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Hemp fields

Over the last few weeks, I noticed my social streams filling up with articles and memes in support of hemp farming and hemp products. I wondered why there was such a sudden influx of this topic. It had to be bigger than Colorado’s recent success with legalizing cannabis, so I looked into it.

Sure enough, Kentucky is making the news by getting ready to plant hemp at university research stations.

Hemp history

The US has a long history of hemp growing. In the 1600s and 1700s, it was illegal to not grow hemp!

The fibers and seed oil were turned into myriad everyday objects, such as fabric, paper and candles. In the 1930s DuPont, Hearst, and Dow manipulated the public with propaganda and successfully pressured Congress to outlaw hemp so they could replace its products with plastics and nylon. Hemp was on its way to being a huge cash crop to the tune of billions of dollars. It was obviously a valuable agricultural crop.

During WWII, it was patriotic to grow hemp for the war effort, but it was outlawed again in the 1950s. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 illegalized it in all forms.

Hemp in the 21st century

The Farm Bill signed this year legalized the growing of industrial hemp again, during a time when laws using recreational and medical marijuana are loosening up around the country. Historically, in the 1600s Kentucky had been one of the largest hemp producers in the country, so even right wing politicians are supporting its return to create jobs and improve the state’s economy.

I laughed and scratched my head when Holly VonLuehrte, chief of staff for the state agriculture commissioner, was quoted as saying, “We certainly hope it will be able to grow.”

I also laugh when I see other ‘authorities’ saying more research needs to be done to see if hemp is a viable crop. It had the name ‘ditchweed’, because it grows wild along side roads in the midwest. It has been widely grown in the past, and according to this list, it is legally grown in 27 countries. Do we really need to do more research?! It’s not as though hemp is brand new and alien. The 250# of seed to be grown in Kentucky was imported from Italy. Surely, Italian farmers know how to grow hemp!

hemp seeds wooden spoon

It reminds me of Ronald Regan taking Jimmy Carter’s solar panels off the White House in the early ’80s, claiming we needed to do more research before we could use solar. Meanwhile, solar panels were powering NASA’s spacecraft! Did we really need more research? No. It was a political agenda.

Grow hemp far and wide!

Hemp is a viable, sustainable crop. It is highly renewable with more than one harvest per season. It needs no chemical fertilizer or pesticides, and it uses very little water. There are currently about 25,000 products made from hemp including plastics, fabric, medicine, health & beauty products, biofuel, and building materials.

Sadly, until the US does its ‘research’, we will continue to import billions of dollars worth of these products, since manufacturing facilities have not yet been built here. For a country in such bad economic shape, we sure are slow at adopting industries that could pull us back up. Get with it, US!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.