Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The History of Hemp (video)

Gone Hemp: For great nutrition and taste, hemp seed to the rescue

Without the hulls, hemp seed is soft and can be eaten plain, or added to salads, yogurt and many other foods


Source: thecannabist.co 

 Like many nutritionists, Steve Billig takes issue with the term “super food.”

“We live in a culture where people say, ‘Just tell me what the best thing to eat is, or tell me the top three,’” says Billig, who founded the Vegetarian Nutrition Center in Denver. “But that’s not the way nutrition works, as one of the tenets of healthy eating is variety.”

He adds that there is only one food that, on its own, can provide a human with complete nutrition: mother’s milk … for infants.

But what about hemp, the latest “it” snack among super-food proponents?

“What a super food is, is a food that is nutrient-dense,” Billig says. “Hemp is a first-class, nutrient-dense member of the seed family.”

Yes, hemp seed — the soft-textured, shelled byproduct of the low- or no-THC cannabis plant — is rich in protein and essential fatty acids like other so-called super foods such as blueberries and salmon. When Billig helps vegans and vegetarians design a wholesome diet, he counts hemp seed along with flax seed as a piece in the food-group puzzle. “A variety of nuts and seeds, including hemp, is the foundation for a good diet,” he says.

But this is a considerably more measured take on the benefits of eating hemp seed than the growing list of food entrepreneurs who have become hemp devotees.

“The body is this amazing factory,” says Tara Miko Grayless, owner of the organic, vegan, gluten-free and GMO-free food company Happy Hemp. “With all its cogs and whistles well-oiled, (the body) can do what it’s supposed to do. Hemp seed is the oil to your factory.”

Grayless speaks and writes often about a time in her life when stress, depression, insomnia and chronic digestive issues sent her looking for food solutions. She was at first skeptical of hemp, because she had yet to learn just how different the hemp plant is from its cousin marijuana. But once she began cooking with hemp seeds, she was hooked.

“You’ve got Omega 3, 6 and 9, and it actually has more protein than meat, fish or tofu, which I was shocked to hear,” says Grayless, who now goes by the moniker Ms. Hemp and provides recipes for the ingredient through her blog and website. “This is essentially a food that you don’t have to do anything to, and it tastes good. It’s got this amazing, moist warm flavor like sunflower seeds or pine nuts. You basically just want to eat it right out of the bag!”

Grayless is but one of the people who now count hemp seed as essential to eating and living well. What follow is some more information about her product as well as two other hemp seed options; prices will vary and do not include shipping.

Gone Hemp: For great nutrition and taste, hemp seed to the rescue
(Elana Ashanti Jefferson, The Cannabist)
Happy Hemp: The packets of raw or toasted hemp seeds from this company based in Austin, Texas, are great for cooking or on-the-go eating. According to Happy Hemp’s website: “Happy Hemp elevates any meal to super-food status by adding nutty goodness and a healthy dose of protein, fiber, and essential amino and heart healthy fatty acids to any meal.” The company also sells a stylish and spacious hemp-fabric tote.
Prices begin at $6 for a 2-ounce packet at happy-hemp.com. Available in Denver at Nooch Vegan Market.
Gone Hemp: For great nutrition and taste, hemp seed to the rescue
(Elana Ashanti Jefferson, The Cannabist)
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts: “In 1995, I was unhealthy and unhappy,” writes Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods co-founder Mike Fata. “Then, a friend introduced me to hemp foods. … Before long, I had enough natural energy to climb a mountain.” His company’s raw, shelled Hemp Hearts are larger than some of the other tiny hemp seeds out there. Hemp Hearts are recommended for salad, cereal and yogurt.

$6.99 for an 8-ounce bag at Natural Grocers; read more about this company and its array of hemp foods at manitobaharvest.com. Available in the Denver metro area at Whole Foods Market, Natural Grocers Vitamin Cottage, Sprouts Farmers Market and Vitamin Shoppe.

Gone Hemp: For great nutrition and taste, hemp seed to the rescue
(Elana Ashanti Jefferson, The Cannabist)
Hippie Butter: In addition to selling snackable seeds, this company also produces hemp seed shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, massage oil and moisturizing cream. For the kitchen, Hemp Seed Cooking Oil and Hemp Seed Flour are also part of the Hippie Butter line.

Various hemp seeds cost about $7 for a 4-ounce packet at hippiebutter.com


UK's Ag College planting hemp seeds today

Source: wdrb.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It could be the start of a new industry in Kentucky.

Today the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture will plant its first plot of hemp seeds. The seeds were held by the Drug Enforcement Administration, but were finally released to the state Department of Agriculture last week.

UK's project will identify the varieties best suited to grow in Kentucky, and assess potential weed, disease and insect problems.

The Ag Department has eight pilot projects planned across the state.

Commissioner James Comer believes hemp can be a new cash crop for Kentucky that will attract new processing plants.

Hawaii State officials prepare for hemp seed battle

By Ann Sterling
Source: kitv.com

HONOLULU —A battle could be brewing when it comes to obtaining hemp seeds here in Hawaii.

There's a growth in industrial hemp research across the nation and lawmakers are ready to see the University of Hawaii start turning dirt on its first planned project.

"It's terribly important for our farmers and for our economy in Hawaii," said Rep. Cynthia Thielen.
Thielen has been a longtime proponent of industrial hemp. She says in addition to hemp being used to decontaminate soil, it can also be made into building materials.

"We can do such things as growing our building materials actually out of the soil. Farmers can eventually be able to plant hemp, turn it into hemp-crete, hemp-lime binder [that's] termite proof and fire retardant," said Thielen. "A wonderful type of building equipment that means we wouldn't have to import the drywall and the other chemical based materials from the mainland."

She provided several other examples of hemp use from bags to soap. Thielen estimates the United States industrial hemp market at $500 million per year.

"There are 25,000 uses or products that can be made out of hemp. None of which will get you high," said Thielen.

The catch for Hawaii is seeing what the state of Kentucky just experienced. When the state tried to bring in hemp seeds, the Drug Enforcement Administration stepped in and seized them. That prompted a long legal fight.

"Kentucky had to sue the DEA to get its seeds released. They brought it in according to federal law, in place … and then the DEA seized it," said Thielen.

The standoff recently concluded with the seeds finally being delivered.

Thielen says if Hawaii has to fight that fight, it'll be worth it.

"We're going to go through the same process Kentucky went through. We believe once these universities or Department of Ag(riculture) sponsor project come up with research findings, hemp will finally be freed again," said Thielen.

UH says it's been given an area about the size of a football field to plant the crop on Hickam Air Force Base.
The school will be required to report its findings to lawmakers in 2016.

Thielen says the state is currently going through the permit process to get the seeds.

Cabinet to receive regulatory draft for industrial hemp (Jamaica)

Source: jamaicaobserver.com

 Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton

A draft of the proposed regulatory framework for industrial hemp will be submitted to Cabinet shortly.

