Sunday, February 24, 2013

CEO says hemp could pay huge dividends

by Ralph B. Davis

PIKEVILLE — While much of the debate over whether to legalize industrial hemp centers around the crop’s potential for a Kentucky agriculture industry that has been decimated by the fall of Big Tobacco, one area business leader says the big money lies in a different direction.

Industrial hemp has been a hot topic of debate in both Frankfort and Washington, as the state Senate passed a bill to legalize the crop in Kentucky, 31-6. The bill faces an uncertain future as it heads to the House of Representatives, as House Speaker Greg Stumbo has publicly expressed reservations about it, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader earlier this month that the issue needs further study, because it is not certain the crop has a market.

Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced a bill last week to legalize the plant nationwide.

Hemp proponents extol its virtues as a means to recover some of the losses caused by the collapse of tobacco. In the 1990s, tobacco averaged over $800 million a year for Kentucky farmers, but that figured has been cut by more than half in recent years.

Meanwhile, Kentucky has a historical legacy as a chief producer of hemp. When the crop was legal, Kentucky produced $5 million worth of the plant in 1850, the crop’s peak production year in the state. That $5 million then would be worth more than $135 million today, when adjusted for inflation.

But Roger Ford, chief executive officer of Patriot Bioenergy, in Pikeville, says both sides are missing the bigger picture — “Nobody’s talking about the energy aspect.”

While growing hemp can open up a new revenue stream for the state’s struggling farmers, Ford said there is far more money to be made by creating value-added products by processing the crop in Kentucky.

“That’s the key to this whole thing,” Ford said. “It’s not about growing it and shipping it somewhere else.”

Ford says hemp could boost the lagging coal industry and help Kentucky become a self-sufficient energy producer through two avenues — biomass and biodiesel.

By burning hemp fiber briquettes with coal, Ford says the local industry could benefit. The added hemp would result in overall lower emissions, giving longevity to the local market at a time when concerns over greenhouse gases are sapping demand.

“This could help coal by creating a locally produced product that could be blended,” Ford said. “We’re not competing with coal. We’re work to find ways to improve and make it more competitive.”

He says Patriot is currently conducting tests to determine the viability of using hemp as a biomass additive to coal, and he expects the results to be favorable. He said his company has also explored other crops, such as sugar beets and sorghum. While the beets would also be a good fit, he said, a low yield-per-acre makes sorghum not cost-effective.

But the biomass aspect of hemp only takes into account the fiber from the stalk of the plant. Another attractive element of hemp, Ford says, is the oil from hemp seed, which he said could be used in the production of biodiesel.

Ford cited a study by the Eastern Kentucky University Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies, which showed that a single commercial bio-finery producing 50 million gallons of biodiesel a year would mean $480 million and 2,000 jobs for the state’s economy. A handful of those refineries, Ford said, could make the state a net producer of energy.

While Ford says such a refinery could produce biodiesel using the oil from hemp or any other suitable plant, University of Connecticut researchers published a study in 2010 finding hemp a “viable and even attractive” feedstock for biodiesel production. Among hemp’s strengths are its ability to “grow like a weed” in infertile soils without requiring a lot of water or fertilizer, as well as a high efficiency of conversion that allows 97 percent of hemp oil to be converted into biodiesel.
The ability to take advantage of infertile soils creates another opportunity for hemp production to find a home within the coal industry, Ford said, because the plant could be grown as a means of reclaiming mine lands. Coal companies could find themselves extracting fossil fuels and growing a renewable energy source, using the same land.

“It creates a strategy not of competition, but of integration and diversification,” Ford said.

Hemp legalization bills introduced to California legislature

By Eric W. Dolan

Farmer holding marijuana hemp plant via Shutterstock

Two California lawmakers, state Sen. Mark Leno (D) and state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R), introduced legislation on Friday to legalize industrial hemp production in the state.
The bills, S.B. 566 and A.B. 1137, would allow non-psychoactive variants of the marijuana plant to be cultivated for industrial purposes.
The legislation would only allow for marijuana plants with “3/10 of 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops” to be grown. Hemp farmers would be required to submit their crop to a DEA-registered laboratory to determine the amount of THC — the main psychoactive component of marijuana. Crops with too much THC would be destroyed.
The legislation notes that California already imports “tens of thousands of acres’ worth of hemp seed, oil, and fiber products that could be produced by California farmers at a more competitive price.” The plant can be used to make a number of products, including foods, fabrics, textiles, papers, bioplastics and biofuels.
Legislation to legalize industrial hemp was reluctantly vetoed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011. The governor said the measure ran afoul of federal law.
“Although I am not signing this measure, I do support a change in federal law,” Brown explained. “Products made from hemp – clothes, food, and bath products – are legally sold in California every day. It is absurd that hemp is being imported into the state, but our farmers cannot grow it.”
The federal government currently does not distinguish between psychoactive and non-psychoactive variants of the marijuana plant, which makes hemp production a serious crime. U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have proposed legislation that would remove the federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The states of Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia have all approved legislation that legalizes hemp production, according to the group Vote Hemp.

