Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Missouri Agency Reviewing Hemp Grower Applicants

Source: ozarksfirst.com

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Agriculture is closer to selecting the entities who will grow hemp to make cannabidiol (CBD) oil, under a bill that became law earlier this year.

Cannabidiol oil is genetically modified to not include a high enough level of THC to get a user high, but has a high CBD level that offers a potential therapeutic effect.

The bill told the Department of Agriculture to create a process by which nonprofits could apply for a license to become a hemp production facility. The Department did, and has since received ten applications.

Senator Eric Schmitt, who sponsored that bill, said one or two licenses will be awarded.

"My hope is that in 2015 there will be some significant progress with those licenses being awarded, they'll start to grow and then the product will be available for Missourians," Schmitt told Missourinet.

Some had expressed frustration that the licensing process wasn't moving faster, but Schmitt said he's satisfied.

"The wheels of the bureaucratic channels don't spin as quickly as I think all of us would like sometimes," said Schmitt, "but I think they're doing their best right now to get these applications approved, but we'll be watching."

The issue is a personal one for Schmitt. While sponsoring that bill in the Senate, he told his fellow lawmakers about his son Stephen, who suffers from tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy

"He's doing OK. It's an ever-changing journey," Schmitt told Missourinet. "He … suffers from seizures every day and scary ones where he's not breathing, and so we're living with that still to this day. He's tried a number of medications, all of which have not effectively controlled it. He's a real blessing. It was a unique opportunity for me to share that story on the Senate floor so that people really had an understanding of what these families are dealing with every day."

The Department of Health and Senior Services will oversee issuing hemp extract registration cards to epilepsy patients for whom a neurologist has said three or more other treatment options have been unsuccessful.

Schmitt said CBD oil also might not work for all patients, but the bill was about letting them try it.

"We have friends who've done this, and we know people, and people that we didn't know before we took on this legislation that have reached out to us since that have packed up their entire families and moved to Colorado to access it, and people shouldn't have to do that," said Schmitt.

New Year’s Revolutions: The Return of the US Hemp Industry

By Jeremy Daw
Source: theleafonline.com

New Year's Revolutions: The Return of the US Hemp Industry, Source: http://i1.wp.com/wakeup-world.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/crop-hemp.jpg

In the last post of this series, the Leaf outlined the reasons why the year 2015 will probably usher in some kind of federal rescheduling of cannabinoids, although the reform may not be the kind many activists are looking for. This post looks at another facet of the diverse cannabis industry: the return of industrial hemp.
Although the US hemp industry is already back in microcosmic form, the nascent gaggle of family and experimental plots cultivated in 2014 will likely be dwarfed by the 2015 crop, sown in the wake of significant federal reforms. Topping the bill is a rider in the 2015 federal funding bill which deprives the Department of Justice of any funds to move against state-legal industrial hemp programs, as the Drug Enforcement Agency attempted to do in Kentucky last May. That bill only takes effect for one year, but when coupled with an amendment to the 2013 farm bill signed by President Obama which legalized limited hemp cultivation for research purposes in about a dozen states, the new bevy of federal laws is beginning to look like real reform.
The bulk of the 2015 hemp crop will probably be sown by universities as part of agronomic research programs pursuant to the farm bill; individuals desiring to start their own hemp farms will face a greater legal risk (the DOJ spending rider is only good for one year, and the federal statute of limitations for cannabis cultivation is five years). But in the end, these limitations will probably only further the cause of reform, as Americans coast to coast will start asking why, if research universities can grow a profitable and useful plant, they can’t do the same.
Thus future historians will probably choose 2015 as the year that the industrial hemp industry returned to the US, after a long, unconscionable hiatus.

