America is in dire need of becoming a sustainable country. A strong and viable agriculture is vital to the national and economic security of this nation. Current trade deficits and near depression conditions in agriculture are not a good recipe for long term stability and hinders the well-being of future generations. The cultivation of industrial hemp offers a cleaner, more sustainable and profitable solution to America’s growing need for resources. Growing industrial hemp today leads to a healthier tomorrow.
The demand for the utilization of hemp is currently unfolding on a local state by state basis and is increasing daily as more and more voting citizens begin to realize the immediate benefits of industrialized hemp and the distinguishing differences in it’s well-known family member, marijuana. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 failed to distinguish the difference between the narcotic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychoactive hemp plant, which has been used for essential materials (food, fiber, and building material) for thousands of years. It seemed as if everyone simply forgot how important industrial hemp was to the backbone of the country, even though it was once considered so valuable that citizens could use hemp as money to pay their taxes.
Despite the 1937 prohibition of all cannabis plants, hemp was still being imported into the country from Asia to fulfill our economy’s needs. However, during WWII imports were cut off, creating a huge strain on the U.S. In 1942, the USDA created “Hemp for Victory” a film and campaign that called for the patriotic action of Americans to grow hemp to support the war. Hemp was such a vital resource that any farmer that grew hemp was exempt from military service. Once the war was over, America returned to a no-tolerance zone, leaving industrial hemp in the dark, to be feared, forgotten, and misunderstood.
On February 7th, 2014 President Barack Obama signed the new Farm Bill, which included the historic hemp provision that allows the cultivation of industrial hemp at institutions of higher learning. This monumental bill has finally made clear the difference between the psychotropic marijuana and the industrial hemp by stating that it cannot have more than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydroccannabinol (THC), which means it cannot get you high, not even for a minute. This differentiation will finally make it possible for America to return to its roots of growing this amazingly useful, practical, and profitable plant.
The pilot program allows higher educational institutions to cultivate hemp for research and educational purposes, but only in states that have already voted to allow industrial hemp cultivation (California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia, but there are more states with laws pending). The possibilities for various academic departments to research hemp are practically endless, ranging from chemistry to nutrition and medicine.
The window of opportunity for U.S colleges to grow and study industrial hemp on campus is not very long and will only last for five years (2014-2019). Even though it is now legal for institutions to study, it is still considered federally illegal for farmers and individuals to grow industrial hemp, making it difficult for colleges to purchase legal seeds.
Various campuses from around the country are currently getting ready to take advantage of this unique offer. Students at the University of Vermont have petitioned to begin research on campus, but have run into the biggest roadblock, finding legal hemp seeds.1 The state of Kentucky has been most excited of these new prospects, and are trying to position their state as the leaders of this growing movement. The Attorney General of Kentucky is now pursuing a “blanket waiver” that would make commercial hemp production legal in that state for regular farmers. With five different participating Kentucky colleges, the Attorney General has promised to help the campuses obtain legally imported seeds for their pilot programs.
Legislation to grow and cultivate hemp provides farmers with a financial opportunity and could increase agricultural sustainability and create a demand for local hemp products. Sites used for growing or cultivating industrial hemp must be certified by and registered with their State Department of Agriculture and pay a $25 fee.
(802) 828-1317 at the Agency of Agriculture for more details of how this program will be implemented in Vermont this coming year.