Sunday, November 23, 2014

The man behind the Richmond company that won’t stop growing

By Phil James

"John Roulac is the founder and CEO of Nutiva, based in Richmond" (Photo Courtesy of: Nutiva)
"John Roulac is the founder and CEO of Nutiva, based in Richmond" (Photo Courtesy of: Nutiva)

If you want to get a good impression of who John Roulac is, take a look at his profile on the Nutiva website. There are no Breitling wristwatches or oxblood shoes visible in the picture. Rather, Roulac sits shoulders deep in a sun-baked chia field wearing a buttonless, coral-colored Guatemalan shirt.
"Roulac, posing in a Chia field. Chia seeds are one of Nutiva's marquee products" (Photo courtesy of:
“Roulac, posing in a Chia field. Chia seeds are one of Nutiva’s marquee products” (Photo courtesy of:
For having a fashion sense closely associated with flower power, it may be hard to believe that Roulac, a longtime Bay Area resident now living in Point Richmond, is CEO of the largest organic superfoods company in the world, with growth projected at $1 billion for the year 2025.
Before ‘disruption’ and ‘social responsibility’ were Silicon Valley buzzwords meant to put a face on faceless companies, John Roulac embodied these terms, and still does today. As CEO of Nutiva for almost 15 years, Roulac has not only been outspoken about health fads and mainstream environmental causes, but has thrived on them, creating an empire.
According to Inc. magazine, Nutiva revenue has grown 482 percent in the past three years. In 2012, it brought in $12 million. In 2014, Nutiva is projected to take in more than $100 million. The rapid growth has already forced the company to move their operations from Sebastopol to a larger warehouse on Cutting Blvd, and when I visited the plant, there was little room between the food processing facility, the outgoing shipping boxes and the cardboard repurposing unit.
Roulac speaks more like a botanist than an empire-builder. While Nutiva’s greatest challenge could be scaling their operations to accommodate their massive growth, he’s the kind of guy that would shut down a construction site to save a dandelion.
Entrepreneurialism has always been second nature for the California native. By the time he was a teenager, he had several ventures going, but his success really took off when he started combining his entrepreneurial acumen with his love of the environment.
Roulac’s concern for the environment rose significantly when, decades ago, a truck carrying radioactive waste spilled near his California home.
“It really set me off,” he said. “I asked—what’s really going on in the environment? Then it became a life journey to study natural systems and how they interact with business.”
Nutiva is a darling of the talk-show circuit and beloved by disciples of California’s New Food movement. Its popularity stems in part from its obsession with being organic—the perfect approach to a clientele now wary of high-fructose corn syrup and whatever polysyllabic gibberish may end up on the ingredients list.
While writing this article, one of the my friends wanted to know why Nutiva’s Buttery Spread contained “organic butter flavor,” according to the ingredient list. (Roulac told me that organic butter flavor contains “certified organic plants that create a flavor profile that has a butter-like flavor.” She was not convinced and promptly returned the product.)
Coconut oil is the 15-year-old company’s bread and butter. While it still maintains Grey Poupon status in the cooking-oil market, the oil’s appeal is versatility. You can spread it on toast, put it in your stir-fry, brighten your teeth with it and dab it on like skin cream. Even gynecologists have noticed a rise in patients using it as lubricant.
As a killer app for the kitchen, coconut oil sales have skyrocketed. As irony would have it, the raw product is in such high demand for the company that it now shows up at the processing facility in petroleum-grade barrels. Were it not for the light, nutty aroma wafting through the plant, you might think Nutiva was producing a whole different kind of energy.
When I asked Roulac about them, though, he reverted straight to the potential for sustainability.
“We’re repurposing (the barrels) for water catching in the city of El Cerrito,” he said.
In the decade and a half dominated by the Atkins, Long Beach, 100-Mile and Paleo diets, Nutiva has not only not only remained in the black, but has also found ways to accelerate growth. A major contributor to its success, says Roulac, is its unrelenting focus on environmental advocacy.
For many CEOs, corporate social responsibility is often the stuff of good PR. On the other hand, Roulac seems more like an environmentalist who just happens to be building an empire right here in Richmond.
His first successes were in the book-writing business. During the 1990’s, Roulac published four books. One of them, Backyard Composting: Your Complete Guide to Recycling Yard Clippings, went on to sell over a half-million copies.
As an instructional guide, its success was its versatility. He sold many of the copies in bulk to municipalities trying to promote composting en masse.
The book remains the central theme of Roulac’s environmental activism: soil. The problem, he argues, is not necessarily what we put into our bodies, but what is happening to the soil where we grow our produce.
“You talk to the leaders in agriculture they never monitor soil activity. They don’t know what’s in the soil. lt’s basically no different than giving Ritalin to a two-year old kid versus giving them a new environment.”
Roulac helps his Point Richmond community at the grassroots level, literally. Nutiva works with Common Vision, a local environmental collective, in agricultural projects around the city. Together, they have committed to a goal of planting a fruit orchard at every school in Richmond.
Leo Buc, a longtime friend of Roulac’s and a member of the local gardening collective Common Vision, echoed his obsession with promoting healthy growth within the community.
“One of my favorite things that he regularly says is that Nutiva is an NGO disguised as a brand,” Buc said. “It gives a chance for employees to plug into the local community. it creates a cultural change in the company.”
His social change doesn’t stop at the garden gate.
In fact, he has campaigned for environmental causes such as hemp legalization and GMO labeling in courtrooms from Sacramento to Kentucky, When Roulac started his company in 1999, he was almost immediately met with problems from perhaps the most intimidating of regulatory agencies, the DEA. After blocking a shipment of hemp from Canada, he sued the federal government.
