Tom Angell , Contributor
The non-psychoactive cannabis cousin of marijuana would finally become legal to grow in the United States under a bill overwhelmingly approved by the Senate.
The wide-ranging agriculture and food policy legislation known as the Farm Bill, passed by a vote of 86 – 11 on Thursday, contains provisions to legalize the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp.
The move, championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would also make hemp plants eligible for crop insurance.
“Consumers across America buy hundreds of millions in retail products every year that contain hemp,” McConnell said in a floor speech on Thursday. “But due to outdated federal regulations that do not sufficiently distinguish this industrial crop from its illicit cousin, American farmers have been mostly unable to meet that demand themselves. It’s left consumers with little choice but to buy imported hemp products from foreign-produced hemp.”
McConnell also took to the Senate floor on Tuesday and Wednesday to tout the bill’s hemp legalization provisions in separate speeches.
In April, the GOP leader introduced standalone legislation to legalize hemp, the Hemp Farming Act, the provisions of which were included in the larger Farm Bill when it was unveiled earlier this month.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry approved the bill by a vote of 20-1 two weeks ago.
During that committee markup, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), one of Congress’s most ardent opponents of marijuana law reform, threatened to pursue serious changes to the bill’s hemp provisions on the floor. Namely, he wanted to remove the legalization of derivatives of the cannabis plant, such as cannabidiol (CBD), which is used by many people for medical purposes. But Grassley never ended up filing a floor amendment, allowing hemp supporters to avoid a contentious debate and potentially devastating changes to the bill.
Hemp legalization enjoys broad bipartisan support.
“Legalizing hemp nationwide ends decades of bad policymaking and opens up untold economic opportunity for farmers in Oregon and across the country,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said upon passage of the Farm Bill on Thursday. “Our bipartisan legislation will spur economic growth in rural communities by creating much-needed red, white and blue jobs that pay well. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues to get the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act through the Senate. Today marks a long-overdue, huge step forward for American-grown hemp.”
BIG news for industrial hemp farming! Today, the Senate passed my bipartisan #HempFarmingAct, legislation that would lift a decades-old ban on growing industrial hemp on American soil. #RonReport pic.twitter.com/r0fBzseRIh
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) June 28, 2018
Earlier this month, the Senate approved a nonbinding resolution recognizing hemp’s “growing economic potential.”
“For the first time in 80 years, this bill legalizes hemp. We forget, but hemp was widely grown in the United States throughout the mid-1800s,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) said in a floor speech on Wednesday. “Americans used hemp in fabrics, wine, and paper. Our government treated industrial hemp like any other farm commodity until the early 20th century, when a 1937 law defined it as a narcotic drug, dramatically limiting its growth. This became even worse in 1970 when hemp became a schedule I controlled substance. In Colorado, as is true across the country–I have talked to a lot of colleagues about this–we see hemp as a great opportunity to diversify our farms and manufacture high-margin products for the American people.”
McConnell’s standalone hemp bill currently has 29 cosponsors signed on—17 Democrats, nine Republicans and two independents.
A Congressional Research Service report released last week says that the “global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products.”
House Republican leaders blocked a vote to make hemp legalization part of that chamber’s version of the Farm Bill. But now that the language is included in the version approved by the Senate, it will be part of discussions by the bicameral conference committee that will merge both chambers’ bills into a single piece of legislation to be send to President Trump’s desk. All indications are that McConnell, as the most powerful senator, will fight hard for the survival of his hemp proposal.
A White House statement of administration policy released this week outlining concerns with the Farm Bill does not mention its hemp legalization provisions.
In 2014, McConnell included provisions to allow limited state-authorized hemp research programs in that year’s version of the Farm Bill.
Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner cheered the passage of the new hemp provisions on Thursday..
For farmers across KY, there is no piece of legislation more important than the #FarmBill. I am excited that @SenateMajLdr’s #HempFarmingAct made it into this measure, which will allow states to unleash the full economic potential of our industrial hemp pilot programs. #KyAg365 pic.twitter.com/HjU6OGKNjZ
— Commissioner Quarles (@KYAgCommish) June 28, 2018
Published 2 days ago on May 16, 2018 By Tom Angell
In the latest development in a series of anti-cannabis moves, congressional Republican leadership has blocked consideration of several industrial hemp amendments.
