Full list: Hemp News

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.


VPR: Cautiously, Hemp Crops Take Root In Vt.

Industrial hemp can be used to make edible oil, fabric, paper, rope, even a form of concrete and a plastic composite used in car doors. Like any other crop, you have to have seeds, soil and water to grow it. Hemp farmers have plenty of soil and water but getting seeds has been a little more complicated. A homesteader in Panton who registered as a hemp grower told VPR he didn’t plant this year because his efforts to get seeds from Canada, where hemp farming has been legal for 16 years, did not pan out.

Robb Kidd, formerly with Rural Vermont, says some people interested in hemp farming have found seeds in the wild. “I have heard some Vermonters have harvested feral hemp here in Vermont,” says Kidd. “There’s been patches of feral hemp growing for the last 40 years. Some people have harvested those seeds to grow.”

The three hemp plots our reporter visited were all started with seed sold by Europeans and shipped here illegally, including the hemp seeds that Netaka White managed to get France. “This is our humble hemp patch,” says White, gesturing to the area outside his home in Salisbury where he planted 1.5 ounces of seed. “It measures about eight by eight [feet].  I don’t even know what percentage of an acre that is.”

White expects to get 12 or more pounds of seed when he harvests his hemp crop in late September and he’ll use that to grow even more hemp next year. Most of the Vermont hemp farmers seem resigned that this first crop will go towards establishing a seed supply.

White is co-owner of a company called Full Sun that presses seed into oil.  He doesn’t expect to start pressing Vermont-grown hemp seeds until the fall of 2016 at a production facility Full Sun plans to open in Addison County.

A VPR survey of the dozen Vermonters registered with the Agency of Agriculture to grow hemp found that at least five of them have decided not to grow this year. (The agency says it has no idea how many are actually growing.) For some of the would-be hemp farmers the anxiety over the legality of hemp was the reason. One Vermont farmer who registered with the state told VPR he planted hemp seeds and then tore the young plants from the soil, worried that a bust would affect his girlfriend’s high-profile PR job.

A farmer in Springfield who registered was afraid the hemp seeds sold online might have a THC content that exceeds Vermont’s maximum of 0.3 percent. THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana responsible for the high. Another farmer who registered told us that a lot of industrial hemp has a THC level of one percent, which is not enough to get you high but is enough to violate Vermont’s law, so he decided not to plant this year. The Agency of Agriculture says it has no plans at the moment to test for THC content.

Will Allen, a longtime hemp advocate in Thetford, decided not to plant out of fear that the feds might confiscate his Cedar Circle Farm. He investigated the possibility of leasing land to grow hemp on, but that didn’t pan out.

The anxiety over where the federal government’s stand on hemp farming has caused the University of Vermont to hold off planting hemp this year for research purposes. UVM agronomist Heather Darby says once the legal cloud hanging over hemp farming is resolved, a research plot of an acre or smaller could be planted at the UVM Extension farm in Alburgh as early as next spring. Tris Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont, declined to comment on the record about his stance on hemp farming in the state but observers say Coffin’s office has made heroin and opiate cases a much higher priority than marijuana prosecutions.

On an 80-acre homestead in the Northeast Kingdom, a young couple raises pigs, chickens and all of their own vegetables. They planted a 25 square-foot patch of hemp in their garden. They, too, asked that we not use their names. The homesteaders live fairly close to the Quebec border. “I wouldn’t call myself a pioneer of anything,” the farmer says. “It’s part of our environment. Part of our growing systems, living systems is growing hemp. And I have the opportunity to do it, so I’m going to do it.” This homesteader and his wife spend winter months away from Vermont rigging traditional sailing ships, which means they know quite a bit about rope. “One of the reasons why hemp is such a great rope-making material is that it can grow 12 feet tall,” he says, “and then you have 12-foot long pieces of fiber, which make really strong rope.”  Last winter the couple went to Sweden and made rope from hemp using equipment and a process developed in the nineteenth century. They hope to make rope one day out of Vermont-grown hemp fiber.  “We want to re-learn how to grow it for fiber and we want to re-learn how to make it into rope so that that tradition isn’t lost,” she says. “Whether we’ll ever be able to make a living making hemp rope? I mean, probably not. Who knows?” But he says it’s worth it to keep the skills alive. “And when the world’s ready for it, we want still have that knowledge available.