Hemp is a vastly underrated energy resource

By S.G. von Schweinitz

Former tobacco growers in Kentucky and elsewhere want to convert their tobacco acreage to growing hemp. Hemp is a very useful high-fiber plant grown around the world, including our country until the 1950s.
It’s an ideal plant for crop rotation and reaches 8 feet to 10 feet tall. Growing hemp requires little or no chemical and pesticides – meaning no toxic runoff into our rivers. This large biomass serves many useful purposes, including plastics for automobiles bodies, carpeting and even hemp oil.
This plant has a very low THC level of up to 1 percent, compared to the marijuana plant of perhaps 10 percent. So our government’s paranoia about this variety of cannabis is not justified and counterproductive. The “greens” ought to love this plant because it consumes carbon dioxide and even reduces our dependence on oil.
Reasonable and self-disciplined Americans ought to resent the government’s attempt to lead us by the nose to show us what’s good for us and what is not. Of course common sense would lead us to legalize marijuana with certain controls, just like alcohol, and save billions of dollars.
Let’s not waste the usefulness of this wonderful plant like we do with our other energy resources.

Should Minnesota Legalize Hemp Production?

A pair of Minnesota legislators teamed up this week to introduce a bipartisan bill aimed at creating an industrial hemp production industry in the state.
Reps. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) and Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) introduced HF 736—also known as the "Industrial Hemp Development Act"—which aims to develop the use of industrial hemp to "improve the state's economy and agricultural vitality."
Industrial hemp, as defined in the legislation, includes all parts and varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa L containing less than three-tenths percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp plants can be used to create fabrics, plastics, paper, ropes and other merchandise.
While it's perfectly legal to own, purchase or sell hemp products in the U.S., industrial hemp growth is still banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a controlled substance. That hasn't stopped a handful of U.S. states like KentuckyWashington and North Dakota from proposing similar legislation to license the technically illegal industry.
Franson and Kahn's bill claims the production of industrial hemp can be regulated to the point that it won't interfere with the "strict regulation of controlled substances in this state."
"The purpose of the Industrial Hemp Development Act is to promote the state economy and agriculture industry by permitting the development of a regulated industrial hemp industry while maintaining strict control of marijuana," the bill reads.
Minnesotans would have to apply to the commissioner of agriculture to be able to grow industrial hemp for commercial purposes, including a full background check by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Legalize Growing Hemp to Improve U.S. Economy


Have you ever wondered why the United States industries and people can not grow and harvest hemp? What's the big deal about this plant and prohibition against it? The reasons range from industrial competition to blatant prejudice and it's "high time" to change our feeling towards a plant that can literally change our economy and lift those up who are struggling against the prison industrial system and lack of jobs.

William Randolph Hurst was an American newspaper publisher who built one of the largest newspaper chains in the country, from the San Francisco Journal to the New York Journal. But he used his power in journalism to launch an extensive campaign against hemp with a vengeance and a monopoly of timber acreage for his newspapers. Hurst had lots of help in destroying the hemp industry. Starting with  Henry J. Anslinger, who was the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to  Lammont Dupont, who developed ways to develop ways to extract fuel and synthetics from wood pulp and patented it.The assault on growing hemp was in full swing. and with the FBI's help, these 3 powerful men lobbied successfully against hemp. After alcohol Prohibition ended in 1933, Anslinger and the FBI then turned their assault to hemp and any products that come from it. 

There was also a dark side to their "demonizing" hemp and that was to go after the African- American population. William Hurst used his newspaper print, along with the county's  immense prejudice toward blacks and immigrants by printing outlandish stories of "crazed" negroes under marijuana's influence-assaulting and raping white women, or lazy-immigrants (mostly Mexicans) smoking pot and thus the term was coined "reefer madness" which has stuck throughout the centuries , including today, 2013.

But that was then and this is now. So what is the hold-up in growing hemp now? George Washington, Thomas Jefferson to name a few, grew acres of hemp and it's uses ranged from making ropes to clothing and bedding to medicinal uses. Our country was founded on the cultivation of hemp and it is time to open up the books again to it's great uses. This country is at a stand-still right now, with lay-offs, GMO foods being produced, and massive amounts of our brothers and sisters incarcerated for growing, smoking or selling marijuana. We can invent new ways to use hemp, and bring back some old uses too to create needed jobs for farmers, jobs for industry, jobs for our young who are struggling to find work, etc. We are the ONLY industrialized country that does not grow hemp and that is the travesty of it all. 

Many states now are considering other ways to bring jobs back to their states and boost state revenues. Viola-even states like Kentucky of all places, where the coal industry has lapsed and farmers are struggling. Now eight states have legislation in congress to be allowed to grow hemp.States like Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington (my state) and West Virginia. With the passage of HR 525 (Industrial Hemp Farming Act 2013) along with the Senate bill 359, which amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp, we could be well on our way to digging ourselves out of this huge hole we are in right now-no jobs-no future. 