Supporters were seeking to attach the measures to the large-scale Farm Bill, which sets food and agriculture policy for the country, but the House Rules Committee on Wednesday decided that the proposals cannot be considered on the floor.
The anti-cannabis chairman of the panel did, however, reveal that a broader deal for industrial hemp might be in the works.
One of the measures the committee killed, submitted by Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with a bipartisan list of cosponsors, would have legalized hemp and made it eligible for crop insurance.
“Hemp is a crop with a long and rich history in our country,” Comer said in introducing his amendment before the committee. “It was grown by many of our founding fathers.”
Comer, who is a former Kentucky agriculture commissioner, said his state’s existing industrial hemp research program, which is authorized under a previous Farm Bill enacted in 2014, “has been a great success.”
He also spoke about the economic potential of the plant. “Times are tough in rural america,” he said. “For rural Kentuckians, industrial hemp has provided a new crop and business opportunity.”
But in a party-line move, the committee voted 8 to 3 to reject a motion to add Comer’s amendment to the list of proposals approved for floor consideration.
Another hemp amendment, filed by Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Jared Polis (D-CO), would have removed hemp from the list of federally banned substances.
A third proposal, submitted by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), sought to create “a safe harbor for financial institutions that provide services to hemp legitimate businesses” that operate under state-authorized research programs.
“There is a proud history in American and in Kentucky [for hemp] as an agriculture product,” Barr said when testifying for his amendment, noting that it can be used in over 25,000 products.
Under current law, banks that work with legitimate hemp companies “fear reprisal from federal regulators,” Barr said, arguing that his proposed measure would protect financial institutions “from unnecessary interference from bank examiners and regulators” and give producers rights that “every other American crop enjoys.”
The committee did not hold specific votes on those two measures.
Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) has made a consistent practice of blocking cannabis measures from advancing over the past several years.
Sessions, seemingly mistakenly, told Comer during the Wednesday hearing that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has “a clause…that industrial hemp should be declassified under their Schedule I drugs, which they concur, which is the position you hold, too.”
A hemp lobbyist told Marijuana Moment in an email that he had not heard of the DEA taking a pro-hemp position.
Polis, who as a Rules Committee member made the unsuccessful motion to let the full House vote on Comer’s amendment, argued that hemp is a “common sense area” that enjoys bipartisan support. The measure, he said, would simply “treat industrial hemp as the agricultural commodity that it is.”
While Sessions and other GOP panel members were not swayed, the chairman did hint just before the vote that there may still be hope for hemp reform, saying that the issue would be “determined by an agreement that would be reached” with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
McConnell last month filed a hemp legalization bill, which Comer’s amendment closely modeled. Fully a fifth of the Senate is now signed on as cosponsoring that legislation, and the majority leader has already announced plans to attach his hemp language to the version of the Farm Bill being considered by the Senate this month.
While it is unclear what exactly Sessions was suggesting when he referred to an “agreement” with McConnell, it may have been a reference to the conference committee process that will merge the House and Senate’s respective versions of the Farm Bill into a single proposal after each chamber passes its legislation. If McConnell succeeds in attaching hemp legalization to the Senate bill, it would then be up for consideration as part of the final legislation sent to President Trump for signing into law.
In 2014, McConnell successfully inserted a provision to prevent federal interference in hemp research programs in that year’s version of the Farm Bill.
Beth Warren, Louisville Courier Journal Published 11:57 a.m. ET May 1, 2018
A report card of sorts grading hemp’s impact on Kentucky showed these scores:
Eighty-one new full-time jobs. More than $16.7 million in gross product sales. And $7.5 million for farmers.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles included these figures from last year in an April 24 letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul calling hemp’s economic impact “significant.”
“My goal is to make Kentucky an epicenter for hemp farmers and processors,” Quarles wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained this week by Courier Journal.
He said he wants Kentucky to “have a head start in the race against competitors in other states,” as he anticipates Congress will remove the crop from the list of federally controlled substances. McConnell is pushing for this legislative change to remove a barrier inhibiting the versatile plant some call marijuana’s kissing cousin. This would clear up confusion about whether its products are or aren’t legal.
