Full list: Hemp News

Seven Days: Farmers need seeds to cultivate hemp crop

By Kathryn Flagg
4/9/14
Full article

Last year, activists pushing for the legal cultivation of hemp scored a big victory in Vermont: In June, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law a bill that legalizes the cultivation of cannabis sativa, a relative of marijuana that proponents say could be a lucrative value-added crop for Vermont farmers.

The only trouble? State law doesn’t match up with federal regulations, which still classify hemp as an illegal, controlled substance — despite the fact that industrial hemp lacks tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in the concentrations necessary to produce a high. The disconnect between state and federal rules isn’t scaring off many farmers, who say the feds have bigger fish to fry, but it is making it difficult to legally obtain seeds for cultivation.

Farmers’ options are limited: Some are considering smuggling seeds in from Canada, where hemp has been cultivated legally since 1998. Others are looking to online retailers to import seeds. A few have said they plan to harvest and store seeds from feral hemp plants in Vermont.

“Right now, getting seeds is nearly impossible,” said Heidi Mahoney, a garlic farmer and homesteader in Panton who once owned Fat Hen Market in Vergennes.

“[Smuggling is] not my forte,” joked Mahoney’s husband, sculptor Eben Markowski. But if seeds “magically” appeared on their doorstep, he said, “There’s no question. We would absolutely plant it.”

Why? Hemp, one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world, can be used for food, fuel and fiber. The farm advocacy group Rural Vermont and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund estimate the crop could bring in between $2,000 and $3,000 an acre for farmers. Last year’s net returns in Canada were lower — $433 and $522 for conventional and organic hemp, respectively — but still brought in more than corn ($273 per acre) and soybeans ($332). It’s a good crop to use in rotation with corn, which dairy farmers grow extensively for feed, and it can help kill weeds in fields without the use of herbicides.

But hemp is still sometimes mistaken for its psychotropic relative, marijuana. That misconception is less common in Vermont, says Rural Vermont organizer Robb Kidd, but he still gets the occasional “Oh, you want to smoke it!” comment. In fact, industrial hemp contains only between 0.3 and 1.5 percent THC, the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana. Nowadays pot has much higher concentrations of THC — 13 percent on average, according to the Marijuana Potency Monitoring Project at the University of Mississippi. (That’s significantly stronger than the strains smoked in the 1970s.)

It might not get you high, but hemp has many other uses. It can be woven into fabric, or used to make paper. The fibers are used for animal bedding and can be mixed into a building product called “hempcrete.” Hemp was grown extensively in the U.S. during World War II; the U.S. Department of Agriculture even rolled out a Hemp for Victory campaign to encourage farmers to plant hemp after war with Japan cut off Asian imports of the crop. But the last hemp processing plant in the U.S. closed in the mid-1950s, as a result of hemp regulations Kidd says were based on “fear tactics” and misinformation perpetuated during the 1940s and ’50s that equated hemp with marijuana.

Twelve farmers have already registered with the Agency of Agriculture to grow hemp during the 2014 growing season. It’s a fairly painless process; farmers must send in $25 and a one-page registration form in which they acknowledge that cultivating and possessing hemp in Vermont is a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act; applicants agree to “hold harmless” the state should they find themselves in legal trouble.

The new U.S. Farm Bill, passed in February, does carve out one exception for hemp cultivation at the federal level; the bill gives the go-ahead to research institutions and universities to grow hemp for pilot projects and research. There’s still some legal confusion around the prospect, but at least one state — Kentucky — is set to put seeds in the ground this spring. The Bluegrass State’s attorney general weighed in with a favorable interpretation of the Farm Bill provision.

Scientists and agronomists at the University of Vermont are just as eager to plant this year, but seeds have to be in the ground by the end of next month. Vote Hemp’s cofounder and director Eric Lineback, who lives in Dummerston, isn’t holding his breath.

But within a year, Lineback predicted, the confusion over seed sourcing and legal questions will be “all be worked out, and you’ll see a ton of studies going next year.”

Lineback admits that his predictions about hemp aren’t always accurate; he once guessed that hemp cultivation would be legal in the U.S. by 2000, a benchmark that came and went. Now, though, he’s starting to feel cautiously optimistic that federal rules will fall into line behind states like Vermont that are exploring hemp cultivation. Federal hemp legislation has been slowly gaining steam — and sponsors — during its recurrent appearances in the U.S. House of Representatives, and last year saw the first industrial hemp bill introduced in the Senate.