For more info on marijuana or hemp legislation-please go to for daily updates across the country and state by state.

US Senate To Consider Hemp Farming Legislation For The First Time

By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

sb 359 hemp

For the first time in modern history, members of the United States Senate have introduced legislation in Congress to allow for the commercial production of industrial hemp. Last week, Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced Senate Bill 359 to amend the US Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
Senator McConnell is the Senate minority leader. He is a former opponent of hemp law reform.
“I am convinced that allowing [hemp] production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy,” Sen. McConnell said in a statement. “The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me.”
Senate Bill 359 is the companion bill to House Bill 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013. That measure has 28 co-sponsors.
Eight states — Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia — have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of HR 525/S 359 would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”
Additional information regarding HR 525/S 359 is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

Oregon State University to offer course on hemp

By Don Iler

Oregon State University will be offering the first course in industrial hemp beginning spring term. The course will be offered online and is the first of its kind in the world.

The three-credit course, WSE 266, is being offered by the College of Forestry’s department of wood science and engineering and will be coordinated by Anndrea Hermann, an instructor in the college.

“It’s an up and coming crop in the United States and we are going to need professionals coming out of academia who are experts in multiple areas,” Hermann said.

Cultivation of hemp is currently illegal in the United States, although importation of it is legal. Hemp is a non-psychoactive relative of cannabis sativa indica or marijuana, and can be used for a variety of purposes. Hemp was once widely grown in the United States but has been banned by the federal government for more than 50 years.

Hermann said hemp can be used in a variety of different applications, from making paper and textiles to food products and biofuels, and the industry stands to grow in the near future. Sales of hemp products exceeded $452 million last year according to the Hemp Industries Association.

Hermann said a variety of students would benefit from the class, anyone from food science students to those interested in fashion and textiles.

The class will look at the historical and political context of hemp, both in the United States and internationally. It will also look at the growing and industrial applications of hemp.

Currently there are two bills in the U.S. Congress to make cultivation of hemp legal again. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, HR 525, is currently going through the House and has 28 co-sponsors. There is also a companion bill going through the Senate — S 359.

Registration for spring term begins Feb. 24.

Bipartisan Hemp, Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress

by Phillip Smith

It's a marijuana policy trifecta on Capitol Hill now: recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, and hemp. Earlier this month, reformist House members filed bills to end federal pot prohibition and tax the trade and last week to legalize hemp. Now, some of those same legislators -- joined by more -- have filed bills that would protect medical marijuana patients and providers and some senators have filed their companion bill to legalize industrial hemp.
Kentucky Republicans McConnell and Paul are supporting hemp legislation in the Senate
Phase II took place Thursday, when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), sponsor of the above-mentioned marijuana tax bill, rolled out House Resolution 689, the States' Medical Marijuana Protection Act; Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced House Resolution 710, the Truth in Trials Act; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and three co-sponsors filed the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, the companion to House Resolution 525.

Blumenauer's bill would grant federal recognition to the use of medical marijuana and remove it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Regulating medical marijuana would be left to the states, and people complying with state medical marijuana laws would be exempt from federal arrest and prosecution.

It was introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship, including Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Michael Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA) ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

"The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act will allow medical marijuana patients and businesses -- who are complying with state law -- the ability to access and distribute marijuana free from federal interference," Blumenauer said. "Nineteen jurisdictions have passed laws recognizing the importance of providing access to medical marijuana for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on it. It is time for the federal government to respect these decisions, and stop inhibiting safe access."

"There is a plethora of scientific evidence establishing marijuana’s medical safety and efficacy and public polling for marijuana law reform is skyrocketing," said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "However, when it comes to marijuana and the federal government, old fashioned politics routinely trumps modern science. The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act offers us hope we will see significant change with its passage. Congress should move swiftly to acknowledge what patients, doctors, researchers and scientists have been telling us for years: marijuana has therapeutic and medicinal benefits," said Tyler.

Farr's Truth in Trials Act is an attempt to restore fairness in federal medical marijuana prosecutions. Because the federal government refuses to recognize marijuana as anything other than a proscribed controlled substance, medical marijuana defendants and their attorneys are barred from even mentioning it or their state laws allowing its use in federal court. That has repeatedly resulted in state law-abiding medical marijuana growers and providers being convicted as drug dealers in federal courts, and sentenced accordingly.

Similar legislation has been introduced in previous years, but made little progress. Now, however, as the Obama administration keeps up the pressure on medical marijuana providers and in the wake of November's election results, supporters hope the bill can gain some traction.

This year's bill is cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jared Polis (D-Co), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

"The federal government for too long has denied due process to defendants who can demonstrate that they were using medical marijuana legally under local or state law," Farr said. "This bill would ensure that all the evidence is heard in a case and not just the evidence that favors conviction."