Where There's Smoke, There's Power: Yet Another Use for Hemp

By Patricia Guadalupe
Source: sputniknews.com

Hemp (cannabis sativa) is a pretty versatile plant, and for centuries has been used for clothing, paper, fabric, and lately it’s been used for medicine, building materials, food, and even fuel. Its versatility is so extensive that the energy storage industry is taking a look at it.
New research in Canada shows that supercapacitors with electrodes made from hemp carbon nanosheets outperform the standard supercapacitors by almost 200 percent. The material usually used for supercapacitor electrodes, graphene, is expensive, costing as much as $2,000 per gram. 
Researchers tout supercapacitors as energy storage devices that have a lot of potential to change the way future electronics are powered.
Graphene is a very strong lightweight material made of layers of stacked carbon that can be converted into electrodes. Researchers have been looking to how the material can be used for all kinds of different uses, such as longer-lasting batteries, touchscreen technology, solar cells for solar panels, among others, but cost is a big factor. And that’s where hemp steps in.
Researchers at the University of Alberta/National Institute for Nanotechnology developed a process that converts fibrous hemp waste into a material that works like graphene and even outperforms it, and costs much less — $500 per ton.
Researchers say the results look very promising for greater use of low-cost hemp to address the country’s growing energy needs.

New Mexico Can Nullify Federal Industrial Hemp Ban in 2015

Source: blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com

A bill set for introduction in the New Mexico state senate during 2015 would authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state, effectively nullifying the federal prohibition on the same once put into effect.
Senate Bill 94 (SB94) was prefiled on Dec. 15 by State Senator Cisco McSorley (D-Bernalillo) and would open up the industrial hemp market in New Mexico if successfully passed.
SB94 would “establish policy and procedures for growing industrial hemp in New Mexico so that farmers and other businesses in the New Mexico agricultural industry can take advantage of this market opportunity.” Under the bill, New Mexico residents could be licensed by the state department of agriculture to produce and distribute the burgeoning cash crop. If SB94 passes through the legislature and is signed by Gov. Martinez, the bill would become law as of July 1, 2015.
New Mexico has the opportunity to join five other states – Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont – that have already passed similar measures. Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $500 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.
During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.
But, since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.
Earlier in 2014, , President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The new “hemp amendment”
…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.
SB94 goes a step further than what is currently ‘allowed’ by the feds by authorizing industrial development of the hemp plant. This is an essential first step forward. Similar to the way marijuana prohibition has been nullified because of massive state action, states defying the federal industrial hemp ban can unleash a tidal wave of resistance that forces the feds to get their priorities in order.
For New Mexico: Call up your state senator and urge them to co-sponsor and SB94. Then, call up your state representative and urge them to introduce similar legislation in their chamber. You can find their contact information HERE.

For All Other States: Take action in your state to push legislators to introduce and support bills to legalize hemp farming by clicking HERE.

Connecticut Studying Whether Hemp Can Be A New Cash Crop

By Gregory B Hladky
Source: courant.com

Industrial Hemp
Nevin Christensen of Flamig Farm in West Simsbury advocates for the growth of hemp in Connecticut. Hemp advocates like Christensen say that legalizing the growth of this versatile plant in Connectictut could be profitable for the state as well. (Brad Horrigan, HC)

In Simsbury, there's a farmer who would like to "throw some hemp seed in the ground and see how it grows."

A Bolton entrepreneur thinks hemp pellets could be used in stoves, and a University of Connecticut scientist is convinced that hemp seed and oil used for nutritional additives could become a high-profit crop.

Unfortunately for them, it's illegal to grow hemp — a close but non-intoxicating relative of marijuana — in Connecticut unless you obtain special permission from federal drug authorities.

That may be about to change. Three state agencies are now studying the prospects for growing hemp in Connecticut. They plan to offer recommendations for licensing and regulating hemp growers to the legislature in January.

"I think it's got to become part of our agricultural economy again," said Nevin Christensen, the Simsbury farmer who would like to experiment with growing hemp on his family's 45 acres. "It has so many uses. … We never should have banned it."

"It is a concept in these economic times that we ought to be looking at," said state Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, who has proposed that Connecticut consider allowing cultivation of industrial hemp.

By some estimates, there are more than 25,000 different uses for industrial hemp. The list includes shoes, canvas, automotive products, clothing, furniture, paper, construction materials, lightweight insulation and food products, according to a study published in June by the Congressional Research Service.

The state studies, by the departments of Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Economic Development, is the result of a bill Ziobron authored that was approved in the last legislative session. Connecticut is now one of 19 states researching hemp production or considering pilot hemp projects.