"This will pave the way for a viable chain to be developed around the hemp industry in Jamaica," Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton has said.

The minister was speaking at the post-sectoral debate press briefing, held at the ministry's New Kingston offices last week.

Noting that more than 25,000 uses can be derived from the hemp plant, Hylton said Jamaica has an opportunity to carve out its niche in the industrial hemp global market, which will also support related efforts to develop other industries from cannabis sativa, such as medical marijuana.

He said, too, that a memorandum of understanding has been signed between the University of the West Indies and Strains of Hope, a United States-based Foundation, in marijuana research for the development and exploitation of medical products.

Meanwhile, Hylton said that Jamaica Promotions Corporation will shortly sign a US$249,000 grant agreement with Complete Caribbean, which will be used to develop national accreditation standards for medical tourism, and to undertake gap analysis for local players in the sector

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vilsack: U.S. must figure out hemp production

Associated Press
Source: theindependent.com

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he’s working with the Department of Justice to permit the importation of hemp seeds for cultivation.

The farm bill signed into law by President Obama allows the industrial production of hemp, marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin.

But the federal government has effectively prevented the two states that want to grow the crop from obtaining seeds to start production.

Kentucky has sued the federal government to force it to release hemp seeds. Colorado is waiting on Vilsack’s go-ahead to get seeds from Canada.

At a news conference in Denver on the upcoming wildfire season, Vilsack said his agency is trying to resolve a conflict between what the farm bill permits and what federal drug laws prohibit.

“We’re going to figure it out,” he pledged, adding the crop could be an “extraordinary income opportunity.” He said he’s discussed the issue with Attorney General Eric Holder and passed onto him a law-review article that outlined one way the seeds could legally get to the states.

Hemp is the non-intoxicating agricultural cousin of marijuana. Recreational use of that drug is legal in Colorado and Washington state but still banned under federal law.

Meanwhile, Kentucky ag officials remain upbeat about gaining hemp seeds.

Attorneys for the Kentucky Agriculture Department and federal government resumed discussions with a judge last week to try to resolve a standoff over hemp seeds from Italy that customs officials have blocked from reaching fields for spring planting.

Afterward, a top aide to Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer sounded upbeat about getting the seeds in Kentucky soil in coming days.

“It’s a much less adversarial process now,” Comer chief of staff Holly Harris VonLuehrte said. “I’m hopeful that we’ll have this fully resolved.”

Kentucky’s pilot hemp projects for research were put on hold after the 250-pound seed shipment was stopped by U.S. customs officials in Louisville earlier this month.

The state’s Agriculture Department then sued the federal government in hopes of freeing the seeds. Defendants include the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Eight test projects are planned in Kentucky as part of a small-scale comeback for the long-banned crop that once flourished in the state. Six universities in the state plan to help with the research.

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Federal officials also inspected the department’s facilities where the seeds would be stored for a short time before they’re sent to fields. The seeds would be safeguarded behind multiple locked doors and in locked containers, VonLuehrte said.

Free Hemp From Stupid Restrictions

Kentucky's lawsuit against the DEA may point the way to change.


Source: reason.com

Hemp beer

The 2014 Farm Bill was a disaster. While it ended direct farm subsidies, it replaced them with crop insurance subsidies—which may end up being more costly. It kept in place inane and costly sugar tariffs and duplicative catfish inspection programs. And it proposed to spend nearly fifty percent more than the previous Farm Bill.

The bright spot in the Farm Bill—a tiny seed of good news—was that Congress saw fit to include an amendment that would loosen the federal government's idiotic stranglehold on cultivating hemp.
The 2014 hemp amendment was introduced with bi-partisan sponsorship and passed with bi-partisan support.

But now the DEA has thrown a wrench into the law. It's held up a shipment of seeds destined for Kentucky, and forced the state to sue the federal government in order to seek their release.

"For weeks, we have dealt with unnecessary government bureaucracy, federal officials unwilling to discuss the law or answer questions, and delay... after delay... after delay," writes Kentucky commissioner of agriculture James Comer, who filed suit against the federal government on behalf of the state, in an op-ed this week.

Why has hemp caused a battle between states and the federal government?

Hemp has been used used since before recorded history to make fuel, fiber, and food. But it's also illegal to grow anywhere in the United States thanks to its relationship and resemblance to marijuana. But federal law does permit hemp to be used in foods. And there's a large and growing market for hemp foods.

As I wrote last year, "Amazon.com sells nearly 250 different hemp foods—including products like hemp waffles."

While both marijuana and hemp can make one crave waffles (though for different reasons), hemp doesn't get you high. And yet—thanks to the domestic ban—all of the hemp used in foods (and other products made with hemp) is grown, cultivated, and processed outside the United States.

"Hemp and hemp seeds are still considered a controlled substance and cannot be imported—meaning farmers in states that have industrial hemp laws on the books have no access to the crop," reported Politico after the Farm Bill's passage earlier this year.

The 2014 Farm Bill amendment was billed as a game changer.

"The market opportunities for hemp are incredibly promising-ranging from textiles and health foods to home construction and even automobile manufacturing," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, in a statement issued earlier this year after Pres. Obama signed the bill into law. "This is not just a boon to U.S. farmers, this is a boon to U.S. manufacturing industries as well."

But hold on. The Farm Bill provision is incredibly limited. It permits only "states that have legalized hemp farming to begin growing this useful crop for research purposes." And by "states" that means "states"—rather than individuals or private businesses. That's because the law permits only state governments—rather than individuals—to grow hemp.

As if that weren't bad enough, the law contains even more qualifiers.

In fact, it allows only "an institution of higher education... or a State department of agriculture [to] grow or cultivate industrial hemp."

What's more, it only permits a university or state agriculture department to grow and cultivate hemp if it's done solely for research purposes and if growing hemp is already legal in that state.

According to updated research by the National Conference of State Legislatures, only a dozen states "currently have laws to provide for hemp production as described by the Farm Bill stipulations."
One of those states is Kentucky. Which brings us to the state's lawsuit against the federal government.
Supporters of farmers and hemp food producers are excited about the lawsuit. So are opponents of the drug war.

"Kentucky is fighting for the right of farmers to grow hemp and the federal government will ultimately give in; just like the federal government will eventually give in and let states set their own marijuana policy," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance, in an email to me earlier this week. "The fact that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is fighting for this shows how close we are to ending the failed war on drugs."

In the early 2000s, as the market for hemp foods began to grow, the DEA sought to ban all foods containing hemp. It took a federal court ruling, which confirmed that agency had no power to unilaterally ban hemp foods, to force the DEA to back off.

History looks to be repeating itself a decade later. But it's important to note that even a victory in this case won't fill America's fields with hemp. It will only allow several state governments to grow the crop for research purposes.

