By Andrew Baker – Sep 20, 2016
One of the things I love most about our industry is that it’s constantly being shaken up. Everywhere you look, there’s an individual or a company taking things to a previously unprecedented level. What’s even more amazing is the pace at which things are moving; a pace that’s only going to increase in speed as the industry becomes more open and recognized.
To help illustrate what I mean, think about this: If you have kids that are, say 5 years old or younger, there is a good chance that you won’t need to teach them how to drive. At least not the way you or I learned. It’s entirely possible that our kids will never have to grab a steering wheel or press a gas pedal.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait while you go ahead and put your brain back together.
But you see, these types of technological advancements aren’t being made in exclusivity. Strides like what I described above aren’t possible simply because the automobile industry is so advanced. The technology that would go into a self-driving car could be repurposed, tweaked just a little bit, and put to use in something like virtual reality. It can, and often does, work the other way around as well.
The cannabis industry is no exception, as we’re starting to see. I really enjoy tech — and I’m obsessed with entrepreneurship — so the flood of cannabis startups is an exciting thing to watch. Typing all this out makes me realize two things. One, I haven’t tackled this sort of topic in any of my previous posts. Two, I’m eager to do so for you guys.
But that’ll have to wait.
What? You thought all of that was to lead up to me covering some sort of futuristic weed tech? Nope. I just needed a good segue to what I’ll be talking about in today’s post. Who, actually, not what.
His name is Mike Lewis and he’s shaking things up in a simple but powerful way and he’s doing it with just his hands and his voice.
Mike Lewis! Who? Mike Lewis!
Aside from any readers I have out of Houston, who got the song reference?
In all seriousness though, Mike Lewis is a name you’ll come to know quite well if you don’t already. We’ll start with the basics. Mike is a proud husband, father, veteran of the United States Army and Kentucky farmer. In 2012, he established Growing Warriors, the first veteran-oriented food security organization.
There are about one million veterans and active duty military personnel receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly referred to as food stamps. It’s also no secret that the unemployment rate among veterans is unacceptably high. (To be fair, it is declining at a considerable rate.) Mike’s answer to this issue? Teach them how to grow and preserve their own food while banding together within their communities. This was accomplished by forming partnerships with cities, veteran hospitals, educational institutions, and community based organizations in order to provide veterans with hands on, curriculum-based learning opportunities. Since it’s inception, Growing Warriors has been able to help dozens of veteran families produce tens of thousands of pounds in organic produce.
Keep in mind that I’m just giving you a brief introduction. Mike’s, and the Growing Warriors’, efforts extend across multiple states and I could easily fill out the rest of this post by diving deep into everything they’re doing. For today, though, I want to bring your attention to what Mike and the Growing Warriors are doing for our industry, specifically the industrial hemp side of things.
Harvesting Liberty With Growing Warriors
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this short documentary film, Harvesting Liberty. Backed and presented by Patagonia, this film aims to address and shed light on the legalization of industrial hemp in the United States. Seriously, stop reading this, open that link in another tab, take the next 12 minutes of your day to watch it, then come back here to finish up and talk to me about what you think.
A couple of years ago, President Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014 — the Farm Bill — into effect. There’s a section of this act titled Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research. Basically, this section allows for universities and state departments of agriculture — in states where hemp is legal to grow — to grow hemp for research or pilot programs. Back in the 1800’s, Kentucky dominated the industrial hemp market. So, it’s quite fitting that a group of Kentucky farmers, Mike and the Growing Warriors, were given permission to cultivate 5 acres.
As soon as they got their seeds, Mike “threw ‘em the ground really quickly before anybody changed their mind.”
American Hemp Flag
I found two things to be really interesting while watching that documentary and doing further research afterward.
First, the way Mike and his team go about processing the harvested hemp into useable materials. Get this: it’s done entirely by hand. When you think about it, that actually makes sense. Industrial hemp hasn’t been cultivated in America since it was listed as a Schedule I controlled substance, so of course there’s no hemp processing machinery just laying around waiting to be used. Even if there was, Mike wanted to use traditional methods to weave what he had in store. More on that in a moment, though.
They begin by using a process known as retting. Put simply, retting is the natural process of allowing moisture and microorganisms to remove the sugars in the stalk that hold all the fibers together. Once the plant has been retted completely, it’s moved to the barn for drying. What follows is called breaking, or decorticating. The hemp stalk is run through a hand powered machine that crushes the stalk and separates each of the fibers. Once separated, the fibers are spun together using spinners that are, once again, hand powered.
The second thing that really caught my interest (and by that I mean it had me grinning from ear to ear) is what they decided to make with the materials that came from this first harvest.
An American Flag. (Not sorry if I’m spoiling anything because I told you to stop and watch the documentary!)
“We made this American ingenuity with people from all walks of life. Life and society are not uniform or standardized in any way. This flag represents the bumps and ridges in our society and the great things that happen when we accept differences and work to solve problems. It represents all of us and our future.”
Nationwide Legalization of Industrial Hemp
On the 4th of July, Mike delivered that flag to Congress along with a speech in support of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015/2016. This act proposes the nationwide legalization of industrial hemp cultivation, something I’ll be digging into in a later article.
Mike takes a stance that you don’t see often in this industry and its activists. While he’s obviously in full support of legalization and bringing industrial hemp farming back to America, he also recognizes the need to take it slow. There’s a lot of mistakes left to be made and we need to let those kinks get worked out before attempting to blow up the market. Not only that, but there’s a ton of misinformation out there when it comes to hemp. Most of the public still doesn’t understand that hemp isn’t the same as its THC-laden counterpart cannabis.
