Full list: Hemp News

EcoWatch: $620 Million Reasons to Legalize Hemp

Lorraine Chow
March 13, 2015 9:53 am
Full Article

Hemp truly is a cash crop. The total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. last year has been tallied, and the multipurpose plant brought in a stunning $620 million, according to estimates from the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association representing hemp companies, researchers and supporters.

The figure is based on sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products. Total retail sales of hemp foods and body care alone totaled approximately $200 million, according to the HIA.

Mary Jane’s non-intoxicating cousin had been stymied by a federal drug policy until last February when President Obama signed the Farm Bill which contained an amendment to legalize hemp production for research purposes. The bill also allowed states that already legalized the crop to cultivate hemp within the parameters of state agriculture departments and research institutions.

Currently, 21 states may grow hemp thanks to the Farm Bill, including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. More states are moving to legalize industrial hemp farming as well.

“Eleven new states have passed legislation and new businesses are rapidly entering the market now that American farmers in a handful of states are finally beginning to grow the crop legally,” said Eric Steenstra, executive director of the HIA. “Challenges remain in the market and there is a need for Congress to pass legislation to allow farmers to grow hemp commercially in order for the market to continue its rapid growth.”

There’s also been increasing grassroots pressure on the Feds to allow hemp to be grown domestically on a commercial scale. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year. If passed, it would remove all federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, and remove its classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

The bill was introduced by Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Kentucky Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner decided last week to co-sponsor the bill, and said in a media release: “Industrial hemp is a safe substance with many practical commercial applications. Removing it from the Controlled Substances Act is a common sense move which would create jobs and get the government out of the way of farmers and our agricultural industry.”

The $620 million figure from was gleaned from natural and conventional retailers, excluding Whole Foods Market, Costco and certain other key establishments, who do not provide sales data, which means the true sales figure could be much higher by at least two and a half, the HIA said.

Hemp retail sales in the U.S. just keep growing. According to data collected by market research firm SPINS, combined U.S. hemp food and body care sales grew in the sampled stores by 21.2 percent or $14,020,239, over the previous year to a total of just more than $80,042,540. Sales in conventional retailers grew by 26.8 percent in 2014, while sales in natural retailers grew by 16.3 percent.


Tenth Amendment Center: Unanimous Vote Moves Industrial Hemp Bill Forward in New Hampshire

By  Shane Trejo
March 9, 2015
Full Article

CONCORD, N.H. (Mar. 11, 2015) The New Hampshire state House approved a bill today that would remove the ban on industrial hemp in the state, effectively nullifying the federal prohibition on the same. 

Introduced by Elizabeth Edwards (D-Hillsborough), Laura Jones (R-Strafford), Robert Cushing (D-Rockingham), and Michael Sylvia (R-Belknap) on Jan. 8, House Bill 494 (HB494) opens the door for a full-scale commercial hemp market in the state by treating it as any other crop for farming. The bill reads, in part, that “industrial hemp shall not be designated as a controlled substance.”

After passing out of committee unanimously last week, the House approved it today by a voice vote.

In short, industrial hemp would essentially be treated similar to tomatoes by government officials in New Hampshire. By removing the state prohibition on the plant, residents of New Hampshire would have an open door to start industrial farming should they be willing to risk violating the ongoing federal prohibition. This is exactly what has already happened in both Vermont and Colorado.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group who hopes to plant 25 acres this spring. The Tennessee Agricultural department recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon there too. And a law passed in South Carolina in 2014 authorizes the same.

“What this gets down to is the power of the people,” said Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center. “When enough people tell the feds to pound sand, there’s not much D.C. can do to continue their unconstitutional prohibition on this productive plant.”

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $500 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.

But, since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.

Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The new “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

HB494 an essential first step forward, and will likely need to be followed by additional legislation implementing the program, unless – like in Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – courageous farmers in New Hampshire start growing industrial hemp without further authorization.  It now moves to the state Senate for further consideration.


Capital Ag Press: Senate and House take different paths to legalizing hemp

February 11, 2015
By Don JenkinsFull Article

OLYMPIA — A Senate bill to legalize hemp cultivation takes three pages. A House bill to accomplish the same thing takes 24 pages.