The move toward industrial hemp production was accelerated by President Barack Obama's signing of a revised farm bill in February. The new federal law authorized universities and state agricultural departments to conduct pilot hemp-growing programs in states that legalize industrial hemp.

Different Kind Of Hemp

The sort of hemp used for industrial purposes is a variety of Cannabis sativa that is a close relative of the type of cannabis now being grown legally for medical purposes in Connecticut and used illegally as a recreational drug.

The big difference is that plants used for industrial hemp contain only about 0.03 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. That minute amount of THC can't get you high. Marijuana can have THC levels between 2 percent and 22 percent.

Mohegans Review Pot As Economic Opportunity

Simsbury would be an appropriate place to start growing hemp again in Connecticut. The town once had its own hemp mill to process the plant for use in Ensign-Bickford Co.'s famous safety fuses for explosives, according to Simsbury's Historic Resources Survey.

Hemp was legally grown in Connecticut for more than two centuries. Various historical records show that hemp was so valuable for the production of items like rope, sails and clothing that it was illegal for colonial-era Connecticut farmers not to grow it. During World War II, the federal government put out an informational film urging farmers to grow hemp for the war effort.

U.S. hemp production plummeted after the war, in part because the agricultural product got caught up in the anti-drug crusades of the 1950s. Before the decade was over, growing industrial hemp was banned by federal law. And although it's illegal to grow the plant in the U.S., it's legal to import it.

A Congressional Research Service report included an estimate by the Hemp Industries Association that the retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. reached $581 million in 2013. Food, nutritional supplements and body-care products accounted for $184 million in sales, and the U.S. market for hemp-related clothing and textiles has been estimated at $100 million a year.

State Department of Agriculture officials are confident their part of the report to lawmakers will indicate that hemp can be successfully cultivated in Connecticut.

"It can grow here," said George Krivda, a spokesman for the agriculture department, "but the real question is, can anybody make money growing it?"

That's what analysts at the state Department of Economic and Community Development are trying to determine. A department spokesmen said last month that the agency isn't ready to make any comment on its findings. Nor are officials at the Department of Consumer Protection ready to discuss what they will recommend in terms of possible regulatory controls over hemp crops.

A congressional study released this summer noted that available industry statistics indicate "sales of some hemp-based products, such as foods and body care products, are growing." The report cited various studies by state agencies and Canadian researchers that offered positive forecasts for hemp production. But there was also a warning that international competition from major hemp-growing countries like China and Romania could pose problems for U.S. farmers wanting to grow hemp.

Searching For Profits

There are people in Connecticut who believe you could make a profit from hemp.

David Sudarsky has been selling hemp products, and vegan and vegetarian items, on the Internet for the past five years from his Glastonbury-based thevegetariansite.com. "It's a very good, very durable material," he said.

Sudarsky gets most of his hemp-based food and nutritional products from Canadian companies, and hemp footwear from Europe, but would love to be able to sell items made from Connecticut-grown hemp.

"Local is great," Sudarsky said. "Even to be able to say it's hemp grown in the U.S. would be nice."

Will Avery thinks he's got a grand idea for turning a profit on locally grown hemp: using it to create fuel pellets for heating stoves.

Avery, 45, lives in Bolton and operated a store in Manchester for seven years that specialized in selling hemp-based products ranging from bath and body items to backpacks and briefcases.

"I sold all sorts of stuff," he said, explaining that he got out of the business only after the store burned down in a 2003 fire.

"I have a pellet stove now," said Avery, explaining that the fuel he uses in his home heating stove comes from recycled wood products, such as sawdust. Avery said the demand for pellet fuel is now so high that the industry "is actually cutting down trees to make stove fuel pellets."

He thinks a far better idea would be to use a renewable resource like hemp.

"The inner core of the hemp stalk produces a better quality pellet … with a higher BTU factor," Avery said.

It was Avery who first approached Christensen about planting an experimental hemp plot on his Simsbury farm.

Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Connecticut, agrees that industrial hemp offers possibilities as a biofuel, but doubts that that would be the most profitable use for hemp.

Parnas created a stir in 2010 with research on using hemp seed oil to create what turned out to be a very viable fuel substitute for petroleum.