There’s a lot that can be said about Mike Lewis and all the work he’s putting out into the world. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that he’s solid proof that you don’t have to be a high tech startup out of San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, or Denver to effect real change on the cannabis industry. Those types of businesses have their place and I’m rooting for them. I just think it’s important that you don’t forget that there’s a place for you outside of an office space, if that’s where you’d rather be.
By Charles Mason, Bowling Green Daily News,
Possibly half of Kentucky’s nascent industrial hemp industry could be harmed by a policy suggestion offered by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack and other federal officials.
The policy suggestion is part of a larger discussion over the future of industrial hemp in America, which exists in legal limbo. States with legislation in place can allow it be grown under research conditions, but cannabis is still outlawed as a controlled substance.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Thursday that Kentucky is the biggest industrial hemp state in the United States.
“We want Kentucky to be the epicenter for industrial hemp,” Quarles said during a telephone interview.
This set of paragraphs in a federal publication has created some concerns about the future viability of Kentucky’s program.
“The term ‘industrial hemp’ includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of such plant, including seeds of such plant, whether growing or not, that is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a tetrahydrocannabinols concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis,” according to the “Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp” released Aug. 12 in the Federal Register.
Under the parameters, the feds would redefine industrial hemp to include only “historically proven” applications – fiber and seed – excluding other potential applications. The statement from the feds – which is not legally binding – goes on to say that ‘‘tetrahydrocannabinols includes all isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers of tetrahydrocannabinols.”
The Federal Register statement also noted, “… 2014 legalized the growing and cultivating of industrial hemp for research purposes in states where such growth and cultivation is legal under state law, notwithstanding existing federal statutes that would otherwise criminalize such conduct.”
The language in the Federal Register also has a Louisville businessman concerned.
Chad Wilson of Bowling Green, who has a business in Louisville, admits it is early in the process of these national discussions. He sees the Kentucky family farmer and his or her crop options being endangered by the federal policy suggestion.
Wilson is the marketing director for Green Remedy of Louisville, which distributes natural remedies derived from non-industrial hemp applications.
“We created this Kentucky company to help the Kentucky farmer,” Wilson said Thursday during a telephone interview. “We have a right to a better quality of life.”
Kentucky permits 167 research plots for industrial hemp by growers not affiliated with an educational institution and the about 2,200 acres planted is expected to grow in the coming years. Kentucky’s research pilot program is in its third growing season. The program exists because the current Farm Bill offers an exemption to allow the research plots, Quarles said.
“We are trying to create stability for the investors. They are concerned about this policy paper,” Quarles said of the state’s industrial hemp program.
Quarles recently wrote Vilsack and other federal officials to express concerns about the federal government’s approach to narrow Congress’ definition of industrial hemp.
That approach excludes cannabidiol (CBD), which advocates claim has health benefits. Green Remedy’s products derive from CBD.
Quarles said more than half of the industrial hemp acreage cultivated this year by pilot program participants in Kentucky is being used to harvest CBD.
“Freedom, flexibility and latitude to try new methods and applications are essential to the success of any agricultural research pilot program. Industrial hemp research pilot programs are now different,” Quarles wrote Vilsack; Deputy Assistant Administrator Louis Milione of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency; and Associate Commissioner Leslie Kux of the federal Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 12.
The Federal Register statement noted that the USDA, DEA and FDA were still sorting out legalities of permitted industrial hemp programs authorized by states.
The statement wasn’t all potential bad news for Kentucky.
Quarles applauded the decision to allow hemp growers and processors to be eligible for federal loans, grants and other programs.
However, he took exception with the narrowed definition that would shut out non-industrial hemp product applications such as use of hemp parts as food ingredients, as materials for artistic use; or as ingredients for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical or other health-related purposes.
Quarles told the federal administrator that CBD shows “great promise” as an economically viable agricultural product.
“Kentucky’s General Assembly is one of many state legislatures that has expressed their support for continuing and expanding CBD applications and research,” Quarles wrote.
The CBD portion of the plant is the backbone of Wilson’s three-year-old company. Wilson said he used to look at cannabis in the narrow view of marijuana and people getting high, but through personal education about industrial hemp and its non-industrial medicinal applications, “they call me the hemp preacher now,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview.
Green Remedy has less than five employees and Wilson declines to cite specifically what his business is worth except to say that he’s made a “substantial investment” and contracted growers to provide the CBD his business uses.
“This is an opportunity for the middle class to step up and start a business,” Wilson said. “You don’t do something like this and then pull the rug out.”
Wilson and Quarles are both concerned that foreign hemp seed might transcend domestic efforts.
The Statement of Principles calls for prohibiting transfers of hemp seeds and plants across state lines, despite Congress’ “clear intent” to allow such interstate transfers, Quarles noted in the letter.
“I cannot understand why the importation rules should be more restrictive for interstate transfers than for international transfers,” Quarles wrote.
AAcross Kentucky, people who have been denied permission to grow hemp have accused former Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer of refusing applications for political reasons – an allegation Comer has rejected.
David Barhorst, owner of Kentucky Hemp Ventures Inc., who said he was denied a memorandum of understanding to grow hemp, claims the hemp industry in Kentucky is actually under the control of behind-the-scenes individuals.
“Kentucky is in violation of national law and its own state law,” he said. “In essence, the entire hemp industry is illegal in Kentucky.”
Barhorst believes the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Review Committee actually decides who gets the MOUs to grow hemp. So Barhorst and other members of Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association Inc., which provides help to partner-members seeking to grow hemp, tried to find out who was on the committee. Their attempts – which included filing open records requests that asked, among other things, for the names of the review committee’s members and minutes from their meetings – yielded no results, he said.