The push to legalize: Mitch McConnell is fighting hard to legalize hemp
Police have fought the legalization of hemp since 2012, complaining that they can’t easily decipher hemp from marijuana, said Tommy Loving, head of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers’ Association.
McConnell was key to the federal “2014 Farm Bill” that gave states the power to allow industrial hemp and to test the market to see if consumers would buy its products — which range from “superfood” seeds to clothing and cannabidiol or CBD oils used to treat headaches. The Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol — a psychoactive compound better known as THC — was limited to 0.3, a negligible amount that won’t allow for a buzz.
In Kentucky, hemp can only be grown with the approval of state agriculture officials while it remains a controlled substance. Quarles said other states have called for help modeling their program after the one Kentucky uses.
Hemp instead of opioids?: Hemp is ‘the next big thing’ in pain management as growth and research expand in Kentucky
Recently, there have been signs that the Thai government is softening its stance on marijuana.
April 30, 2018
For decades, Thailand was one of America’s most resolute allies in the war on drugs. After zero tolerance policies left the Kingdom with the highest rate of incarceration in Asia and a methamphetamine (ya ba) epidemic that not even the most draconian measures could stop, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya shocked the nation in 2016 when he conceded that “the world has lost the war on drugs.” Not only did he suggest legalizing methamphetamine, Koomchaya urged his countrymen to view the drug epidemic through the lens of public health, rather than law enforcement. Today, many hope that this new laissez-faire approach will lead to the legalization of the legendary marijuana that was once among the Kingdom’s most famous and valuable exports.
After the United States built military bases in Thailand during the 1960s and stationed tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers there, the marijuana industry exploded and cheap, powerful pot became as readily available as beer.
“They tie together. Put the stick. Make it nice. Sell for GI easy. One, two, or five for one dollar,” recalled a Thai smuggler who got his start selling pot to U.S. soldiers. “Whatever place GI go, it started whenever they need.”
“With an eighty-cent bottle of gin purchased at the PX,” one Vietnam veteran remembers, “you could trade for a pack of twenty Thai sticks.”
Thai Sticks c. 1974. Photo Michael Ferguson
The first Thai marijuana to reach the United States came in the 1960s via the Army Post Office. The difference between Thai marijuana and most Vietnamese and Cambodian cannabis, was the difference between bathtub corn whiskey and single malt scotch. In 1967, one amazed DEA agent to called it “the Cuban cigar of the marijuana world.”
“Who can forget the first strange-looking Thai Sticks a decade ago! Dense, seedless, stronger than a bull elephant. Years before sophisticated sinsemilla techniques were incorporated into the crop management of U.S. growers,” wrote High Times magazine, the journal of record for pot connoisseurs, “the Thais were, without effort, turning out a superior product.” What sold for $3 per kilo at the farm in Isan, easily fetched $4,000 a kilo in any city in the United States in the early 1970s.
The foreign demand for marijuana produced a boom in Thailand’s poorest region during the 1970s and 80s. North of Udorn on the banks of the Mekong sits Isan, a plateau as large as many American states (62,000 square miles) that floods during monsoon season and is arid and dusty during the dry season. Although rice fields are hard to irrigate and do not yield much, marijuana thrives thanks to the Mekong River, whose tributaries replenish the region with rich, silty soil. Farmers in Northeast Thailand take the same care with their cannabis plants that French vintners take with their grapevines.
“They know how to grow so nice, I mean how to take care of the flower, how to take out the male plant,” said one retired Thai marijuana broker. After they harvested and dried the cannabis sativa flowers (buds), the farmers and their families neatly and uniformly tied them to small bamboo sticks and secured them with threads of hemp fiber.
What made the criminalization of marijuana particularly difficult, not just in Thailand, but certain parts of Southeast Asia, was that it was considered little more than a medicinal or cooking herb with little or no local legal or moral stigma attached. The plant had grown in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam for centuries and various preparations were used to treat: migraine headaches, cholera, malaria, dysentery, asthma, digestion, parasites, and post-childbirth pain.
“Almost every corner, every house, they have it in the yard growing. The older people, they will like it. The working heavy guy, he will like it,” said one retired Thai grower, “but they use for medicine also, when you really feel fever. So if you have nothing there, you can get like one branch, and ground it up.”