That's not good enough. What's more, the DEA's actions show that an agency that is willing to fight a state government over a shipment of legal seeds can hardly be trusted to respect the rights of small farmers. Only Congress can solve this problem. And it can do so by going beyond the Farm Bill and repealing the domestic ban on growing and cultivating hemp.

ADDENDUM: After this column was completed, the DEA released the hemp seeds to Kentucky state officials.

"I am glad the needless delay appears to be over and the program we have worked on for more than a year is about to become a reality," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in a statement released yesterday afternoon. "I have been working with Attorney General Holder on Kentucky’s program for months, and I am pleased that his department has helped us move the program forward as Congress intended."



How Dr. Bronner's Soap Turned Activism Into Good Clean Fun

Source: motherjones.com

Who says you can’t run a profitable company while protesting GMOs or getting busted for planting hemp on the DEA’ s front lawn?

CEO David Bronner shows off his company's suds-spewing fire truck. Gregg Segal

It's 6 a.m. and my head is splitting from the roar of David Bronner's Vitamix blender pulverizing frozen berries and hemp milk. The 40-year-old CEO of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps—who looks like a raver version of Captain Jack Sparrow—kept me up past midnight drinking beers, smoking spliffs, and listening to Deltron 3030 and Gorillaz as he regaled me with stories about LSD trips in Burning Man's Sanctuary tent and his early days as a squatter and club kid in Amsterdam. Shivering out from under the Mexican blanket in his guest bedroom, I dimly recall the two of us dancing in his backyard and expounding upon the hugeness of the universe. "You've got to come to our board meeting tomorrow morning," Bronner told me at some point between the vegan tapas and my fifth Amstel Light.

But the Advil still hasn't kicked in as we load his extra longboard ("the Shredder") into his pickup and roll down the hill to Carlsbad's Terramar Beach, where we meet a crew of Bronner employees and Bronner brahs—including Mike Hynson, the son of the pro surfer featured in the 1966 cult classic The Endless Summer. Out past the breakers, Bronner starts egging me on as a huge wave approaches: "Go Josh! Go!" I flail desperately, wheezing my way into position atop a glassy wall cresting with foam.

It's been just 21 hours since I showed up at the hive of cheap warehouses that serves as Dr. Bronner's global HQ and found the CEO at his flimsy Ikea-style desk, ignoring business calls. An amulet dangled on a hemp necklace over his tie-dyed shirt as he leaned in toward his computer screen, staring at what really mattered to him: the latest internal poll for Washington Initiative 522, a ballot measure to require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms that was coming up for a vote the following month. The initiative, which voters ultimately rejected, was among the costliest in state history: Its backers raised $8 million while its foes in biotech and Big Food poured nearly three times as much into its defeat. Dr. Bronner's alone donated $2.2 million to the Yes on 522 campaign—after sinking $620,000 into a similar California ballot measure in 2012. "If we don't win the right to label and enable people to choose non-GMO," Bronner told me, "then everything is going to be GMO."

The GMO battle is just the latest in a line of feisty political campaigns waged by the lovably weird cleaning products dynasty, best known for its tingly peppermint liquid soap with the earnestly logorrheic label. ("Absolute cleanliness is Godliness! Teach the Moral ABC that unites all mankind free, instantly 6 billion strong we're All-One.") Since its founding in 1948 by Bronner's grandfather, the Southern California company has become a soapbox for a variety of causes—from its founder's religious universalism to its recent campaigns to legalize hemp and marijuana, clean up fair trade and organic standards, and combat income inequality. Activism and charitable donations consume about half of the company's healthy profits. "If we are not maxed out and pushing our organization to the limit, then what are we doing?" Bronner asks.

Embracing lefty lifestyle politics might not seem like the best way to grow a business—until you sit on the orange velour couch in Bronner's Tibetan-flag-draped office in Escondido and watch the phone light up with calls from buyout firms. In the 15 years since he took over, annual sales have grown 1,300 percent, from $5 million to $64 million. Along the way, the company's castile soaps have gone from hippie niche products to staples on the aisles at Target. And yet Bronner says he has twice refused offers from Walmart to carry his soaps, even at the undiscounted wholesale price, because he can't stomach the chain's politics and crummy worker pay. The best way to go mainstream, he has found, is to be as unapologetically countercultural as possible.

At a time when companies strive to concoct "brand stories" of authenticity and altruism, Dr. Bronner's succeeds by being itself. "Their activism as a company is not engineered; it wasn't coached by a public relations firm," says Joel Solomon, the president of Renewal Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in socially responsible businesses. "Dr. Bronner's does their thing the way they think it should be done, and nobody is going to change them."

The company shares a niche with progressive rabble-rousers like Working Assets (annual sales: $100 million) and Patagonia ($540 million), but no other brand can match its idiosyncratic story. Emanuel Heilbronner was born into a German Jewish family of soap factory owners in 1908 and immigrated to the United States in 1929. His parents died in Nazi concentration camps, and he dropped "Heil" from his last name because of its associations with Hitler. More interested in godliness than cleanliness, Bronner—who wasn't really a doctor—invented a Judeo-Unitarian pop religious philosophy, publicizing its tenets on the labels of the soap bottles that he gave away at his lectures. He became so obsessed with spreading his All-One faith that he and his sickly wife put their three children in foster homes for long stretches so he'd have more time to travel and speak. In 1945, he was arrested after a particularly fervent speech at the University of Chicago and committed to a mental hospital for two months. He escaped and fled to Los Angeles, where he founded Dr. Bronner's All-One God Faith, which now does business as Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

Dr Bronner family
Dr Bronner's founder Emanuel Bronner (left and left in family photo) was the son of a soapmaker who was killed by the Nazis. The company was revitalized by his son Jim (left, with brother Ralph.) Courtesy of the Bronner family.
"The soap was there to sell his message," David Bronner tells me, "and if you didn't want to hear it, he didn't want to sell to you." Emanuel Bronner's cosmic ideals and his soap's 18 suggested uses (contraceptive douche!) found a following among hikers and commune dwellers, even though he was hardly a flower child; he hated communists and never smoked pot. His son Jim rejected his father's mystical ramblings and went to work for a chemical company, where he developed a firefighting foam for Monsanto that still doubles as fake snow on movie sets. But in 1988, he stepped in to rescue Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps after it lost its nonprofit status and declared bankruptcy, recapitalizing it as a for-profit company.

David Bronner, Jim's son, wasn't sure he wanted to become the next standard-bearer for a soap-making dynasty. After graduating from Harvard in 1995 with a biology degree, he immersed himself in Amsterdam's drug culture. "I just had my life explode on many levels of identity," he recalls of a late-night ecstasy and acid trip at a gay trance club. These experiences, as well as the writings of authors such as Noam Chomsky and Paul Hawken, eventually opened his eyes to the value of his grandfather's All-One philosophy and the power of the soap company as a vehicle for change. In 1997, he let his dad know that he was ready to work for the family business, but only "on activist terms."