“We have inquired, asked, prodded for months to find out who’s on it,” Barhorst said.
The Daily News filed an open records request with the KDA, seeking minutes from Hemp Review Committee meetings and a list of the group’s members. Clint Quarles, an attorney for KDA, responded via email, stating that no such records exist.
Nicole Liberto, KDA’s deputy general counsel, said decisions about who gets MOUs for growing hemp rests with KDA. The Hemp Review Committee helps KDA review applications for MOUs but is not officially chartered, she said.
“It’s not any kind of established committee,” she said.
Neither Liberto nor Ryan Quarles, the current commissioner of agriculture, would provide the names of any Hemp Review Committee members.
According to the Industrial Hemp Program’s website, the Hemp Review Committee evaluates MOU applications and will “select certain projects for approval” but is not involved in follow-up inquiries. This group is not mentioned in Senate Bill 50, the state law that establishes state oversight of the industrial hemp program. Federally, Kentucky’s industrial hemp program operates under the the Agricultural Act of 2014 – also known as the Farm Bill, which allowed states to implement hemp research programs.
According to KDA’s website, SB 50’s goal is “to help Kentucky move to the forefront of industrial hemp production and commercialization of hemp products.” SB 50 says hemp licenses come from KDA, but doesn’t indicate that any group within the department is responsible for approving or denying licenses.
Meanwhile, Barhorst believes Comer disbanded the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, a group tasked with establishing a program to license Kentucky hemp growers and oversee a five-year hemp research program, in order for another group – the privately held and similarly named Kentucky Hemp Industry Council – to take control outside the view of the spotlight. The Industrial Hemp Commission has not published meeting records since May 2014, he said.
“What they did was a bait and switch,” Barhorst said.
According to a complaint the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association filed July 1 with Kathryn Gabhart, executive director of Kentucky’s Executive Branch Ethics Commission, the Kentucky Hemp Industry Council was founded in April 2014, about a month before the Industrial Hemp Commission appears to have stopped meeting. In addition, Brian Furnish, who was a member of the Industrial Hemp Commission, was named president of the Hemp Industry Council, the complaint said.
“This is the group we think is behind everything,” Barhorst said.
According to Comer, a Tompkinsville Republican who served as agriculture commissioner from 2012 to January and is currently running for the 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House, the Industrial Hemp Commission was disbanded because its main goal was educating the public on hemp while growing the crop was still illegal, as well as establishing a program to license hemp growers. Therefore, its work was complete, he said.
“Once the Farm Bill passed, it pretty much eliminated the need for a hemp commission,” he said. “It’s an obsolete commission.”
Ryan Quarles, when asked if KDA is affiliated with the newer Hemp Industry Council, said: “We are evaluating the hemp program as a whole and coming up with a series of recommendations for the 2017 crop year, which would include organizations and those who have been interested in the reintroduction of the crop for years.” He would not comment directly on the council or its involvement in the state’s hemp industry.
Jonathan Miller, a member of the Industrial Hemp Commission who now serves as legal counsel for the Hemp Industry Council, confirmed that Furnish is the council’s president as well as an Industrial Hemp Commission member. Miller, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd in Lexington, declined to name any of the council’s other members.
When active, the Industrial Hemp Commission’s meetings mainly concerned the “direction of the industry,” Miller said, adding that the responsibility of steering the industry now belongs to KDA. The Hemp Industry Council is a lobbying group whose main focus has been urging Congress to exclude industrial hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s drug schedule, he said.
According to the Kentucky Secretary of State website, Kentucky Hemp Industry Council Inc. is registered as a nonprofit organization with an office at 250 W. Main St. in Lexington – the same address as a Frost Brown Todd office. The site lists Furnish as president, Dan Caudill as vice president, Steve Bevan as secretary and Josh Hendrix as treasurer.
Furnish did not return phone messages seeking comment.
Bevan, chief operating officer of GenCanna Global, a Winchester-based company originally from Canada that’s partnered with six local farms to grow hemp, according to Newsweek, directed all questions about the council to Miller. Hendrix, who works with Las Vegas-based pharmaceutical company CV Sciences, said the council has no connection to the Industrial Hemp Commission.
Caudill, co-owner of Louisville’s Caudill Seed, did not return messages seeking comment. But Carl Gering, the company’s safety and security director, reached out to the Daily News, saying Comer invited Caudill to be part of the Hemp Industry Council. Gering said the council has been involved with promoting the industry and making sure people know the difference between industrial hemp and recreational marijuana.
The group has no involvement with MOUs, Gering said.
Hemp in Kentucky
In 2011, when Comer was running for agriculture commissioner, his campaign was built partly on reviving industrial hemp, which was once widely grown in Kentucky, he said. Liberals and conservatives alike met this idea with enthusiasm, he said.
During his campaign, Comer educated the public on hemp, making sure people knew the difference between hemp and marijuana. Hemp’s genetic relationship to marijuana has been largely responsible for the illegality of hemp, Comer said.
Cannabis – including both hemp and marijuana – is classified as a Schedule I drug, according to a DEA website. Schedule I also includes heroin, ecstasy and LSD and is a tier reserved for “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” the website said.
According to the KDA website, hemp contains low volumes of tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical. The website also said hemp can be used in the production of numerous goods, including textiles, carpeting, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The Kentucky General Assembly passed SB 50 in 2013 but had to wait a year for the passage of the Farm Bill in 2014 to begin the industrial hemp program.
The Farm Bill’s section governing hemp is brief, saying that “an institution of higher education or a state department of agriculture” is authorized to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes “under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research” and if state law allows it.