Under Thailand’s 1934 Marijuana Act, penalties for any amount of the plant could not exceed one year in prison. When criticized by American officials for tolerating cannabis, Thailand leaders were quick to remind them that drug abuse was not part of their culture.
“The United States has been able to send men to the Moon. It has built sophisticated weapons for its own defense. Why can’t it do anything effective about narcotics getting to its shores,” Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan said in 1977. He reminded the Americans of the rules of capitalism, “Where there are markets, there is bound to be trade, either legal or illegal.” This point was echoed by Alfred McCoy, in his magisterial study, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, “Driven by myopic moralism, U.S. policy ignores the fundamental dynamics of the drug trade. Over the past two centuries, narcotics have become the major global commodities that operate on fluid laws of supply and demand not susceptible to simple repression.”
A load of Thai Sticks Intercepted by Thai police. Photo Bangkok Post.
During the 1980s, the U.S. government was able to convince and coerce Thailand to partner with them in a war against marijuana. In 1988 alone, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted eight “motherships” that carried 463,000 pounds of Southeast Asian marijuana bound for American shores. However, in the end, the “victory” was Pyrrhic because Thai drug users replaced cannabis with methamphetamine that is today responsible for 90 percent of that nation’s drug arrests.
Recently, there have been signs that the Thai government is softening its stance on marijuana. A research team at Rangsit University received permission from Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board and made a cannabis extract spray for cancer patients. In April, Dr. Arthit Uraitat, the rector of Rangsit University, called on Thailand’s military leaders to legalize medical marijuana.
“Be brave. Let us use medical marijuana legally regardless of the method,” he said in a press conference, “Those who have cancer, they cannot wait. They need the help now, so I think we need to take every shortcut possible.”
Last week, a private company called the Thai Cannabis Corporation announced the start of a five-year cannabis project that will cultivate 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of the plant in the next five years. The Royal Project Foundation will oversee this effort and Maejo University will provide research support. Thai Cannabis Corporation’s objective is to establish a low-cost model to grow, harvest, and process cannabis plants into oils and extracts. Initially, they will focus on breeding high CBD (cannabidiol) cannabis strains that contain minimal amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in order to comply with the laws of Thailand. “The mission of the Royal Project Foundation is to research and develop appropriate technology to sustainably improve the quality of life for Thailand’s highland communities. I quite agree with the Thai Cannabis Project,” said the director of the Royal Project Foundation Dr. Vijit Thanormthin.
The Royal Project Foundation was established and funded by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1969. An early advocate of sustainable farming, the king sought to improve the quality of life of Thailand’s hill tribes by replacing opium with other crops and also revitalizing Thailand’s forests and safeguarding their water resources for future generations. Cannabis fits very neatly into the Royal Project Foundation’s mandate given that Thailand’s hill tribes were once the world’s premier marijuana growers. The nation is already exporting packaged food, beverages, essential oils, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and cosmetics. Why not marijuana?
While the Thai Cannabis Corporation hopes to include the marijuana that Thailand was once world famous for in their product line, they will only go as rapidly as the law and Thai government will allow. “The mission of the Thai Cannabis Corporation,” said CEO Timothy Luton, “is to provide an excellent return to shareholders by partnering with Thailand’s farmers and scientific researchers to make, at high volumes and affordable prices, cannabis products that are above reproach.”
Thailand’s slow shift towards marijuana legalization stands in stark contrast to America’s anarchic “Green Rush,” the greatest exhibition of human greed since gold was discovered in California in 1849. Unlike Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, a foreign army has never occupied Thailand and they have staved off foreign invaders for centuries. Generations of Western businessmen have been baffled by their unique and refined Buddhist sensibility that often seems to value mental equilibrium and social grace as much as profit.
However, behind the smile and behind the wai are some of the toughest people on earth. Rapacious western marijuana speculators looking to get rich quick would be wise to heed the words of Townsend Harris, the American envoy to Siam (Thailand), who wrote in 1856: “It is an old saying here [in Bangkok] that those who come here for business should bring one ship loaded with patience, another loaded with presents, and a third ship for carrying away the cargo.”