“We sued the fed because they equated hemp bars to heroin,” he said. As marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, hemp is consistently confused with the drug, but its purposes vary from the culinary to the industrial to the mundane.
Not only did Roulac win the case, but he also paved the way for hemp importation within the United States. In 2011, the total value of non-industrial hemp products as more than $150 million, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
In 2013, Roulac appealed to the state of Kentucky to legalize the cultivation of hemp, a crop legal in virtually every other country on earth. While the bill drew bipartisan support and even an endorsement from Rand Paul, its regulation was delayed until further research could be done by local Universities.
Farmers in the Bluegrass State have sought alternatives to dwindling tobacco crops, and some lawmakers have even argued that the fibrous plant makes a better horse bedding than wood shavings. Still, hemp growth has so far been restricted to Universities. But Roulac foresees the crop becoming a staple of American agriculture.
“We see within 10 to 20 years you could have three million acres of industrial hemp in the U.S.,” he said. That’s roughly the size of Connecticut.
But Roulac did not stop there. After trying to establish the country’s Hemp industry, he moved to fighting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in California. For Roulac, Monsanto and the big agriculture is a far bigger foe than their bottom line.
“Real competition is industrial GMO agriculture, Monsanto being the lead dog,” he said. “They’re the real competition, denuding nature and destroying nature on a global basis”.
The Nutiva website features many articles openly vilifying Monsanto for their policies on agriculture. In one piece, he calls the major agricultural companies a “cabal of war-chemical giants” and he compares the anti-GMO plight to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
In 2012, Roulac pledged his support for Prop 37, a statewide bill that would require agricultural companies to label products that contain GMOs. Had it passed, California would have become the first state in the country to force corporations to notify the consumer.
Roulac donated $100,000 in support of GMO labeling. Monsanto donated over $8 million to oppose it.
The bill narrowly failed to pass. But instead of conceding defeat, Roulac fought back. Soon after the loss, he founded GMO Inside, an organization geared towards the cause’s massive online community.
“I founded GMO inside when I saw prop 37 was likely gonna lose.”
GMO Inside leverages a large social media following to criticize and attack other companies that use GMOs without notifying consumers. The site, which contains promotional ads featuring celebrities like Danny Devito and Bill Maher, identifies companies using GMOs.
They also shame them. One of their first major targets was General Mills’ Cheerios brand. As one of the companies who opposed Prop 37, Roulac felt they won the battle, but not the war.
In 2012, a social media army of tens of thousands swarmed the Cheerios Facebook page and pressured the cereal company to drop GMOs from the product.
“I was the one that personally came up with that campaign,” Roulac said. “We put 50,000 comments on their Facebook wall and their market share began to drop.”
Earlier this year, General Mills bowed to pressure from anti-GMO activism and removed genetically modified ingredients from their Cheerios brand. Roulac saw this move as a small victory in a long battle with big agriculture.
Amid the furor over GMOs, I spoke to David Zilberman, a professor at Berkeley’s Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics. Zilberman has been skeptical of the recent GMO outcry in California, as he believes that they are not only safe for consumption, but better for the environment, too.
“To be anti-GMO is not only ignorant, but dangerous,” he said. Zilberman explained that organic farming and organic dieting can work in California, but not in developing countries struggling with malnutrition.
Zilberman cited golden rice as an example of the benefit of genetically-modified seeds. Golden rice is a crop artificially-infused with beta-carotene, which increases the production of vitamin A during photosynthesis. Many parts of the developing world—including countries where Nutiva imports raw ingredients from—suffer from a deficiency in Vitamin A.
“Organic is okay for the middle class but not good for the poor,” said Zilberman.
On the other hand, Roulac believes the problem does not require such an elaborate solution.
“You try this black box wizardry through superior genetics, but you can solve the problem another way,” he said. “Agriculture is the problem and agriculture is the solution. The largest energy companies in the world will come to the realization that they can participate to become part of the solution.”
Meanwhile, GMO Inside’s next targets include Sabra, a popular hummus producer, and Chobani, one of the largest yogurt companies in the country.
Still, Nutiva’s greatest challenge seems to be committing to its ideals while growing at a Silicon Valley pace. Unlike most startups lining the bay, they have resisted corporate acquisition and committed to remaining independent.
“It’s a journey through the valley of death,” said Roulac. “Few companies are able to do that independently, and we have to deal with very tough conditions.”
It’s difficult to fathom how Roulac manages to run such a fast-growing growing while also campaigning so arduously in courtrooms around the country. But at the core of this juxtaposition is a business model as innovative as Silicon Valley itself.
“Just combining the entrepreneurial drive with social change and environmental change—its the best business model that there is. Companies that follow this, like Nutiva, Patagonia or Tesla, are seeing increased market share.” he said.
If hemp farming is legalized, or if GMO labels become a staple in major supermarkets, then Nutiva will have an immediate leg up on competition. The company’s uniqueness is in its willingness to carve value out of regulation and to attack those they see as committing environmental injustice.
But Leo Buc believes Roulac genuinely puts the environment before the bottom line.
“A whole lot of companies are jumping on sustainability as a marketing tool. It’s been the real deal for 30 years with that guy. All the Johnny-come-latelies are late to the game.”

