Seeds planted to revive hemp as US cash crop

The industrially useful marijuana relative has been banned for decades, but Colorado has opened the door to legal farming again.

By Bruce Kennedy May 15, 2013 7:30AM

Credit: © ideeone/E+/Getty Images
Caption: Hemp plantsIn a quiet corner of southeastern Colorado, planting season is under way as usual -- except the plant that Springfield farmer Ryan Loflin is working on hasn't been grown commercially in the U.S. in decades.


On Monday, Loflin planted America's first industrial hemp crop since around the Eisenhower administration. According to the Denver Post, Loflin is using 60 acres previously reserved for alfalfa to cultivate the test plots, and with a partner he's installing a seed press to produce hemp oil.


Hemp comes from the same plant family as marijuana, but it contains just trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC that gives marijuana its potency. Still, it's difficult to tell the difference visually between marijuana and hemp, and the federal government has classified both plants as controlled substances.


Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years, and its modern advocates tout it as a wonder plant that can be readily made into paper, textiles and a variety of oils and food products.


Hemp is also legal and grown as a crop in many countries, including Canada and the U.K. In fact, according to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. "is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop."


And hemp consumption, through foods, oils, soaps, lotions and clothing, is growing. The Hemp Industries Association estimates retail sales of hemp food and body care products in the U.S. reached a record $156 million last year. And according to an HIA review of clothing, auto parts, building materials and other products, the overall total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2012 came to about $500 million.


"As the hemp market grows and Canadian farmers increase their hemp acreage to meet demand," HIA Executive Director Eric Steenstra said in a press statement, "U.S. farmers' frustration at being shut out of the lucrative worldwide hemp market is catalyzing real movement throughout all levels of government to legalize industrial hemp."


Colorado allowed the growing of hemp and marijuana under laws enacted last November -- and the group Vote Hemp says at least nine states have introduced legislation to remove barriers to hemp production. Eight others have passed bills to study hemp.


Just last week, Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner James Comer was in Washington, D.C., talking with both administration officials and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, about legalizing industrial hemp.


"I just think if more and more people studied this issue, they would realize this is a no-brainer," Comer told Politico. A Republican who sees hemp as an economic opportunity for his state, Comer added, "This is a way to create jobs."


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43Comments
May 15, 2013 9:45AM
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The US better get their sh!+ together and start planting Hemp. It is the plant of the future and always has been. Stupid Politicians think they know what is best for the country, Just look at what they have done already. It is time for the People to Unite and get our country back. Take a look at history and study the French Revolution. The French are not scared of their government, so why should we?!
May 15, 2013 10:03AM
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It's about time. More than 75% of all pesticides used globe-wide are applied to Cotton (now grown in the Stan nations on the Aegean Sea). Sea-level is down more than 25 feet because Cotton is a thirsty crop. Hemp doesn't require ANY pesticides. It grows in just about any type of soil and thrives on little water. A single hemp plant can grow 20 feet in a year. Hemp FIBER is superior as a textile. Clothing made from it is comfortable, durable and limitless in use. If we actually got our national act together... the resulting industry from indigenous hemp to retail clothing employs MILLIONS and generates more revenues than would be needed to fully recover us. You'd need a doobie the size of a telephone pole to get high on hemp. Weed is a cultivated derivative crop. Using our heads to plan such a shift is worth so much to our future.  
May 15, 2013 10:44AM
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Way overdue.  The founding fathers REQUIRED the US to grow hemp.  Its seeds are high in protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids.  The fibers make great linen like fabric and rope.  It grows easily without pesticides. 
May 15, 2013 11:51AM
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The government needs to stop regulating our personal lives period.
May 15, 2013 11:12AM
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This will bring in ALOT of money too Colorado and do wonders for the economy. It"s time other states legalize!!!!
May 15, 2013 11:59AM
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hemp is very strong fiber and useful in many products. cheap, easy to grow and valuable. seems like a no brainer to me....oh thats why the government has kept illegal, they have no brains

May 15, 2013 12:28PM
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The marihuana (government spelling) tax act of 1937 pushed on the people by Harry Anslinger with the help of Andrew Mallon (banking), Randolph Hearst (news paper/yellow journalist), and the DuPont family (manufacturing) ended the hemp trade in the US.

This isn't "pot" to be smoked. It is an ag crop no different than corn or soy beans.

We have a huge amount of push back by interested parties that the hemp production doesn't fit their agenda. The US is alleged to be the "land of the free"... I guess that depends on who you are.