Peter Maguire is the author of Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade, Facing Death in Cambodia, and Law and War: International Law and American History. He has taught history at Columbia University, Bard College, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Researchers demonstrate hemp’s ability to slow cancer growth and uncover mechanism for its cancer-fighting ability
Results from some of the first studies to examine hemp’s ability to fight cancer show that it might one day be useful as plant-based treatment for ovarian cancer. Hemp is part of the same cannabis family as marijuana but doesn’t have any psychoactive properties or cause addiction.
Sara Biela and Chase Turner, graduate students in the lab of Wasana Sumanasekera at Sullivan University College of Pharmacy in Kentucky, will present new findings tied to hemp’s anti-cancer properties at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting to be held April 21-25 in San Diego.
“Hemp, like marijuana, contains therapeutically valuable components such as cannabidiol, cannabinol, and tetrahydrocannabinol,” explained Biela. “However, unlike marijuana, hemp’s therapeutic ability has not been studied in detail.”
Two new studies examined the therapeutic potential of an extract known as KY-hemp, which is produced from hemp grown in Kentucky. The plant strain, growing conditions and processing techniques were all optimized to produce an extract containing substances with potential therapeutic benefit and to eliminate any residue that could contaminate the product.
In one study, the researchers found that adding various doses of KY-hemp extract to cultured ovarian cells led to significant dose-dependent slowing of cell migration. This finding indicated that the extract might be useful for stopping or slowing down metastasis — the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body.
In a second study, the researchers explored the biology of KY-hemp’s protective effects against ovarian cancer, which they had observed in previous studies. Experiments with cultured ovarian cancer cells showed that KY-hemp slowed the secretion of the interleukin IL-1 beta. Interleukins produce inflammation that can be damaging and has been linked to cancer progression. The hemp-induced slowing of IL-1 β secretion represents a possible biological mechanism responsible for KY-hemp’s anti-cancer effects.
“Our findings from this research as well as prior research show that KY hemp slows ovarian cancer comparable to or even better than the current ovarian cancer drug Cisplatin,” said Turner. “Since Cisplatin exhibits high toxicity, we anticipate that hemp would carry less side effects. However, that needed to be tested in the future.”
The researchers plan to test the extract in mice after they complete additional studies in cultured cancer cells to learn more about how it leads to cancer cell death.
News provided by Medical Marijuana, Inc. 09:00 ET
SAN DIEGO, April 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Medical Marijuana, Inc. (OTC: MJNA), the first publicly traded cannabis company in the United States, announced today that the Company applauds U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s first public announcement of his intention to remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act with the introduction of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018.
Previously, McConnell helped develop new federal and state legal permissions for hemp and even steered hemp into the 2014 Farm Bill. Now, according to McConnell’s public senate announcement on Thursday, April 12, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would remove hemp with less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the controlled substances list. This would include the de-scheduling of all derivatives, extracts and seeds of hemp as long as those portions of the plant remain below the THC requirement.
“During the recent state work period, I talked to a number of farmers, manufacturers, and small business owners who expressed enthusiasm for hemp’s potential, and I was proud to stand with Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles to announce the impending introduction of this bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his senate speech.
The bill would also add hemp as an eligible commodity for the purposes of crop insurance. This allows farmers to access capital for cultivation and production of hemp and hemp products. For hemp research and production, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would make hemp research eligible for competitive grant funding under the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977.
“This bill has such widespread bipartisan support that it is not only being considered to be an amendment to the Farm Bill of 2018, but also a unique bill on its own,” said Medical Marijuana, Inc. CEO Dr. Stuart Titus. “It will take a lot of hard work to make hemp federally legal in the U.S., but we’re happy to have someone of such power and influence working to help make this possible.”
Medical Marijuana, Inc. currently produces its full spectrum hemp oil from industrial hemp grown in Europe. If made into law, this new bill could not only generate a major market opportunity for U.S. farmers to potentially source CBD oil for such products from U.S.-based hemp crops, but it could make hemp cultivation legal federally as well, making CBD oil more affordable and accessible for those in need.
Medical Marijuana, Inc. subsidiary HempMeds®, the company that sells the company’s Real Scientific Hemp Oil™ CBD hemp oil, was the first company to ever bring hemp-based CBD oil products to market in the U.S. in 2012 and was also the first-ever company to receive historic federal government import approvals for its CBD products in the nations of Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay.