"Congress has the opportunity to establish a sensible public health policy on medical marijuana, and do what the Obama Administration has been afraid or unwilling to do," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has been working with members of Congress to advance this legislation. "Patient advocates intend to push Congress to take heed of the abundant scientific evidence showing marijuana's medical value, and act in accordance with the overwhelming popular support this issue receives."

ASA is holding its first ever National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference this month in Washington, in part to do a big lobbying push for the bills. Attendees will convene in Washington on Friday, with the four-day conference culminating with a press conference and lobby day on Capitol Hill on Monday.

And then there was hemp. With Sen. Wyden's introduction of a Senate bill, there are now hemp bills in both houses. In addition to Wyden and Democratic and fellow Oregonian Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), the Senate hemp bill has the support of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senate party leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both of whom have also endorsed hemp legislation back home in Kentucky.

"I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul and Senate colleagues, that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide," McConnell said. "During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky's economy and to our farmers and their families."

"The Industrial Hemp Farming Act paves the way to creating jobs across the country -- from Kentucky to Oregon and everywhere else," Paul said. "Allowing American farmers to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our states' economies and bring much-needed jobs in the agriculture community."

The House version of the bill was introduced earlier by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and has 28 cosponsors: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), John Campbell (R-CA), Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Richard Hanna (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Ted Yoho (R-FL).

The hemp bills would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. Specifically, the bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Eight states, including Oregon, have already passed bills providing for legal hemp production, but action in those states is on hold because the DEA refuses to recognize any difference between hemp and marijuana. That means US hemp product manufacturers must import hemp from countries that do recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana.

"Unfortunately, there are some dumb regulations that are hurting economic growth and job creation, and the ban on growing industrial hemp is certainly among them," Wyden said. "The opportunities for American farmers and businesses are obvious here. It's time to boost revenues for farmers and reduce the costs for the businesses around the country that use hemp."

Congress now has a full-blown marijuana agenda on its plate, from pot legalization to industrial hemp to medical marijuana, if it chooses to address it. And, given the overlapping cosponsorships on the various bills, it now appears to have developed a cannabis caucus. We've already come a long way from the days when it was all up to Barney Frank and Ron Paul, and they've just been gone a few weeks.
United States

Advocates say hemp, marijuana could be PA's next cash crop

by Craig Layne


(Lancaster) -- A state senator's effort to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania is being applauded by people who say it could be a valuable cash crop.
State Senator Daylin Leach has proposed legalizing marijuana for recreational use and regulating it much like the sale of alcohol through the state store system.
Advocates say legalizing pot and its relative, industrial hemp, could be an economic boon for the commonwealth.
Lancaster County-based hemp historian Les Stark says the plant has dozens of uses.
"It's a natural, non-toxic, non-lethal, renewable, sustainable resource for food, fuel, fiber, medicine, paper, plastics, fiberboard and thousands of other products," Stark says.
Governor Corbett calls marijuana a "gateway drug" and says he would veto any legalization bill.
The most recent Franklin and Marshall College poll shows 55 percent of respondents oppose legalization.
However, the same survey by the Lancaster-based college reveals 82 percent of those surveyed "strongly" or "somewhat" favor medical marijuana.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hemp Growing Finds Allies of a New Stripe in Kentucky


In the summer of 1952, hemp plants growing wild in a lot in downtown Louisville, Ky., were killed with chemical spray.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — In 1996 the actor Woody Harrelson, who has a sideline as an activist for legalizing marijuana, was arrested in Kentucky for planting four hemp seeds.

