By Diego Flammini, Farms.com
In an effort to raise awareness about hemp and its place as a sustainable, versatile and profitable agricultural product, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Vote Hemp are putting together the 6th annual Hemp History Week, set to take place from June 1st – 7th, 2015.
The weeklong celebration, whose theme is “Sow the Seed” will highlight the many different industries that can benefit from hemp crops including manufacturing and cooking.
It will also highlight the spring planting and progress in the states that already allow large-scale hemp farms.
One of, and perhaps the main issue affecting hemp’s place as an agricultural commodity is that it’s closely associated with marijuana.
Here are some things that set hemp apart from marijuana:
- While both marijuana and hemp are classified as the Cannabis sativa, hemp is taller and has less than 0.3% of THC, the chemical responsible for the effects of marijuana.
- When hemp is grown and harvested on a large scale and used for things like oil, wax, soap, rope and paper, it can be classified as agricultural or industrial hemp.
According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, retail sales of all hemp-based products in the United States could be worth approximately $300 million per year.
In 1938, Popular Mechanics deemed hemp the new billion-dollar crop.
Currently there are 13 states in the US that allow for commercial hemp farming: California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
Tell us your thoughts about Hemp History Week and the events taking place. If you’re a hemp farmer, what are some of the myths that need to be dispelled surrounding hemp?
Additional related content…click below to see more :
American Green Inc (OTCMKTS:ERBB) continues to drop farther below $0.01 after eclipsing that support level. The stock does still have a loyal shareholder base that are waiting for a reversal.
On May 5 ERBB said the first of five ZaZZZ machines currently slated for Kentucky made headlines at the state’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program Update in Lexington.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture invited American Green marketing partner Chris Smith of Green Remedy to talk about the future of hemp in the Bluegrass State. Green Remedy, which is comprised of John Salsman, Mike Boone, Chad Wilson, as well as Chris Smith is currently located in Bardstown, KY. They ordered five ZaZZZ machines in February 2015, the first of which was delivered, wrapped and shown off to the public today.
American Green Inc (OTCMKTS:ERBB) ZaZZZ vending machine is a unique automated vending solution designed specifically around American Green’s licensed proprietary patented technology. The machine is designed to make age-verified vending of cannabis products a reality, by providing a layer of authorization using the same systems as pharmacies for purchase regulation. It is designed to facilitate fully unattended purchases inside a dispensary or other regulated cannabis establishment.
The Company launched the ZaZZZ earlier this year in Colorado at a medical marijuana dispensary called Herbal Elements in Eagle Veil. Several days ago AG announced that zazzznetwork.com was online and displaying the first locations to have the age-verifying ZaZZZ product fulfillment machines fully online.
Currently the zazzznetwork.com shows ZaZZZ vending machine installed at Hempful Farms, Inc., in Phoenix, Arizona, AG HQ in Tempe, Arizona, Nature’s Kiss in EngleWood, Colorado, Kind Therapeutics in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Rocky Mountain Miracles in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Natural Herbal Pain Relief in San Jose, California, Pacific Coast in Seattle, Washington, Seattle Caregivers in Seattle, Washington and The Peoples ChampZ in Seattle, Washington.
Carl Kaiser, VP of the Verified Vending division said “As our ZaZZZ machine network expands to more locations, we plan to never stop incorporating new features and improvements. Catering to the early adopters, we left the product selection mostly to their discretion. As we progress, we’ll eventually direct the product selection so ZaZZZ Machines arrive with the images loaded and the inventory available and accounted for. Thus, the sixteen square feet in some random corner of the seller’s facility that currently is occupied by an unused chair and a poster on the wall instantly transforms into revenue-generating floor space for the business.”
ERBB is the brainchild of CEO Stephan Shearin who also serves as ERBB COO. Mr. Shearin has over 15 years of Internet business experience and over 20 years of start-up experience. He graduated from Arizona State University with a Degree in sociology and previously owned an underwater video business on St Thomas and an online bank.
On March 31 ERBB announced a Collaboration Agreement with Endexx to jointly develop the “Access Control Identification & Verification Vending Platform” aka “ACIDVP.” Each company designs and markets systems to address the issues related to the automated dispensing and inventory control of products requiring eligibility verification in compliance with applicable laws for the Marijuana Industry.
Together, they will co-develop and license an Integration and Connectivity Interface Platform to foster required industry standardization. The on-going collaboration also enables the companies to share business relationships leading directly to mutual revenue potential for both organizations.
The scope of the collaboration comprises the establishment of a unified compliance standard for inventory control and verified vending for general adoption by regulators and local jurisdictions in multiple legal markets.