May 15, 2013 12:07PM
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And what's best about the plant...it grows like weeds!!!
May 15, 2013 11:52AM
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Smoke on a rope?  Why not get Congress to smoke this stuff?  Think they'd mellow out enough to work together for a change?
May 15, 2013 2:17PM
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It is about time that some of our leadership in this supposedly progressive and free nation extracts their craniums from their collective rectal orifices.  Hemp and even full on marijuana have so many practical and beneficial uses that Americans have been denied for many years now that its banning is almost criminal.  I shall give the politicians of the 1930s the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they were simply ignorant and bought into the propaganda of the day about its supposedly dreaded effects.  However over the years there has been so much evidence to counter its illegality that present day politicians most certainly are on the take on this issue.

 

There are many very large and well established corporate entities who are loath to the idea of hemp and marijuana becoming legal in any form.  Fortunes have changed hands in an effort to maintain the status quo on this useful and relatively harmless herb.  Frankly it is shameful for our government to continue this lie any longer.   

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Shows how stupid our elected officials are. 
May 15, 2013 3:05PM
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Hemp is not a dirty word

Why do we not grow hemp in this country? Because the politicians allowed themselves to be bought by in this case, paper companies who made a huge investments in trees and did not want hemp grown to be used in paper.

Hemp has many industrial uses, it is easy and cheap to grow, and is not a drug. If we allowed cultivation of hemp in this country again, it would generate billions in tax dollars, save farms and create new industrial jobs in this country.

May 15, 2013 10:52PM
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I own several shirts that are 65% hemp and 35% cotton. They wear like iron, yet are soft too the touch, cool in the summer and relatively warm in the winter. I bought them from Duluth Trading. Kind of expensive but worth the price.

Too bad we have a government that thinks corn based ethanol is a good idea and commercial hemp production is a bad idea. Too bad we have a government that after almost a decade of subsidies still believes that wind and solar power are economically viable. Too bad we have a government that handed the terrorists of 9/11 a victory by passing the Homeland Security Act restricting or eliminating some of our basic freedoms n the name of security. Too bad we have a government that passed an affordable health care act before the true costs, ramifications, or implementation logistics were understood. Too bad that we as American citizens keep electing these fools.
May 15, 2013 5:11PM
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I'm sure our government knows what's best for us, just look at how they do everything else there always on top of things always making the right decisions, just look at our congress and senate a well oiled machine of futuristic thinking.................pro active in every category..............................

 

and I have some land in Belize for sale.........

 

 

May 16, 2013 11:31AM
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Just read the summary of the Shafer Commission Report from 1972.  The Shafer Commission was created to help establish guidelines for where the drugs would go in the schedules established by the controlled substances act, and sentencing guidelines for various offenses involving those drugs.  Basically, the commission said that cannabis should not even be made illegal! That would have kept hemp out of the schedules too, if nixon had followed the advice of the commission, but he had no intention of following their advice.  He had in mind the same racist control agenda that inspired Anslinger back in 1937.  Our government was, and still is full of crooks.
May 16, 2013 2:38PM
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Yeh, our government needs to get their act together with a lot of things. Especially health care. We pay for their health care, meanwhile the republicans are trying to brain wash their voting base and tell them they should buy their own health care? Or, maybe government employees should pay for their own health care. We should also legalize marijuana. Alcohol is so destructive. Another thing, the republicans are always talking about "smaller" government, but the government grew a lot under Reagan and both Bush's.
May 16, 2013 2:21PM
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From a macro-economic stand point, Investment in Hemp and Cannabinoids is an opportunity for young people to get in on what will probably be their Apple or Microsoft garage moment.  I have been following the innovations in this industry for years.  Natural fiber composites and Pharmaceuticals will change the way we live in the coming decades.  Sativex is marketed in Europe, Phytiva is poised to join them, and the government has allowed the use of Marinol for years.  Hemp fiber composites are already in our vehicles.  This is an unprecedented opportunity to boost our economy from a grass-roots level.  All we need is for the Department of Health and Human Services to act.  I challenge the government to prove that Cannabis Sativa, Indica, or Ruderalis or Hemp should even be listed as Federal Drug Schedule 1.  Do we really wish to cede this moment...or seed it?
Jul 28, 2013 5:32AM
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May 15, 2013 1:29PM
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Let's be realistic. It's not a wonder plant and will not solve all of our economic problems. It will not for instance create millions of jobs here in the US as one of the posts states. Also, in all likelihood it will be planted in place of some other crop, so the net gain would be minimal.

 

While it will grow in a number of conditions, like all plants it does have an optimal set of conditions. So, in some areas, it will produce extremely well and in others not so much. I do think it will certainly add to our economy, but let's not start trumpeting its benefits like a bunch snake oil salesman.

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