Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Unraveling Hemp: The Road to Legalization Part Two

By Keleigh Gibbs

Pennsylvania was a leader among states processing and growing industrial hemp in early America. Two centuries ago there were over 100 water-powered mills for processing hemp fiber in Lancaster County alone, with more throughout the state. 

Industrial hemp dominated Pennsylvania's agricultural landscape so much so that Hempfield Township was named after the crop. 

Les Stark is the author of Hempstone Heritage 1, a book that studies the early American Hemp Industry. Stark also sits on the board of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, a nonprofit group that is working to legalize industrial hemp in Pennsylvania. 

"Hemp was an important fiber crop that was used for everything from coarse cloth to fine linen and everything in between," Stark said. Oil extracted from the crop was used in paints, varnishes, lubricants, soaps, lamp oil and printers ink. 

The seedcake was fed to the livestock. "Evidence suggests every farmer had from about an 1/8 of an acre to a 1/4 of an acre or a half acre, that was virtually widespread on virtually every farm," Stark said. 

But that all changed in 1933, when Pennsylvania passed a law banning marijuana. At the time, industrial hemp got caught in the confusion. "Back then they didn't have the scientific method to differentiate marijuana from hemp, as in they didn't know what THC was, and THC being the psychoactive component that gets you high," Erica McBride, of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council said. 

McBride also says while historically hemp was used more for animal consumption, modern day the crop has the potential to be used more for human consumption. 

Businesses in Pennsylvania are already importing millions dollars of the crop from outside of the state for various uses. 

Wednesday night at 6 p.m. WFMZ's Keleigh Gibbs will take a look at some of the modern day uses of industrial hemp, as well as speak with an advocate who is working to promote legislation that would legalize the crop in Pennsylvania. 

That will be part three in the 69 News series Unraveling Hemp: The Road to Legalization.

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