"You can make really high-quality biodiesel out of it," he said.

Parnas said he believes that hemp biofuel could work well for less-developed countries that often face a choice between growing crops for food or fuel. UConn also happens to hold a patent on a biodiesel reactor system that could be used to convert hemp into fuel.

The U.S. doesn't have to make that sort of choice, and Connecticut farmers would be better off attempting to grow hemp "for other, higher-value products," Parnas said. He thinks farmers might make a profit by growing hemp for seeds that could be marketed as food or nutritional supplements. "They actually taste great," he said.

It was exactly that idea that led some of Ziobron's constituents to approach her about pro-hemp legislation.

Ziobron said she was contacted by a couple involved in organic foods and health products who were looking for "a new business opportunity." She said their discussions about sustainable crops "all kept pointing back to industrial hemp."

"I wondered what the possibilities would be for growing hemp here in Connecticut," Ziobron said.

Next month, when the state's report is handed to the legislature, Ziobron will have her answer and a few Connecticut farmers may soon get the chance to grow hemp like their colonial counterparts did centuries ago.

Where does your state stand on hemp?

Source: www.votehemp.com
Where Does Your State Stand? It's Time To Strategize for 2015.



Never before have more than two (2) states legalized industrial hemp in a single year.  In 2014, the momentum generated more than five (5) times the passage of state industrial hemp law of any previous year. Twenty-seven (27) states introduced pro-hemp legislation ranging from feasibility studies, research & farming. Ten (10) states legalized industrial hemp in accordance SEC 7606 of the American Agricultural Act of 2014. This would not have been possible without the passion & hardwork of grassroots activists across the country.    

States that Passed Industrial Hemp Legislation 
in Accordance with SEC 7606, Farm Bill:
  1. Utah passed HB 105. Enacted 3/20/2014 
  2. Indiana passed SB 357. Enacted 3/26/2014
  3. Nebraska passed LB 1001. Enacted 4/2/2014
  4. Hawaii passed SB 2175. Enacted 5/1/2014
  5. Tennessee passed SB 2495. Enacted 5/16/2014
  6. South Carolina passed Bill 839. Enacted 6/2/2014
  7. Illinois passed HB 5085. Enacted 6/27/14
  8. Missouri passed HB 2238. Enacted 7/14/14
  9. Delaware passed HB 385. Enacted 7/29/14
  10. New York passed S 7047. Enacted 12/16/2014
  11. Michigan passed HB 5439 & HB 5440. Waiting for Gov. Snyder's signature.
States that Mandated a Feasibility Study to be Reported to General Assembly:
  1. Connecticut passed HB 5476. Report must be presented to General Assembly by no later than January 1, 2015
  2. New Hampshire passed HB 153. Committee formed to report to Governor the feasibility of industrial hemp by Nov. 1, 2014. 
States whose Industrial Hemp Legislation Had Momentum,
but Failed in the Senate.
  1. South Dakota's HCR 1017 passed in the House, failed in the Senate.
  2. Michigan's HB 5439 passed in the House, failed in Senate Judiciary Committee.
  3. Wisconsin's AB 638 was introduced directly to the Senate and failed.
Industrial Hemp Legislation Already Introduced for 2015:
  1. Virginia, Delegate Joseph Yost introduced HB 1277 on July 21, 2014.
                                       Are you from Virginia? Take Action Now.  

Vote Hemp is only able to continue this work through the generosity of advocates, activists and supporters like you!