“I’ve been in this issue for coming up on 20 years, and I can confidently say we are at a tipping point,” Lineback said. “It’s food, fuel, fiber, clothing, shelter. It’s really an amazing plant. It’s not going to save the world, but it’s certainly part of the solution.”

Husband-and-wife team Markowski and Mahoney say they’ve already signaled to UVM that they’d be interested in being a test site for hemp cultivation. But they’re also willing to forge ahead on their own; Markowski said he views hemp cultivation as a form of “civil disobedience.” The two live on an eclectic homestead in Panton, where their small farm is a sort of sanctuary for rescued farm animals. Ducks waddle around the yard, searching out patches of sunshine. A rescued cow, born prematurely on a dairy farm, looks on from her pasture.

The couple has a growing garlic farm, and their gardening Bible is Ruth Stout’s Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy & the Indolent. “There’s a certain advancement to finding the most simple way to do something,” says Markowski.

With that mindset, he and Mahoney are eager to cultivate hemp. “It’s an amazing plant that so badly wants to grow,” said Markowski. Specifically, they’d love to cultivate hemp seeds for their own consumption. “It is the super food,” said Markowski.

Johnny Vitko, in Warren, is equally excited about the plant — though he plans to feed the seeds to his chickens. He and his wife own an ice cream shop in Waitsfield and keep 200 chickens, whose eggs make their way into their ice cream custards.

“It’s a great food for them,” he said, noting hemp is loaded with amino acids and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

As a small farmer, Vitko doesn’t have the infrastructure to raise corn or soybeans, but hemp would be another story; he envisions harvesting the stalks with his small, Italian-made walk-behind tractor. Eventually he’d like to turn the stalks into pellets for heating fuel. He hopes to cultivate an acre or two of hemp — enough to feed his chickens through the winter.

“I’m spending upwards of $100 a week on chicken feed in the winter,” said Vitko. “I find if I do things myself, I save more money in the long run.”

Vitko’s plan is to buy seeds online; he’s already located a source, though some hemp activists warn you don’t know what you’re getting.

There’s a sharp irony in trying to acquire seeds for cultivation, Vitko noted: “I could find high-grade marijuana seeds a lot easier than I could viable hemp seeds.”

Farmers aren’t the only Vermonters interested in local hemp production. In Middlebury, Netaka White and David McManus want to source seeds regionally for the production of canola, sunflower, flax, soybean and hemp oil. Their venture, Full Sun Company, will press the seeds to produce edible oils; the byproduct of that process will then be used for feed at local farms.

They’ve already begun producing some organic, non-GMO sunflower and canola oil. Until they can source hemp locally, they’ll contract with a Canadian producer and presser, then import hemp oil from Ontario.

White is no stranger to hemp; his background is in textile design and manufacturing, and from 1989 to 2002 he ran a bag and accessory line made from European hemp canvas. “I was fascinated by its versatility, the charm of it being related to its illegal cousin,” White said, remembering his introduction to the fiber. “It struck me as, Why don’t more people know about this?”

Now he’s excited about the possibility of local hemp cultivation. “It grows well here,” he said. “It fits to our scale of production. And there’s a whole lot of value-adding opportunities that we haven’t even begun to appreciate.”

From White’s perspective, one of the obvious markets is oil. “We’ve been telling farmers and those interested: ‘We are open for business to buy any Vermont hemp seed,’” he said, adding that Full Sun wants to be processing locally grown hemp “as soon as possible.”

While farmers and activists alike recognize and acknowledge the legal gray area that still hovers around hemp cultivation, few are expressing serious concern about the ramifications of planting. “You literally are betting the farm if you grow hemp,” said Lineback, noting that farmers who run afoul of the feds could see their land seized.

White’s Full Sun would also be risking federal prosecution for possessing hemp.

“We understand the risks and are willing to go forward in pioneering this new industry,” White said. “I would be very surprised if the federal government thought it was worthwhile to annoy or hassle a few Vermont farmers growing a non-psychoactive crop.”

Markowski, in Panton, agreed.

“You really want to make an example of salt-of-the-earth people trying to grow this kind of crop in their backyard?” he asked. “That is crazy.”