A year later, Jim Bronner died of lung cancer and David, just 25, took over as CEO. He decided early on that he'd rather feel good about his job than worry about making a ton of money. In 1999, he capped the company's top salary at five times that of the lowest-paid warehouse worker—Bronner now makes about $200,000 a year. He has hired a lot of people he met at Burning Man, including Tim Clark (official title: Foam Maestro), a muscular guy whose job mostly consists of driving a psychedelic, soapsuds-spewing fire truck to music festivals. That's about as close as the company gets to actual marketing. "We're basically like a nonprofit," Bronner explained as we grabbed coffee in the office of his mom, Trudy, the firm's chief financial officer. "But we aren't," countered Trudy, who could easily pass for a church lady with her silver cross centered on a prim maroon turtleneck sweater. "We're a for-profit business. And we make good money and pay our employees really well."

Still, the minuscule ad budget and cap on executive pay leave the company with plenty of cash to improve its products and fund social campaigns—goals that, as luck or savvy would have it, often go hand in hand. At one point, for example, Bronner decided to add a new ingredient, hemp oil, which gave the soap a smoother lather. But there was a hitch: Not long after he acquired a huge stockpile of Canadian hemp oil, the Bush administration outlawed most hemp products. "Technically, we were sitting on tens of thousands of pounds of Schedule I narcotics," he recalls.

Rather than destroy his inventory, Bronner sued the Drug Enforcement Administration to change its stance on hemp, a nonpsychoactive strain of cannabis. Hemp oil contains so little THC that you'd have to consume a bathtub full of the stuff to get high. To press the point, Adam Eidinger, who has since become the company's "director of social activism," set up in front of DEA headquarters and served agents free bagels with poppy seeds (which in theory could be used to make heroin) and orange juice (which naturally contains trace amounts of alcohol). In 2004, a federal court sided with the company and struck down the ban.

Three years later Dr. Bronner's, by then the world's first certified-organic soap company, sued rivals such as Kiss My Face and Avalon Organics for falsely advertising their products as organic. (The suit, rendered largely moot after Whole Foods began policing the organic claims of its personal-care suppliers, was ultimately dismissed.) When Bronner couldn't find certified-organic and fair-trade sources for palm, coconut, and olive oil, he grew his own in Ghana and Sri Lanka, and scaled up existing projects in Israel and the West Bank. Coconut oil now accounts for 12 percent of Dr. Bronner's sales, almost as much as bar soap.
In recent years, Bronner has been arrested twice for his activism. In 2009, he planted hemp seeds on the lawn of DEA headquarters in Washington, DC, to protest a ban on domestic cultivation. He was busted again in 2012 for milling hemp oil in front of the White House—he'd set up shop in a cage, and police had to saw through the bars to take him into custody. Next he hopes to partner with renegade farmers to manufacture America's first line of domestically grown hemp-based foods. "The activism side of the company enables us to take risks that no sane company would," Bronner says. "The point of what we are doing is to fight, and the products serve that."

Nowhere has that attitude been more evident than in the Washington GMO battle. While many organics companies contributed money to the campaign, Dr. Bronner's temporarily turned its soap label into a Yes on 522 ad, and ran it in magazines (including Mother Jones). "Taking sides on a political campaign like that is totally unprecedented in the world of product labeling," Robert Parker, the president of the company that prints Dr. Bronner's labels, told me as we bobbed in the waves off Terramar Beach.

David Bronner Gregg Segal

On the day I met Bronner, his activism director Eidinger was arrested for a Yes Men-style stunt lampooning the biotech industry's clout in Washington, DC. Posing as a Monsanto lobbyist, he entered a Senate office building and dumped $2,000 in singles—"enough to look like money raining down," he later explained—from a balcony. Eidinger is also the brains behind the anti-GMO group Occupy Monsanto and a fleet of cute "Fishy Food" art cars (Fishy Sugar Beet, Fishy Tomato, etc.) that Dr. Bronner's commissioned to drive cross-country and make light of how transgenic crops sometimes incorporate fish genes. "I have no in-principle objection to genetic engineering or synthetic biology," Bronner insists, citing his biology background and his dad's work for Monsanto. His real problem with GMOs has less to do with Frankenfood fears than with the documented effects of herbicide- and pest-resistant GM crops, which were sold as a way to reduce harmful spraying. Studies have found that they've instead given rise to new superbugs and superweeds that demand ever-stronger pesticides and herbicides. "Far from freeing us from the chemical treadmill," Bronner says, "GMOs are doubling down on it."

His loss to the biotech industry in Washington state hasn't dampened Bronner's lust for battle. "If this was 2016"—a presidential election year—"we would have destroyed them," he says, blaming low turnout for the measure's defeat. "And that's what we are going to do." (A second try in California could be next, Eidinger says.)

Before we headed to his house, Bronner took me to see the company's future headquarters—a bright, 120,000-square-foot warehouse a few hundred yards down the road from a Home Depot. There, Bertine Kabellis, his spunky, Haitian-born factory manager, details what they're doing to turn the bland corporate space into something more homey. The factory store will include a "fragrance bar," a soap-bottle refill station, and a hemp activism diorama featuring a Bronner look-alike mannequin sorting through cannabis plants in a cage. The store, Kabellis enthuses, will also carry Dr. Bronner-branded pinhole glasses—which create strange visual effects.

"Leopard-print Speedos?" Bronner asks, out of the blue. "Which I have to get for Palm Springs Pride. I'm gonna rock 'em."

As Kabellis explains the layout of the organic farm-to-table employee cafeteria, Bronner interrupts. He wants to show us a photo he's just received on his phone: It's Eidinger in his business suit, making snow angels in a big pile of dollar bills.

"That's so ridic-u-lous!" Bronner intones, beaming as he slips the phone back into his baggy hemp trousers. "It's so rad!"


Hemp Defies Hurdles to Make a Comeback in Spain

MALAGA, Spain, May 22 2014 (IPS) - Spain is experiencing a resurgence of hemp, one of the species of cannabis with the lowest THC content, which has been used for millennia to produce textile, medicinal and food products.

“Hemp has been planted since the beginning of time for its nutritional properties and health benefits,” said Pilar López with the Galihemp Cooperative, which makes and sells hemp products in the northeastern Spanish city of Lugo. “It’s a plant that remineralises the soil.”

The European Union allows the industrial and agricultural production of hemp with a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the chief psychoactive constituent of marijuana – no higher than 0.2 percent.
Varieties of cannabis sativa used to produce marijuana and hashish contain 0.5 to 10 percent THC.
Royal Decree 1729/1999 of Nov. 12, 1999 authorises the cultivation of 25 varieties of industrial hemp in Spain and establishes guidelines to grant subsidies to producers of fibre flax and hemp.