The agreement also calls for collaboration on technology connectivity with the integration of American Green’s “Verify Pay” POS (Point of Sale) system with Endexx’s proprietary M3Hub inventory control, tracking, and process management system and for the joint development, marketing, distribution and licensing of the M3Hub universal interface connectivity platform for all third party “Seed-to-Sale,” POS systems and vending solutions.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 15, 2015) — Agronomists with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment began planting their 2015 hemp research plots May 14 on the university’s Spindletop Research Farm.
This is the second year for UK to conduct industrial hemp research. 2014 was the first year that hemp was legally grown in the state in decades. UK conducted the 2014 pilot project under the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s guidance.
This year’s research projects are funded by several corporations, with administrative support from KDA. Similar to 2014, UK will work in collaboration with scientists from other Kentucky universities. UK agronomists David Williams and Rich Mundell are the lead researchers on the UK projects.
UK researchers will evaluate the yield and fiber quality differences among different harvest times and harvest methods as well as retting times and retting methods. Retting is the process of separating the fiber from the stem. UKAg agronomists will collaborate with researchers at Eastern Kentucky University on this project, which is funded by Sunstrand LLC.
In a second research project, Williams and Mundell will examine the best production method for cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, such as hemp-based cannabidiol, may be used in food and dietary supplements for consumer health and wellness benefits. The pharmaceutical industry is researching them for a variety of therapeutic purposes. CannaVest Corporation funded this project.
Another project, funded by Freedom Feed and Seed, will allow UK researchers to manipulate plant growth rates in the greenhouse and in the field of hemp used for grain and cannabinoid production. They will study specifically whether small plants make the harvest simpler and whether small plants have any yield difference compared to larger plants.
UK researchers will conduct additional projects with Murray State University and Western Kentucky University. In collaboration with Murray State University researchers, UK scientists also will conduct a small variety trial of hemp plants for grain production. UKAg researchers will work with researchers from Western Kentucky University on a project that looks at hemp’s tolerance to agricultural herbicides.
Kentucky Hemp Seed Research and Development Company, a subsidiary of Atalo Holdings, donated a significant amount of seed to the 2015 UK hemp research project.
MEDIA CONTACT: Katie Pratt, 859-257-8774.
Dear Mrs. Krider:
Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts on marijuana. Your views help me represent Kentucky and the nation in the United States Senate.
In your correspondence, you expressed your thoughts on rescheduling marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I controlled substance. Kentuckians continue to combat the negative consequences associated with the cultivation and distribution of marijuana in communities across the state. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2013, approximately 440,000 plants were eradicated in the Commonwealth, over $745,000 worth of assets were seized, and more than 85 weapons were taken off the streets as a result of the marijuana eradication operations. Kentucky carries the dubious distinction of ranking as one of the top marijuana producing states in the nation. Traffickers have been known to trespass on both private and public lands, often resulting in damage to private property and many of the Commonwealth’s most cherished natural habitats.
That is why I recently invited Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the “Drug Czar,” to attend a forum in Northern Kentucky to hear firsthand accounts of the devastating impact of prescription drug and heroin abuse in the Commonwealth. Along with bringing him to the Commonwealth, I continue working to provide law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to combat drug abuse; this effort has included advocating on behalf of several Kentucky counties to ensure their successful inclusion into the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which qualifies them for additional federal assistance to combat drug trafficking threats.
There is no doubt that drug abuse persists as a serious problem in all 120 counties of the Commonwealth, and the effects of such abuse have proved devastating for our local communities. Because of the harm that substances like marijuana and other illegal drugs pose to our society, I oppose their legalization. That said, I will keep your thoughts in mind as the 114th Congress progresses.
Again, thank you for contacting me about this important matter. If you would like to receive periodic updates from my office, please sign up for my eNewsletter at http://www.mcconnell.senate.gov, become a fan of my page on Facebook by visiting http://www.facebook.com/mitchmcconnell or follow my office on Twitter @McConnellPress. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to keep me informed of issues important to you.
UNITED STATES SENATOR
Posted on April 8, 2015 | By Vivian McPeak
Note: I invited Joy Beckerman to guest blog on this important issue. The opinions expressed are her own. – Vivian
MYTHS & REALITIES OF CROSS-POLLINATION
by Joy Beckerman
Oh, the irony. On the one hand, marijuana and hemp activists have been tortured for decades by the DEA’s exceedingly absurd stance that marijuana growers will use industrial hemp fields to camouflage their marijuana plants; and on the other hand, there has recently arisen the hysterical stance by some populations of outdoor marijuana growers that marijuana and industrial hemp fields must be kept extraordinary distances apart in order to avoid cross-pollination. To be sure – whereas the DEA stance is unequivocally non-factual and has no basis in reality, the cross-pollination hysteria is actually grounded in truth, albeit recently a distorted and emotionally-based version of the truth. Greed inspires irrationality. Let’s have an intelligent conversation based in fact because there is no need for hysteria and cross-pollination is a common agricultural issue with a common agricultural solution…and one that would never require a distance of anywhere in the realm of 200 miles between plant species types. We don’t see the State of Kentucky in an uproar. Make no mistake, Kentucky’s Number One cash crop is outdoor marijuana while Kentucky simultaneously is the country’s Number One industrial hemp producer (both feral [i.e. leftover/wild] and deliberate, now that it is legal to cultivate there).
