My blog is dedicated to the exploration of industrial hemp in America including the rich history of all forms of cannabis, the evolving law and politics of hemp and marijuana, the many products made from cannabis and the capacity, real or imagined, of hemp to re-industrialize rural America and revitalize the American family farm.
America wouldn’t be America without hemp. The sails on ships of discovery were made from hemp, the canvas that covered wagon trains were made from hemp. Our forefathers were hemp growers — even the onetime farmland where the Pentagon now stands once bore hemp — and while the claim that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper is questionable, a new farmer’s declaration of independence from unwarranted government impediment should be. While government regulation and oversight is very necessary in the agriculture space, some draconian laws simply don’t make sense.
It has been illegal in federal law to grow hemp since the enactment of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The law lumps this incredibly versatile food, feed, fuel, fiber, oil and construction material crop into the same category as marijuana. While hemp is part of the cannabis family, far from producing a drugged state — as defined in the 2014 farm bill, hemp contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight — hemp is a miracle crop from its soil remediation properties to its breadth of use.
Due to the way hemp is grown so closely together, it suppresses weeds, so there’s no need to use herbicide. Its roots are long, so it holds soil structure together and reduces erosion. It naturally fixes nitrogen to the soil, building soil fertility. Photosynthesis is the easiest method to sequester carbon, and due to its leafy structure and long roots, hemp works in this regard, adding to our tool kit of ways to approach rising carbon dioxide rates.
Hemp is one of the most nutritionally complete food sources there is. It has tremendous properties that support cardiovascular health, tissue, blood, the immune system, organs, skin; it provides 11 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon servings. Hemp also has a perfect 3-to-1 balance of omega-6 and linolenic acids and is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids.
Hemp fiber is used for paper, which in turn can be recycled seven times, compared to only three times for trees, requires fewer chemicals for processing and grows with greater efficiency. Hemp is also a “mop crop” that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants in the soil — the resultant crop can then be used in building materials such as hempcrete when mixed with lime. Hemp is lightweight and has tremendous thermal and tensile properties.
Outdated policy is clearly hurting our farmers as the hemp market grows and American consumers rely upon imports from countries such as China and Canada. Twenty-seven states in our union have passed varying forms of legislation permitting farmers to grow hemp, but there are issues with the feds. It is not unheard of for seed imports heading to these states to be stopped at the border.
Congress passing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, S. 134 / H.R. 525, would be a step toward economically and ecologically regenerative agriculture, permitting hemp farming in all 50 states and allowing American farmers to supply the largest consumer demand for hemp in the world — our own!
Kucinich is a board director of the Rodale Institute and a D.C.-based consultant dedicated to working to bring social, economic, health, agricultural and ecological systems into balance.