“Hemp Happening” Success

Hemp Activists gather for Rural Vermont's "Hemp Happening" event in Middlebury

Hemp Activists gather for Rural Vermont’s “Hemp Happening” event in Middlebury

Hemp Happening- March 19, 2014
By Rural Vermont Organizing Intern Kimberly Voellmann

This past Wednesday, a group of nearly forty Hemp enthusiasts gathered at Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library, sharing a common aspiration: hemp cultivation. The desire to grow hemp plants in Vermont on a range of scales from personal to commercial and agricultural is something bringing more and more Vermonters together for collaboration. Hemp offers Vermont a great economic opportunity.

Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd stated that “Rural Vermont recognizes hemp cultivation as an opportunity to provide Vermont farmers with a highly versatile crop that gives them financial opportunity while increasing sustainability and filling the demand for local hemp products.” The plant is the source of strong fibers that can be used to produce a number of goods. Hemp seeds offer huge nutritional value, containing high levels of protein, amino acids, and Omega-3s. The seed can also be used to add to animal feed as a nutritionally dense product. There is a recognized demand for the product in Vermont, but currently no legal source of the plant.

Hemp cultivation gained a new light, and greater attention after a clear definition was created which separated the plant from marijuana, and was recognized as an agricultural product deserving of its own laws and regulations. Hemp is defined in Vermont as “the plant Cannabis sativa (L.) and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

It is currently legal in Vermont to grow hemp, as long as the grower registers with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and pays the $25 fee. However, it is illegal for individuals to grow hemp under Federal jurisdiction. The most recent Farm Bill passed by President Obama allows for hemp cultivation at research and academic institutions. The University of Vermont is ready to begin research programs with hemp, but attorneys at the university are hesitant in respect to legal implications.

Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd

Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd

Vermont Attorney, Josyln Wilsek, of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, spoke to the risks of growing hemp in Vermont, emphasizing that it is not legal under federal law. She laid out the reality of hemp cultivation and warned growers of what opposition they may face. This forewarning, however, did not seem to faze hemp advocates in attendance, but rather provoked greater interest and willingness to go ahead with hemp cultivation. The majority of attendees expressed interest in growing hemp on land they have already purchased, or to find out more about the prospects of growing hemp in Vermont for economic gain. Eric Lineback of Vote Hemp pointed out that we have yet to experience any opposition from Federal authorities and does not see a clear reason why they would need to interfere with Vermont growers.

Netaka White, the co-owner of Full Sun Company and an event cosponsor, expressed his company’s prospects with hemp cultivation in the state. Full Sun Company, an oilseed supplier based in Middlebury, sees the opportunity hemp seed oil offers. They currently rely on Canadian farms for their supply of hemp seed, but would like to support Vermont farmers and obtain their supply more locally. Netaka introduced Reuben Stone, a hemp farmer from Ottawa who shared a presentation via video conference about the logistics of growing hemp, and the benefits he has experienced since beginning cultivation. Since 2009, Stone has been growing two thousand acres of hemp in Canada. He was able answer a variety of in-depth questions the audience posed to him.

Rural Vermont Hemp Happening

Netaka White of Full Sun Company

The Hemp Happening was successful in bringing together hemp enthusiasts and providing an educational opportunity for those interested in entering the emergent market for hemp products. The turnout is evidence that Vermont is a promising environment in which to take advantage of the opportunity hemp offers. Attendees were loaded with questions, including concerns surrounding seed sourcing, legal risks, and applications to homesteaders, all expressing an urgent desire to start growing. As hemp is a fairly versatile plant, it offers a variety of options for people to turn it into a highly valued product. Rural Vermont expressed deep appreciation for Senator Leahy for his work in achieving hemp progress on a national level and hope this acceptance continues to grow in the future.  For more information regarding hemp in Vermont, email robb@ruralvermont.org.


VPR: New Farm Bill Boosts Hemp Cultivation In Vermont

By Bob Kinzel
February 21, 2014
Tucked away in the thousands of pages of the Farm Bill is a provision that affects the 11 states that have legalized the growing of hemp. Vermont is part of this group.
Full Article & Audio

Vermont’s law was passed last year, but the ongoing opposition of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has had a chilling effect on the cultivation of hemp in the state.

The DEA considers hemp to be a form of marijuana. But backers of hemp point out that it has very low levels of the chemicals that make marijuana an intoxicant. And they argue that hemp should not be illegal. The new Farm Bill supports their position.

Under the legislation, educational institutions like the University of Vermont can conduct field trials to determine the best variety of hemp for weather conditions in Vermont.