No doubt it will be helpful to found our discussion on a necessary botany lesson, especially since the most common misunderstanding about the “difference” between marijuana and industrial hemp is that “hemp is ‘the male’ and marijuana is ‘the female.’” In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. “Cannabis” is the plant genus, “sativa” is Latin for “sown” or “cultivated” (and is included in many scientific plant species names), and the “L.” we often see associated with Cannabis sativa merely stands for the surname initial of Carl Linnaeus, the Swiss botanist who invented taxonomy. Cannabis sativa is a member of the Cannabaceae family. Within the Cannabis sativa plant species, we have the drug type known as “marijuana” and we have the oilseed and fiber type known as “industrial hemp.”
Both plant types – marijuana and industrial hemp – can be dieocious, which is to say they can be either exclusively male or exclusively female; and they can also be monoecious, which is to say they can have the staminate (i.e. the male pollen-producing part) and pistillate (i.e. the female ovum-producing part) on the same plant. However, marijuana is a high-resin crop generally planted about four feet apart for its medicine or narcotic rich leaves and buds, whereas industrial hemp is a low-resin crop generally planted about four inches apart for its versatile stalk and seed. The different kinds of marijuana are classified as “strains” and the different kinds of industrial hemp are classified as “varieties” and “cultivars.”
Industrial hemp is non-psychoactive with a higher ratio of CBD to THC, thus smoking even several acres of it will not result in achieving a high; conversely, only a memorable headache is achieved, regardless of Herculean effort. Marijuana flower production and industrial hemp production cultivation processes are distinctly different. Finally, there is no such thing as a plant or plant species known as “Cannabis hemp” and “hemp” is not a synonym for “marijuana,” “pot,” or “ganja,” etc. Botanists have argued for ages over whether a separate plant species “Cannabis indica” exists, and that age-old debate is not being addressed here.
The significant difference between the two types that effects cross-pollination and legitimately frightens marijuana growers is that hemp plants go to seed fairly quickly and would thus pollinate any marijuana plants growing in the same field or in a nearby field. This is botanically analogous to field corn and sweet corn, one of which is grown for human consumption, and one of which is grown for animal consumption. Corn producers take great measures to prevent any cross-pollination between their field and sweet corns; including growing the different varieties of corn at different times or making sure there is sufficient distance between the different fields. Either way, these corn producers do what is necessary to ensure that pollen carrying the dominant gene for starch synthesis is kept clear of corn silks borne on plants of the recessive (sweet) variety.
Cross-pollination of hemp with marijuana would significantly reduce the potency of the marijuana plants. While hemp farmers are not going to want marijuana cross-pollinating with their hemp and increasing their hemp’s THC content, it would be entirely more disastrous for the marijuana grower if hemp were to cross-pollinate with their marijuana due to the cost of producing and value of selling medical and adult-use marijuana. The concern is real. The concern is valid. But the concern does not merit the level of hysteria that appears to have arisen in Washington. We must take a note from Kentucky.
Industrial hemp is primarily pollinated by wind, and most pollen travels approximately 100 yards, give or take. Bees, of course, can also pollinate hemp; and bees travel up to three miles from their hives. It is also true that, depending on the weight and size of any plant pollen, combined with other natural conditions, wind-borne pollen can technically travel up to 2,000 miles away from the source. Yes, it’s true, up to 2,000 miles. And also it would be beyond ridiculous to give serious agricultural consideration to this extreme factoid for entirely obvious reasons.
Cannabis case in point: Kentucky. Kentucky may not have legal outdoor marijuana grows, but you’d better believe that – like every other state in the nation – there’s a whole lotta marijuana being deliberately cultivated outdoors; and on quite a grand scale in Kentucky, which state learned centuries ago that Cannabis grows exceedingly well in that climate and soil. Kentucky was always been the heart of our nation’s industrial hemp farmlands, thus Kentucky is covered with more feral hemp than any other state. This issue of marijuana and hemp cross-pollination is old news and no news at all to the marijuana growers of Kentucky, who experience and demonstrate no sense of hysteria like that which has risen up in Washington.
Global industrial hemp leader and professional industrial hemp agrologist Prof. Anndrea Hermann, M.Sc, B.GS, P.Ag., who has been a certified Health Canada THC Sampler since 2005 and is the President of the U.S. Hemp Industries Association, has assisted with creating and reviewing hemp regulations in Canada, the European Union, South Africa, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, and several U.S. States. Anndrea refers to this issue of cross-pollination as the “Cannabis Clash” and “Cannabis Sex 101.” So what is the answer? What is a safe distance between marijuana and hemp fields?
The Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), which is the global agency to which most developed countries subscribe for agricultural purposes, has completed its draft industrial hemp seed certification regulations, which rules include a range from a minimum distance of three (3) feet to a maximum distance of three (3) miles between different pedigrees and cultivars of industrial hemp. This is the same with Health Canada’s industrial hemp regulations. But we are talking about safe distances between two plant types – marijuana and industrial hemp. Absent intense research and collection of hard data that will be interesting to conduct as we move forward and funding becomes available, experts agree that a distance of ten (10) miles between hemp and marijuana fields is exceedingly appropriate to avoid cross-pollination. Or as Anndrea Hermann would say, “a nice, country road drive!”
This is not a complicated issue or a new issue. This is basic agriculture. Marijuana and industrial hemp are best friends and this is no time for them to start picking unnecessary fights with one another. Ten miles, folks; ten miles!
Joy Beckerman is the President Hemp Ace International LLC, and the director of the Hemp Industries Association, Washington Chapter
Hemp Foods and Body Care Retail Market in U.S. Achieves 21.2% Growth in 2014
WASHINGTON, DC — The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, has released final estimates of the size of the 2014 U.S. retail market for hemp products.
Data from market research supports an estimate of total retail sales of hemp food and body care products in the United States at $200 million. Sales of popular hemp items like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps and lotions have continued to skyrocket against the backdrop of the new hemp research provision in the Farm Bill, and increasing grassroots pressure to allow hemp to be grown domestically on a commercial scale once again for U.S. processors and manufacturers. The HIA has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2014 to be at least $620 million.
The sales data on hemp foods and body care, collected by market research firm SPINS, was obtained from natural and conventional retailers, excluding Whole Foods Market, Costco and certain other key establishments, who do not provide sales data — and thus it underestimates actual sales by a factor of at least two and a half. According to the SPINS data, combined U.S. hemp food and body care sales grew in the sampled stores by 21.2% or $14,020,239, over the previous year ending December 31, 2014 to a total of just over $80,042,540. According to SPINS figures, sales in conventional retailers grew by 26.8% in 2014, while sales in natural retailers grew by 16.3%. Indeed, the combined growth of hemp retail sales in the U.S. continues steadily, as annual natural and conventional market percent growth has progressed from 7.3% (2011), to 16.5% (2012), to 24% (2013), to 21.2 in 2014.
“The HIA estimates the total retail value of all hemp products sold in the U.S. to be at least $620 million for 2014,” says Eric Steenstra, Executive Director of the HIA. “Eleven new states have passed legislation and new businesses are rapidly entering the market now that American farmers in a handful of states are finally beginning to grow the crop legally. Challenges remain in the market and there is a need for Congress to pass legislation to allow farmers to grow hemp commercially in order for the market to continue its rapid growth,” continues Steenstra.
When the 2013 farm bill was signed into law in February of 2014, the hemp amendment to the farm bill, Sec. 7606 Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research, defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana in states where hemp is regulated under authorized hemp pilot programs. This was an historic moment in the longstanding effort to legalize hemp as the act asserts that industrial hemp is not psychoactive, having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol on a dry weight basis and therefore presenting no drug value.
The bill further allows for states that have already legalized the crop to cultivate hemp within the parameters of state agriculture departments and research institutions. In 2014, 1831 acres of hemp were licensed in Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont. Many licensees were unable to obtain seed in time to plant due to DEA seed import requirements. We estimate that approximately 125 acres of hemp crops were planted during 2014.
In January of 2015, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in both the House and Senate, H.R. 525 and S. 134 respectively. If passed, the bill would remove all federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, and remove its classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
Currently, 21 states may grow hemp per Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
KENTUCKY — Kentucky Hemp is coming back. Fiber, seed, fuel, oil, and artisan products are simmering in the recently revived hemp industry.
Research and debate about bringing hemp back has circulated since the 1990s, when other countries like Canada and Australia re-legalized hemp production. Finally, last year, the 2014 Farm Bill provided a framework for U.S. state agricultural departments and universities to plant hemp seed on U.S. soil as long as individual state law allows it.
Now, Kentuckians are turning their research and theories into a promising hemp industry.
“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” said Josh Hendrix of the newly formed Kentucky Hemp Industries Association (KYHIA). “We haven’t had a hemp industry for over 70 years.”
He says research is necessary to reduce risk to farmers. His organization and others, who have participated in hemp trials, are testing for the best seeds to plant, and the best way to harvest and process hemp crops. Part of KYHIA’s mission is to disseminate its research and provide education about the hemp industry.
Hemp production was deterred in the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. Then, in 1970, the Controlled Substance Act coupled hemp with the drug, marijuana, making hemp illegal as a narcotic. Hemp does not hold the drug’s THC properties, but the plant is from the same genus, cannabis, and looks similar.