The application period for would-be hemp growers comes once a year. The first application cycle during Ryan Quarles’ tenure will open in the fall, according to the KDA website, though no specific date is given.
Complaints and responses
Roger Ford, CEO of Patriot Bioenergy Corp., was also denied an MOU during Comer’s term as commissioner.
“They said we didn’t have enough growing experience even though we have several people who have farming experience and farming equipment,” he said.
Ford said he thinks the fact that Patriot operates out of a Democratic-leaning district was a factor in the denial of the company’s application.
Patriot is located in Pikeville, a part of state House District 94, represented by Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville.
Kathe Andrews, a horticulture scientist whose application for a hemp MOU was denied, said people with far less experience than her have received MOUs from KDA.
“We had everything all set up and they just didn’t give us any reason why they turned us down,” she said. “It was kind of a shock to me. It seemed like it was already decided.”
Because of KDA’s practices, many skilled growers could be forced to leave the state in order to do hemp research, she said.
Andrews and Ford are both members of KHGCA.
According to the group’s ethics complaint, Comer awarded MOUs to registered Republicans and political supporters “exclusively” and excluded or restricted the issuance of MOUs to people or groups who were registered Democrats, were not allied with Comer or were in districts controlled by officials politically opposed to him.
The complaint also argues that Kentucky’s hemp industry violates the Farm Bill, which gives permission to grow hemp to state departments of agriculture and universities, not individual producers or unaffiliated companies.
Miller, the Hemp Industry Council’s legal counsel, who described himself as a Democrat, rejected the notion that Comer or any group inside KDA has denied applications based purely on political reasons.
“Both Commissioner Comer and Commissioner Ryan Quarles are running this in a very nonpartisan way,” he said.
Comer also denied the accusations. “I had no say in who got applications and who didn’t,” he said.
Those who claim KDA’s denials are politically based are probably upset their own applications weren’t up to snuff, Comer said, adding that there are numerous reasons an MOU might be denied.
Because the state’s hemp industry is a pilot program, potential hemp-growing operations must be allied in some way with a university for research purposes, he said.
“If no university wants to fool with you, there’s not much the Department of Agriculture can do,” Comer said.
Numerous individuals and companies have partnered with universities, potentially leaving some schools overburdened and unwilling to take on more partnerships for hemp research, he said.
Neither the Farm Bill nor SB 50 nor any application available on KDA’s website includes language requiring growers to be aligned with a university.
David Williams, director of the University of Kentucky’s Robinson Center for Appalachian Resource Sustainability, which is conducting hemp research under KDA’s program, said the school is not working with any outside hemp growers. Williams also said KDA’s program does not ask would-be growers to partner with any university.
“It’s not required at all,” he said.
Comer said limiting the number of people growing hemp is detrimental to the progress of Kentucky’s hemp pilot program. He said it’s been exciting to watch Kentucky’s hemp industry grow.
“We’ve come a long way in two years and what we’re proving is that it’s not a drug and it’s economically viable,” Comer said.
Hemp has the potential to greatly diversify the state’s agricultural economy and has already proven lucrative for a number of the farmers involved with its production, Comer said.
“Hemp will never be what tobacco was for Kentucky, but it will be another tool in the toolbox,” he said. “My goal on day one and my goal today is for Congress to pass a bill that deregulates hemp.”
Ryan Quarles said the crop, though still in an experimental stage, can provide a great deal of economic development in the state.
“There’s intense interest in the crop. We have people contact our office every week, wanting to invest in Kentucky,” he said. “We’re very excited to see people from across the nation look towards Kentucky as the leader with industrial hemp.”
— Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.
•Editor’s note – The initially published version of this story did not adequately describe the laws governing Kentucky’s industrial hemp industry. The federal Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, gives state departments of agriculture and institutes of higher learning the authority to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. But the Farm Bill does not dictate how a state should operate its hemp program. In instances in which a state law regarding hemp conflicts with the Farm Bill, the Farm Bill supersedes state law. The story has been updated to reflect the accurate information.
Reporter responsible for covering Warren County Government and all things Barren County
The half-acre plot of fledgling plants along a hillside at Cedar Lane Farm puts into perspective the return of hemp to West Virginia soil — a resistance-riddled movement struggling to rise out of infancy.
Owner Dave Hawkins arrives with a few signs to post around the plot warning trespassers that the area is under surveillance.
“Industrial Hemp Research Project; No THC Content — Stay Out!” they read.
After a busy year full of uncertainties, including a rules bill passed during this year’s legislative session that nearly killed hemp research before the seeds were even planted, Hawkins is among a handful of growers around West Virginia who are pioneering the return of hemp.
But jumping through the hoops required by the state Department of Agriculture to attain permits was the easy part.
With the research plots under way, growers are collecting data to be studied by Susanna Wheeler, a master’s agronomy student at West Virginia University.
The data will be crucial to help state lawmakers understand hemp’s potential as a viable crop with myriad uses.
“It validates the purpose of what we’re doing,” said Hawkins, who also owns Mother Earth Foods, the oldest natural food store in the state. “You can say you did research, but if you’re haphazard with it, it doesn’t have much merit.”
While hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, hemp is a separate variety with its own chemical makeup, and it has different cultivation practices than marijuana.
Roots in the ground
On a sticky July afternoon, Hawkins’ eyes lit up when he explained the layout of his three hemp plots.
He purchased five different seed varieties — three suited for fiber production and two for seed production — that were planted on the plots.
One plot wasn’t treated with any fertilizer; the second was treated with manure, and the third with nitrogen-rich blood meal.