Last month Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, announced his support for growing hemp in Kentucky, his home state.
Between those jarringly disparate events lies the evolution of hemp from a countercultural cause to an issue championed by farmers in the heartland and conservative lawmakers.
On Monday, a panel of the Republican-controlled Kentucky State Senate unanimously approved a bill to license hemp growers. It was promoted by the state agriculture commissioner and three members of the state’s Congressional delegation, including Senator Rand Paul, who removed his jacket to testify in a white shirt that he announced was made of hemp fibers.
If the bill is approved by the full Legislature, Kentucky will join eight other states that have adopted laws to allow commercial hemp growing, although the practice is effectively blocked by federal law that makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana.
Mr. Paul, a Republican, said he would seek a waiver from the Obama administration for Kentucky hemp growers, while pressing Congress to delist hemp as a controlled substance, which hemp supporters say is a legacy of antidrug hysteria.
Both plants are the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has only a trace of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp’s champions see it as a source of agricultural jobs, an alternative for struggling tobacco farmers and a wonder plant with uses from bluejeans to building materials.
Attitudes are changing in surprising places. At a hearing on Monday in Frankfort, the Kentucky capital, the state police commissioner’s opposition to hemp growing was challenged by a former C.I.A. director, R. James Woolsey.
“The specter of people getting high on industrial hemp,” Mr. Woolsey said, “is pretty much exactly like saying you can get drunk on O’Doul’s.”
Hemp supporters say it is only a matter of time before legalization comes as people more fully understand the plant. They also point to states where voters legalized recreational marijuana in November — Colorado and Washington — as inevitably forcing a change in priorities in the Obama administration.
“The demonology of hemp is exposed as being not valid,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky, a sponsor of a bill in the House to allow hemp cultivation. He said the movement to accept hemp has the same inevitability that he attributed to acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Still, the federal government has been unyielding. Farmers in states that allow hemp must seek a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration or risk being raided by federal agents and losing their farms.
Dave Monson, a North Dakota wheat farmer and Republican state representative, has held a state hemp license since 2007, when North Dakota legalized cultivation. But he has no plans to plant. “I applied for a D.E.A. license, never got one,” he said.
A spokesman for the drug agency said it did not keep statistics on permits to grow hemp, which it does not distinguish from marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970.
Mr. Monson knows farmers just north of the Canadian border who profitably grow hemp, and he argues that it can be an economic boon. “The more states that do what we have done in North Dakota, if we can keep the pressure on, I think we’re going to see some movement at the federal level,” he said.
Hemp supporters claim a total retail value of products containing hemp at more than $400 million in the United States. But a Congressional Research Service report last year found that imported hemp raw materials was small, only $11.5 million. All hemp used in United States today — such as in Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps sold at Whole Foods — is imported, mostly from China.
Rodney Brewer, the commissioner of the Kentucky State Police, said that if hemp farming were legal, marijuana growers would hide their plants in hemp fields and the police could not tell them apart.
“They are identical in appearance when it comes to the naked eye,” Mr. Brewer said, predicting that legalizing hemp would create a boom for pot growers.
But Mr. Woolsey, who said he favored hemp because of “my interest in prosperity for rural America,” argued that no pot farmer would hide plants in a hemp field for fear that low-potency hemp would cross-pollinate with marijuana and lower the concentration of THC, its psychoactive ingredient.
Marijuana growers “hate the idea of having industrial hemp anywhere near,” he said.
The Kentucky bill faces resistance from some lawmakers, including the speaker of the State House.
Mr. Paul, after calling attention to his hemp shirt at the hearing in Frankfort, seemed to roll his eyes when he said, “You’d think you’re at a D.E.A. hearing.”
“This is a hearing about a crop,” he said. “It’s a crop that’s legal everywhere else in the world except the United States.”
Mr. Paul, elected in 2010 with Tea Party support, promised to introduce a Senate bill as a companion to the pro-hemp bill in the House, which has 28 co-sponsors. He is following in the family footsteps, since the first House bill allowing hemp was introduced several years ago by his father, Ron Paul, a former Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate. Ron Paul’s embrace of the issue fit his deep libertarian streak, which also at times embraced legalizing marijuana and other drugs.
Those positions placed hemp far outside the mainstream in many lawmakers’ minds, just as the image of its products — soaps, sandals and natural foods sold at co-ops — placed it in a counterculture.
But no better sign exists that hemp’s image is changing than its embrace by Mr. McConnell, the minority leader, who said in a statement last month that his mind had been changed “after long discussions” with Rand Paul and the Kentucky agriculture commissioner, James Comer, a Republican.
“The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real,” Mr. McConnell said. 

Hemp – the super crop?

By Billy Ray Hughes

RICHMOND — Congress never intended for the cultivation of hemp to be halted.

“The production and sale of hemp and its products for industrial purposes will not be adversely affected by this bill” was the assurance given to the U.S. Senate when the Marijuana Tax Act (MTA) of 1937 was presented.

Henry Anslinger, commissioner of narcotics at the Treasury Department, assured the acting chair of the subcommittee hearings, saying: “I would say they (hemp growers) are not only amply protected under this act, but they can go ahead and raise hemp as they have always done it.”

The Narcotics Bureau later placed restrictions on farmers that had the effect of making it impossible to cost-effectively cultivate hemp. The Controlled Substance Act (CSA) of 1970 adopted, verbatim, the language regarding hemp from the MTA of 1937.  

The records indicate that it was Congress’s intention that the hemp industry be protected because of the crop’s importance. In fact, in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed National Defense Industrial Resources Preparedness Executive Order 12919, which listed hemp among the essential agricultural products that should be stocked for national security purposes.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) does not distinguish between hemp and marijuana although there are major differences. Hemp has less that 1 percent THC (the “high” producing component) compared to 5  to 20 percent THC content for marijuana.

Hemp is planted close together to promote long stalks whereas marijuana is spaced apart to allow the plant to become bushy. Hemp is harvested five to six weeks before marijuana. Cross pollination of hemp with marijuana greatly dilutes the THC level. Some studies have shown cross pollination to take place on plots as far as five miles apart.  