Before 1937, 98% of hemp seed used in the U.S. came from Kentucky. Now, they have no seeds. Hemp trials have used seeds imported from other countries.
“2014 was a celebratory year, just to get seed in the ground,” said Hendrix. “2015 has seen a nice expansion, with 326 applications.”
Kentucky farmers can submit applications to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to participate in the hemp revival. They must provide production plans to be approved, and pass a background check to appease the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Kentucky U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with two Oregon senators, submitted a bill on January 8, 2015, to decouple hemp from marijuana, and remove hemp production from DEA enforcement.
“We don’t know if or when it might become a legal crop,” said David Williams, of the University of Kentucky. “We also do not know how large an industry the market will support. We extrapolate based on data from other markets, but we cannot know exactly what the market will be in the U.S.”
A Promising Market
Kentuckians have deep roots with the hemp plant, and have grand plans for bringing the industry back. Industries, like tobacco and coal, are facing hard times, and hemp may offer both profitable alternatives.
Hemp advocates, like Hendrix, also see hemp as a crop to sustain dwindling family farms, and increase young and new farmers. Artisans can use hemp for cloth, beauty products, teas, and countless other items. The organic market for hemp is also highly profitable and growing.
Seventh generation family farmer, Andy Graves, grows conventional grains like soy, wheat, and corn. His generation is the first in his family to not grow hemp. The Graves family was the top hemp seed producer when hemp was legal, and is set on renewing that legacy.
“The market is so big,” Graves said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface.”
Graves is also the CEO of Atalo Holdings, Inc. The group contracted 5 farms to grow hemp in 2014 and for 2015 they’ve expanded to 26 farms. Atalo has three subsidiaries: Hemp Oil Kentucky, Kenex, and Kentucky Hemp Research and Development — each focuses on seed, fiber, and research and development, respectively.
Oil from seed, Graves said, has a quick return. Once Atalo has a revenue stream from oil, it will invest in fiber operations. Fiber operations have a higher barrier to entry because of the cost of new machinery.
Hemp seed can be harvested using the same equipment as conventional grain. As far as processing, Graves said that seed pressing equipment that is currently used for chia and sesame seeds can also be used for hemp. He will add chia and sesame to his portfolio as well.
Graves is using the most popular hemp seed for oil: Finola, from Finland. Atalo has guaranteed a no loss crop by securing a deal with Hemp Oil Canada to buy any seed Atalo cannot sell.
Atalo has been approved for 356 acres of hemp, and is hoping for up to 500. 10-12 acres will be devoted to organic hemp seed production. Their research and development subsidiary aims to be an educational asset to the hemp industry in the U.S., Graves says.
Hendrix, Graves, and Williams all emphasize that they are building a new industry from the ground up. It will take research and time, but, Hendrix believes they have “the right people, the right place, and the right time” to build the industry and create jobs.
The Hemp Capital of the U.S.
Other groups germinating in the Kentucky hemp industry include The Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association, which focuses on biomass and high capacitance graphene nano-sheets; and Sunstrand LLC, which focuses on industrial fiber. There are many others cropping up. Stay tuned, says Graves, new developments are breaking on Kentucky soil.
The laws may not be set yet, but hemp advocates in Kentucky are confident that their state will soon be known for more than bourbon, and re-claim their name as the ‘Hemp Capital of the U.S.’
Beth Ethier of the Slatest released an article on March 3, 2015 titled Mitch McConnell Wants Hemp in a Farm Near You. Hemp is a member of the cannabis family along with its cousin marijuana. Hemp generally has a minimal amount to THC, which is the active ingredient in medical and recreational marijuana.
McConnell is not pressing for marijuana legalization. He is trying to allow cultivation of hemp in Kentucky under federal laws. The legal status of medical marijuana usage in Kentucky will be discussed below.
The federal government does not differentiate when it classifies all three major cannabis strains as prohibited substances. Cannabis is classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, which also includes heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Schedule I is the most stringent drug classification. There is a federal provision to allow prescribing marijuana components in pill form for medical use.
Hemp is used to make rope, clothes, and many industrial products. Marijuana is used for recreational purposes, as a mood altering alternative to alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs. Its medical uses include treatment for depression, PTSD, and other psychological disorders. Medical marijuana has also been used to prevent epileptic seizures in children. Wikipedia provides some background information on categories of cannabis and its uses.
Ethier’s article points out that McConnell is trying to get the DEA to separate hemp from marijuana under federal laws. With the decline in tobacco cultivation in Kentucky, hemp cultivation could replace the high value tobacco cultivation that has been lost. There are many legitimate uses for hemp that are much more environmentally friendly than the products being replaced.
Because the federal government continues to maintain the dangers of marijuana, the production of hemp is being hampered. North Dakota was the first state to legalize hemp production, but DEA interference in the courts has made it impossible to achieve large scale production of hemp. McConnell’s focus on legalizing hemp production has allowed a test plot of hemp to be planted in Kentucky over DEA legal objections.
