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Editorial: Asides

Sunday, February 10, 2002

POSSESSION OF PRETZELS and granola bars does not usually lead to drug charges. Airlines, the latest zone of ersatz healthy eating, even pass out pretzels free. But University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire students who snapped up curlicues being handed out last week by a campus group called Students for Sensible Drug Policy found themselves facing prosecution because the free snacks in question contained hemp seeds. Even though it is the flowering tops, leaves and resin of the cannabis plant that contain marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Agency decided last October that possession of the rest of the plant -- the stalks and sterilized seeds, referred to as hemp -- was also illegal. The Sensible Drug Policy Students claim you can't get high from hemp. But we know of at least one case of someone passing out while eating a (presumably hemp-free) pretzel.

VALENTINE'S DAY disporting in Singapore on Thursday will include a night train trip through a wildlife park, inhabited by some 1,000 nocturnal animals. The beasts include sloth bears, swamp deer, lions, one-horned rhinoceroses and a breed of goat -- we are not kidding -- called a screw goat, named for its unique spiraling horns. (The scientific name, perhaps more suitable for a family newspaper, is markhor.) The animals will be doing what nocturnal animals do at night -- which is, mostly, in fact, eat. A candle-lit table with dinner for two runs at $163. There will be no extra charge if the animals do anything else.

A (NON-TALKING) Chihuahua with a preference for Taco Bell has, gone to that great fast food emporium in the sky. Last December, "Mr. Chips," a lookalike for Taco Bell's canine spokesman, was with his owner, Connie Sies, in a McDonald's drive-through in Corvallis, Ore. Ms. Sies stepped partly out of her car to pay the cashier; the car started to roll with only the dog at the wheel. It drifted across the street into, yes, a Taco Bell parking lot. Chips was uninjured, but his heart began failing recently. Don't blame a doggie diet of cheese burritos; Mr. Chips was 15 years old -- 105 in human years.

DIGGING DIRT in Missouri will take on new dignity if state Sen. David Klindt has his way. Sen. Klindt, a farmer from the northwest part of the state, has put a bill in front of the Missouri Legislature designating a particular kind of dirt, Menfro soil, as the official dirt of Missouri. Menfro soil is apparently great stuff. The state Capitol in Jefferson City sits on it. It is found along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the state's major rivers. Soybeans, corn and other grains and hay grow well in it. We didn't ask about hemp. Sen. Klindt's bill seems to be advancing nicely through the Missouri Legislature. The official soil of Pennsylvania, which certainly does not have less dirt than Missouri, is called Hazleton, after a town in the east-central part of the state. It's not surprising that Pennsylvania has official dirt, given the prevalence of the stuff, particularly in Harrisburg, on the banks of the Susquehanna.

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