There is a growing movement in Washington to differentiate between hemp and marijuana. Kentucky’s two U.S. Senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, have been vocal in this movement. Thirty nations allow cultivation of hemp, and the United States imports all its hemp products. Six states have already defined hemp as distinct and several other states (including Kentucky) have pro-hemp legislation pending. The states that have enacted legislation will be poised to grow when Congress passes the necessary legislation.  

What is so good about hemp? Could the benefits of hemp come close to making it a “super” crop? Kentucky has a rich history of hemp production. There are plenty of residents who recall seeing hemp fields here in Madison County. Many are aware of the long fibers in hemp plants that made it ideal for making rope.

Europe uses hemp for textile purposes as it is twice as strong as cotton and requires no chemical pesticides. Hemp is used for paper production, and paper made from hemp lasts three times longer than paper made from wood. Hemp paper production does not require the toxic substances wood paper production requires.

Hemp seeds and hemp seed oils are becoming more popular ingredients in food and cosmetics. Hemp oil, like fish oils, is high in omega-3, which has been advised by the FDA as a way to help reduce coronary heart disease. Because of environmental contaminants like mercury in fish oil supplements, hemp oil products are gaining popularity as a substitute source of omega-3.

Canadian producers use hemp to manufacture an assortment of body-care products. Hemp pulp is used to make lightweight boards and floor coverings in China. Automotive companies are moving towards hemp and other sustainable sources as alternatives to fiberglass and petroleum-based plastics. Hemcrete is a building system that combines hemp fiber with a lime binder for seamless wall construction and floor and roof insulation. Hemcrete is 50 percent lighter than concrete but up to seven times stronger, and is more elastic and less susceptible to cracking.  

Hemp also holds significant potential for biofuel production. Because of its heartiness, hemp is cited as a crop that could yield biofuels without competing with food products. Because of its carbon exchange, rate hemp cultivation has potential for combating climate change.

In the United Kingdom hemp is being grown as part of a carbon offsetting program. New hemp based products continue to be developed.

Kentucky has the potential to be at the forefront of a brand new industry by being ready to take advantage of this opportunity. There is bipartisan support for this legislation as well as support from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

You should contact your legislator as ask them to support establishing hemp as a legitimate crop. 

Hemp Is Harmless, a Potential Economic Miracle, and Still Illegal in America, but the Tide Seems to Be Turning

By Steven Wishnia

Powerful politicians across the country are pushing to bring hemp back.
The American hemp industry, revived in the 1990s in a wave of cannabis-fueled environmentalism, now sells $450 million a year of products from hemp-oil soap to hemp-coned speakers for guitar amplifiers, according to an industry trade group. Yet all the raw material used for these products, from fiber to hempseed oil, has to be imported, as it’s still illegal to grow hemp in the United States.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, introduced in the House on February 6 by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), would end that. It would amend federal drug law to legalize growing cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. Its 28 cosponsors include Kentucky Republican John Yarmuth and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. Mostly Democrats, they span a geographic and ideological spectrum from Dan Benishek, a conservative Republican from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to Barbara Lee of Oakland, California, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

“Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers,” Massie said in a statement announcing the bill. “Tobacco is no longer a viable crop for many of us in Kentucky and we understand how hard it is for a family farm to turn a profit. Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed.”

Similar legislation failed to get even a committee hearing in the 2011-12 session of Congress, but supporters are optimistic. On Feb. 14, four senators—Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley—introduced a companion bill.

McConnell also recently endorsed a Kentucky state bill to allow hemp farming if the federal law was changed to permit it. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is pushing that measure, against opposition from police groups who claim it would make it difficult to enforce the laws against growing marijuana. The Kentucky Senate’s agriculture committee approved it unanimously on Feb. 11.

“The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me,” McConnell said in a statement issued January 31. Hemp Industries Association spokesperson Tom Murphy says the e-mail he got with that news had the subject line “Are you sitting down?”

Hemp plants grown to produce oil or fiber are of the same species as cannabis grown for marijuana, but their genetics and the way they are cultivated are as different as a Chihuahua and a Great Dane. Cannabis plants grown for marijuana are bred for high THC and given enough space to branch out so they can produce buds. Cannabis plants grown for hemp have much lower THC and are packed densely—typically 35 to 50 per square foot—because the stalks are the most valuable part. 

Cannabis’ first known use for fiber, in Taiwan about 8000 BCE, predates its first known use as an intoxicant by thousands of years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, hemp was a significant crop in the U.S., with Kentucky the main producer and the fibers used to make rope, cloth and paper. The industry declined in the late 19th century, as technological advances made cotton easier to harvest and process, and sisal and jute imports from Asia provided cheaper materials for rope. 

By 1937, when the federal Marihuana Tax Act levied a punitive $100-an-ounce tax on marijuana, hemp was not an important enough crop to be included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual “Farm Outlook” forecast. The 1937 law did not actually outlaw the cannabis plant, and it exempted hemp stalks and products such as fiber or oil, but it required growers to pay $1 to get a permit from the federal government—not an insignificant sum in the Depression, when millions of farmers made less than $12 a week. (No sustainable evidence supports the widespread belief that marijuana prohibition was pushed through by a Hearst-DuPont-governmental conspiracy to eliminate hemp as competition for wood-pulp paper, nylon, and polyester.)

