Flying high on the Fourth

Al Kamen
Columnist July 3, 2013

The flag flying over the Capitol on the Fourth of July might look like your typical Old Glory. But you probably won’t notice the fibers that make it special. It’s believed to be the first hemp flag to flutter over the dome since the government began outlawing marijuana’s less-recreational cousin back in the 1930s.

Colorado hemp advocate Michael Bowman is the man responsible for getting the flag, made from Colorado-raised hemp and screen-printed with the Stars and Stripes, up there.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

He cooked up the idea while lobbying Congress this year to include pro-hemp measures in the massive farm bill. That legislation failed last month, of course, but the seed of the hemp flag had been planted.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) gave Bowman an assist with the details, which included working with the Capitol’s flag office. (The flag program allows people to buy flags flown over the Capitol, so they rotate in new Old Glories nearly every day.)

“It’s a powerful symbol,” Bowman says, adding that the red, white and blue flying over the Capitol is a reminder of the role that hemp played in the founding and early days of the country. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp, he notes, and Colonial settlers even paid their taxes in the crop, which was used for all kinds of goods, from rope to fabric to paper. Those Conestoga wagons heading west were covered in canvas fashioned from hemp fibers.

So, he thought having it fly on America’s birthday seemed pretty appropriate.

After its Capitol flight, the flag will make its way back to Colorado, where it will fly over the state capitol building in Denver. After that, Bowman is sending it on a tour of statehouses in states where legislation is pending that would legalize hemp. One of the first up: Vermont.

And while advocates are quick to point out that hemp lacks the THC content beloved by stoners, this will still be one high-flying flag.

Changing of the clerks

The justices of the Supreme Court may be headed off to Europe and other places for the summer, but the high court still made some history this week, with the retirement of William Suter , who’d been the clerk of the court for the past 22 years.

To put this in perspective, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is only the 17th chief justice of the United States. Suter, who’s retiring at the end of August, is just the 19th clerk of the court. (The clerk’s office, among other things, oversees court filings, handles the docket and records all the court’s actions.)

In addition, it’s probably a safe assumption that Suter is — and will forever be — the only clerk of the court in history who has a picture in his office of himself and Elvis Presley in 1958, when Elvis was in basic training at Fort Hood, Tex.

Scott S. Harris , who’s been the Supreme Court’s legal counsel for 11 years, is replacing Suter. Harris was an assistant U.S. attorney before going to the high court in 2002.

Harris is the son of former U.S. attorney and then U.S. District Judge Stanley Harris. Of much more import to Nationals fans, Harris is the grandson of Bucky Harris, the baseball Hall of Fame member who, among other things, was the player-manager of the 1924 Washington Senators baseball team that won the city’s only World Series.

Friend request, overtaken

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul apparently does not subscribe to the maxim of keeping its friends close (never mind its enemies).

A Loop fan tells us that a sign posted outside the embassy written in both Dari and English invites local “friends” to share information they might have gleaned about terrorist activity. The sign, which was posted years ago, we’re told, remains in place even though the security perimeter has grown and tightened so much that the area is no longer accessible to average Afghans.

“The U.S. embassy would be grateful if any of our friends who have information on terrorist activity or threat information to please come to this gate,” the sign reads.

But . . . they can’t.

Maybe it’s time to take down the sign — or assign a new destination for those looking to drop a dime on terrorists?

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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