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  • Stephanie M. Grande

Cropping Up - A Conversation About Cannabis, Industrial Hemp and US Farmland


(click image to link to www.thehia.org)

Cannabis is a powerful plant. And, like a powerful and majestic elephant in the circus, it has been held captive for far too long. The young elephant in captivity is raised from an early age to believe that the small rope attaching its front leg to its captor’s chains will prevent it from escaping. As it grows and matures into its full strength, it carries on with the limiting belief that the same shabby rope, which once held it as a juvenile, is still capable of restricting its movement, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The poor elephant in this story doesn’t even try to free himself because that limiting belief in the rope’s power to hold it back has become its destiny. In the story, we can imagine the rope is made from Hemp, but the true analogy lies deeper in the connection between the limiting beliefs of the elephant and society’s limiting beliefs about Industrial Hemp.

It was about a year ago when the topic of Industrial Hemp started cropping up for me, and at the time, I honestly gave it very little thought. Sure, I had heard from one source or another over the years about how this one crop could save this, or save that or save the other thing; but no matter how much “they” said about it, the fact remained that it was illegal (or so I thought) and I wasn’t interested.

I quickly learned of a gem of legislation, namely Farm Bill 2014, which allowed the States to decide for themselves what role, if any, Cannabis would play within their borders. Several states moved quickly and enacted wide scale Cannabis reform laws, and others quietly passed legislation that would allow cultivation of Industrial Hemp on a Research and Development basis in partnership with local Universities. Unlike our captive elephant, this was a step in a liberating direction! This legislation marked the end of an era of misinformation about the plant genus Cannabis, and more importantly, it marked the beginning of meaningful, scientific research and data gathering on Industrial Hemp. Run elephant, run!!!

While THC is not the only beneficial compound found to some degree in all varieties of Cannabis, it is an important mark of delineation. For the purposes of this article, if it has <0.3% THC, it’s Industrial Hemp, and all the rest is Cannabis. When I think back to my youth, I attempt to recall the #1 reason I was brought up to believe everything about Cannabis was BAD. Easy. Because it was a drug, and it would get you high, and then your brain would look like a cracked egg in a frying pan.

**SPOILER ALERT** – Industrial Hemp does not, cannot and will not get you “high”. I can understand how the smear campaign against Cannabis gained traction, but Hemp? Industrial Hemp? Really? It…just…makes…no…sense!!!

It’s time to help raise awareness of the non-psychotropic qualities of Hemp. Yes, that’s right, NON-psychotropic qualities. In a recent meeting with Congressman Woodall (R-GA), I pointed out that kids would have just as much luck getting high smoking Bermuda grass clippings as they would trying to get high by smoking industrial Hemp. And, given this logic, if we aren’t afraid of golf courses, then where’s the justification for the aversion to a hemp field? Now, to be fair, I am not a farmer. And, if you’ve ever golfed with me, you know I’m no golfer either. I do have a brain though, and it doesn’t look at all like a fried egg. So, tell me again why Georgia farmers are prohibited from cultivating Industrial Hemp? It…just…makes…no…sense!!!

Hemp is also a phytoremediative plant. That sounds like a made-up word, right? It might be, but it merits consideration for entry not only into our dictionaries, but also in the course of our regular dialogue. Phytoremediation refers to a plant that cleans or restores the balance of the soil and air. Simply stated, without the top 6 inches of soil that covers most of the planet, we would not be here. And we, as a species, haven’t always respected this life giving veneer. Fortunately, in nature, there is a cure for everything. And, nature gave us Hemp, which could prove to be a cost-effective solution for cleaning up contaminated sites across the US. Hemp is quite tolerant of soil and water contaminants and can even act to accumulate and stabilize contaminated locations. Hemp is not alone in this category of plants, but Hemp is a cut above the typical phytoremediative crop. Once harvested, hemp provides an additional 24,999 uses, extending well beyond ecosystem and soil remediation. This period of restriction on the cultivation of Hemp in the US takes a significant tool out of the decontamination toolbox, restricts our farmers unnecessarily and deprives Georgia’s business minded folks of the opportunity to support what could be an emerging and powerful industry for Georgia.

I don't know about you, but I really don’t care much for tales with sad endings. Even though no great victory for US Industrial Hemp can be claimed yet, there is a happy ending on the horizon. As of today, the trend toward opening US fields and farmlands to Industrial Hemp cultivation is sweeping the nation, with at least half of all states passing legislation and clearing the way for hemp seeds to reinvigorate US farmland. It represents the first time hemp has been legally planted in the US in 70 years. The hemp cultivation story in the US is a long one indeed, and a profitable tale to boot, and while I'm neither a farmer, nor a golfer, I do know a thing or two about turning a profit.

So, how does all this relate to Industrial Hemp? Well, despite living in the Atlanta area for the past 8 years, I still work for a company based in rural Colorado. I happened to be at my office on Hay Day this year, and the conversations weren’t all about hay. Folks were talking about Hemp too.

To be fair, everyone in Colorado is talking about the booming Marijuana economy, but only a rogue few are talking about Industrial Hemp. There’s an undeniably large market available for Coloradoans with all the other permissible growing opportunities, so I struggled to see why folks would plant the low THC version. They knew something I didn’t know and I soon discovered that Colorado was among one of 3 states that permitted registered farms to cultivate hemp for profit. This year, Colorado became the first state in the US to produce a genetically certified Industrial Hemp seed. Why is this so important? According to The Hemp Industries Association (thehia.org), the “2014 Annual Retail Sales for Hemp Products Estimated at $620 Million.” There is a viable market for this crop, it’s not chump change, demand is rising and the bulk of it is being imported from overseas. But, don’t get too excited yet. In Georgia, farmers aren’t even allowed to plant hemp for Research and Development. It…just…makes…no…sense!

Someone once told me that if you take care of the pennies, the dollars take care of themselves. I’ll just leave my 2 cents, or rather 2 bills here:

TAKE ACTION: www.votehemp.com/takeaction

HR 525 – The Industrial Hemp Farming Act

HB704 - Agriculture; provide industrial hemp cultivation; provisions

Know them, love them, support them and help elect candidates who will pass them!

For more information, please send an email to starcaptainsteph@gmail.com

Stephanie M. Grande, a technical writer and contract negotiator, was born in Arizona and raised in a military family. Her family settled in Durango, Colorado in 1992. In 1998, she graduated from Colorado’s Campus in the Sky (Fort Lewis College) with undergraduate degrees in French and Business Admin and also attended Ecole Superieur de Commerce de La Rochelle, France. She now resides in Peachtree City, Georgia with her daughter and serves as a Flint River Basin Advisory Council Member to the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District.

#thismonth

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