Hemp farming revived briefly during World War II, after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines cut off the supply of sisal, but by the late 1950s, it was gone. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 defined growing any cannabis plant as cultivation of marijuana, a felony. 

As federal drug law bases penalties on quantity, on the number of plants grown, the densely packed cultivation of hemp plants would thus bring harsher punishment than a marijuana plot of the same size. Growing hemp on a plot 100 by 10 feet—less than 1/40 of an acre—“is enough to get 20 to life,” says Murphy. Even if the federal government did not want to prosecute hemp farmers, he adds, it could seize their property and equipment as tools of crime. Under forfeiture law, the farmer would have to prove his or her innocence in court to get anything back. 

From 2000 to 2002, an Oglala Sioux farm family tried to grow hemp on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, but Drug Enforcement Administration agents destroyed their crop each year. In 2006, the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Controlled Substances Act prohibited growing any kind of cannabis, and that federal law superseded the permission they’d received from the Oglala tribal government. 

As with medical marijuana, state governments have been friendlier to hemp. Eight states (Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) have enacted laws legalizing farming, using the 0.3 percent THC standard to distinguish it from marijuana. Colorado’s Amendment 64, the marijuana-legalization initiative passed by voters there last November, directs the state legislature to enact regulations for hemp farming by July 2014. Eleven more states have approved other pro-hemp measures, such as authorizing studies or passing resolutions urging the federal government to legalize it. California’s legislature voted to create a pilot hemp-farming project in several counties in 2011, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, citing the federal ban.

North Dakota granted a hemp-farming license to state Rep. David Monson in 2007, but he was never legally able to grow any. He filed two lawsuits against the DEA challenging the prohibition, but in 2010, the Eighth Circuit turned him down, upholding a lower-court ruling that as hemp was cannabis sativa, it was legally the same as marijuana.

Canada, however, distinguishes between the two varieties of the plant. It legalized hemp cultivation in 1998. Farmers must be licensed and obtain approved low-THC seeds. Plants can be tested to ensure they contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Hemp is also legal in about 30 other countries, with China and France (where it was never outlawed) the leading producers. Eastern European countries like Romania and Hungary are trying to revive and modernize their hemp industries.

“You could outlaw heroin, but you don’t have to outlaw poppy seeds on your bagel or muffin,” says Eric Steenstra, head of the VoteHemp lobbying group. “It’s not like anybody’s going out to the Canadian hemp fields and stealing it and smoking it.” 
The Kentucky bill would require hemp farms to have at least 10 acres.

Inside the Hemp Industry
Despite the federal ban on growing hemp, the industry has grown. In 2011, the Hemp Industries Association estimated U.S. hemp-product sales at $450 million, with about $130 million from food and body-care products such as Dr. Bronner’s hemp-oil soap and the Body Shop’s hemp hand lotion, and the rest from clothing, auto parts, building materials, and more. As no hemp is legally grown in the U.S., it has to be imported—and imports of hemp raw materials reached $11.5 million in 2011, more than quadruple what they were in 2000, according to federal trade statistics. 

“Even after the Great Recession, the hemp industry continues to grow,” says the HIA’s Tom Murphy. Canada provides most of the seeds and oil used in food and body-care products, China most of the fiber used in textiles, and Europe a mixture of seeds, hurds, and fiber, he adds.

The industry hasn’t grown in the direction expected when it began. The original ’90s “hempsters” were mostly pot-legalization activists inspired by the hemp-can-save-the-world vision of the late Jack Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes. If we used hemp for paper and clothing, they believed, we wouldn’t have to clearcut forests for pulp or spray cotton fields with weed-killers and insecticide. 

The problem, says Steenstra, was that many hempsters were motivated by “great love for the plant,” but “didn’t have any background in retail.” Imported hemp was expensive. There were practical obstacles to manufacturing and marketing hemp paper and fabrics. The result was a major shakeout of businesses in the late ’90s. Hemp Times magazine, a High Times spinoff covering the hemp trade, folded in 1999. Steenstra and his business partner, Steve DeAngelo, sold their hemp-clothing company, Ecolution. (DeAngelo now runs the massive Harborside medical-marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.) 

Instead, the main growth has been in food and body-care products, auto and airplane parts, and construction materials. The DEA attempted to ban food products made from hempseed meal or oil, but in 2004, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled it, saying hemp food contained a negligible amount of intoxicant. Since then, hemp food and body-care product sales have grown steadily, says Steenstra, rising by more than 16 percent from 2011 to 2012. 

One new product is car-door liners. Manufacturers such as Flexform Technologies in Elkhart, Indiana, and Johnson Controls’ German plant take felt-like mats of non-woven hemp fibers, spray them with resin, and then press them into the appropriate shape. BMW and Ford use the light, strong material in their cars’ doors, and similar products are used in airplanes, says Steenstra.