For thousands of years hemp was used to produce clothing, food and products like ship sails. And in Spain, hemp products experienced an upsurge during the country’s 1936-1939 civil war.

But in 1937 the United States banned all cannabis, including hemp, to benefit the production of cotton and synthetic fibres.

The age-old hemp industry collapsed, leading to a rural exodus of farmers who grew it. The final nail in the coffin in the United States was the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, in conjunction with international conventions.

Chemist Josep María Funtané from Catalonia in northeastern Spain told IPS he discovered the therapeutic properties of hemp when he was diagnosed with cancer and found that it helped ease the side effects of chemotherapy.

In 2011, in the Catalonian city of Barcelona, he founded Vitrovit, a company that produces medicinal products, cosmetics and fertilisers derived from hemp.

Patients generally only need cannabis with the lowest levels of THC and the highest possible content of cannabidiol, a major, non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis with anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
"Hemp production could be a green revolution that would help reduce unemployment in rural areas in these times of economic crisis." -- Fernando Montero

Funtané is drawing up a map of Spain to boost the recovery of the cultivation of industrial hemp, offering detailed information by community and province.

Producers of industrial hemp, a fast-growing crop adaptable to most kinds of terrain, underscore its enormous potential and complain that they are subject to confiscation of merchandise and even arrest.
On May 7, the authorities closed down a therapeutic grow-shop that sold cannabis-derived products in Calahorra, a town in the northern region of La Rioja. “Two civil guards showed up without a warrant and closed the shop,” the owner of the business, who only gave his first name, Dionisio, told IPS.

And a producer of hemp-derived products, Miguel Arrillaga, complained to IPS that “since January, the authorities have seized three of my shipments of industrial hemp when they confused it with marijuana, causing problems for shops and customers.”

There is “an epidemic of ignorance” about a crop whose growers even receive state subsidies, he argued.
Arrillaga, like other producers who spoke to IPS, buys legally certified seeds from France, because Spain does not certify seeds. His seeds are planted by farmers in the southern region of Andalusía.

He sells all parts of the hemp plant – seeds, leaves and stems – which are used to make “hemp milk” (a drink made from seeds that are soaked and ground into water), infusions, soap, and skincare products.

“Hemp production could be a green revolution that would help reduce unemployment in rural areas in these times of economic crisis,” the president of the Spanish association of hemp producers (AEPTC), Fernando Montero, told IPS.

The AEPTC was created in 2012 in the village of Bubión, in the heart of the La Alpujarra mountains in the southern Andalusían province of Granada.

Montero, who sells hemp along with his son in their company LaKaraba, said that even though they “meticulously” comply with all of the legal requirements, they are always a bit nervous when they plant, for fear that the authorities will swoop in at any given moment.

Civil guard lieutenant Pablo Cobo in the Andalusían city of Algeciras told IPS that “even though it isn’t what it looks like,” a package of industrial hemp has the same appearance and smell as marijuana.

When the authorities find a shipment of a package of hemp leaves, the results of the analysis come up positive for THC, no matter how low the percentage.

That automatically leads to confiscation of the product and the submission of a sample to the health authorities for a second lab test.

“The problem is that the initial test and identification of the product by the authorities“ are not reliable and must be contrasted by a second test, a lawyer who asked to remain anonymous told IPS.

And while the tests determine whether or not the cannabis complies with the legal limits for THC content, the product can languish in a warehouse for weeks or even months, Arrillaga complained.

He also cited Juan Zurito, a Granada farmer who was arrested several times for crimes against public health, and who has been in prison since February.

Spain is a signatory to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which ban the cultivation, production and sale of cannabis as a drug, but do not restrict the production of industrial hemp.

Hemp fibre can be used to make clothing, rope and paper, while the oil from the seeds can be used to produce biofuel or animal feed.

“What could be better than working with something so good,” argued López, of the Galihemp Cooperative, which will produce hemp pulp to make paper, using a special machine.

She told IPS that “the ignorance about this plant in some places in Spain, at the level of the civil guard [police force], is a disgrace.”

The hemp sector faces numerous hurdles in Spain, where it is even hard to find hemp seed dehulling machines. In other EU countries like France, Germany or Austria, meanwhile, the number of hectares dedicated to hemp production is growing fast.

Nevertheless, López believes industrial hemp has a “splendid” future in Spain and says she has “no doubt” that it will prosper, although she admits that ignorance about hemp and the interests of big industry are obstacles.

Funtané concurred. “There are a number of powerful industries, like the textile or steel industries, which are not interested in the potential of hemp and won’t let it steal markets from them,” he said.

Hemp can be used to make components for the car industry, and durable insulation material is made from hemp fibre for the building industry.

Hemp, Inc. to Invest $1,000,000 in Banking Venture

Press Release
Source: marketwatch.com

Hemp, Inc. HEMP +5.83% today announced it has committed $1,000,000 to kick-start the search for an appropriate banking partner in Colorado and to perform due diligence thereof. The allocated funds will be held in escrow while the search begins. 

Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc., stated, "We are committed to moving this industry forward and supplying the infrastructure to make it more viable. Our recent acquisition of the largest decorticator in the United States, in order to process raw hemp into valuable renewable products, is off to a great start, but it doesn't stop there. As a 'farmer' in China, Hemp, Inc. understands the needs of farmers and we believe farmers, as well as other providers, will undoubtedly need financial services to make this industry soar to new heights. This is already a very unique, rapidly growing market and it is our goal to be a part of supplying their financial needs." 

Perlowin went on to say, "Our increase in revenue over the last year has given us the strength to make these bold steps that we believe over time will allow Hemp, Inc. to be the vertically entrenched backbone of the industry. From growing hemp, to helping farmers, processing the harvest, marketing products and to financing the growth, we plan to be a significant player in this industry." 

Hemp, Inc. executives say due to the company's stability, both financially and operationally, and its commitment to the shareholders, the company expects to continue generating positive earnings and return on investments. 

Canada Jonesing For Piece Of American (Hemp) Pie

Canada legalized hemp in 1998 and many companies there are anxiously awaiting 
cultivation in the U.S. At Centennial Seeds in Colorado, growers have started planting.
The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.
Canada, meanwhile, legalized hemp sixteen years ago. So while the conversation in the U.S. currently focuses on legal issues, our neighbor to the north anxiously waits to talk business.

The 2014 farm bill allows for the farming of hemp where state laws have legalized the crop. Colorado, Kentucky, Indiana and Maine are early leaders among U.S. cultivators. The plant lacks the intoxicating compounds found in its cousin marijuana. It’s mostly grown for its fibers and seeds and has been touted as a miracle crop by proponents.
Shoppers can find hemp seeds, for consumption but not planting, in many 
U.S. stores. It's tricky to find stocks of viable seed in the U.S.
At a recent hemp conference in Adams County, Colo., farmers weighing their chances with hemp got a look at what a legalized industry might look like. Kevin Greenwood, one of the conference’s top-billed speakers, spoke with prospective hemp growers about his company Manitoba Harvest, which makes foods that contain hemp.