Several states and the District of Columbia have totally decriminalized marijuana for all uses. More states have passed laws allowing medicinal use of marijuana. Other states, including Ohio, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Growing or selling marijuana is still a felony in Ohio and most other states. Ohio does not provide for the legal use of medical marijuana.
Michigan allows medical marijuana. Indiana is introducing legislation to allow medical marijuana. According to NORML, Kentucky currently has bills introduced in both houses of state government to provide for medical medical marijuana. The provisions include possession of 15 ounces of marijuana and permits growing six mature plants and six immature plants for patients that are certified for treatment with medical marijuana.
As in the case of same-gender marriages, cannabis legislation has languished in Congress and the federal court system. States are taking the lead in key areas where Congress and the courts have failed to act. If Kentucky moves forward on hemp production, with or without DEA approval, it is another step in legalization of marijuana. The Kentucky medical marijuana provisions are among the most liberal if they are passed.
For the Libertarians and Conservatives that want to get government out of the lives of private citizens, legalization of marijuana and same-gender marriages are two areas that can be justified. Having Senator McConnell trying to get the federal statutes changed for hemp will result in speeding up the legalization of all species of cannabis.
God works in mysterious ways.
Mitch McConnell’s Love Affair with Hemp How the Kentucky senator picked a fight with the DEA and became one of Washington’s top drug policy reformers.
Last May, a shipment of 250 pounds of hemp seeds left Italy destined for Kentucky as part of a pilot project made legal by the 2013 federal farm bill. Kentucky farmers had long hoped for a crop that could fill the void left by the decline of tobacco, and many thought that industrial hemp, which is used in a vast array of products, could be that crop.
The hemp seeds cleared customs in Chicago, but when the cargo landed at the UPS wing of Louisville International Airport, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized it, arguing that importing hemp seeds required an import permit, which could take six months to process. If farmers couldn’t get those seeds into the ground by June 1, the entire first year of the hemp pilot program would be dashed.
The DEA would have succeeded in blocking the seeds from reaching Kentucky farmers and university researchers but for the efforts of the state’s agricultural commissioner, who sued the agency and, most improbably, Mitch McConnell.
McConnell—then the Senate’s minority leader—worked furiously to free the seeds from the DEA’s clutches and continued the pro-hemp drumbeat throughout 2014, as he campaigned for reelection. This year, as Senate majority leader, he’s taken a further step by co-sponsoring the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015. While the farm bill carved out an exception to allow hemp cultivation in Kentucky, the 2015 bill would remove hemp entirely from the list of drugs strictly regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. It would, in essence, legalize hemp production in the United States.
“We are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers,” McConnell told me. “And by exploring innovative ways to use industrial hemp to benefit a variety of Kentucky industries, the pilot programs could help boost our state’s economy and lead to future jobs. … I look forward to seeing industrial hemp prosper in the Commonwealth.”
Yes, Mitch McConnell said that. About hemp.
To grasp how McConnell—the quintessential establishment Republican—came to champion industrial hemp, you must first understand the economics and internal politics of Kentucky, as well as McConnell’s relationship to Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul. It’s also helpful to know that close to $500 million worth of hemp products produced by Canada and other countries is already sold in the United States through such stores as Whole Foods. McConnell’s move also has potential ramifications beyond the marketplace, providing a credible threat to the Controlled Substances Act since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970.
“The fact that Majority Leader McConnell is a co-sponsor of a hemp bill shows how fast the politics are changing on this issue,” said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group that favors reform. (Bill Piper should not be confused with Billy Piper, former McConnell chief of staff and current K Street lobbyist).
The story of how Mitch McConnell evolved on the hemp issue began in 2010. Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, was running to replace the retiring Jim Bunning in the U.S. Senate and spent much of the primary season blasting McConnell, who not only represented the establishment but also supported a different Republican candidate. The McConnell-Paul relationship changed dramatically after Paul prevailed in the primary and McConnell vigorously stepped in to support him in the general election against the Democratic nominee, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.
The bond only grew when Paul came to the Senate in 2011. Paul encouraged McConnell to consider the hemp issue because it was favored by conservatives and Tea Party types, according to two sources familiar with those discussions. McConnell listened.
The other Kentucky Republican who played a role in McConnell’s evolution was Jamie Comer, the state’s newly minted agriculture commissioner. In August 2012, Comer held a news conference before the 49th annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast—a big shindig on the Kentucky politics circuit—to announce that legalization of hemp in the state would be his No. 1 priority in the next legislative session. Paul and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, another Kentucky Republican, were there to support Comer; each later testified in support of Comer’s measure before the state Senate agriculture committee in February 2013, along with Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville.