“Hempcrete,” a lightweight concrete-like insulating material that can be poured into molds or used in blocks, is made by mixing the hurds, the woody core left after the fiber is stripped off the stalk, with lime and water. An English brewer and wine society have built warehouses with it. At Clay Fields, a green affordable-housing project in the English town of Elmswell that opened in 2008, the 26 houses are built from hempcrete surrounding a weight-bearing wood frame, protected on the outside by about an inch of lime-render cement.

Lime Technology, a British green-construction-products firm that supplied the hempcrete for Clay Fields, touts it as a much better insulator than conventional building materials, reducing the need for heating in winter and air-conditioning in the summer. It requires much less energy to produce than regular cement, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it dries, and “site cleanup is easy. Simply till it into the soil.”

Going Legal
One problem for the industry is that hemp’s decades of illegality have left almost no infrastructure for growing, processing and selling it. As no hemp has been grown legally in the U.S. since 1957, says Murphy, many parts of the industry would have to be re-established virtually from scratch. To begin with, all the seed stock is gone, except for feral ditchweed. 

“You’d have to breed again for varieties that work well here,” he says. Kentucky was once a major hemp producer, and it also provided seeds for strains better suited to different latitudes, such as Wisconsin. There were also strains bred for fiber or for larger seeds that yielded more oil. Currently, Murphy says, Canada uses mostly Russian and European stock. Those seeds could also be cross-bred with local feral strains.

This lack of infrastructure has been a major barrier to producing hemp clothing and paper. Building a new decorticator mill for hemp paper would cost more than $100 million, says Murphy.

Several small companies are using hemp for specialized products such as archival-quality, filter, or cigarette papers, but its most likely general use will be when mixed with recycled paper, says Steenstra. “Blend in 10 to 15 percent hemp, and it’s great for making better-quality recycled paper,” he says. When paper gets recycled, he explains, its fibers get shorter, and the long fibers of hemp strengthen it.

There are similar issues with clothing. Though Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and several lesser-known manufacturers are using hemp in clothes, “the whole textile industry is built on short-fiber cotton and synthetics,” says Steenstra. “There’s no infrastructure for processing hemp fiber into textiles.”

Hemp oil for biofuel, another use dreamed of in the ‘90s, is unlikely to be practical. At 50 gallons per acre, even if every acre of U.S. cropland were used for hemp, it would supply current U.S. demand for oil for less than three weeks.

On the other hand, the hemp-food industry is “pretty well settled,” says Murphy. If hemp growing were legalized in the U.S., he adds, a lot of Canadian processors would probably open facilities here. Legalization would also help hemp food break out of its niche-market status. If it received “GRAS” (Generally Recognized As Safe) status from the Food and Drug Administration, major brands would be less reluctant to use it. Until then, he says, Coca-Cola won’t put hemp milk in Odwalla Future Shakes, and we’re not likely to see hempseed Clif Bars.

Canada’s experience illustrates the problems of developing a new industry, says Murphy. Hemp farming there has been through two boom-and-bust cycles since it was legalized in 1998. The nation’s production leaped to 35,000 acres in 1999 and plummeted to about 4,000 in 2001, according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Alberta, Canada’s main hemp-producing province. It soared to 48,000 acres in 2006 and fell to less than 10,000 two years later.

Business factors explain those fluctuations, says Murphy. When hemp was legalized, more than 200 Canadian farmers signed contracts to grow it for an American outfit called Consolidated Growers and Processors. It went bankrupt in 2000 and stiffed them for more than $1 million. 

Farmers got back into it after the hemp-food industry burgeoned, aided by the end of the U.S. ban and a German inventor modifying a buckwheat-shelling machine to process hempseed. But there were not enough buyers or processing facilities to handle the bumper crop of 2006. “They were growing on spec,” says Murphy. “You really have to have a good contract.” 

Since then, production has been rising again. It reached almost 39,000 acres in 2011, according to the Alberta report. The Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance projects that the area planted will reach 100,000 acres by 2014. 

In 2009, the most recent figures available from the European Industrial Hemp Association, about 45,000 acres (18,000 hectares) of hemp were planted in the European Union. More than half was in France, with the U.K. and Poland following.
In contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 9,461,000 acres of cotton were harvested in the U.S. in 2011—a year in which more than one-third of the nation’s crop was wiped out by severe drought, with farmers in Texas and Oklahoma forced to abandon more than 5 million acres, more than half of what they planted. The amount of cotton harvested in the mostly desert state of New Mexico, 61,000 acres, was more than all the hemp planted in Canada. 

Still, it wouldn’t take that much land for hemp to have a significant impact. In 1943, when the U.S. hemp industry was revived to make rope, twine and parachute webbing for the war effort, about 146,000 acres were harvested, with a yield of about 70,000 tons.

“It would be nice to have the hemp grown here,” says Murphy.