“We’re the largest hemp food company in the world. And vertically integrated, we go right from the producer’s field right through to the consumer packaged goods at Kroger, Costco,” Greenwood said.

The company has been around since Canadian lawmakers legalized industrial hemp in 1998. And as the U.S. hemp industry teeters on the edge of becoming legal, established Canadian companies are ready for a piece of the action.

“Look north. We’re happy to give you the answers,” Greenwood said. “You’re not starting from scratch. The industry’s been around in North America, albeit north of the 49th parallel, for 15-16 years now.”

Cross-border cooperation could jumpstart the American hemp industry, Greenwood said. His presentation is part sales pitch. If and when the legal issues get ironed out, he says, Manitoba Harvest will be first in line to buy American grown hemp.

“We do get a little flak from some of our producers who say, ‘Hey, we like the fact that we have a monopoly.’” Greenwood said. “Yeah but the problem is, we’re not getting enough acres in the ground to support the growth of the industry.”

Despite the plant’s tricky legal status, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been vocal about hemp in the past, actively promoting the crop during World War II. The USDA also issued a report in 2000 detailing the economics of an American hemp industry, pinpointing Kentucky, Oregon and North Dakota as no-brainers for where a renewed hemp industry should settle. The USDA recommends Kentucky for its horse racing industry, where the animals’ bedding could be made of the plant’s leftover stems; Oregon for its paper and pulp mills which could pivot to source hemp; and North Dakota for its large-scale oilseed presses.

Because Canadians farmers, companies and legislators have watched the roll out of this niche crop, there are lessons to be learned, said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, the biggest hemp lobby in the U.S.

“We watched the Canadians do this in the late ‘90s,” Steenstra said. “They legalized hemp and their farmers started growing it. It takes a little bit of time to develop these varieties, figure out what’s going to work the best.”

If American farmers don’t listen to our northern neighbors, they could end up making the same mistakes, Steenstra said.

"There's no question in my mind that this could be a multi-billion dollar crop where we could see millions of acres, eventually. Is that going to happen in a year or two? Of course not." 
Lesson one: temper expectations that hemp will be a savior crop for struggling farmers. Two: be strategic with where to plant and capitalize on the American grain belt in the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Three: don’t reinvent the wheel, build upon existing infrastructure in Canada.

Canada also makes a compelling economic argument for the plant’s legalization in the U.S. If you frame the issue as farmers being denied trade access with Canada, Congressional ears perk up.

“Look, we’ve got a company here that’s willing to sign a contract with a producer to make money and you won’t let them,” Manitoba Harvest’s Greenwood said. “That tends to get their attention.”
EvoHemp, a Denver-based protein bar company, churns out thousands of bars 
each month that include hemp seeds from Canada. Ari Sherman, the company’s 
founder, says he’s anxious for a U.S. hemp crop.
Canada isn’t just looking to import American hemp. The country’s farmers and distributors have also built export relationships with American companies that turn hemp seed into food and fiber into clothing to export the crop.

EvoHemp, a Denver-based protein bar company, churns out thousands of bars each month, packed full of tree nuts, algae, dried cherries and hemp seeds from Canada. Ari Sherman, the company’s founder says he’s anxious for a U.S. hemp crop.

“Out of all the ingredients that we use, which is about 30 different ones, hemp is by far the most in demand food source that we have,” Sherman said.

Sherman’s company is built on Canadian hemp. The seeds and protein powder are in each bar he sells. He’d like to start buying hemp from American growers, but right now no one’s growing on a large scale. That leaves businesses like Sherman’s caught in a bind. They like to market themselves as environmentally friendly, but are forced to ship hemp from China, Romania, Ukraine and, of course, Canada.

“We’re trying to be a sustainable company and sourcing all these ingredients from all over the world can be taxing on the environment,” Sherman said.

Which means until hemp is grown closer to home, businesses like Sherman’s will continue their cozy relationship with foreign hemp growers.

DEA, Ky. battle over hemp seeds nearly over

By Kevin Wheatley
Source: state-journal.com 

State commission approves regulations for pilot projects to satisfy federal government

The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission approved regulations Tuesday for pilot projects that have become entangled in legal proceedings over a 250-pound shipment of hemp seed being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Louisville.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture filed suit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies last week, seeking the release of 250 pounds of seed from Italy meant for the educational projects through public universities.

Both sides have made progress on an agreement, said KDA attorney Luke Morgan of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and DEA inspected and approved the KDA’s storage facilities for the hemp seed Tuesday morning in advance of a state hearing before U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II today.

The DEA indicated it would process KDA’s import registration and permit within three days of receipt, and the KDA agreed to provide the DEA memorandums of understanding with each university that will be conducting pilot projects, according to a court order filed Monday.

“We’re very happy to tell you that on behalf of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, it appears that we should be getting these seeds that have been held in the Louisville airport over here very soon,” Morgan told the commission. “… It’s a shame that it’s had to come to a lawsuit, but nevertheless the department has been pursuing this important legislative initiative vigorously.”

The panel approved the regulations, pending any technical and grammatical corrections. Gov. Steve Beshear had not signed the regulations, and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told The State Journal he understood Beshear wanted the hemp commission to give its approval before signing them into effect.
Terry Sebastian, a spokesman for Beshear, told The State Journal that the Governor’s Office is working with the Department of Agriculture on the proposed regulations.

“Assuming the final language complies with state law and the federal court’s prospective ruling, the governor plans to sign the statement of emergency,” Sebastian said.

Craig Lee, a former hemp commission member, voiced concerns during the meeting that the DEA would simply destroy the crop as has happened in California, North Dakota and elsewhere in recent years.
Morgan, however, said the federal farm bill and state legislation passed in the 2013 session puts Kentucky on solid legal ground with the university-affiliated pilot programs.

Kentucky is on the brink of history as KDA explores hemp’s potential in the commonwealth, Comer said.
“It’s going to take time,” he said. “It’s not going to happen in the next week or so, but we’ve been meeting with companies that want to make an investment in Kentucky, that want to hire people, that want to sign contracts with family farms.

“… I think history will show we stood for something that was worth fighting for.”

A victim of war on drugs, hemp poised for Illinois comeback

By Burt Constable
Source: dailyherald.com

In every war, there is "collateral damage." In our war on drugs, hemp fell victim to our government's attack. This week, the Illinois legislature moved a step closer to reviving the plant once hailed in our state as part of our patriotic duty.

The state Senate voted unanimously Monday to pass a bill that would allow Illinois colleges and universities to conduct research on industrial hemp. The House passed the original bill by a 70-28 margin in April, and it is expected to OK the version approved by the Senate.