International Drug Scheduling; Convention on Psychotropic Substances; Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; Cannabis Plant and Resin; Extracts and Tinctures of Cannabis; Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol; Stereoisomers of Tetrahydrocannabinol; Cannabidiol; Request for Comments
This document has a comment period that ends in 13 days. (04/23/2018)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting interested persons to submit comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of five drug substances. These comments will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the abuse liability and diversion of these drugs. WHO will use this information to consider whether to recommend that certain international restrictions be placed on these drugs. This notice requesting comments is required by the Controlled Substances Act (the CSA).
By Paul Danish April 5, 2018
When U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced last week that he was going to introduce a bill to legalize industrial hemp, there was a sudden collective intake of breath among the nation’s journos, the likes of which hadn’t been heard since the last 4/20 celebration at CU Boulder.
Rand Paul, Kentucky’s other GOP Senator, will be joining McConnell as an original co-sponsor of the bill.
McConnell said his bill would “finally legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.”
He added that he was “optimistic that industrial hemp can become sometime in the future what tobacco was in Kentucky’s past.”
The journos’ surprise stemmed from the fact that the only two demographics in the country that still oppose the legalization of marijuana are Republicans and geezers.
But hemp and U.S. Senators from Kentucky go back a long way. All the way back to Henry Clay.
Clay grew hemp on his estate, Ashland, and was a leader in introducing the crop to the state, importing seeds from Asia.
In 1810, he favored legislation requiring the U.S. Navy to use domestically grown hemp for its rigging. And in 1828, he favored a tariff bill, known as the Tariff of Abominations in the Southern states, that imposed a $60-a-ton duty on imported hemp ($1,100 or $2,400 in today’s dollars, depending on how inflation is calculated).
During the 19th and first part of the 20th century, Kentucky was the country’s major hemp-producing state.
In the 19th century, hemp was mostly grown for fiber. It was used for ship’s sails — the word canvas derives from cannabis –— and lines (or ropes, as land lubbers would say). It was also used for clothing; a lot of the home-made clothing called homespun was made from hemp (as opposed to flax or cotton).
But as a fabric, hemp took a major hit from the invention of the cotton gin, which made the production of cotton fiber more economical.
The extraction of fiber from hemp stalks required them to be dried in the sun and then beaten to break the cellulose inner cores, or hurds, and loosen the fibers from them. Henry Clay had more than 50 slaves to do the job.
(Hemp did benefit from “King Cotton” in one surprising way; hemp cordage was used to bind cotton bales.)
The hemp equivalent of the cotton gin, dubbed the decorticator, wasn’t developed until the 20th century.
Just about the time hemp seemed poised to take off as a major 20th century crop — a 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics described a number of major uses and called it a “New Billion Dollar Crop” — the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed, and hemp became collateral damage from reefer madness. The war on drugs ensued and Cretans finally succeeded in declaring it a controlled substance and outlawing its production outright in 1970.
But it’s hard to keep a good plant down. In 2014, McConnell, with an eye toward resurrecting Kentucky’s hemp industry evidently, attached a rider to the Farm Bill that shielded state industrial hemp research programs from federal meddling.
It was the same year Colorado’s re-legalization of marijuana – and hemp – kicked in. Today 80 percent of U.S. hemp production, while tiny, occurs in Kentucky and Colorado.
Hemp producers usually make a point of saying that you absolutely, positively can’t get high from the hemp they grow. If so, it’s because they’re using strains that have been deliberately bred to have absolutely, positively no THC in them. Other than that, there is absolutely, positively no biological difference between marijuana and hemp.
The difference lies in how they are grown. Hemp plants are grown close together like grass. That way they’ll grow up tall and stringy. Marijuana is planted with the plants further apart, so they can bush out and produce more flowers (or buds as we call ’em). But the individual hemp plants will still produce flowers at the top.
Henry Clay’s hemp would probably get you high, but not very high, just like any pre-1970 hemp crop before the THC was bred out.
Speaking of Henry Clay, hemp is again being grown at Ashland, his estate.
Last October, the Kentucky Hempsters, an advocacy group, held their second annual “hemp-infused” fundraising dinner there, which featured a five-course meal with each dish incorporating hemp foods (sans THC, alas) and show-casing the hemp plant’s edible side.