Both chambers appear ready to OK the federally forbidden plant — after all voters legalized growing hemp’s psychoactive Cannabis cousin, marijuana.

But the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House have wildly different approaches, which must be reconciled.

The Senate already has unanimously passed Senate Bill 5012, which simply declares hemp an agricultural crop, no different than apples or wheat.

The legislation takes more than one page only to instruct Washington State University to study hemp’s potential as a commercial crop.

In contrast, House Bill 1552, which has yet to come to a floor vote, calls for the Washington Department of Agriculture to license hemp growers, control the seed supply, randomly test the potency of plants and penalize farmers who break the rules.

In a rare case of asking for more government oversight, the president of the Washington Hemp Industries Association, Joy Beckerman Maher, told a legislative committee that hemp can’t be as unregulated as potatoes or tomatoes.

“Here’s the reality: Industrial hemp is a controlled substance. It is treated as a controlled substance throughout the globe, including the 31 developed countries where we would be getting those desired seeds from,” she said.

WSDA should step in and prevent hemp and marijuana crops from cross-pollinating, ruining everybody’s investment and discrediting Washington’s hemp industry, she said.

“Please do not make the marijuana growers, and the industrial hemp farmers fight this out among themselves,” Beckerman Maher said.

Without seed controls, Washington hemp farmers would be viewed suspiciously worldwide by manufacturers of hemp products, she said.

The prime sponsor of SB 5012, Raymond Democrat Brian Hatfield, said hemp advocates are making things too complicated.

Federal authorities have made clear they expect Washington to closely regulate recreational marijuana, but hemp has a fraction of marijuana’s THC, the chemical that causes psychological effects. Hatfield said he doubts feds will care about hemp.

“This whole universe is changing so rapidly. This is going to be the least of federal concerns — cracking down on hemp farmers,” he said.

State officials say it’s anybody’s guess how many acres of hemp would be grown in Washington. Yakima Valley Sen. Jim Honeyford, who co-sponsored Hatfield’s bill and has long experience in Washington agriculture, has said he doubts many farmers would grow hemp.

The Office of Financial Management estimated WSDA would spend about $900,000 a year regulating hemp if the House bill were adopted. The bill allows WSDA to collect $10 per acre for a 36-month hemp license, though the department would have the authority to raise the fee.

Cannabis lobbyist Ezra Eickmeyer suggested the state create a database to let farmers know how close marijuana and hemp grows are to each other, but otherwise regulate hemp lightly. “We don’t need giant oversight from the government, like we do with marijuana right now,” he said.

Whatcom County hemp entrepreneur Sandy Soderberg told a Senate committee that she’s received “pledges” from farmers through her website to plant about 2,000 acres of hemp. She said, however, that some growers are concerned about the expense and necessity of regulation.

“They feel it conflicts with what we’re trying to portray … that it’s not marijuana. Yet, we’re still licensing it, structuring it as though it were marijuana,” she said.

In an interview, Soderberg said she was primarily concerned about tight restrictions on hemp seeds available to farmers. Nevertheless, she said she agrees that turning hemp loose without rules could lead to problems. “I’m struggling with this, to be quite honest,” she said. “One way or the other, we’re going to have a bill. It’s a matter of getting the right one.”


Reuters: Oregon adopts rules allowing industrial hemp crops

By Courtney Sherwood
Tue Feb 3, 2015
Full Article

(Reuters) – Oregon farmers could plant the state’s first industrial hemp crop this spring, a full year before businesses expect to start growing marijuana for recreational use, a state official said on Tuesday.

Farmers can grow the hemp in exchange for a $1,500 licensing fee and testing to confirm their crop does not possess enough intoxicating chemicals to get people high, said Agriculture Department manager Ron Pence.

But would-be growers of industrial hemp face a host of complications, including cannabis being illegal at the federal level even as prosecutors have cautiously allowed state experiments to go forward. So far, no one has applied for a license, Pence added.

“It’s not clear if there’s an adequate seed supply,” Pence said, noting that federal regulations made it virtually impossible for growers to legally import seeds into the state. Once hemp is grown, federal law also prohibits producers from selling outside Oregon.

Nationwide, 19 states have passed legislation to allow some measure of industrial hemp production, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Last year, Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont became the first states to report legal harvests of the product, according to the Hemp Industries Association.