It's a small first step toward revitalizing Illinois' once-thriving hemp production industry, says Dan Linn, a former Lake County resident and executive director of Illinois NORML, the nonprofit advocacy group best known for its efforts to legalize marijuana.

The tall, agricultural hemp once grown by farmers in Illinois is not the same as the leafy pot plants grown for medical marijuana or by illegal drug producers. Industrial hemp contains less than 0.03 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active chemical compound that provides the psychological effects sought by marijuana users.

Industrial hemp looks like bamboo. Its fiber is used to make cloth and fabric, while its seeds and oil are used in foods and other products.

Walk into any health food store and you'll see plenty of hemp products.

"We just import all the raw materials from Canada or China," Linn says. "We need to have the raw materials produced in Illinois."

Illinois became a leading hemp producer in 1943 with the opening of the Polo Hemp Mill in the farming community about an hour west of Elgin. A small museum in Polo tells the story of how local farmers grew hemp as part of their patriotic duty during World War II. The government even produced a film, "Hemp for Victory," encouraging farmers to grow the plant needed to make "shoes for millions of American soldiers," "parachute webbing for our paratroopers," fire hoses and millions of ropes for our battleships.

The Illinois House voted Wednesday to allow children with epilepsy access to medical marijuana, but even as the government has become more open to medical marijuana and the decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana, the war against industrial hemp remains.

The agricultural department of Kentucky, which is looking to let farmers grow hemp, sued the federal government this month after Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Louisville seized 250 pounds of Italian hemp seed, which passed through customs at O'Hare. In court Wednesday, officials appeared to be working on an agreement that would let Kentucky grow hemp for research.

"It's bizarre how politics have changed over the years about hemp-growing," Linn says.

The United States is the only industrialized democracy that hasn't legalized hemp farms as a crop far different from marijuana.

"We're the only ones who can't tell the difference between these plants," Linn says sarcastically.

Remnants of Illinois' war years as a hemp producer can still be found.

"There's still farmers who tell us it's growing along railroad tracks where it fell off railroad cars during World War II," Linn says. The plant grows easily without pesticides and fertilizers and is classified as a noxious weed in Illinois.

But NORML hopes to change that. The first week of June marks the fifth annual Hemp History Week, where supporters note that the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp on their farms; and that lamp Abe Lincoln read by was fueled by hemp oil.

On May 29, NORML activists will lobby legislators to legalize hemp during a reception in Springfield.
"From those early days of our country to the 'Hemp for Victory' program during World War II, industrial hemp has played a vital role in our nation's agricultural history," Linn says, vowing to restore hemp "to its rightful place as a valuable agricultural commodity in Illinois."

The lobbying effort will include hemp fabric, a hemp pizza made with flour from ground hemp seeds, hemp milk, hemp hummus, hemp oil dressings and even hemp beer.

A botanical cousin to hops, the hemp used to make beer could be enough to alter the minds of hemp-wary politicians.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What is Hemp?

Source:  azmarijuana.com

What is Hemp

What is Hemp Used For?

Hemp, or industrial hemp, are the terms used to describe certain varieties of the Cannabis plant species; particularly varieties that have been bred over time for industrial uses as fiber, fuel, seed, oil, paper, food, and more. Hemp plants are generally bred to have minimal to no psychoactive substance (THC).

Hemp’s fiber (from its stalk) has been used to make rope, paper, constructions materials, clothing, and more for centuries.

Hempseed oil is used for its nutritional properties which consist of nearly 80% essential fatty acids and all the essential amino acids.

The federal government currently has hemp classified as a Schedule 1 substance. Many states are attempting to legalize the cultivation of hemp because of the known medicinal and economical benefits from the crop.

Hemp Facts

Hemp grows very well without pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. About half of the agricultural chemicals used on U.S. crops are applied to cotton.

Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and it can be used to make every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing reduces waste-water contamination compared to trees.

Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent, and more insulative than cotton fiber.

Eco-friendly hemp can replace most of the toxic petro-chemical products on market today. Research is being performed to use hemp in manufacturing bio-degradable plastic products such as plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from its oil.

Presidents Washington and Jefferson had both grown hemp. During the Colonial Era, Americans were legally bound to grow hemp. The federal government subsidized hemp during the Second World War and US farmers grew nearly a million acres of hemp as part of the program.

 Uses For Hemp Infographic

Agriculture secretary says he's working to allow hemp production

Source: therepublic.com

PHOTO: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks to members of the media about the upcoming wildfire season, during a news conference at the History Colorado Center, in Denver, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. The U.S. Forest Service says it is adding four aircraft to its firefighting fleet as California recovers from a spate of blazes and other fire-prone states brace for another hot, dry summer.(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks to members of the media about the upcoming wildfire 
season, during a news conference at the History Colorado Center, in Denver, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. 
The U.S. Forest Service says it is adding four aircraft to its firefighting fleet as California recovers from 
a spate of blazes and other fire-prone states brace for another hot, dry summer.(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

DENVER — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday he's working with the Department of Justice to permit the importation of hemp seeds for cultivation.

The farm bill signed into law by President Obama allows the industrial production of hemp, marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin. But the federal government has effectively prevented the two states that want to grow the crop from obtaining seeds to start production.

Kentucky has sued the federal government to force it to release hemp seeds. Colorado is waiting on Vilsack's go-ahead to get seeds from Canada.

At a news conference in Denver on the upcoming wildfire season, Vilsack said his agency is trying to resolve a conflict between what the farm bill permits and what federal drug laws prohibit. "We're going to figure it out," he pledged, adding the crop could be an "extraordinary income opportunity."

He said he's discussed the issue with Attorney General Eric Holder and passed onto him a law-review article that outlined one way the seeds could legally get to the states.

Hemp is the non-intoxicating agricultural cousin of marijuana. Recreational use of that drug is legal in Colorado and Washington state but still banned under federal law.

Hemp Prepares for Prime Time as Weed’s Sober Cousin

Mike Fata figures hemp could be the perfect food -- if only people would stop snickering.
Fata, the 37-year-old co-founder of Manitoba Harvest, has worked for the past decade on transforming the sober cousin of marijuana from the butt of jokes into a supermarket staple.

The effort’s paying off. Costco Wholesale Corp., Safeway Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc. now sell his products and hemp is on the cusp of a breakthrough, thanks to looser cultivation bans and the food industry’s hunger for nutritious plants. Even the stoner stigma is slowly abating as hemp gets recognized for its ability to deliver protein, rather than psychoactives.

“Our customers are bright enough to know that it does not have dope in it if Costco’s selling it,” says Jim Taylor, a founding partner of Avrio Capital, a Calgary-based venture capital company and one of Manitoba Harvest’s backers. “It’s more than a fad. We believe we can build a brand here.”