Heather Darby, an agronomist at UVM, says she’s excited about this project.

“Now we have the backing from the Farm Bill in one part of the federal government and also the state,” said Darby. “So the doors are opening up. There obviously are still some barriers and challenges to making all this happen.”

Darby says she would feel more comfortable if the DEA would sign off on the project.

“We’re sort of working through that to make sure we have a strong go ahead from the federal government not just sort of a soft one, I guess,” said Darby. “Because we don’t want to be caught with some significant liability and issues as well if not everyone supports this.”

Darby says another challenge will be getting hemp seeds for the trial.

Robb Kidd is the hemp coordinator at Rural Vermont, a group that strongly supports the growing of hemp in the state.

“For Vermont farmers, we see this as an additional economic benefit for the farmers who can add a product there is a high demand for,” said Kidd. “You can easily make bio fuels; you can make hemp seed oils, you can make bedding for your livestock.”

And Kidd says there are also some practical uses for hemp.

“Even just a hot bed issue in Vermont, riparian buffer zones,” said Kidd. “So with the quick growing you can actually have a little buffer crop that doesn’t require a pesticide.”

If all goes well, it’s possible that UVM will be able to launch its hemp trials sometime this summer.


Brattleboro Reformer: Hemp: The next agricultural boon?

2/1/14
Full Editorial

Tucked away in the farm bill recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives is a provision that could be huge for the proponents of industrial hemp, a plant that can be used to make rope, soaps, clothes, paper, bio-fuel, cooking oil and auto parts. In addition, its seeds are often found in food products.

The provision, authored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would allow colleges, universities and state agriculture agencies to grow and do research on the crop without being penalized by the federal government. While it only applies to states where industrial hemp is legal, Vermont is one of those 10 states. The others are Colorado, Oregon, California, Kentucky, Montana, West Virginia, Washington, North Dakota and Maine. Right now, growing or using hemp is illegal under federal law. While the provision doesn’t overturn the law, it would stop federal authorities from harassing hemp farmers, researchers and higher-education institutions in those states.

“We’re hoping northern Colorado could become a real center for information and technology related to domestic industrial hemp production,” Polis told Gannett. “There’s going to be rapid progress … over the next decade and we hope that a lot of that can occur at (Colorado State University).”

Hemp has a long and honorable tradition in American History. Many of our founding fathers grew it and its fibers were used make rope and canvas products for ships, cloth for fabric and pulp for paper.

The problem with hemp however is it’s marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin and has been tarnished by the war on drugs. The plant was swept up in anti-drug efforts and growing it without a federal permit was banned in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. According to the Associated Press, the last Drug Enforcement Administration hemp permit was issued in 1999 for a quarter-acre experimental plot in Hawaii. That permit expired in 2003. The U.S. Department of Agriculture last recorded an industrial hemp crop in the late 1950s, down from a 1943 peak of more than 150 million pounds on 146,200 harvested acres.

Interest in industrial hemp has grown in recent years, following the discovery of its potential nutrition benefits in food and as a component in composite materials and bio-fuel source material, wrote Politico’s Jenny Hopkinson.

In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products, up from $1.4 million in 2000, noted the Associated Press. Most of that growth was seen in hemp seed and hemp oil, which finds its way into granola bars and other products. Sales of hemp products in the U.S. reached $500 million in 2012, according to Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, which lobbies for the legalization of the product.

“All of that’s coming from imported material,” he told Politico. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that really all our trading partners can grow these crops (but U.S. farmers can’t). I think there is no question that hemp could be a multibillion-dollar market (in the United States).”

Legalized growing of hemp has bipartisan support from Democrats from marijuana-friendly states and Republicans from states where the fibrous plant could be a profitable crop.

Hopkinson noted getting the hemp measure included in the farm bill took considerable effort.

So far in the 2014 legislative season, industrial hemp legislation has been introduced in several states including Hawaii, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to Vote Hemp.

Last year, the Vermont Legislature passed a bill allowing for hemp production. For a number of years, Rural Vermont and the Vermont Hemp Industries Association has been advocating to allow Vermont farmers to cultivate hemp.

“Rural Vermont recognizes hemp cultivation as an opportunity to provide Vermont farmers with a highly versatile crop that gives them financial opportunity while increasing sustainability and filling the demand for local hemp products.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation has been lobbying on a national level for the legalization of industrial hemp.