Oregon’s industrial hemp law, passed by the state Legislature in 2009, is being implemented at the same time as state regulators draft rules governing the recreational use of marijuana under a ballot initiative voters passed last year.

Industrial hemp grown in the state must contain less than 0.3 percent THC, the active ingredient in pot.

Farmers have criticized the state’s fledgling industrial hemp program for banning growers from manufacturing products from hemp seeds, which are commonly used to make cosmetics and food additives.

Rules also require growers to make a three-year commitment to the program, when some are only interested in growing hemp for a year on a trial basis, Pence said, adding the state Legislature was working to address some of the concerns.

 


IVN: 47 U.S. Representatives Co-Sponsor Bipartisan Industrial Hemp Farming Act

By Shawn M. Griffiths
1/22/15
Full Article

Vote Hemp, a major grassroots hemp advocacy group, on Thursday announced the introduction of complementary bills in the U.S. House and Senate, S. 134 and H.R. 525, titled the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015,” with support on both sides of the political aisle. The Act would remove federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis.

“With bi-partisan support in the Senate and House, we are eager to see 2015 be the year Congress finally passes comprehensive legislation to legalize industrial hemp farming,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. “Historic progress has been made on the issue this past year, as farmers in Vermont, Colorado and Kentucky planted hemp in 2014 thanks to Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, which allowed states that have legalized the crop to grow research and pilot hemp crops.”

The Senate bill was introduced on January 8, 2015, by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Senate Majority LeaderMitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The House bill was introduced on Wednesday, January 21, by U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.)

“I’ve heard from countless Kentuckians about the success of our initial 2014 industrial hemp pilot programs and university studies in the Commonwealth,” said McConnell. “I am especially proud that Representative Massie and I were able to work together in making those projects possible on the federal level via the 2014 Farm Bill. I support this legislation and look forward to seeing industrial hemp prosper in the Commonwealth.”

The 2014 Farm Bill permitted these pilot programs in states that have already passed laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Currently, this applies to 21 states, including Kentucky, that have defined hemp as distinct from drug varieties of Cannabis like marijuana.

“My vision for the farmers and manufacturers of Kentucky is to see us start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again. Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agriculture industry,” Paul said.

Other states that can currently take advantage of the pilot program and could benefit from the passage of this bill include California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

However, only three of these states, Colorado, Kentucky, and Vermont, planted hemp research crops in 2014.


Seven Days: Update: First Seeds in Vermont’s Budding Hemp Industry

12/24/14
By Katie Flagg
Full Article

Hemp activists scored a big victory in 2013, when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law a bill that legalized the cultivation of cannabis sativa, a relative of marijuana that can be used to make food, fuel and fiber. The problem is that the state law regulating hemp — which lacks tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in the concentrations necessary to produce a high — doesn’t match up with federal regulations that still classify it as an illegal, controlled substance. So would-be hemp farmers faced a conundrum: They couldn’t find seeds.

In advance of this year’s growing season, farmers scoped out their options. Some considered smuggling in seeds from Canada, where farmers have been legally cultivating hemp since 1998. Some went online. Others considered harvesting and storing seeds from the feral hemp plants that already grow in Vermont.

Why the eagerness to plant hemp? It’s one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world — and it could be a moneymaker for Vermont farmers and entrepreneurs. The farm advocacy group Rural Vermont and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund estimate the controversial crop could bring in up to $3,000 an acre.

Most farmers weren’t worried about a Drug Enforcement Administration bust; the feds had bigger fish to fry, they reasoned, than shaking down farmers trying to grow a non-psychotropic plant.

UPDATE: State law requires hemp farmers to register with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Seventeen did so this year, according to Tim Schmalz, who oversees the agency’s hemp registry. He isn’t sure how many of them actually got seeds in the ground, however. A survey last summer by Vermont Public Radio showed that at least five of the farmers opted out of growing, with some citing fear of the federal prohibition.

Middlebury entrepreneur Netaka White wasn’t worried, though. He and business partner David McManus are behind Full Sun Company, which aims to source seeds regionally for the production of local canola, sunflower, flax, soybean and, yes, hemp oils.