A hemp industry trade group estimates that last year Americans spent more than a half billion dollars on hemp foods, cosmetics and other products. And here’s another way hemp farming can possibly benefit Vermont agriculture: after the seeds are pressed for the oil, the left over seed meal can be used as animal feed. Netaka White of the Full Sun oil seed company says that in addition to pressing hemp seed oil, he plans to sell seed meal to Vermont famers. “We’re at the beginning in Vermont of a whole new industry that hasn’t existed in this state for 60 to 70 years,” says White. “Most people who are putting seeds in the ground are realistic in what it’s going to take to kickstart this new agricultural sector.”

In addition to Vermont, hemp crops have been planted in Kentucky and Colorado this year.


Kentucky.com: UK hemp crop growing well without fertilizer, pesticide

By Janet Patton
July 30, 2014
Full Article

Hemp’s comeback in Kentucky is going strong, tall and green.

A patch of hemp seeded at the University of Kentucky’s Spindletop research farm in Lexington in late May has grown to more than 6 feet in some places and is still going, with neither fertilizer nor pesticides.

“It’s doing just fine so far,” said Dave Williams, a UK agronomist who, with Rich Mundell, is in charge of the test plots.

“We’ve had enough rain to keep it growing and enough heat to make it grow,” Williams said.

The first legal hemp planted in Central Kentucky appears to be off to a good start despite being planted later than originally hoped.

The seeds, imported from Italy, were seized by U.S. Customs officials in Louisville because the Kentucky Department of Agriculture did not have an import permit. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer sued the federal government to have them released.

The DEA agreed to expedite permits for the state and agreed that private growers also can be permitted by the department to grow cannabis sativa, which is almost identical to marijuana but with minuscule amounts of high-inducing chemicals.

The federal suit will be dismissed soon, said Holly VonLuehrte, Comer’s chief of staff.

Further shipments have come in without difficulty, and now about 15 Kentucky farmers have planted test plots for the department, she said.

Williams said his hemp, which includes a larger plot with 13 strains, all thought to be fiber varieties, will be harvested in late September or early October.

The variety in the test plot that has become the poster child for Kentucky hemp is called red petiole and will be evaluated for how much fiber it yields.

This planting is just a first step for what many farmers across the state hope will become a lucrative crop.

The KDA anticipates having at least 30 farmers growing hemp next year, VonLuehrte said.

Williams plans to plant much more as well.

“We’d like to test more varieties than what were available this year,” he said. “There are lots of different fertility regimes we’d like to look at, planting densities we’d like to look at. Lots of research yet to do.”

Other Kentucky universities also planted hemp this year — the first time it has been legally planted in the United States in decades. Murray State got seeds in the ground first, in mid-May.

The same varieties at Spindletop also have been planted at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond and at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. Data from all the locations will be compared with the Fayette County trials.

Next comes finding a processor and a buyer. Some processors have expressed interest, Williams said.

Decades ago, when hemp was a major crop in Kentucky, it was grown primarily for fiber, as it is today in Europe. But Canada’s hemp industry is built on seed, mainly processed for oil.

Williams and Mundell hope next year to grow some varieties for seed rather than fiber.

“This is just a baby step in the research that needs to be conducted before we can make great recommendations to farmers in Kentucky,” Williams said. “This is just the first step in the right direction.”

