Industrial Hemp’s Impending Growth Spurt

Industrial hemp may see federal legalization soon. States including North Dakota and Montana have been testing its use since the mid-'90s and North Dakota is suing the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the right to grow hemp. Farmers in North Dakota and Vermont, along with David Bronner (of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps) and representatives of Vote Hemp were all arrested in October for planting hemp seeds on the DEA's front lawn.

Maine and Oregon legalized industrial hemp in 2009, and North Dakota has been selling growing licenses since 2007. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced HR1866 – The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 – in April. The following month it was referred to the House's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. (Farmers can be dangerous.)

Growing industrial hemp is illegal on the federal level. According to Vote Hemp, 28 states have introduced hemp legislation and 16 have passed legislation. Laws legalizing it in Hawaii, Kentucky, and New Hampshire were shot down last year, but many states continue to push for legalization. Wisconsin’s bill is “active” and Minnesota’s was "carried" to 2010. Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont’s bills were carried to congressional delegation in 2009. North and South Carolina committed to research in 2006 and 2008, respectively. In 2007, Idaho's requesting permission from the federal government to legalize hemp farming killed its legalization bill. And Governor Schwarzenegger terminated California's legalization bill with a veto.

Several states have been studying hemp's agricultural worth since the mid-'90s. Which seems a little odd insofar as the U.S. government actually subsidized hemp cultivation during World War II. Fibers from particular strands of Cannabis sativa can be made into paper and clothing products, while its oils and seeds are useful for body care and food, respectively. The fiber strands of Cannabis sativa are not psychoactive, as they contain less than 3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is believed that publisher William Randolph Hearst led the charge to demonize marijuana and hemp during the 1930s because he owned large tracts of timber – hemp's competition in the paper marketplace.

Industrial hemp grows rapidly and creates a canopy that hinders weeds. It's relatively resistant to insects and has a long growing period (85-150 days) and broad climatic requirements (it could be grown across many of the United States). It depletes the soil less than cotton, and it demands fewer, or no, pesticides and herbicides, making it better for our waterways. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Henry Ford made cars out of hemp: cannibus carbohydrates worked at least as well than plastic's petroleum hydrocarbons to the dismay of the petrochemical industry. The current economy and our renewed environmental responsibilities, on the other hand, suggests that industrial hemp's time may have returned.