Last spring, White wanted to go big. He was looking for 50-pound bags of seed. Then reality set in — no one could get their hands on that much seed — and White settled instead for a small package of mail-order seeds from Europe. On Mother’s Day, he seeded a roughly 100-square-foot patch of his home garden with organic hemp seeds.

By early summer White had 30 or so robust plants nestled beside his kale. All told, he harvested about one pound of “nice, dark, healthy seeds” to take him into next year.

He has enough to plant 4,000 square feet next year, which should yield about 70 pounds of seeds. By 2016, he should have five acres under cultivation; if all goes according to plan, that year he’ll harvest two and a half tons of hemp seeds. Starting next year, White will outsource the growing to two farmers in the region.

He’s not alone in his homegrown approach; White knows of a handful of other small growers who put a few plants in the ground last spring with visions of much larger crops within two or three years.

“To really build or grow an industry from nothing, we had to scratch and scrape and use whatever tricks of the trade we could,” said White.

“What’s a few more years at this point?”


Lexington Herald-Leader: Ky. Department of Agriculture looking for hemp growers for 2015

By Janet Patton
December 1, 2014
Full Article

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is taking applications for next year’s industrial hemp pilot projects. Potential growers must apply by Jan. 1; farmers who are chosen will be notified in late January.

“The first round of pilot projects with the universities and individual farmers in 2014 yielded a tremendous amount of data about production methods, seed varieties, harvesting and processing techniques, and uses for the harvested hemp,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said in a statement.

“We’re looking to conduct a wide scope of pilot projects in 2015. When the day comes that commercial hemp production is open to all producers and processors in Kentucky, we want to be ready.”

Hemp was grown in 2014 for the first time since it was outlawed decades ago along with marijuana, which has far more of the high-inducing chemical THC. Several research plots were grown by universities, and a handful of farmers grew private plots. Results of the research projects are likely to be released by the end of January.

To grow hemp, applicants must provide the physical address of the production fields and anywhere the hemp will be processed or stored.


CBS St. Louis: Process to Produce Hemp Oil in Mo. for Medicinal Purposes has Begun

Fred Bodimer
November 3, 2014
Full Article

UIS (KMOX) – Today kicks off a 30-day period when the Missouri Department of Agriculture will accept applications to produce hemp extract in the state.

Only two contracts will be awarded.

“Non-profit organizations are the applicants that are eligible to receive one of up to two licenses for production of hemp,” says Sarah Alsager with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

“The only use that this new rule will allow use of hemp for is for the purpose of producing cannabis oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy,” she says, or those with severe, persistent seizures.

The state health department estimates about 1,000 people will eventually apply to use the treatment.


NBC: Far Out! Hemp Could Power Better Super-Batteries

8/12/14
Full Article & Video

Industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana, can play a role in manufacturing super-powerful supercapacitors for energy storage at a cost that’s far cheaper than graphene, researchers report. The hemp-based technology took center stage Tuesday at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Francisco. A team led by David Mitlin, an engineering professor at Clarkson University, heated up hemp fibers to create carbon nanosheets that can be used as electrodes for supercapacitors. Compared with graphene, the hemp-derived carbon is “a little bit better, but it’s 1,000 times cheaper,” Mitlin told NBC News.

He has started up a spin-off venture, currently called Alta Supercaps, in hopes of commercializing high-temperature energy storage systems for oil and gas exploration. (Mitlin conducted the research while at the University of Alberta.) “We’re looking for partners,” he said. One challenge: In the United States, growing industrial hemp is legal only for limited research purposes, and even that’s been a struggle.


WUKY: Ky., Feds Reach Agreement Over Hemp Seed Imports

By Associated Press
8/16/14
Full Article

Ky. agriculture officials and the federal government have finalized an agreement on how industrial hemp seeds may be imported into the state.

After reaching the deal Friday, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has agreed to drop a lawsuit filed in May over acquiring the seeds.

Under the agreement, the department will file an application with the federal government for a permit to import hemp seeds, and the federal government will process the Kentucky’s application quickly. The federal government also agrees that the process established by the state will control the cultivation and marketing of hemp.

The department filed suit in May against several government agencies after seeds ticketed for Kentucky were held by customs in Louisville.