After tilling the plots, Hawkins directly seeded them by hand.
“They were starting to come up within three days,” he said of the little plants, most no taller than about half a foot.
“The amended ones will probably perform a little better because of the nutrients in the soil.”
Standing beside him are Morgan Leach, executive director of the West Virginia Hemp Growers Cooperative, and Robbie Kerr, another cooperative member.
The group has been at the forefront of the push to revive hemp production in the state, communicating regularly with Department of Agriculture officials and providing assistance to farmers trying to attain growing permits.
For Leach, a law student at West Virginia University, developing a hemp industry in the state has become a full-time job.
Since January, he’s traveled to a dozen conferences on hemp and cannabis around the country to better understand the industry and network with other advocates.
Leach is helping manage another plot in nearby Vienna on a former Texaco petroleum tank farm along the Ohio River owned by his father, Jim.
They’ve maintained a vegetable garden since the elder Leach purchased the land in 2008; but this year, half of the garden is home to rows of hemp plants.
Their seeds were purchased from a supplier in Italy because they want to use them again next year — something many other suppliers prohibit.
But Leach is also thinking realistically about how the private sector can invest in hemp without risking too much capital.
He pointed to Kentucky as an example, where former tobacco farmers are repurposing their equipment to process and handle hemp, given the slowing of the tobacco industry in recent years.
“No one’s gonna go out and buy a new tractor specifically for hemp production,” Leach said. “They’re going to repurpose the tractors they have to meet whatever demand they have for them.”
With about 20 members, the cooperative has grown over the past several months.
It’s holding a members-only meeting on Aug. 12 in Parkersburg at the Blennerhassett Hotel. Those interested in becoming members can email email@example.com.
Past and present
During World War II, hemp was viewed as a vital resource. Production in the U.S. reached more than 150 million pounds in 1943, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service Report titled “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity.”
That’s why Hawkins doesn’t think government agencies need to reinvent the wheel to learn more about its methods of production.
He’s asked officials with the state Department of Agriculture for U.S. Department of Agriculture documents on hemp from the 1930s and 1940s.
“It was a subsidized crop in the U.S., so you know USDA has some records somewhere about growing [it],” Hawkins said. “The historical significance is, maybe we could learn something from the past.”
Hemp farmer and former state delegate Mike Manypenny agrees.
Running for U.S. Congress in West Virginia’s first district, Manypenny is a longtime proponent of hemp.
He’s conducting four different projects from the plants growing on his quarter-acre plot.
One of those projects is receiving aid from the WVU engineering department and will study hemp’s potential as a high-quality activated carbon, which is used to filter water impurities and flue gas in coal burning power plants, he said.
“There’s a huge demand for activated carbon in West Virginia and globally,” Manypenny said.
Another one of his projects will be studied by Agri Carb Electric Corporation, a newly formed company that hopes to provide technology solutions through advanced hemp-based carbon applications.
Industrial hemp can be carbonized into graphene.
“[We can] use that graphene to develop high-capacity, compact batteries without the need for other metals,” he said.
Manypenny has also been in talks with the Polymer Alliance Zone to discuss another use for hemp as a bioplastic.
“The intent is to basically create downstream industries in West Virginia.”
But hemp’s uses expand far beyond manufacturing and power production.
Manypenny is also using the grains from some of his plant varieties to create malt, used in brewing beer.
“There’s a few microbreweries out there using hemp in their beer as an ingredient,” he said. “We’re gonna determine which varieties have the highest sugar content for making beer.”
All the permit holders have their own visions for hemp in the Mountain State — what they share in common is the belief that it can be a job creator and economic driver in a state slowly migrating away from energy extraction as its primary industry.
From expelling the non-psychoactive cannabidiol from plants for medicinal uses to processing the stalks and hurds for textiles and manufacturing, support for industrial hemp is growing.
Watching a coal-filled barge float slowly down the Ohio River, Leach envisions a future in which the black masses will someday be replaced with green.
Source: WV Gazette
The Sunday Drive: Kentucky, others getting on board with hemp
Posted: Monday, July 11, 2016 11:37 am
By Steve Foley The Winchester Sun | 1 comment
Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act established in 2014 is quickly making it’s presence felt here in the Bluegrass.
That, my friends, is a good thing.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 allowed certain states including Kentucky to start farming hemp again after a ban of almost 60 years.
While it will probably take a few years before we fully know if hemp can replace a significant portion of the income lost with the disappearance of tobacco and coal revenue, there’s a plethora of Kentuckian entrepreneurs, farmers and manufacturers who already are staking their future on it.
The hemp revitalization began soon after Feb. 7, 2014, when the Agricultural Act bill was signed into law. It authorized five-year pilot programs throughout universities and state departments of agriculture.
As of today, there are 28 states including many in the South which have been approved to grow industrial hemp — some for research and some for commercial value. For the next four years, hemp can be grown and processed to produce fiber for textiles, paper and building materials, as well as seed and oil for food, beauty products, biopharmaceuticals and fuel.
It’s been well advertised Kentucky is the epicenter for hemp, as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer have made the state a leader in industrial hemp production.,
Now, farmers across the state including many former tobacco farmers are planting hemp seeds that have been grown in the country since the crop was banned nearly 60 years ago.
Last year, the Kentucky State Department of Agriculture licensed more than 100 programs at universities, private farms and processing sites. One of them is here in Clark County located off Colby Road at Atalo Holdings, Inc, a 27-acre farm of cannabinoid-rich plants.
Last month, Genius Extraction Technologies, a California company the produces hemp and cannabis oil extraction equipment, announced plans to build a new $400,000 hemp processing facility in Winchester.