Hemp is not a drug. It’s a variety of the cannabis plant with less than 0.5 percent of the mind-bending compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Earlier this year the U.S. government finally recognized hemp as distinct from its seedier cousin, though a federal ban on commercial cultivation remains in place.

The ban hasn’t stopped imports flowing in from Canadian companies like Manitoba Harvest, which plans to hand out 2 million samples of its hemp hearts -- the soft, nutty-flavored inner kernel of hemp seeds -- this year.

Salad Sprinkle

Hemp is woven into American history. George Washington grew it, and the nation’s first flags were made from it. It’s easily digestible and packs more protein than chia or flax. It’s also a versatile food: Hemp hearts can be sprinkled on cereal, yogurt or salads, or processed into powders, flour or oil to make everything from bread to beer. Hemp is pricier than, say, chickpeas, but it provides a more complete protein, with all nine amino acids that the human body cannot produce.

“We have our eye on it,” says Colleen Zammer of Bay State Milling Co., who has worked with food and beverage companies like Kellogg Co. and PepsiCo Inc. to develop and promote healthy ingredients for the past 25 years. “It’s THC-free, similar to chia in nutrition, and better tasting.”

Hemp’s resurgence comes amid a broader shift in climate, crops and consumer preferences. Other protein-rich plants -- think peas and quinoa -- enjoy booming sales and are in short supply, global warming is scrambling the cultivation map from Argentina to Canada and environmental concerns kindle demand for local produce.

Hemp Diet

Amid this landscape, opposition to hemp is softening. Fourteen U.S. states have removed barriers to its cultivation, and the farm bill Congress passed in February will allow hemp growing for research purposes in those states. Restrictions have eased as even marijuana gains acceptance, and Democrats and Republicans alike support the economic lift hemp could provide industries ranging from textiles to home building.
“Without realizing it many Americans already use hemp in their soaps, automobile parts, or even in their food,” says Representative Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado (where private consumption of pot is legal), and one of the legislators behind the farm bill’s hemp amendment. “The potential for a billion-dollar-plus domestic industry is very realistic.”

Hemp growing has been legal since 1998 in Canada, opening the door for entrepreneurs like Fata. As a teenager in Winnipeg, Fata weighed over 300 pounds and tried countless fad diets until a friend turned him on to hemp. The mix of protein and fiber curbed his appetite for junk food, and he’s now a walking advertisement for healthier living through hemp, practicing yoga and eating a plant-based diet.

‘Snicker Factor’

Fata and two friends started Manitoba Harvest soon after legalization, yet the lingering association with pot made it hard to gain traction early on -– something Fata calls “the snicker factor.” Others in Canada’s nascent hemp sector say they faced the same stigma. “Some people looked at me and turned right around like they had seen the devil,” recalls Shaun Crew, chief executive officer of Hemp Oil Canada.

Fata persisted, handing out samples of his hemp hearts at trade shows, in yoga studios, and on the street. A few natural-food stores took the product, then in 2001 Fata’s big break came when Loblaw Cos. (L), Canada’s biggest food retailer with 2,300 stores, signed on. 

“A lot of consumers would not give us time of day because of all the misinformation out there,” Fata says. “As we stepped up from natural food stores to mainstream stores, the stigma started to go away.”

Hemp Week

Sales have tripled to more than $50 million in the past two years. Prices range from $1.50 for a 0.9-ounce sachet all the way up to $75 for a 5-pound pouch of certified organic hearts. At a recent industry gathering in California, Fata introduced his latest creation: hemp-heart “Snaxs” made with brown rice syrup and organic cane sugar. He figures sales could hit $500 million over the next decade. 

John Elstrott, chairman of Whole Foods, says Fata has helped debunk the myths surrounding hemp through sampling and education. The two companies sponsor the annual Hemp History Week, which this year kicks off June 2 and features more than 175 events coast to coast, including a three-day “Hemp Hoe Down” in South Dakota. Celebrity backers include musician Ziggy Marley and actress Alicia Silverstone.

Still, the stigma is hard to shed. Last year, the U.S. Air Force told its pilots to steer clear of a variety of Chobani Inc. Greek yogurt that came with a side packet of hemp seeds to be tipped into the pot. The Air Force said the product could have enough THC to be detectable under its drug-testing program. Chobani has since replaced the hemp with other seeds, according to a spokesman. It doesn’t help that some hemp companies revel in stoner stereotypes: There’s even a hemp gin and vodka brand called “Mary Jane’s.”

Brand New

Easing his black Jeep Rubicon into the parking lot of the company’s plant on the industrial northwest side of Winnipeg on a frigid March morning, Fata checks in on the $6 million expansion that he says will triple his annual production. He mentions that representatives from Safeway approached him about making hemp-flour bread for its in-store bakery. Safeway declined to comment.

“Five years ago that would not have happened,” he says. “Hemp is hot.”

In the factory, seeds from 10 grain silos get blown into hulling machines, which loudly crack them open to release the heart. Nearby, white sacks of hearts and hemp powder weighing nearly a ton sit on pallets, ready for packaging. Fata stops to admire a new $500,000 machine that can pack up to 60 bags of hemp hearts a minute (something that was previously done by hand at one-third of the speed). In a separate room, 80 oil presses sit in wooden crates, having just arrived by boat from Germany.

‘Breakfast Heaven’

The expansion should be done by the end of May, Fata says, and then he’ll immediately start looking for places in Manitoba to build a new 100,000 square-foot facility. Crew, of Hemp Oil Canada, is spending $13 million on a new 35,000-square-foot factory that he says will be ready by the end of the year.

That’s good news for the food manufacturers waiting to add hemp to their products. Take Post Holdings Inc., maker of Grape-Nuts and Alpha-Bits cereal. The company’s Erewhon brand, acquired in 2012, offers a hemp and buckwheat cereal that is one of its top sellers. Jim Holbrook, executive vice president of marketing, said the St. Louis-based company is also “actively pursuing” hemp as an ingredient in an upcoming cereal from its Great Grains imprint.

Post’s shares rose 0.7 percent to $46.86 at 10:06 a.m. in New York, while Whole Foods was up 1.2 percent to $37.62 and Safeway was unchanged.

Other companies aren’t keen to discuss their plans. PepsiCo Inc. and Kellogg declined to comment. ConAgra Foods Inc. and Kraft Foods Group Inc. said they don’t have any current plans for hemp, leaving the market open for smaller outfits like Nutiva Inc. and Nature’s Path Foods Inc. Based in British Columbia, Nature’s Path sells organic hemp-seed frozen waffles, which Jillian Michaels, a personal trainer from the television reality series The Biggest Loser, calls “breakfast heaven.”

If hemp is going to become a billion-dollar market as its backers claim, more big companies need to get on board. The lingering stigma, Fata says, shouldn’t keep mainstream manufacturers from seeing its promise.
“They missed the Greek yogurt boom,” Fata says. “They don’t want to miss out on this.”