Pa. lawmakers, activists push for industrial hemp

By Mark Walters
Source: eveningsun.com

Hemp is deeply rooted in the history of south central Pennsylvania.
Between 1720 to 1870, there were more than 100 water-powered hemp mills in Lancaster and York counties, according to area hemp historian Les Stark. In 1870, Adams County was the second highest producer of the plant, turning out 120 tons of hemp that year. It had faded by 1880, but there was a resurgence of interest in the early 1900s as hundreds of area farmers grew hemp for Hanover Cordage Company, Stark said.
Over the last few years, hemp, a plant that is illegal to grow and process in Pennsylvania, has been on the minds of local and state officials as they work to legalize its use and cultivation, bringing it out of the history books and back into the callused hands of working Americans.
Hemp proponents believe it could be used to produce a litany of products including concrete, motor vehicle parts, food, clothing and environmentally friendly fuel. Legalizing industrial uses of the plant and its cultivation in Pennsylvania, they say, could lead to job creation, economic growth and agricultural sustainability.
Stark has been at the heart of the campaign for years. A Reading man who authored "Hempstone Heritage," a book series about the plant, Stark has been working with lawmakers across the state to pass hemp reform resolutions and, most recently, a bill.
Two state senators -- a Republican and a Democrat -- plan to unveil legislation that would permit cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania under the state's Department of Agriculture.

Update: First Seeds in Vermont's Budding Hemp Industry

Source: sevendaysvt.com

Johnny Vitko

Hemp activists scored a big victory in 2013, when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law a bill that legalized the cultivation of cannabis sativa, a relative of marijuana that can be used to make food, fuel and fiber. The problem is that the state law regulating hemp — which lacks tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in the concentrations necessary to produce a high — doesn't match up with federal regulations that still classify it as an illegal, controlled substance. So would-be hemp farmers faced a conundrum: They couldn't find seeds.
In advance of this year's growing season, farmers scoped out their options. Some considered smuggling in seeds from Canada, where farmers have been legally cultivating hemp since 1998. Some went online. Others considered harvesting and storing seeds from the feral hemp plants that already grow in Vermont.
Why the eagerness to plant hemp? It's one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world — and it could be a moneymaker for Vermont farmers and entrepreneurs. The farm advocacy group Rural Vermont and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund estimate the controversial crop could bring in up to $3,000 an acre.
Johnny Vitko of Warren envisioned feeding his chickens hemp seed.
Most farmers weren't worried about a Drug Enforcement Administration bust; the feds had bigger fish to fry, they reasoned, than shaking down farmers trying to grow a non-psychotropic plant.
UPDATE: State law requires hemp farmers to register with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Seventeen did so this year, according to Tim Schmalz, who oversees the agency's hemp registry. He isn't sure how many of them actually got seeds in the ground, however. A survey last summer by Vermont Public Radio showed that at least five of the farmers opted out of growing, with some citing fear of the federal prohibition.
Middlebury entrepreneur Netaka White wasn't worried, though. He and business partner David McManus are behind Full Sun Company, which aims to source seeds regionally for the production of local canola, sunflower, flax, soybean and, yes, hemp oils.
Last spring, White wanted to go big. He was looking for 50-pound bags of seed. Then reality set in — no one could get their hands on that much seed — and White settled instead for a small package of mail-order seeds from Europe. On Mother's Day, he seeded a roughly 100-square-foot patch of his home garden with organic hemp seeds.
By early summer White had 30 or so robust plants nestled beside his kale. All told, he harvested about one pound of "nice, dark, healthy seeds" to take him into next year.
He has enough to plant 4,000 square feet next year, which should yield about 70 pounds of seeds. By 2016, he should have five acres under cultivation; if all goes according to plan, that year he'll harvest two and a half tons of hemp seeds. Starting next year, White will outsource the growing to two farmers in the region.
He's not alone in his homegrown approach; White knows of a handful of other small growers who put a few plants in the ground last spring with visions of much larger crops within two or three years.
"To really build or grow an industry from nothing, we had to scratch and scrape and use whatever tricks of the trade we could," said White.
"What's a few more years at this point?"
The original print version of this article was headlined "First Seeds in Vermont's Budding Hemp Industry"

Hats, Shirts, Milk — The Hempest Has It All, And It’s All Made Of Hemp

Source: mintpressnews.com

Although states have only recently been given the go-ahead on industrial hemp cultivation, a small shop in Boston has built up a successful business selling hemp products and touting the plant’s benefits for the better part of two decades.

The Hempest's proprierter, wearing a baseball cap, leans against the logo van, with the slogan Energy From The Midwest Not The Mideast.
The Hempest van, which runs on vegetable oil, diesel, biodiesel or 
hemp oil. (Kim Napoli, Hempest Inc.)