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/07/30/3358896/uk-hemp-crop-growing-well-without.html?sp=/99/322/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

LA Times Op-Ed: A tip for American farmers: Grow hemp, make money


Rolling Stone: The Other Cannabis War: The Battle Over Hemp

How a 20-year campaign to distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana scored an epic victory
By Coco McPhersonJune 3, 2014
Full Article

In the annals of strange bedfellow politics, the story of how, in 2014, industrial hemp emerged from Drug War purgatory is an epic one. But even for long-time hemp advocates, the sight of Rep. Thomas Massie, a conservative Republican from northern Kentucky, biting jubilantly into a hemp bar on live TV last month was startling.

Buried in February’s $956 billion farm bill is an amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Massie, that legally distinguishes industrial hemp from marijuana after decades of conflation. It defines hemp as an agricultural crop rather than a drug — and effectively frees American farmers to grow it for the first time in almost 60 years.

Widespread cultivation won’t happen overnight – for one thing, the U.S. has no hemp seeds or hemp-processing facilities. But the sudden change in hemp’s fortunes shocks its supporters. “If you’d asked me five years ago if I thought we could get Mitch McConnell to introduce a hemp bill, I’d have told you it was impossible,” says Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, the advocacy group formed in 2000 to educate and lobby for hemp legalization in state legislatures and on the Hill. “This is huge.”

It’s also been a long time coming. For 20 years, legislators, farmers, hippies, activists, agency heads and agronomists have worked to recast hemp as a game-changer, an American cash crop that could jump-start the country’s next economic revival. Kentucky took the legislative lead with outright advocacy by its agriculture department. Unlike a high-profile 2007 lawsuit in which two North Dakota hemp farmers took on the DEA without support from their elected officials in Washington, Kentucky brought its entire federal (and much of its state) delegation to the party.

Among hemp’s biggest advocates are Kentucky’s Republican senator, Rand Paul, the avowed champion of limited government who tweets about the tragedy of the drug war, and James Comer, the state’s young Republican agriculture commissioner who successfully sued the DEA last month for seizing Kentucky’s imported hemp seeds and for interfering with the implementation of pilot programs made legal by the farm bill. And Massie, a fiscal hawk active in last year’s government shutdown who once studied robotics at MIT.

Colorado, Vermont and Kentucky wasted no time launching their industrial hemp research and the pilot programs provided for in the farm bill. In an obscure notice dated April 16th, the USDA alerted state and county officials that farmers in states that ok’d hemp production (15 so far) could now include hemp acreage in their crop reports. The floodgates have opened.

From California and representing the activist left: David Bronner, president of his family’s Magic Soap empire. Bronner has thrown the weight of probably the most iconic hippie brand in the world behind hemp legalization and GMO-labeling initiatives.  In 2012, Bronner locked himself in a cage with a thatch of hemp plants in clear view of the White House; he was preparing a hemp oil sandwich when he was sawed out of his prison by the D.C. fire department and hauled away by police.

Explaining industrial hemp has taken decades. A lot of people don’t know what it is and many think it’s pot. “It’s just been incredibly frustrating for the hemp industry that hemp has been lumped legally and in public perception with marijuana,” Bronner tells Rolling Stone.

Hemp isn’t weed and hemp can’t get you high—it’s a bust as a recreational drug. Hemp is marijuana’s non-psychoactive sibling, derived, like weed, from the cannabis sativa plant. The current American hemp market is estimated at nearly half a billion dollars, with hemp’s oil, seed and fiber used in food, carbon-negative building materials, and automobile composites that are already inside millions of cars. Hemp cultivation is also as old as the country itself. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it, hemp was once legal tender, and several drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. During WWII, American farmers were paid to grow it, cultivating more than 150 million pounds of industrial hemp to support the American war effort. The U.S. government’s 1942 propaganda film, Hemp for Victory, depicts workers toiling happily to harvest lush fields of hemp; the fibrous plants to be later converted to materiel like rope and parachute webbing for the military.