The drill hall on Gaddy Street

By Les Green

From 1910 till 1954, it was a really impressive big building. (Les Green/Submitted photo)
From 1910 till 1954, it was a really impressive big building. (Les Green/Submitted photo)

It has gone from the scene for 60 years now, but the memories of that huge brick building on Gaddy Street North still lingers on for many folk and for a variety of reasons. We will refer to the history books for some of the story and personal memories, such as they are, for the rest.
Around 1910
Portage la Prairie had just become a city some four years before, and was becoming an important distribution point for the prospering prairies. No less than five railway companies came through or to Portage; the Waterloo had just built its western Canadian assembly plant here, and other implement companies were soon seeing the advantages of locating here.
So it was that the Hart Parr Company, manufacturer of huge tractors, built its distribution plant on the east side of Gaddy Street, not far from the red brick Union Depot of the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Great Northern railways (which in time became the home of Canadian National and now is our Bus Depot). Soon, the Dominion Armouries was built, just across the road.
Hart Part operated there for 10 years, and then sold to another implement company, Altman Taylor, and then the Oliver Plow Company made it its home. By the late 1920s, the Manitoba Cordage Co., or “The Hemp Factory” as we knew it, set up shop in the building. Hemp was deemed to be the wonder crop of the age, and their main product was locally-made binder twine, always in great demand for prairie farmers on their binders.
Came the 1930s
Then, as the story goes, word got out that hemp contained marijuana, and the synthetic fabric manufacturers in the U.S. used it as an excuse to have the growing of hemp outlawed. That, along with the Depression Years, and perhaps the coming of the combine that did not use binder twine, saw the plant closed and the building sitting vacant. But the week-end soldiers at the adjacent Armouries made good use of it as a drill hall.
100th Basic Training Centre
When The Boys Home (Agassiz) was taken over by the Army in 1940, young men were “called up” for a month's training. When they got off the train, they entered the Drill Hall on Gaddy Street where they were interviewed, checked by a doctor and dentist, and issued their orders-for-the-day before marching to their new home. The old building was now very busy, as it was all during the rest of The Second World War.       
Delta apparel
When Sam Greene started his “shirt factory” on Broadway North in the mid-1930s, he likely had no idea that someday it would grow and call for a factory as big as the Drill Hall. But when Bill Glesby took over and the big building became available, Delta Apparel had a new home. And so it was that an army of seamstresses turned out carloads of garments, until one fateful day in 1954 it caught fire and was no more. It was a very dramatic time for the neighboring houses, and even more so for the petroleum companies whose bulk depots were on the adjacent railway siding. The site remained vacant for awhile, and now has houses on it.
My little girl
It was in the early 50s that Wifey liked to take wee daughter down “to see the trains” and past Delta Apparel. Oftimes it would be at closing time, and the girls would come streaming out, often to be met by waiting boyfriends, some to be greeted by hugs and kisses. Maybe it had been a long day at the sewing machine? Our little one was always suitably impressed. 

AXIM to build manufacturing facility for hemp-based products in Netherlands

AXIM new facility in Netherlands
AXIM Biotechnologies has selected the coastal city of Almere in the Netherlands, for its future hemp-based products manufacturing facility headquarters.
The company, which is focused on research, development and production of pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmetic products, has executed an option agreement for a land purchase of a 5,328m² industrial land.
Currently, the company also holds a design and feasibility services agreement with a Dutch commercial real-estate developer G&S Bouw.