BOSTON — Jon Napoli jokes that when he opened a small shop specializing in hemp products in 1995, it was because, at 23, he just didn’t have anything better to do.
But that’s not quite the whole story.
“Ending the prohibition on hemp and cannabis was something I needed to be involved in,” he tells MintPress News. “And I figured I could do it economically.”
“Money turns the world around, and social change can come through private enterprise,” he continues, explaining that he wanted to show people, farmers and politicians that there was a lot of money to be made in the hemp industry.
According to the Hemp Industries Association, a nonprofit trade association, the value of hemp retail products sold in the United States last year exceeded $581 million, up from $500 million in 2012. That’s no small feat for an industry that largely relies on imported raw materials and finished products because of a long-standing prohibition on its major resource — hemp.
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is prohibited in all forms because marijuana, a plant in the cannabis family, has psychoactive properties. While hemp is also in the cannabis family, it is not a drug and contains virtually no THC — the psychoactive component in marijuana that gets people “high.” Some states have moved to legalize marijuana either for medicinal or recreational purposes, or both, or to decriminalize possession of the drug, but it remains illegal at the federal level. Likewise, since 1970 it has been illegal to cultivate hemp in the U.S. without a federal permit.
The federal 2014 Farm Bill, however, prevents federal agencies from interfering with state-designated projects for industrial hemp research and development. So far, 19 states have laws to provide for hemp pilot studies, production, or both, as stipulated by the Farm Bill.
Napoli says the bill — recently passed as part of the federal government’s $1.1 trillion spending bill — is a “great first step” toward the U.S. being able to re-establish its relationship with the versatile plant. Practically every part of the plant can be used and substituted for other ingredients or components — and it has been for centuries: Christopher Columbus used hemp sails and rope when he traveled to America in 1492. Founding fathers including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lucrative hemp crops. Until the invention of the cotton gin in the 1820s, hemp was the fiber of choice for textiles. Fiber from the hemp plant useful in producing strong, durable fabrics that have antimicrobial and anti-mildew properties, according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, which makes it ideal for all manner of clothing — including pants, dresses, underwear and socks.
The fiber isn’t the only useful part of the plant, as hemp crops are also harvested for seeds, seed meal and seed oil. Hemp seeds are a rich source of digestible protein and can be used in a variety of ways, like in baked goods or any other dish or snack that would benefit from the nutty-flavored, healthful component. As with as almonds and soy, hemp seeds can be used to make non-dairy versions of products like milk and cheese.
Oil extracted from hemp seeds can be used in the place of any other oil in everything from cooking to powering a car. The Hempest’s Ford van has a diesel engine, and like all diesel engines, it can easily be converted to run on vegetable oil, which the Hempest procures from restaurants and filters before putting it in the gas tank. Since hemp oil must be imported, it’s too expensive to use to run the van, but Napoli says it’s still a great educational tool for the wide range of uses for hemp, as well as the power, reliability and affordability of alternative energy sources.
“It lets people know that there are alternatives to burning fossil fuels,” he says. “The answers have always been there; we’ve just been held captive by industrial interests.”

A sign welcomes visitors to browse two floors of hemp clothes and other goodes, with a staircase leading up to the main entrance and a display mannequin showing off a hemp dress.
The Hempest store on Boston’s Newbury Street. (Kim Napoli, Hempest Inc.)

