes a high, and is not used as a recreational drug. However, hemp does produce cannabidiol, or CBD, which has exploded in popularity in recent years as a remedy some people use to treat anxiety and pain, among other ailments.

But CBD isn’t good enough for Trower. He said he’s tried CBD oils, one of the most popular products, and it did not have the desired effect. He said he wants the THC-laden marijuana, and he points to the legalization of alcohol after the prohibition era failed to stop alcohol consumption.

“Alcohol is not my drug of preference,” he said. “If the (alcohol drinkers) can have theirs, I want mine.”

In Kansas, the legalization of cannabis plants has only just begun.

On Jan. 9, the state finalized rules and regulations for an industrial hemp research program, making the crop officially legal. But only farms that have been given state approval may participate in the two-year program.

Heather Lansdowne, communications director for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, previously told the Journal-World the research program aims to give the state an understanding of how hemp farming will work in Kansas before it becomes a commercial crop. She said 75 Kansas farms pre-applied for the research program in December.

Farmers have until March 1 to apply to participate in the program, she said.

In the Kansas Legislature, some lawmakers have proposed bills to make medical marijuana legal in recent years. State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, recently said he plans to file a bill for medical uses of the drug during the 2019 session.

But the state still has a long way to go to reach Trower’s ultimate goal, which is to be able to grow recreational marijuana on his own property. He believes it’s only a matter of time.

“It’s inevitable,” he said.

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact University of Kansas, higher education, state government reporter Dylan Lysen:


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