The new office building will feature a clean laboratory zone, storage areas, office and technical rooms as well as manufacturing facility furnishings.

Project design and feasibility has already been initiated, while the construction is scheduled to be completed by 2017.

AXIM Biotechnologies chief executive officer Dr George Anastassov said: "Here at AXIM, we are delighted to initiate the acquisition of a land parcel at the city of Almere at The Netherlands.

"We are extremely thankful to the government of the province of Flevoland for their trust in AXIM Biotechnologies.

"The factory that we will build there is compliant with the highest European and International standards and will produce unique pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products from our extended proprietary portfolio."

According to the research, the industrial hemp plant can produce more than 25,000 products.

The new Almere facility will include raw material and finished product manufacturing in the following categories: functional foods, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and clean energy.

This facility will also serve as the company's global manufacturing hub, with both the capacity to manufacture the products and also to process hemp oil derivatives.

Contribute To The Jack And Jeannie Herer Cannabis And Hemp Museum

By Johnny Green

jack herer hemp

The late Jack Herer is an icon in the marijuana and hemp world. Strains are named after him, books have been written about him, and now, there is an effort to create a cannabis and hemp museum in his honor. The effort is being led by his wife, who has started a crowd funding page dedicated to opening the Jack and Jeannie Herer Cannabis and Hemp Museum. Below is more information. You can donate at this link here:
Hi everybody. I’m Jeannie Herer and my husband was the late great Jack Herer, one of the founding fathers of the Cannabis Hemp movement and author of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” the bestselling book about the history and many uses of Cannabis Hemp. Please read it online free at
Before Jack passed away in 2010, we were looking for a place to start a Cannabis Hemp museum and hemp gift shop. I have the whole history of the hemp movement, from the 1970’s until now, in a storage unit in Las Vegas. People have been encouraging me for a long time to start a crowdfunder so I can get this going and now I’m finally doing it. Please feel free to contribute and help this historical museum come to life. We will also have many very cool counterculture exhibits.
Because Jack was well known, most people think we had a lot of money, and that I have a lot of money now, but this was all put back into the movement. We funded many initiatives to change the laws. I wish he could see how far we’ve come in the last few years.
I’ve had an extremely hard time making ends meet since Jack passed, and I can’t afford the storage unit and would hate to lose all of this great historical stuff that needs to be shared with the world.
Please help if you can. All donors will have free admission to the museum and we’ll have a special “Donor’s Wall.”
All donations will go towards helping me get back on my feet, saving all of the historical memorabilia, and starting up this great cannabis museum.

Hemp Trend Launches New Hemptique 100% Organic Hemp Bath Collection

Press Release
Source: launches new Hemptique line of 100% organic bath products. The new products are created with organic hemp fibers, a strong material that according to Hemp Trend will keep bath linens strong for a long time, even with constant use.

Hemp Trend, a provider of premium quality earth friendly products made of materials such as hemp, cotton, and bamboo, recently launched the Hemptique Organic Hemp Bath Collection, a variety of bath products made from 100% organic hemp.

“With its wonderful soft touch and durability, hemp is the perfect natural fiber for bath items,” said Bonna C., Marketing Director at Hemp Trend.“Plus, they’re super absorbent.”

As the country continues to shift towards a heavier use of organic, reusable and environmentally friendly products, Hemp Trend saw the opportunity to expand its bath line by offering a wider range of products.

“Hemp Trend is committed to selling products that are healthy for the environment, utilize sustainable resources and of superior quality,” said Bonna, “For example, hemp uses about half the land the half the water that would be used to produce comparable crop of cotton.”
Included in the new Hemptique line is a wide range of bath products. Some of the more popular products among consumers are the organic hemp bath towels, hand towels, wash clothes, and scrub mitts. The new Hemptique line even includes a soap holder.

All of the new products in the Hemptique line are created with organic hemp fibers, a strong material that according to Hemp Trend will keep bath linens strong for a long time, even with constant use.

“In addition, all these bath products are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and resistant to mold,” said Bonna.

Currently available on the website, the new Hemptique bath products are expected to be a popular gift during the upcoming holiday season.

In addition to the new Hemptique line, Hemp Trend is continuing to expand its already vast collection of hemp, rope, twine, apparel, and more. The site also offers organic hemp bags and handmade hemp paper, a uniquely attractive writing surface.

To shop the Hemptique line, and other premium quality earth friendly products, visit

Contact Info:
Name: Hemp Trend Sales
Phone: 760-602-4864
Organization: Hemp Trend

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Farming hemp: it’s everything. Oil, protein, fibre, animal bedding, concrete, fuel . . .