The facility will be located at Atalo’s Hemp Research Campus on Colby Road, where early testing and setup has been underway since March.
The company expects to process some 250,000 pounds of hemp for commercial uses in the fall for Atalo and its subsidiaries, Super Food Processing and KentuckyCBD.
Across the state, hemp pilot programs have dramatically increased over the past year with hundreds participating and close to 4,500 acres of hemp being planted.
According to a recent report from SurfKY News, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy Executive Director Warren Beeler told the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee Atalo Holdings’ hemp contracts this year cover over half of the 4,500 acres planted statewide.
Atalo got its start with $492,000 in state funds pulled from a 16-year-old settlement between the state and cigarette manufacturers after Kentucky made state-sponsored research legal in 2013, Beeler said.
It was the first project to receive state tobacco settlement dollars for a hemp-related project, the GOAP reported last year, and it is currently processing its product from last year into protein powder and other legal hemp products.
Many other hemp operations are also at work across the state, and most hemp grown are being used for cannabidiol or CBD, a lucrative hemp compound believed to have medicinal benefits.
Kentucky passed a law in 2014 that excludes CBD oil from the definition of marijuana for certain epileptic patients.
CBD oil is just one product in today’s ever increasing hemp market. How large the hemp market will grown remains to be seen.
“How big is the market? We don’t know that,” Beeler said in the same SurfKY News story, telling the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee he hopes hemp production can eventually replace lost tobacco income. “We went from 33 acres (or industrial hemp initially) to somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 to 5,000 this year, and I don’t think anybody much is raising this stuff who doesn’t have a contract or place to get rid of it.
“Who knows where we might be in 20 years?”
Contact Steve Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @SteveFoley8.
It may look like similar to a marijuana plant, but industrial hemp is quite different from its relative.
Industrial hemp production in Kentucky is back under a pilot program introduced in the Farm Bill legislation of 2014. Under the language of that law, farmers in Kentucky and other states began growing industrial hemp through research pilot programs at the state’s universities and Department of Agriculture.
Locally, Mason County farmer Joe Collins is growing five acres of hemp under the pilot program. As the guest speaker recently of the Maysville Rotary Club, Collins explained industrial hemp contains only 0.3 percent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinoids) while marijuana has anywhere from 5-10 percent of THC.
And therein lies the difference: industrial hemp doesn’t get a person “high” and can be used in the manufacture of commodities like clothing and rope.
The first hemp was grown in Kentucky in 1775 in Danville on Clark’s Run Creek. There was a reemergence of hemp production during World War II, but it wasn’t long after that the plant was outlawed and considered a controlled substance.
Kentucky’s earlier settlers brought hemp to the area. Hemp, as well as flax and wool, were the best options for fabric in a region of the country where cotton didn’t grow well.
Counties producing the most hemp were located in the Bluegrass region of the state and were either near or along the Kentucky River. Fayette, Woodford, Shelby, Clark, Scott, Bourbon, Jessamine, Mason, Franklin, Boyle and Lincoln proved to be the largest hemp-producing counties during the 19th century.
During the 1830s, Maysville was the state’s second largest producer of hemp products, bags, rope and twine.
The Old Hemp Warehouse once stood at the corner of Sutton and West Third streets. The building was constructed sometime in the 1840s and later became the Leslie H. Arthur American Legion Post 13.
Research on the property shows that William Phillips sold the property in 1837 to Thomas Shreve for $15,000. In his 1902 will, O.H. P Thomas left the property, then called Wells Warehouse, to his wife, Mary. It was conveyed to the American Legion in 1933 from the Maysville Produce Company.
In 1996, the building and its history were at the center of controversy, when the Mason County Fiscal Court, after seeking other alternatives, voted to have the building razed for a new justice center. The old courthouse was out of space and the Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort financed the construction of the new building.
Newspaper accounts at the time show a divided community, with members of the Mason County Historical Society and the community battling local officials or supporting them.
And although Danville had converted its old hemp warehouse into a student center, no alternative uses could be found for the hemp warehouse in Maysville.
The following history on hemp in Mason County is taken from History of Maysville and Mason County., Ky by G. Glenn Clift, published in 1936.
Unfortunately, the history is brief and doesn’t illustrate just how much this particular crop infused the local economy until its gradual decline following the American Civil War.
“Hemp was formerly the staple crop of the county, reaching its highest yield in 1847. From that time the acreage gradually declined, and today cultivation has entirely ceased.”
“Agricultural interests were boosted in Mason County with the introduction, in the spring of 1853, of a new species oh hemp, the seed for which was brought by L. Maltby from abroad.”
Maltby was in France in 1851 and learned there had been introduced the So-ma or Chinese Hemp, which was found to yield much more than the Russian. It required longer and warmer seasons than those of France to mature the seed, and consequently the seed was raised in Algiers and imported into France to be sown for lint, as it gave a yield one-third greater than the Russian hemp.
He communicated this information to the Maysville press.