“At a time when small farms are innovating and diversifying to remain, competitive, we should provide every opportunity to increase farm incomes and allow the next generation the ability to continue living off the land as their families have for generations,” state Kyle Cline, policy adviser for the bureau. “Industrial hemp is one such opportunity that may work for some farmers in certain regions. Furthermore, industrial hemp will allow the U.S. farmer to share in income that is currently going overseas.”

It makes economic sense to exploit this versatile crop and allow American farmers to profit from the increased demand for hemp products.

Vermont is well-positioned to take advantage of the rapidly changing legal landscape related to hemp production. The University of Vermont conducted a study in 1996 to investigate the viability of industrial hemp and found it would provide a number of economic benefits to Vermont farmers. In addition, Vermont farmers have proven to be quite savvy in exploiting niche markets. The growth of hemp in the rugged farmland of Vermont could prove to be another venture the Green Mountain State’s entrepreneurial spirit could excel at. All we are asking is give us a chance to prove it.


Courier-Journal: McConnell secures industrial hemp in final version of Farm Bill

Jan. 27, 2014
By Patrick T. Sullivan
Full Article

The final version of the Farm Bill U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is promoting would allow state departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp.

McConnell crafted the bill’s language to give Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer flexibility to cultivate hemp for pilot programs in Kentucky, according to a news release.

Following Senate and House passage of their respective Farm Bills, McConnell appointed Senate Republicans to the 2014 Farm Bill conference, the group charged with finalizing the Farm Bill.

McConnell worked with the conference to draft a final bill that gives Comer permission to move forward with pilot programs for industrial hemp cultivation.

McConnell worked with House Speaker John Boehner to protect the language from opposition in the conference, according to the release.

“This is an important victory for Kentucky’s farmers, and I was pleased to be able to secure this language on behalf of our state,” McConnell said in the release.

Senate Bill 50, championed by Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and signed into effect last year, provides a regulatory framework for hemp production in Kentucky — should the federal government legalize it. Since then, federal government officials have indicated that states that have legalized marijuana likely wouldn’t be interfered with, but no clear guidance has been given in relation to hemp.The final version of the Farm Bill U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is promoting would allow state departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp.

McConnell crafted the bill’s language to give Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer flexibility to cultivate hemp for pilot programs in Kentucky, according to a news release.

McConnell worked with the conference to draft a final bill that gives Comer permission to move forward with pilot programs for industrial hemp cultivation.

McConnell worked with House Speaker John Boehner to protect the language from opposition in the conference, according to the release.

“This is an important victory for Kentucky’s farmers, and I was pleased to be able to secure this language on behalf of our state,” McConnell said in the release.

Senate Bill 50, championed by Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and signed into effect last year, provides a regulatory framework for hemp production in Kentucky — should the federal government legalize it. Since then, federal government officials have indicated that states that have legalized marijuana likely wouldn’t be interfered with, but no clear guidance has been given in relation to hemp.


Newsmax: Farmers Call for End to Hemp Ban

23 Jan 2014
By Drew MacKenzie
Full Article

The American Farm Bureau Federation, a powerful and influential farmers’ lobbying group, is demanding the repeal of the classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance.

The ban, which has been heavily criticized by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, prevents American farmers growing hemp while the United States has been importing products from overseas that derive from hemp.

At the federation’s annual meeting last week in Texas, the group voted to approve a resolution from the Indiana Farm Bureau supporting the de-classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance under the Drug Enforcement Administration guide lines.

Hemp is a commonly used term for high growing varieties of the cannabis plant and its products, which include hemp seeds, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel.

Kyle Cline, policy adviser with the Indiana Farm Bureau, said that hemp can provide some farmers with the chance “to diversify their operations and share in a new market opportunity.”

He continued, “At a time when small farms are innovating and diversifying to remain competitive, we should provide every opportunity to increase farm incomes and allow the next generation the ability to continue living off the land as their families have for generations.

“Industrial hemp is one such opportunity that may work for some farmers in certain regions. Furthermore, industrial hemp will allow the U.S. farmer to share in income that is currently going overseas. Right now, it is legal to import hemp but illegal to produce it. Therefore, there is no opportunity currently to share in the profit.”

And Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said this week that the state should follow Indiana’s lead on hemp and “get on the ball” before it’s too late.

“There’s a lot of competition on this,” said Comer. “When we started this in 2012 with Sen. Paul, there weren’t very many states interested in pursuing a hemp industry. Now there are 20 states.”

Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, said, “Farmers see hemp imported from China, Canada, and realize that they’re missing out on the growing U.S. market for hemp.

“That farmers are coming forward with formal support for policy change in favor of hemp legalization is a huge step forward, and Congress should follow their lead and pass legislation to once again allow hemp farming under federal law.”

According to Kentucky.com, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week that he had asked the U.S. Attorney General’s office to review the classification.


McClatchy Washington Bureau: Hemp proponents hope to lift haze surrounding crop

By Rob Hotakainen
November 18, 2013
Full Article

WASHINGTON — Authorities arrested David Bronner when he locked himself in a steel-bar cage in front of the White House last year and began using a hand-powered press to extract fresh oil from 12 large hemp plants, which he planned to put on French bread and serve to passers-by.

Bronner, a California executive, says there’s no good reason that growing hemp – the non-intoxicating sister plant of marijuana – is still illegal in the U.S.

On Monday, he came back to Washington, joining a group of 50 citizen-lobbyists who urged Congress to lift the federal ban, saying it would allow more domestic hemp to be used in food, clothing, body-care products, construction materials, even auto parts.

“It’s time to grow hemp,” Bronner said. “I mean, it’s been a long and ridiculous situation.”

The issue gained traction in September, when California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow farmers in the state to grow hemp if the federal government lifts its ban. California joined nine other states with similar laws, but growers still never know if they’ll face federal prosecution.

“You have to be willing to bet the farm to find out,” said Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for a pro-legalization group called Vote Hemp.

Ryan Loflin, a Colorado farmer who joined the group at the Capitol, decided to take the risk, growing 60 acres of hemp and harvesting the crop last month. It was touted as the first acknowledged commercial hemp crop in the U.S. in more than 50 years.

“It’s a ridiculous policy, so I just challenged them on it,” Loflin said, adding that he so far hasn’t faced any threats of enforcement action.

Growers say the situation in the U.S. is complicated by the fact that it’s legal to buy and sell hemp products but not to grow and cultivate the crop. They’re out to sell legalization with economic arguments, saying the industry already has more than $500 million in annual retail sales.

Not everyone’s convinced, however.

“Hemp is the forgotten child of drug policy, and for good reason: I have never heard a solid rationale for legalizing something with such little demand,” said Kevin Sabet, the director of the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute and a former adviser on drug issues to Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Hemp backers say they’ll secure another big win if they can convince House of Representatives and Senate negotiators to include language in a new farm bill that would allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for academic and agricultural research.

Bronner, the CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, imports the plant from Canada and uses it in his line of natural soaps, saying it contains the popular omega-3 essential fatty acid and produces a smooth lather that’s less drying to the skin.

“It’s just a really good oil,” he said.

Bronner said “the most ridiculous part of the drug war” has been banning hemp at all, because it can’t be used for getting high. He said it never should never have been classified with marijuana as a controlled substance in the first place and that it now became “increasingly untenable” to maintain the hemp ban as states moved to legalize marijuana.

He and other hemp supporters said it was only a matter of time – perhaps a few years at most – before the federal government would give a green light to their industry.

“We’re just really excited,” Bronner said. “It’s been a long time coming.”


Capital Press: Oregon to post hemp rules by planting time

11/6/13
By Eric Mortenson
Oregon ag department hopes to approve hemp production rules in time for spring planting, but financing is another question.
Full Article

The prospect of Oregon farmers growing hemp has the region’s largest agricultural lender scratching its head about how to proceed.

Although questions remain about the federal legality of growing hemp for fiber, oil, cosmetics and foods, the Oregon Department of Agriculture intends to adopt production rules in time for spring planting should farmers want to go that route, department spokesman Bruce Pokarney said. Whether farmers could get financing, as they routinely do to produce other crops, is an open question.

Northwest Farm Credit Services, the lending cooperative that specializes in loans to farmers and ranchers, hasn’t taken a position on providing money to hemp growers, regional Vice President Bob Boyle said. Most likely, it would be treated as other commodities.

“The key things you look at in financing a crop are, is there a legitimate market,” Boyle said. “And if it’s grown, will it produce enough revenue to support repayment of the loan?

“Here, you have an unknown, and along with it a number of issues that are yet to be resolved,” he said.

The organization’s board of directors, made up primarily of farmers, most likely would have to decide whether to finance hemp operations, Boyle said.