By Ed White

Yesterday was a cheerful day at the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance annual conference here in Winnipeg.
It’s often cheery and positive at this conf in recent years, but I remark on the optimistic tone because hemp, more than almost any other crop on the Canadian Prairies, has had a rocky birth, rebirth, second death and second resurrection. It was originally banned in the early 20th century because of its dope-producing qualities, then came back in the 1990s, when low-THC varieties and lots of work allowed commercial hemp to be grown without the danger of crossing the two worlds of commercial crop and criminal underworld.
Acreage surged, as the crop’s multiple uses excited both farmers and investors, and a huge and growing demand seemed about to be met with northern Prairie farmers’ hemp – but then everything collapsed. Buyers failed or failed to materialize, combines went up in flames (literally), lots of bad stuff happened. And acreage collapsed.
Flash forward to the last half dozen years and the diligent folks of the hemp industry – basically the people in the room at the CHTA convention – are atop a hot crop that truly is filling multiple market demands and giving farmers legitimate hopes of a long term sustainable crop to add permanently into their rotations. It’s still not a big crop, but doesn’t seem a speculative enthusiasm either.
Here are some highlights (for me) from the convention:
Chinese demand and production is likely to grow, with Canadians as partners
There was lots of talk about China at the conf, with that nation’s plans to grow millions of acres of the crop and the demand of its huge population being discussed.
Robert Jin, the Chinese founder of Gilbert Plains’ Plains Industrial Hemp Processing, seemed to suggest that for fibre, Western Canada will mostly grow the crop and China will probably process it. Western Canada has advantages in growing the crop, while China has advantages in processing. He is impressed by both environmental and farming conditions in Western Canada.
* “Manitoba has very nice land.” Huge fields make farming in Western Canada easy.
* “The farmer has a very good” set-up of machinery, which allows seeding and harvest to be done well.
* The climate is good. “You are not hot.” Jin said cool summers on the northern Prairies allow strong fibre to develop, which is not true in hotter areas.
But there are some drawbacks too when producing hemp in Western Canada:
* Present varieties grown by farmers seem mostly designed for both seed and fibre production. Those dual-purpose varieties don’t tend to be maximized for fibre quality.
* Farmers grow the crop until the seeds are mature, which makes fibre quality and decortication more challenging.
* Spring is short and harvest can be rushed and difficult.
Jan Slaski of Alberta Innovates Technology Futures talked about China’s demand for hemp production and processing and the risks some see in doing business with the country.
China plans to grow more than 1.3 million hectares of hemp in coming years, so that could be seen as a threat by some. But more than a billion Chinese will be considered “middle class” by next year, which means they have disposable income to spend on things like hemp-containing products. It’s too big a market to ignore and serving that market too would allow Prairie farmers to rely less on Europe and North America, Slaski said.
And while problems with Chinese intellectual property theft worry many Canadian businesses, it’s also a market that’s risky to ignore.
Interesting developments in health, healthy and functional food demand are helping hemp
Svetlana Uduslivaia, a market analyst with Euromonitor International, said some trends in food and nutraceutical markets are helping hemp.
As a protein ingredient, whey has long dominated the market and still does. But alternative proteins like hemp, peas and brown rice are finding good demand from young people, vegans, and women in particular. “Alternative protein” is popular, she said.
And protein products might have become popular in recent years, but pro-protein sentiments aren’t likely to recede. That’s good for the overall protein-as-ingredient market.
“Protein has plenty of room to grow.”
On the health food side protein has been offered as both health claim/function specific products and “generally wholesome” products. Uduslivaia said while some consumers have favoured the health function specific products, which offer a focused benefit like heart health, some products that have stayed away from that but instead offer hemp as a wholesome-seeming ingredient in general have done better.
Hempcrete: promise, but lots and lots of wrinkles to work out
University of Manitoba engineers have been working on hempcrete – a building material containing hemp fibre and other materials – and testing simple house-like structures made from the stuff. The sense I got from their presentation is that there’s lots and lots of work to do on perfecting both the formulation and the use of some types of hempcrete before it will be a viable commercial option for many human housing uses. Moisture flow, heat loss, etc. all have to be looked at further. They’ll keep working on it.
Relevant snacks!
It makes sense to me that farmer and agriculture conferences that are based on food products should try to make sure some of the coffee break snacks contain that particular crop, meat or food product. The dairy folks tend to be good at this, and almost always have milk, yoghurt and other appropriate snacks available. Some commodity groups don’t seem to think of it at all, though, and I find that sad.
The hemp folks, on the other hand, are exceptionally good at connecting the coffee break nutrition to their crop. Here’s a few of the things from the coffee break and lunch.
And here’s an interview with the Delta Winnipeg’s banquet chef Kelly Andreas about making these hempy snacks and working with hemp products:

What is hemp? It’s an edible oil. It’s a protein ingredient. It’s a super-tough fibre for construction and textiles. It’s a crop serving multiple markets and giving northern farmers a good option for their rotations. It’s been nice seeing it bounce back.

