Hemp is Patriotic - historically and economically
Originally published in The Hill newspaper
America wouldn’t be America without hemp. The sails on ships of discovery were made from hemp, the canvas that covered wagon trains were made from hemp. Our forefathers were hemp growers, even the original farm upon whose land the Pentagon building now stands grew hemp, and while the claim that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper is questionable, a new farmer’s declaration of independence from unwarranted government impediment should be. While government regulation and oversight is very necessary in the agriculture space, some draconian laws simply don’t make sense.
It has been illegal in federal law to grow hemp since the enactment of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The law lumps this incredibly versatile food, feed, fuel, fiber, oil and construction material crop into the same category as marijuana. While hemp is part of the cannabis family, far from producing a drugged state (as defined in the 2014 Farm Bill, hemp contains less than 0.3% THC – tetrahydrocannabinol - by dry weight), hemp is a miracle crop from its soil remediation properties to its breadth of use.
Due to the way hemp is grown so closely together, it suppresses weeds – so there’s no need to use herbicide. Its roots are long so it holds soil structure together and reduces erosion. It naturally fixes nitrogen to the soil so builds soil fertility. Photosynthesis is the easiest method to sequester carbon, and due to its leafy structure and long roots, hemp works in this regard adding to our tool kit of ways to approach rising C02 rates.
Hemp is one of the most nutritionally complete food sources there is. It has tremendous properties that support cardiovascular health, tissue, blood, immune system, organs, skin, it provides 11 grams of protein per a 3 tablespoon serving. Hemp also has a perfect ratio balance of 3:1 of Omega 6 and 3 linolenic acids and is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids.
Hemp fiber is used for paper which in turn can be recycled 7 times, compared to only 3 for trees, requires less chemicals for processing and grows with greater efficiency. Hemp is also a “mop crop” that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants in the soil, the resultant crop can then be used in building materials such as ‘hempcrete’ when mixed with lime. Hemp is lightweight and has tremendous thermal and tensile properties.
Outdated policy is clearly hurting our farmers as the hemp market grows and American consumers rely upon imports from countries such as China and Canada. 27 states in our union have passed varying forms of legislation permitting farmers to grow hemp, but there are issues with the Feds. It is not unheard for seed imports heading to these states to be stopped at the border.
Congress passing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, S.134/H.R.525, would be a step towards economically and ecologically regenerative agriculture, permitting hemp farming in all 50 states and allowing American farmers to supply the largest consumer demand for hemp in the world — our own!