Despite its patriotic bona fides, cannabis sativa was a victim of reefer madness in almost every decade of the 20th Century. Praised, taxed, vilified, confused with pot and blamed for killing sprees and the theft of American jobs by immigrants. The final nail in hemp’s coffin was its classification as a Schedule 1 narcotic in 1970’s Controlled Substances Act.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a commercial hemp industry. All the hemp sold in the U.S., including the food and body products lining the shelves of Costco, the Body Shop and Whole Foods is imported. As Americans buy hemp, Britain, China, France and Germany are among the countries benefiting from America’s incoherent drug policy. Last year, Canadian farmers grew 67,000 acres of  hemp and say they may not be able to grow enough to fill this year’s orders. David Bronner began adding hemp oil — imported from Canada — to his liquid soaps in 1999. “I thought this was the most ridiculous piece of the drug war,” he says “that a non-drug agricultural crop was caught up here.”

Even as hemp fought to differentiate itself from pot, it  undeniably benefited from its association with it, successfully riding the wave of marijuana legalization in states throughout the country. And as hemp lobbyists worked to change cannabis laws, high-profile court cases highlighted the confusing and capricious application of federal drug laws to the non-drug plant.

In 2001, in a fit of drug war paranoia, the DEA declared a ban on foods that contain hemp including certain cereals, salad dressings, breads and veggie burgers — claiming that the foods contained THC. Affected businesses were given 120 days to dump their inventories. With the hemp food market just taking off, 200 hemp companies, including Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, took the DEA to court. The lawsuit allowed the hemp industry to make its case in the media. Hemp won the bruising battle nearly three years later when a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the government couldn’t regulate the trace amounts of THC that occur naturally in hemp seeds.

When the first hemp bill was introduced in Congress in 2005, it was lonely business. “At that point we had Ron Paul, a pariah in the Republican Party, recalls Steenstra. “Nobody wanted to do anything with us and we could barely get co-sponsors. We’d say hemp and they’d say ‘no, no, no, that’s pot.’ We banged on a lot of doors and worked in state legislatures to get laws changed there. A lot of states considered marijuana to be all cannabis and they didn’t distinguish. We knew we had to change minds in both places.” It wasn’t until 2012 that the first hemp bill was introduced in the Senate, when Oregon’s liberal senator, Ron Wyden, took to the floor to call federal hemp prohibition “the poster child for dumb regulation.”

What worked was the lure of jobs and economic development. When Comer, a family farmer who served six terms in the Kentucky state legislature, ran for agriculture commissioner in 2011, campaigning on industrial hemp was a no-brainer. Kentucky was once the heartland of hemp production in the U.S. and people came out of the woodwork to talk to Comer about it. “And it was all over the spectrum,” Comer tells Rolling Stone. “Liberals liked it because they were environmentalists and conservatives in the Tea Party liked it because it was an example of government overreach. Older voters were overwhelmingly for hemp because they remembered when their families grew it. They didn’t know you could make automobile parts from it because at the time, all you made with hemp in Kentucky was rope.”

On Capitol Hill last Thursday, Rep. Massie and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) each introduced amendments that would prevent the DEA and Justice Dept. from spending any money to interfere with states who are implementing their hemp laws. In the last 50 years there has only been one hemp vote in the House and that was last year. Suddenly there’ve been two more.

Without seeds, how long will it take to make hemp just another American crop like soybeans? “There’s definitely a process we have to get through,” says Bronner. “We’ve given the Canadians and the Europeans and the Chinese a huge head start on the modern global awareness of hemp. They’ve had years of breeding programs to optimize their cultivars for their climate conditions and we’ve been doing nothing.”

Canadian agronomist Anndrea Hermann says finding the right hemp varieties for the U.S. is crucial. “I would never tell a farmer anywhere, ‘let’s start mass cultivation next year,’” Hermann tells Rolling Stone. Hermann lives in a country with a fully-regulated hemp industry. “And we have to have the farmers’ voice. If we don’t have farmers, we don’t have agriculture.”

