The killing year

Forty-five human beings have been murdered in cold blood so far this year in Sacramento, mostly in gang-related acts of violence. In one South Sacramento neighborhood, seven young people have been slain, with three of those deaths happening within a 30-hour time span last month.

The trend is more than alarming. At this rate, our city seems likely to clock a 40-percent increase in the number of its citizens who are murdered in a year.

Who will put a stop to it?

First, we have the police. It took a while, but Sacramento Police Chief Albert Najera does deserve props for finally getting more cops on duty in the Meadowview area, the current hot spot for gang violence.

Next we have the churches, many of which have been reaching out to young people, holding community forums on how to cope with the violence and even taking kids on tours of prisons so they can see firsthand the consequences of bad choices. Area Congregations Together has played an important role here, and the community owes this organization thanks and support.

What’s missing from this picture? An overall commitment to alleviate the root source of the violence. It’s poverty, of course. Drive through the neighborhoods where gang violence is highest, and you’ll discern immediately why many kids who grow up there lack hope, get in trouble, leave school early, become numb to violence and, eventually, join up with peers who feel the same.

There’s much being done, yes, and plenty more to do to cut back on the local killings. But at the end of the day, unless we address the poverty issue, the violence will go on.

Hemp yes

Did you know that the word “canvas” comes from cannabis, the Latin name for the class of plants that includes marijuana? There’s a reason for that. The plants, known collectively as hemp, are an excellent source of decay-resistant fiber. In fact, they have been used to make canvas for as long as people have been sailing the seas.

Today, of course, cannabis is associated mostly with the illicit drug marijuana, but to a growing number of California business people it’s also associated with the raw material of an entirely legal $270 million industry. Industrial hemp, which has no psychoactive properties, is an extremely versatile plant that’s used in a wide variety of products, from energy bars and rope to cold-pressed oil and backpacks.

Under current law, however, hemp cannot be grown in the state despite the fact that it has innumerable uses, requires relatively little water, grows extremely fast and needs no herbicides.

That will change if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a bill, Assembly Bill 1147, that has passed the state Legislature and is now on his desk. The bill would allow the cultivation of industrial hemp along strict guidelines designed to prevent the production of marijuana.

Legalizing industrial hemp would be a boon to California agriculture. The governor should sign A.B. 1147.