I want to clarify right at the start. We are talking about industrial hemp here, NOT marijuana which is also known as ‘weed', ‘pot', and ‘Mary Jane'. So let's talk about hemp….
There is a difference between hemp and marijuana
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Though both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, industrial hemp does not contain enough levels of the chemical THC to cause a ‘high'. Rolling industrial hemp into a joint and smoking it does nothing, except cause a very big headache.
The 11th Annual Hemp History Week is June 3-9, 2020. Find an event near you.
The Importance of Industrial Hemp
Hemp is gaining in popularity around the world. It is used in health food and beauty products, fabrics and paper, building materials (insulation, fiberboard, concrete blocks), and plastic composite materials (car doors, sinks). The US hemp industry has estimated hemp product sales in 2016 at being about $688 million dollars.
Hemp is very easy to grow. It is not picky at all about the soil it needs, so no fertilizer is needed. No chemicals are used to kill weeds, as hemp plants grow so tall that they block the sun from the weeds. This makes hemp very economical, as well as environmentally friendly, to grow.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams all grew hemp and advocated for hemp production.
Because of its Eco-friendly label and the rising awareness of the health benefits of hemp, hemp products are increasing in demand in the USA. Today, hemp- including oil, seeds, and grain- have to be imported from Europe, China, or Canada. Hemp can be sold and bought in the USA, but not grown.
So why ISN'T industrial hemp farmed in the USA?
Hemp used to be handled just like every other agricultural crop by the US government. In fact, in 1942 during WWII, the US government actually encouraged Americans to farm hemp through a movie titled, “Hemp for Victory”.
Today, the United States is one of the only industrialized nations that federally prohibits the growing of industrial hemp. So what happened? It's all because of a technicality. In the 1970's the Controlled Substances Act was passed. In it “marihuana” is defined as “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L”. This is the same plant that hemp is. This makes hemp illegal to grow in the USA, and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has the right to seize any hemp crops. A farmer can request a permit from the DEA to grow hemp, but the DEA rarely issues such permits.
Progress has been made in the legalization of industrial hemp farming
The 2014 Farm Bill, signed by President Obama in February of 2014, legalizes the farming of hemp for research purposes (Sec. 7606). As of August, 2016, 32 states have legalized industrial hemp farming, per provision Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill; Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. However, the federal law casts over the state law, and farmers who grow without being approved for research risk the seizure of all crops by the DEA.
Industrial Hemp Farming needs to be legalized on a federal level
The legalization of industrial hemp farming by the federal government would benefit the US economy. In 2012, hemp farmers in Canada made about $1000 per acre profit vs the $300 per acre Canadian wheat sold for. Hemp would be a lucrative crop for farmers in the USA. Companies in the US that currently have to import hemp for their products would be able to purchase it from US farmers.
Contact your representatives in Washington, DC and tell them to support the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015.
Currently, there are two bills in limbo in Washington, DC, both titled ‘Industrial Hemp Farming Act'. Both of these bills, S134 and H.R. 525, change the wording of the Controlled Substance Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of “marihuana”. Neither of these bills have been acted on since January. We need to contact our representatives in Washington DC, and urge them to support these bills, and to bring up to vote.
For more information on the legalization of industrial hemp, visit these links:
Vote Hemp: 2014 Farm Bill