King Hemp

Could marijuana’s non-psychoactive counterpart be the next cash crop? 

By Joey Peters

Fine inspects a 2014 hemp crop in Sterling, Colorado

Doug Fine believes that hemp will save humanity.

The New Mexico-based journalist, conservationist and activist is probably best known for his 2012 book Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution, which took an in-depth look at how a growing legal cannabis industry is revitalizing the economy.
In his latest study, Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural RevolutionFine shifts his research to the potentials of marijuana’s non-psychoactive counterpart.

Hemp can be used for everything from sustainable, non-GMO food to a new major energy source, and Fine argues that maximizing the plant’s cultivation can solve several of society’s burning issues all the while giving a bright, lucrative future to farmers in New Mexico and across the world.

“Hemp is really as big as your college roommate with the lava lamp claimed it was going to be,” Fine says. “Or perhaps a little bit bigger.”

Hemp’s roots in the United States go all the way back to George Washington, who grew the plant himself in Mount Vernon. Still, its use is limited by government restrictions.
Though industrial hemp only contains 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol—meaning it’s impossible to smoke and get high from—cultivating the plant is still illegal in 31 states, including New Mexico. But a recent provision of the latest federal farm bill allows states to cultivate the plant for research, as long as they pass their own hemp legislation.

New Mexico hasn’t created its own hemp laws yet, but Fine is banking that the state Legislature will do so this upcoming session, convinced that the issue is bipartisan and noncontroversial. Fine is so hopeful for this that he’ll be leading a full-day workshop in Santa Fe about the potential business opportunities local cultivators of the plant can expect to be a part of soon.

SFR caught up with Fine and discussed his two-year research that led to Hemp Bound, as well as the plant’s future in New Mexico.

SFR: The last book you wrote was mostly about psychoactive cannabis. How did you get into the subject of hemp?

DF: It was while I was researching Too High to Fail, which was about a local, sustainable effort to bring cannabis aboveground in northern California that was supported by local law enforcement. The farmers that were involved wanted to centralize the cannabis processing in their community and provide aboveground jobs, taxpaying jobs, quality control. But they didn’t know what to do with the stalks, the fiber—basically the unmarketable parts of the psychoactive cannabis plant. That started me off with the research that became Hemp Bound. While the energy component is probably the most important one to me, there’s so much more. Seed applications that are healthy for food, fiber applications that are going to make hemp fiber into next-generation battery technology. I had the very good fortune of the book coming out just as federal law changed with hemp for the first time in 77 years, allowing cultivation in states with their own hemp legislation, which is important for us in New Mexico to get this session.

Can you talk more about how hemp laws changed?

On Feb. 7, President Obama signed the federal farm bill. And in that farm bill was a provision that allows hemp cultivation for research purposes in any state that has its own state hemp legislation, provided that the projects are in some way connected with an institution of higher learning or with some branch of the state’s agriculture department. Now, until we see commercial hemp legalization on the federal level, which we very well may soon, it’s just the 19 states that have their own hemp cultivation laws. I’m working with some folks to get very easy wording about New Mexico being in sync with federal law, but I think we’ll see it this session in New Mexico, hopefully.

Even if New Mexico does sign its own hemp legislation, is hemp cultivation still going to be restricted in some ways before the federal government legalizes growing the plant?

Kentucky is probably leading the way in terms of state support for the industry, although Colorado is doing a good job as well. And Kentucky is interpreting the research provision very, very broadly. Farmers who grew this year were allowed to grow for any purposes and in any amount and sell their products. On the Colorado side, they actually are superseding federal law, and their state agriculture department issues whole commercial cultivation permits. Other states that are doing it right now, like Vermont, are taking it very, very warily. They’re certainly not hassling hemp farmers, but universities are watching with interest but not helping.

In the book you say that hemp isn’t going to be a slam-dunk in the marketplace before the plant’s economy of scale is reestablished. What needs to happen in order for the economy of scale to reestablish?

Entrepreneurialism of any kind is always risky. Most new businesses, most new industries fail. Yet, hemp, right now, is growing 24 percent per year in Canada. It’s going to cross the billion-dollar mark this year in Canada. There’s an established market already. In low water situations, our farmers here, especially in the eastern part of the state, are struggling. Hemp has been shown to use half the water of wheat. So it’s healing the soil, making your farmland better. The energy application that I’m really excited about is biomass gasification. Santa Fe has a plan for creating energy independence through biomass gasification that they already commissioned. So when we have a lot of hemp biomass produced for other applications, the waste material, the bargain and whatnot, can go to create energy independence for New Mexico.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about hemp?