Positive consumption

Over the past 19 years, Napoli’s business, the Hempest, has gone from peddling hemp hats and greeting cards out of a small shop on Huntington Avenue to selling high-end merchandise from producers around the world, as well as its own line of apparel and accessories, out of a growing retail presence on Boston’s swish shopping destination, Newbury Street, and online.
The relocation was made possible when Napoli’s childhood friend, Mitch Rosenfield, jumped on board. After college, Rosenfield was working, living with his mom, and saving up money. His dad had died of cancer a few years earlier, so he was on a kick of working toward leading a healthier lifestyle, eating more natural foods, and looking for ways to leave a positive impact on the world by making consumption a more positive part of life.
When a retail spot opened up on Newbury Street, the duo pooled their resources and took the plunge.
“Jon had $15,000 in inventory. I had $15,000 in the bank,” Rosenfield says, explaining that after paying first and last months’ rent and leaving a security deposit, they had about $3,000 left to sink into the business. For the next couple of years, every dollar the Hempest made went toward buying more hemp products to sell, and as Rosenfield says, “That was the whole philosophy anyway: Buy hemp.”
The shop on Newbury Street smells of nag champa, patchouli and wood, which wafts out onto the sidewalk, mingling with an eclectic mix of music pumping from outdoor speakers. By putting a hemp store on the same street as high-end restaurants and top-tier stores like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, as well as global brand behemoths like Nike and Adidas, Napoli and Rosenfield were hoping to change hemp’s image.
“We didn’t sell tie-dyed clothes, wouldn’t play the Grateful Dead for the longest time,” Napoli says. “We wanted to combat the stereotype.”
There’s no particular Hempest “customer.” Napoli says that their clientele is mostly men, aged 20-40, but really, “the Hempest customer” is anyone who is interested in supporting independent business and buying eco-friendly, high-quality products.
Napoli admits that it’s still a niche market, but having the location on Newbury Street has made it seem like “just another clothing store.” And more importantly, it’s provided the pro-cannabis duo with a platform for educating the public on hemp’s unique benefits and dispelling myths and stigmas surrounding the plant.
“The ‘Can I smoke my shirt?’ thing has definitely tapered off,” Napoli says. “It’s just become more accepted — as it should be.”
Rosenfield agrees, “Thankfully, we really don’t hear that too often anymore.”
At the beginning, he says, the Hempest was peddling a product closely associated with marijuana, at a time when marijuana was far less accepted by the general public than it is today. “We were toeing the line between marijuana and retail, but now people hear about medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, and hemp is just no big deal,” Rosenfield says.
Napoli and Rosenfield say they still find themselves explaining the benefits of hemp and the differences between hemp and marijuana.
“In terms of the food items, do people know it’s the best source of vegetable protein and essential fatty acids? No. Do they know it’s good for them? Yes. There’s generally an understanding that it’s a healthy plant for people and the Earth,” he explains, noting that he’s sure there’s a lot of confusion about how wheat or soy is grown, too.
For Rosenfield, these opportunities to educate the public are the best part of his job.
“I’ve talked to people for countless reports and school papers on hemp. I can’t tell you how many high school and college kids I’ve helped, and I can’t even tell you how much I love that — that part when someone wants to listen,” Rosenfield says.

Positive momentum

Since about 2003, the Hempest has been focusing on creating its own line of clothing, which is produced in an ethically-run factory that they have visited themselves in China, and bolstering its online presence. They produce small batches of clothing, in styles and colors they think their customer base will like, which keeps margins high and the chances of over-stocking low.
Products from the Hempest get shipped across the country and around the world every day, especially during the busy Christmas shopping season. Rosenfield says they regularly ship orders to Europe, Japan, South America, “and I send stuff back to China sometimes, if we get an order from there.”
Going forward, Napoli and Rosenfield agree that the “brick and mortar” aspect of the Hempest may not be around forever (though other locations have opened up across the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Burlington, Vermont). Napoli is quick to note that one day he’s going to “get sick of paying rent,” and they both say that wholesale and web business are the most obvious avenues for growth.
Yet with the amendment to the Farm Bill that’s slowly paving the way for the U.S. to cultivate hemp for research and industrial purposes in those states where it’s legal, it seems like there’s only growth ahead for the U.S. hemp industry, which hopefully will include the Hempest for years to come.
“We have to import clothes from China, food from Canada. Taxes, customs, tariffs… it all adds up. And why should we be sending money over there?” Napoli says, noting that the Farm Bill is a huge first step toward the wide-scale production of hemp, an environmentally sound, sustainable crop.
It’ll be some time before the U.S. catches up with hemp producers like China or Canada — Rosenfield says the U.S. is “millennia” behind the Chinese, but the U.S. was home to the world’s largest hemp industry up until the early 1900s. With enough supportive legislation, research, time and money, the founders of the Hempest don’t see any reason why that industry won’t bounce back to it’s pre-prohibition stature.

“Hopefully we’ll see hemp crops growing along the side of the highways the way we see corn in 10 to 15 years,” Napoli says.