In Kentucky, farming programs for veterans that teach families how to grow their own food have just sewn hemp in collaboration with the agriculture department and Vote Hemp. Mike Lewis, a military veteran and food security expert who founded the group in 2012 when his brother returned from the war in Afghanistan with a brain injury, now has grant money for a hemp textile project and part-time work for twelve people. This in a state with a 19% poverty rate. “Appalachia has a strong history of textiles,” Lewis observes. “In my vision that’s what’s missing from rural communities, ag income. People used to survive off tobacco. If it has to be hemp for textiles, let’s do it. People call hemp a panacea, a pipe dream, but look how many people came together from all walks of life in Kentucky to make this happen.”


WHAS11: DEA backs down; releasing hemp seeds to Ky. Agriculture Dept.

by Joe Arnold
May 13, 2014
Full Article & Video

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – There has been an apparent breakthrough in the battle over industrial hemp seeds seized by customs agents in Louisville.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Drug Enforcement Administration has decided to back down and release the seeds for a hemp pilot project.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer planned to take the DEA to federal court Wednesday to force it to follow a new federal law.

According to Comer, the DEA wanted to attach various conditions before it would even consider handing over the industrial hemp seeds.

Now the two sides have agreed on one condition.

“The first phone call – it was just an utter disregard for federal legislation, the Farm Bill,” Comer said.

By the last phone call between the DEA and the Kentucky Agriculture Department on Tuesday, the two sides appear to have reached an agreement that by the end f the week it will release to agriculture officials a 250-pound shipment of hemp seeds being held by customs agents.

An agriculture department official says the DEA will only require the Agriculture Department to apply for an import permit, a process the DEA pledges to expedite so that the seeds can be released by the end of the week.

“The farm bull clearly states that we have the authority in Kentucky because we passed state regulatory framework, to be able to conduct pilot projects with research universities like the University of Kentucky,” Comer said.

It appears to be a better resolution than in 1996, when actor Woody Harrelson was arrested in rural Kentucky for ceremoniously planting four hemp seeds.

This Friday, Comer plans to join hemp supporters in rural Kentucky again to plant hemp seeds to usher in the rebirth of a cash crop outlawed here since 1937 because it looked similar to marijuana.

 


The Courier Journal: Kentucky hemp to be planted in May

Bruce Schreiner
April 29, 2014
Full Article

Kentucky’s first industrial hemp crop in decades will start going into the ground next month now that the pipeline for shipping seeds into the state is opening up to allow the experimental plantings, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said Tuesday.

Comer said he expects the first batches of hemp seeds to arrive soon at the state Agriculture Department at Frankfort.

“We’re rapidly approaching a crucial time for the seeds to be put in the ground,” he said.

So far, eight pilot projects are planned statewide as part of a small-scale reintroduction to gauge the crop’s potential in the marketplace and as a moneymaker for farmers. The first planting is scheduled May 16 in Rockcastle County, said Holly Harris VonLuehrte, Comer’s chief of staff.

“Hopefully we can get enough seeds to have credible research data gathered by this fall,” Comer said. “And next year, hopefully we’ll have enough seeds to have several processors in the state and several farmers under contract growing it.”

Hemp production was banned decades ago when the federal government classified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa. But hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

The crop’s comeback gained a foothold with passage of the new federal farm bill. It allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp pilot projects for research in states that already allow the growing of hemp.

Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation last year that allowed hemp to be reintroduced, if the federal government allowed its production.

Once the farm bill allowed the experimental plantings, the next challenge was getting hemp seed.

Comer said Tuesday his staff has “gone through every level of federal bureaucracy you can go through to get those seeds in.”

The initial seeds are coming from Canada and Italy, Comer said.

One pilot project in Fayette County will focus on hemp’s potential in medicine, she said.

Hemp many uses, including rope, clothing and mulch from the fiber; hemp milk and cooking oil from the seeds, and soap and lotions.