I may be living in a bubble world or tunnel-vision world, but there aren’t too many left. I was at the University of Kentucky Lexington campus hemp harvest, and I was standing next to the fellow that runs the hemp program at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. These are not tie-dye wearing, lava lamp owners. And they aren’t even talking about just how excited they are about the economic potential of it. They’re talking about how the hemp crop and its potential is bringing Kentuckians together from all realms of the political spectrum, allowing people to converse who wouldn’t normally be talking to each other in the political arena. Because everyone loves hemp.

What Studies Say about Hemp CBD

By Robby Gardner

In the United States, hemp is often confused with marijuana. It’s a consumer misconception that has, for decades, slowed the market potential for hemp in the food, dietary supplement, textile, and even lumber industries. The dietary supplement industry, in particular, has a lot to gain from hemp, and not just with hemp oil and hemp protein. A substance called cannabidiol (CBD) has shown nutritional potential for years, yet the taboo around Cannabis has kept CBD off the radar. Now, with hemp gaining a better reputation, it looks as though its little compound is finally poised for big market growth. And much of that growth could be in stress and anxiety formulas.
What Is CBD?
CBD is a phytocannabinoid that is found in industrial hemp and marijuana, which are two different varieties of theCannabis sativa plant. The current market for CBD as a dietary supplement is based on industrial hemp, not marijuana, because marijuana also contains significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a phytocannabinoid that is psychoactive and, thus, capable of making a person high. Industrial hemp contains only negligible amounts of THC—no more than, say, poppy seeds contain opiates—and so it will not get you high. The plant is, thus, safe for human consumption and useful for components including CBD.
While CBD is not psychoactive like THC, it can still have a profound influence on the human brain, but first—is CBD legal?
Legal Status of CBD
In order to understand if CBD is legal for sale and consumption, one must look at the legality of hemp oil, which can be tailor-made for high concentrations of CBD.
Hemp oil is listed on the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (with no restrictions on CBD content) meaning that hemp oil is a legal U.S. import. This is important because federal law prohibits the farming of hemp in the United States. Hemp can only be purchased as an import. Some state laws override this federal law, but most of these, for now, just legalize hemp farming. At the time of this writing, Colorado and Kentucky are the only states that have laws permitting the farming and sale of hemp, and these are both very recent laws. The market for U.S.-grown hemp, thus, relies almost entirely on legal imports from established markets. Canada, Europe, and China are some of the world’s biggest hemp producers, so they control the U.S. market supply and will for at least a while longer.
As long as CBD-rich oils are imported, or farmed in states where cultivation and production is permitted by state law, CBD-rich hemp oils are legal. But they are not legal if their THC content is above 0.3%.1 This threshold keeps the distinction between hemp and marijuana in place.
Scientific Studies on CBD
As for how CBD works, CBD and other phytocannabinoids influence the brain by interacting with the brain’s very own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids.
“Generally, phytocannabinoids like CBD can help to restore a more balanced ‘tone’ within the endocannabinoid system,” says Stuart Tomc, vice president of human nutrition for CBD oil supplier CannaVest Corp. (San Diego). “As such, CBD may positively, broadly affect various processes that control brain signaling, via neurotransmitter function, ion channel and membrane dynamics, inflammatory responses, and even gene expression.” It’s worth noting thatCannabis compounds aren’t the only ones capable of interacting with the brain’s endocannabinoid system. Compounds from flax and Brassica species, for instance, have shown potential to interact with the endocannabinoid system, too.2–3 With that said, why is this brain system so important?
The endocannabinoid system has broad influence over areas of the brain involved in sensations such as pain perception, movement, emotion, cognition, and sleep. For this reason, the endocannabinoid system likely has big sway over some brain health conditions. A blockage of cannabinoid receptors called CB1 receptors has been linked to behavioral effects consistent with antidepressant activity.4 Enhancement of anandamide, the first discovered endocannabinoid, may relieve chronic pain associated with neuropsychiatric disorders.5 Post-traumatic stress disorder appears to involve cannabinoid pathways, too.6
For all of the ways the endocannabinoid system can influence brain health, CBD’s own interaction with the endocannabinoid system could translate into some very significant health effects, and previously published studies so far offer positive indications. For extensive reading, a 2012 review of CBD studies provides a thorough overview of most of the existing human clinical trials (34 in total) on CBD for healthy and/or clinical patients.7 Here are some of the trials that stand out.
To explore the impact of an ingredient on anxiety, scientists often first look at that ingredient’s impact on cortisol levels in the human blood after ingestion. Cortisol levels are heightened when animals are under extreme duress, and when Brazilian researchers investigated the effect of CBD doses on human cortisol levels in 11 volunteers in 1993, they found that CBD decreased cortisol levels significantly more than placebo. CBD subjects also reported a sedative effect from the treatment.8