“…I brought the seed to this country and in the spring of ’52, Mr. C. A. Marshall and myself both planted seed of it, and I sent some to Louisiana. Mr. M. succeeded in raising seed there, finding it mature about three weeks later than the native plant. In Louisiana it was easily raised…This spring (1853) Captain Peyton J. Key, near this place (Washington) sowed about an acre with this seed. The hemp is now standing, and is some two feet higher than the native hemp sown on the same day in an adjoining piece of ground. It will average nearly ten feet in height, stand thicker on the ground and will not be ready to cut till next week (September 1) – some ten days later than the hemp sown by the side of it. It is of a light green, with a narrow leaf, of deep indentation. It promises to lint very heavily. As far as any comparison can be made with the old variety, in the present green state of both, some farmers think it will give double the lints…”
In 1854, the area suffered a severe drought, which forced higher prices locally….in January 1855, an agent was sent (by farmers) to France and Russia for the express purpose of buying in those countries 30,000 bushels of hemp seed. So severe had been the drought that seed enough could not be found in the United States. The agent was able to procure only 4,000 bushels, which was imported to Mason County at Maysville…”
The following is taken from the Explore Kentucky History website:
“Kentuckians also manufactured hemp into marketable products. The largest use of hemp was in making rope and the woven bagging that bundled cotton bales. Ropewalks turned out thousands of yards of hemp cordage, and factory looms in Lexington, Danville, and Frankfort wove the bagging. Another significant consumer of Kentucky hemp was the United States Navy, which used the rope for ships’ rigging.
Hemp production declined during the Civil War. Although some hemp was still grown in Kentucky at that time, the cotton market in the deep South, and, therefore, the market for cordage and bagging, was cut off. Farmers instead looked to other crops that were more marketable. After the war, the hemp market fluctuated with the cotton market. With slavery abolished, finding labor proved difficult.
Hemp made a strong comeback during the Spanish-American War and again during World War One and World War Two. Although the production of hemp became illegal during the latter part of the 20th century, recent years have seen an increased interest in producing industrial hemp in Kentucky.”
Research for this article conducted at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, Clift’s History of Maysville and Mason County and www.explorekyhistory.ky.gov.
Sergeant discussed issue with deputies, considers matter closed
- By JUSTIN STORY email@example.com
A Bowling Green hemp advocate and business owner claims he was ordered to leave a baseball cap with a hemp leaf logo on it with court security personnel as he entered the Warren County Justice Center on Thursday.
Chad Wilson, who owns Modern Farm Concepts and is vice president of sales and marketing for hemp products company Green Remedy, said he accompanied his son to the justice center to get his driver’s license.
After passing through the metal detectors in the front lobby of the justice center, Wilson, who was wearing a T-shirt and hat promoting Green Remedy, said a deputy told Wilson he would have to leave the hemp-logo hat with court security or else he would have to leave.
Hemp and marijuana are both part of the cannabis plant genus, but hemp is genetically different and generally has negligible amounts of THC, the active chemical in marijuana.
Kentucky and several other states have legalized the cultivation and research of industrial hemp, which can be used in the making of paper, fabrics, cosmetics and several other products. Hemp growers, however, must get permission from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to raise the crop.
Green Remedy is one of 167 registered participants in this year’s Kentucky Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program.
Wilson attempted to explain what was on his hat and that he was a licensed grower, but court security officers said that Wilson’s hat promoted marijuana, Wilson said Friday.
“I was told basically that I had no right to come into a government building that my taxes paid for,” Wilson said. “I didn’t want to make a scene because I was trying to be a good dad, but I should have stood for my rights.”
Wilson said he gave the hat to court security officers, who stored it in a lock box until he left the justice center. As he left, Wilson recorded a video of himself in which he gave an account of the incident and posted it to his Facebook page.
Later on Thursday, Wilson said he went to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to complain about how he was treated and that Chief Deputy Maj. Tommy Smith apologized.
The court security officers are a division of the sheriff’s office.
Sgt. Andy McDowell said he was apprised of the situation after Wilson went to the sheriff’s office and he met with the court security officers on duty to discuss the incident.
Oglala Hemp Grower Counts Coup On Feds
“Hemp! Hemp! Hoka he!” – Alex White Plume
This past Monday, at 1:30 p.m., David Franco, longtime member of Alex White Plume’s legal team, reached White Plume at his home north of Manderson, South Dakota with the news: “You won, Alex! We won! It’s a great victory!”
What they won was the overturning of a lifetime injunction against White Plume stemming from raids and destruction by FBI and DEA agents of two hemp crops on his property in 2001 and 2002. In subsequent actions, White Plume and a family member were charged with eight civil counts related to the growing, cultivation and processing of the plant.
About his lawyer’s call, White Plume said: “I was all by myself. Deb [his wife] was in Denver, so I couldn’t celebrate it with anybody.” The former Oglala Sioux Tribal vice-chairman and chairman (2004-06), said the news was still just sinking in a phone interview with ICTMN a few days later.
The 15-year battle has depleted White Plume personally and financially. “We were charged with conspiracy charges and additional charges. The feds crafted a plan to break me. Instead of criminal charges, they sued me civilly. Now I’m broke: my buffalo are gone, my horses are gone, they took it all. But we’re still standing.”
The ruling in United States vs. Alex White Plume, Percy White Plume, et. al., was described by White Plume as a legal slam-dunk. In a statement, Tim Purdon of Robins Kaplan Law Firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota said: “This order brings some justice to Native America’s first modern-day hemp farmer. For over 10 years, Alex White Plume has been subject to a one-of-a-kind injunction which prevented him from farming hemp.
“The 2014 Farm Bill changed the hemp farming laws for all Americans, but it took this order to put hemp pioneer Alex White Plume on equal footing. It’s a victory for Alex, but also for tribal sovereignty. We continue to urge DOJ to allow America’s sovereign tribes to explore industrial hemp farming under the 2014 Farm Bill in the same way the states have been allowed to.”
All White Plume wanted was a sustainable living for his family on their traditional family lands. After trying a few vegetable crops, he found the semi-arid growing season and soil suitable mainly for prairie grasses fairly daunting.