“I engaged with Jamie Comer,” Yarmuth told me. “He reached out to me. From the beginning it’s been a bipartisan thing.”
In Washington, D.C., McConnell was approached multiple times from hemp supporters back home. After the fourth such approach, the senior senator from Kentucky turned to his chief of staff, Josh Holmes, and said, “We’ve got to look into this.”
If, like the average U.S. senator, you are unfamiliar with the botany of the cannabis plant, here’s a quick primer:
For starters, hemp is sometimes referred to as marijuana’s “cousin,” which is an unhelpful metaphor because hemp and marijuana are actually the same species, Cannabis sativa. They are simply different strains, and they are cultivated and harvested in different ways.
The cannabis plant is dioecious, which means its male and female flowers grow on different plants. This is unusual: Dioecious species—including gingkoes, willows and a few others—make up only 6 percent of all flowering plants.
Hemp is produced after the male plant fertilizes the females—something that happens almost immediately once the plants flower. Marijuana, on the other hand, is produced from the unfertilized flower of the female plant. A person interested in growing marijuana wants only female plants; a plant that shows signs of male flowers is plucked immediately, before it can mature and pollinate the females around it.
Pollen contamination is one of the chief concerns of marijuana growers, legal and illegal, because as soon as a female flower becomes pollinated, she stops making her THC-rich resin and begins focusing entirely on seed production. (Hemp is defined by Kentucky law as containing less than 0.3 percent THC; unfertilized marijuana flowers could have THC levels of 20 percent or more.)
For decades, the law enforcement lobby has peddled anti-hemp talking points that just didn’t add up. During the 2013 farm bill debate, the DEA asserted that, “It can be extremely difficult to distinguish cannabis grown for industrial purposes from cannabis grown for smoking. This is especially true if law enforcement is attempting to make this determination without entering the premises on which the plants are being grown.”
James Higdon is a freelance writer based in Louisville and author of The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History. He can be reached at @jimhigdon. Full disclosure: His father, Jimmy Higdon, is a Republican state senator in the Kentucky state legislature.
Kentucky farmer Andy Graves recently brought his father to see the latest crop on the family farm. Moments before the 89-year-old saw the plants, he could smell them.
“When my dad walked back to see the first fields, his eyes just lit up,” Graves says. “He said the smell was so distinct. There’s no other smell like hemp.”
Hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant, once grew by the acre on the Graves’ family farm, but disappeared after authorities outlawed the crop along with its sister species of marijuana. Even though it contains nearly none of the chemical that gives marijuana its intoxicating agent, hemp has been illegal for decades in the U.S.
But Graves, who planted a small crop last year, was the first of a handful of American farmers allowed to do so under a government research program. Although his latest crop is nothing compared with the 500 acres that once stood during his grandfather’s time, it represents the beginning of a long-awaited economic revolution.
“The business that we’re talking about today is so far and above the business my father saw and knew,” Graves says.
Hemp was once a mainstay for American farmers such as those in the Graves family, but has been outlawed for generations under regulations fearing marijuana cultivation. After decades of advocacy, a boost from the growing national interest in cannabis, rapid legalization and recent bipartisan support from lawmakers, hemp could be coming back in a big, and lucrative, way.
Most people associate hemp with braided bracelets and itchy shirts worn by college students who sip organic green tea in dormitory common rooms across the country. But hemp’s biggest advocates nowadays are more interested in economics than in philosophy.
“The economics alone are enough to convince anyone,” says Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association. Despite the fact that hemp farming is illegal, the U.S. is the world’s biggest consumer of it, importing $580 million worth in 2013, with predicted double-digit percentage growth, according to Steenstra.
Hemp is legally grown in 30 countries around the world. Most of the world’s supply comes from Canada, Steenstra says. After farmers and universities started researching hemp in 1994, Canada authorized industrial production in 1998 — and it’s been paying off.
Canadian farmers are selling hemp for CAD80 cents (64 cents) per pound, while canola sells for roughly CAD18 cents (14 cents) per pound, even though the input costs are roughly the same, according to CBC News.
The marijuana used for smoking and the hemp used for other purposes are both varieties of the same cannabis plant, but different in terms of their chemical makeup and the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is responsible for inducing a high, they contain.
Canada and the European Union define hemp as containing less than 0.3 percent THC, while marijuana can contain anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent. Generally, about 1 percent THC is considered the threshold for marijuana to “have intoxicating potential.”
When harvested, hemp can be used in a variety of ways. The seeds can be processed to create a nutrient-rich oil or a protein-rich meal, while the stalks can be turned into fiber that can be used in products such as fabric or paper.
Opponents of hemp legalization say the plants look too similar to marijuana plants used for other activities, and would give criminals an opportunity to cultivate illegal drugs in plain sight. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, recently told Politico that the “confusion and potential commingling lends itself to an easier path for illegal marijuana growth across the country.”