Also in 1993, the same researchers compared the effects of CBD and two anxiety medications, ipsapirone and diazepam, on a group of 40 healthy individuals assigned to a simulated public speaking test. Using a Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) to assess personal anxiety before and after the public speaking test, the researchers determined that diazepam lowered anxiety before and after the test, while the ipsapirone and CBD only lowered anxiety after the test.9 Years later, in 2004, another team of Brazilian researchers analyzed CBD, but they upped the dosage by 100 mg (now 400 mg of CBD). Compared to placebo, subjects in this study reported significantly decreased anxiety and increased mental sedation. Brain imaging tests suggested that such effects were mediated in specific regions of the brain.10
Aside from a potential influence on healthy volunteers, CBD has shown some promise in subjects with established social anxiety disorders. Two studies in 2011 yielded favorable results for CBD supplementation in this type of population. In the first study, CBD use was associated with decreases in subjective anxiety and was accompanied by (presumably significant) changes in regional cerebral blood flow.11 The second study tied CBD to reduced anxiety and discomfort in response to a simulated public speaking test.12
Curiously, the presence of CBD alongside THC, in marijuana, has even shown potential to alleviate THC-induced anxiety and psychosis.13–14
Early research suggests that CBD consumption can also affect sleep in a positive way—in particular, it may block rapid eye movement (REM) sleep—but such an effect may be more related to CBD’s anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) properties than direct sleep regulation, per se.15 While the basis for this CBD-and-sleep theory is largely made in rodent studies, some research has been done on sleep-impaired but otherwise healthy humans.
In a 1981 Brazilian study, researchers at the Escola Paulista de Medicina in São Paulo assigned 15 insomniacs to a CBD dose (ranging between 40 mg and 160 mg), placebo, or nitrazepam, a hypnotic drug indicated for relief from anxiety and insomnia. With the highest CBD dose, sleep significantly increased, although dream recall was reduced, compared to placebo.16 The reduction of dream recall is presumably due to a reduction of REM sleep, wherein dreams are most active.
Also relating to sleep, somnolence, a state of feeling drowsy or sleepy, has been reported with CBD consumption. While the onset of somnolence may help humans sleep, such an effect should also be examined further for the sake of other CBD uses not related to sleep.
In light of the notion made earlier that CBD may attenuate the psychotic effect of THC, such anti-psychotic potential might conceivably help subjects with schizophrenia. This population can be burdened by acute psychosis, but also by anxiety.
Unfortunately, the outcomes from CBD studies on schizophrenia patients are a mixed bag. Where a 2009 German study found 600 mg of CBD to be as effective as amisulpride (an anti-psychotic drug) in reducing psychotic symptoms after four weeks,17 a Brazilian case series in 2006 found CBD well-tolerated but not necessarily effective for treatment-resistant schizophrenia.18 And of two studies conducted in 2010, one found CBD useful for managing schizophrenia, and the other did not.19–20
Market Outlook
The ongoing CBD research discussed herein provides broad market potential for the CBD supplements already in trade today. While concerns such as stress and poor sleep may provide avenues for selling CBD oils to the general population, manufacturers can also capitalize on some much more particular health concerns. Epilepsy, a health condition not discussed in detail here, provides one of the biggest opportunities for CBD today. In fact, the state of Missouri passed a bill earlier this year that legalizes the sale of “hemp extracts” containing CBD as prescribable medicine, but only for children with a rare form of epilepsy called intractable epilepsy.
Creating demand for CBD oil shouldn’t prove difficult, but creating a pro-hemp industry around the world is still a challenge.
“There are many international markets that are well ahead of the game when it comes to CBD,” says Andrew Hard, public relations director for CBD oil supplier HempMeds (Poway, CA). “Unfortunately, the United States is a huge influence on drug policies internationally, which has probably kept these [other] markets from growing as much as they could. We’re hopeful that as the attitudes and laws towards Cannabis in the United States change, the world will adjust accordingly.”
Fortunately, the laws are already changing, and none have proved so significant for hemp as the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill. Signed by President Barack Obama at the beginning of the year, the Farm Bill contains a provision that legalizes hemp research pilot programs in states where cultivation is legal under state law. Through state and university agriculture departments, interested parties can now cultivate hemp and start to learn about its local harvest and local marketability. Since climate and soil conditions are far different in the United States than they are in, say, Canada, this research phase will help industry determine just what U.S.-grown hemp is made of. One thing about U.S. hemp is certain, though: it can be bred for high amounts of CBD.
Robby Gardner
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook magazine
Photo ©
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