White Plume hit upon a plan. “The first time I got ahold of some hemp seeds was in 1998. We planted sterilized seeds and it didn’t work out. In ’99 I tried it again with plowed ground. Tom Cook came with some of his seeds and we planted about an acre and a half.” White Plume said it was like magic, the hemp grew really well.
He decided to go slow and keep the crop down to a few acres while he made a lot of contacts to sell his hemp fiber and seeds. Craig Lee, a Kentucky Hemp farmer with Kentucky Hemp and Flax provided useful advice. Alex’s wife Debbie had a pulp maker, and they began to make plans to use the fiber to make hemp paper. White Plume learned all he could, including that it takes hemp seeds a good 10 years to settle into the local soil and environment for optimum crops. Going slow would be wise, he thought.
The 2000 crop was very successful; “Every seed came up healthy,” said White Plume. “In 2001 and 2002 we had a bad drought, but the hemp kept growing strong. Our kids and grandkids planted, we had nothing to be ashamed of – it was hemp, not marijuana. We shared seeds and ideas with other people from other reservations.”
Illustration by Catherine Nichols
Select Kentucky farmers will be growing more hemp in 2016 than at any time since the federal government effectively banned the crop in the 1930s, along with its hallucinogenic cousin, marijuana.
This year, 144 farmers and 10 universities across the state will engage in the third year of pilot research projects in the state that many hope will lead to full restitution of hemp as a commercial fiber, feed and pharmaceutical agent.
“We anticipate over 4,000 acres will be grown in Kentucky this year, which is more than four times the number of acres grown last year,” said Ryan Quarles, the recently elected state agriculture commissioner.
In fact, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture says about 4,500 acres of hemp will be grown for the projects this year, up from 900 acres last year and just 33 acres during the inaugural planting season in 2014.
Permission to grow the crop on an experimental basis is authorized under special language inserted into the federal farm bill by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. Quarles said industrial hemp, once a major Kentucky farm staple, is highly marketable and hopes Congress will one day see it that way and legalize it.
“As long as it is grown and cultivated as part of a pilot program, it can be transported, processed and sold across state lines,” said Jonathan Miller, a spokesman for the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Council. “Each year, the Kentucky projects are getting bigger, more elaborate and more successful.”
Miller said that whether it’s this year, next year or three years from now, he’s confident Congress will “take hemp off the Schedule 1 drug list so it can be turned into an agriculture commodity and we won’t have to deal any more with pilot programs.”
Farmers, producers unite
Josh Hendricks, a Montgomery County farmer, will be growing hemp again this year. He has formed a company, Hendricks Hemp, to be ready for the day he can freely sell his crops anytime, anywhere.
“We are still trying to figure out what varieties grow well here in order to produce whatever you want to produce from a hemp plant, whether it is fiber, grain or CBD,” short for the medically useful compound cannibidiol, said Hendricks.
Since Kentucky growers must align themselves with a processor or manufacturer before they enter the hemp pilot program, Hendricks has become affiliated with C.V. Sciences, a California producer of dietary and health products. The company currently imports hemp from Europe but wants a dependable domestic source and hopes Kentucky and Hendricks will be its prime supplier.
Although Hendricks acknowledges that a farmer would need to grow a considerable number of acres of hemp for it to be highly profitable, he hopes the pilot program will explode into something big.
“We want to see hemp become like any other agriculture commodity in Kentucky,” he said. “I hope it will become something that will put money in the pockets of our farmers. You want to be able to say you have domestically grown, U.S.-grown, Kentucky Proud hemp for sale.”
Research remains focus
University of Kentucky hemp researcher David Williams says the state’s pilot programs focus on production science or production and management protocol to optimize crop yields. UK is a participant in the program and will be growing hemp.
A history lesson, courtesy of Williams: The main uses for hemp a century or more ago are quite different than how it could be used today.
“In the old days it was a major component of rope and heavy linen,” said Williams. “Prior to the invention of steam engines, ships were wind-powered, and the sails were made of hemp cloth. The major recipient of Kentucky hemp then was the U.S. Navy for its ships’ riggings and the sails. Neither of those components is viable today.”
However, Williams says the loss of these old industrial markets is being met by modern needs and technology that provide exciting new possibilities. Among the new applications about which Williams is most excited is the potential for hemp fibers to be a component of injected, molded composite products such as the interior door panels of automobiles or the overhead compartments of airplanes.
“The list is almost unlimited, including bathtubs, furniture and much more,” he said. “If those industries move toward replacement of synthetic fibers with natural fibers, hemp could contribute to that significantly.”
Caution amid wild optimism
Would the legalization of industrial hemp bring a windfall to Kentucky farmers and others? The enthusiasm for reigniting the industry has brought with it outsized hopes that Williams suggests are unlikely to be realized. Instead of a massive cash crop, Williams says, hemp is more likely to be more useful in rotation with other crops.
“I don’t want the public to expect a financial boom. I think that’s an unrealistic expectation,” Williams cautioned. “Realistically, we might think of hemp becoming part of the normal rotation. It won’t replace any of our current crops. Even if the market is highly significant, we still have to grow crops [and raise animals] for food.”
In other words, hemp would have to compete with other farm commodities in the state. The top 10 Kentucky farm commodities are: poultry, livestock, corn, soybeans, cattle and calves, tobacco, dairy products, hay, wheat and pigs. Devoting acreage to hemp instead of another proven commodity might be a gamble, at least for now.
“It would be very difficult for me to imagine that that would be economical,” said Williams.
Quarles, the new state agricultural commissioner, said his great-grandfather grew hemp in Kentucky while his son, Quarles’ grandfather, fought in World War II.
“That was a common story in Kentucky then,” said Quarles. “The federal government actually asked farmers to grow it for the war effort.”