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The Market for Hemp: Why Are We NOT Growing This Crop??

Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species Cannabis sativa L. It  is a tall, slender fibrous plant similar to flax or kenaf.  Farmers worldwide have harvested the crop for the past 12,000 years for fiber and food, and Popular Mechanics once boasted that over 25,000 environmentally friendly products could be derived from hemp.

Unlike marijuana, hemp contains only minute (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. In addition, hemp possesses a high percentage of the compound cannabidiol (CBD), which has been shown to block the effects of THC. For these reasons, many botanists have dubbed industrial hemp “anti-marijuana.”

More than 30 industrialized nations commercially grow hemp, including England and Canada. Nevertheless, US law forbids farmers from growing hemp without a federal license, and has discouraged all commercial hemp production since the 1950s.

Introduction from Industrial Hemp
Written back in 1997 by Nutiva founder and CEO John W Roulac.

Imagine a crop more versatile than the soybean, the cotton plant, and the Douglas fir tree put together…one whose products are interchangeable with those from timber or petroleum…one that grows like Jack’s beanstalk with minimal tending. There is such a crop: industrial hemp.

Hemp was once indispensable to world commerce. New World colonists and traders were able to cross the Atlantic Ocean because the hemp ropes and sails of their ships, unlike other natural fibers, resisted salt damage. Not so long ago, it was inconceivable for an economy to
function without hemp. The 1913 Yearbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called hemp “the oldest cultivated fiber plant,” mentioned how the crop improves the land, and said that it yields “one of the strongest and most durable fibers of commerce.”

Then, in 1937, fiber hemp fell victim to the anti-drug sentiment of the times when the U.S. Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act. The intent of this law was to prohibit the use of marijuana, but it created so much red tape that the production of industrial hemp became nearly impossible. Now hemp’s natural fiber and seed oil were no longer available to compete with wood pulp, cotton, and such newly patented petroleum products as inks, paints, plastics, solvents, sealants, and synthetic fabrics.

The fact is that hemp grown for fiber, whether by George Washington in 1790, by Kentucky growers in 1935, or by English farmers in 1994, has never contained psychoactive qualities. If one were to roll leaves from an industrial hemp plant into a cigarette and smoke them, no euphoric effects would be experienced even if a thousand hemp cigarettes were smoked. The potentially psychoactive chemical in hemp is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A plant cultivated for marijuana has a 3 to 15 percent THC content or more, while industrial hemp generally contains one percent or less.

Industrial hemp is a valuable, low-cost biological resource that can be grown in most climates. It is a hardy plant whose rapid growth and high resistance to diseases largely eliminate the need for costly herbicides or pesticides. Hemp can play an important role in rural economic development: new jobs and businesses can be created to produce hemp products, for both local consumption and marketing to other regions.

Find out how you can help hemp HERE.

Some additional information on Hemp’s Legal Status.

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