“We’ve got to be absolutely confident that production is legitimate and the market for that product is defined, and that if a contract exists for production, that it’s valid,” he said.

The Oregon Legislature passed a law approving industrial hemp cultivation in 2009, but it was never implemented because the federal government continued to classify hemp as an illegal drug like its cousin, marijuana.

Hemp’s legal status may have changed. The federal justice department said this summer it won’t prosecute cases in states such as Washington and Colorado that legalize and regulate marijuana. The U.S. attorney for Oregon, in what may have been an offhand remark, said the decision applies to hemp production in Oregon, because the state’s 2009 law provides the required “robust” regulatory structure.

The state ag department, however, has decided to prepare just in case. Pokarney, the department spokesman, said eight or nine people will be appointed to a rules committee. Members will include potential growers and end users – people who would use the seeds or fiber. Russ Karow, head of the Crop and Soil Science Department at Oregon State University, will be among the committee members, Pokarney said.

The rules proposed by committee members will be subject to a public hearing. “There will be plenty of scrutiny of what we put together,” Pokarney said.

Oregon’s law requires hemp growers and manufacturers to obtain a permit from the state. The statue requires a minimum growing operation of 2.5 acres. THC levels would have to be certified as well.


Denver Post: Colorado hemp task force unveils regulations for legal farming

11/6/13
By Steve Raabe
Full Article

Colorado officials unveiled regulations Wednesday for legal hemp growing, setting the stage for a new agricultural industry.

Hemp advocates at a public meeting in Lakewood said the crop’s potential is great. But they said development might be slowed by the plant’s continued illegal status under federal law.

That will create problems for farmers in procuring hemp seed to start their crops, speakers said.

Amendment 64, the 2012 Colorado ballot initiative that legalized marijuana, also provided for state licensing of industrial hemp farming.

Hemp is a marijuana look-alike but contains little or no THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis that makes users high. Hemp and its oil-rich seeds have dozens of uses in foods, cosmetics, textiles and construction materials.

The new state regulations call for farmers to register and pay a $200 annual fee, plus $1 per acre planted. Farms will be subject to inspections to make sure that the hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent THC.

The rules, created by an industrial hemp advisory committee, will be submitted next week for approval by commissioners of the state Department of Agriculture.

Baca County farmer Ryan Loflin grew and harvested a 55-acre hemp crop this year, choosing to not wait for the state regulations. It was the nation’s first commercial hemp crop in 56 years.

Christopher Boucher of San Diego-based US Hemp Oil said his company plans to build a facility to process hemp-seed oil in the San Luis Valley. The plant initially could employ six to eight workers and grow to 50 or 60 employees, depending on the acreage planted in Colorado.

But he said the facility can’t start until farmers have assurance that they can buy starter seeds. Because of the federal ban on nonsterile hemp seeds, growers could in theory face criminal charges or have their foreign seed shipments confiscated by U.S. Customs agents.


Denver Post: Colorado farmer harvests first U.S. commercial hemp crop in 56 years Read more: Colorado farmer harvests first U.S. commercial hemp crop in 56 years

By Steve Raabe
10/7/13
Full Article

Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin made history last weekend by harvesting the nation’s first commercial hemp crop in 56 years.

Hemp advocates said Loflin’s harvest is a landmark event that could one day lead to larger-scale domestic farming of hemp for industrial uses such as food additives, cosmetics and building materials.

Hemp is genetically related to marijuana but contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive substance that gets marijuana users high.

Loflin’s 55-acre crop in southeastern Colorado’s Baca County won’t yield large amounts of hemp-seed oil and other by-products but is “quite significant symbolically,” said Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for advocacy group Vote Hemp.

The sale of hemp products in the U.S. reached an estimated $500 million last year, according to the Hemp Industries Association. Yet all of the hemp used for the products was imported because federal law prohibits its cultivation in the U.S. under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The last known commercial crop was harvested in Wisconsin in 1957.

Colorado’s passage of Amendment 64 paved the way for legal cultivation of hemp, but Loflin chose to plant his crop earlier this year before implementation of the state’s hemp-growing regulations, which are scheduled to take effect next year.

Loflin said some of his hemp seed will be pressed for oil and subsequently purchased by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a major user of hemp oil.

“We’re very excited that Ryan has done this,” said David Bronner, president of the company. “Ryan has kind of busted it open and taken this necessary step to make hemp a viable crop.”