However, a recent report by the Congressional Research Service outlines a few key differences. Marijuana is cultivated to stay short and bushy to facilitate as many flowers, or buds, as possible, and the plants grow close together. Hemp farmers give their plants more space and encourage them to grow tall and produce one long stalk with just a few leaves.
Above: Hemp plants are cultivated to grow much taller and thin, unlike marijuana plants meant to produce buds, or flowers. Wikimedia Commons
This approach was the most common one used for the tens of thousands of tons of hemp grown every year by American farmers once upon a time.
American farmers have been growing hemp since the late 1800s, according to the Congressional Research Service, citing the Hemp Industries Association. But state governments did have a problem with people growing the flower for psychotropic reasons and sought to restrict its recreational use.
In the 1920s, it was among a handful of regulated drugs in many states. The Uniform Narcotic Drug Act noted that “there is little or no connection between the use of hemp drugs and crime, and that consuming it in moderation “very rarely” led to violence.
The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act defined hemp, along with marijuana, as a narcotic. Although it did not criminalize its production, it did require that all farmers only grow it for medical or industrial use, and register before growing it. They also had to secure a special tax stamp.
Above: Image of a Marihuana revenue stamp $1 1937 issue from the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing Wikimedia Commons
Regardless, production still flourished. In 1943, the U.S. grew 75,000 tons of hemp fiber on a little more than 146,000 acres, and Popular Science estimated the crop size would more than double the next year.
In fact, it was a big part of the World War II effort. In 1942, a U.S. government film urged farmers to grow “hemp for victory,” after outlining how the plant had once been used for everything from the ships at sea to covered wagons of the pioneers, while typically being imported from abroad. But since sources in the Philippines and other parts of Asia were “in the hands of the Japanese,” “American Hemp must meet the needs of our Army and Navy as well as our industries.”
According to the above video, “patriotic farmers” planted 36,000 acres of seed hemp at the government’s request in 1942, with plans for more.
Production continued into the next decade, but soon petered out. By the 1950s, the federal government had imposed mandatory jail time for possession of illegal cannabis. And in 1970 came the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, which included cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, a category defined as “drugs with a high potential for abuse,” which also included heroin and LSD.
But that didn’t stop Americans from buying hemp products. Advocates have been lobbying to bring hemp cultivation back to the U.S. for decades, and things finally seem to be picking up steam.
“It’s becoming ever more ridiculous,” says David Bronner, CEO and president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a longtime advocate of hemp legalization. “Nobody brings up opium when they eat a poppy-seed bagel; this is a very similar situation.”
Above: Bronner: David Bronner tends to his industrial hemp as he stages a protest inside a steel cage, in front of the White House in Washington June 11, 2012. Bronner was protesting federal policy that prevents U.S. farmers from growing industrial hemp. Bronner is CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Bronner gained notoriety in 2012 when he locked himself in a metal cage outside the White House and proceeded to process a handful of hemp plants into enough oil to spread on to a piece of bread. According to the Washington Post, police had to cut him out of the cage with a chainsaw, and he was then charged with possession of marijuana.
But things are slowly changing.
“We’ve had a lot of allies doing a lot of hard work,” Bronner says. “Plus, as marijuana itself is being rescheduled, the debate is moving forward.”
As of February, marijuana is legal for use in some form in 23 states, including two, Colorado and Washington, that allow for recreational use among adults, with Alaska and Oregon planning to join them this year. The past few years have seen marijuana brought to the forefront of policy narratives and public discussion, which has been helping raise hemp’s profile.
In 2013, a majority of Americans polled by Gallup said they were in favor of marijuana legalization for the first time ever, and their sentiments keep going strong.
“They should be separate conversations, but they are influencing each other,” Bronner says.
He’s one of many who have been advocating local production of hemp for decades now. And over the past few years they’ve gotten more and more people on board — including a few politicians.
The 2014 Farm Bill, aka the Agricultural Act of 2014, included a provision to allow some people to begin growing industrial hemp, provided it is for “purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research,” and complies with state law.
This means that a handful of universities and small groups of farmers, including Graves, have grown their first crops this year. With special permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, of course.
But that seems to be just the beginning. And the cause has been gaining traction.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who introduced his first bill on the subject in 2007, has been leading a bipartisan movement to remove hemp from the legal definition of “marihuana.”
This January, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore, introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, and Rep. Thomas Massiel, R-Ky., introduced a companion bill with 50 co-sponsors on both sides of the political aisle.
“Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agricultural industry,” Paul said in a press release last month.
And farmers such as Andy Graves certainly hope that’s true. While he knows the economic benefits of hemp, he’s also quick to point out that he takes a spoonful of the nutritious oil every day.
The family farm used to grow tobacco, but its owners ultimately decided against it more than 15 years ago.
“We realized that we were promoting the use of a product that could kill you,” he says. “Hemp, on the other hand, is nothing but good.”