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What is Industrial Hemp?

And why is it only legal to grow in Colorado and Kentucky?

Industrial hemp, or simply hemp,

By Wanda James

is the names most commonly given to fiber-producing strains of cannabis which contain less than 0.3 percent

THC and have no psychoactive effect, therefore cannot be smoked. Perhaps the most interesting fact about industrial hemp, especially when compared to trees or to other fiber crops, is its amazing versatility. Hemp is used to make more than 25,000 consumer products. From hemp apparel and accessories to house wares and hempseed oil cosmetics, Hemp fiber cloth can be incredibly long lasting and extremely strong. Hemp is the only natural textile tough enough to be used for the great mainsails of old sailing ships. The USS Constitution, America’s oldest Navy ship affectionately called “Old Ironsides,” needed more than 120,000 pounds of hemp fiber to rig the 44-gun fighting ship. Paper made from hemp pulp is the strongest, most flexible and most durable type available and is often used for banknotes and official documents that are required to last a long time. America’s most famous document, the Declaration of Independence is made from hemp, as was the first currency in America.

Hemp fiber was so important to the young Republic that farmers were compelled by patriotic duty to grow it, and were

allowed to pay taxes with it. George Washington grew hemp and encouraged all citizens to sow hemp widely. Thomas Jefferson bred improved hemp varieties, and invented a special brake for crushing the plant’s stems during fiber processing. Benjamin Franklin started one of America’s first paper mills with cannabis, allowing a colonial press free from English control. Our Founding Fathers also enjoyed the cousin to hemp, what we now call marijuana, in their evening smoking pipes. Currently, in the United States, Hemp can ONLY be grown in Colorado and Kentucky. For Colorado’s focus on sustainability and “green” energy economy, hemp fits perfectly with our entrepreneurial spirit on environment and new forms of energy, such as wind, solar and water. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation, Senate Bill 241 (The Farming Bill), into law creating a new program within the Department of Agriculture to oversee the regulation of commercial hemp production. What the new Colorado law does is classify strains of cannabis that contain no more than one-third of one percent of THC as allowable for agricultural commodity. Worldwide, only about 200,000 acres of land were devoted to hemp cultivation in 2011, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, with that number being “flat to

Denver Urban Spectrum — – July 2014


decreasing” in recent years in the 30 countries where hemp is cultivated. However, the one big benefit of hemp? Its environmental footprint is relatively small. It requires few pesticides and no herbicides. Now that the US is loosening its pot laws, many are speculating that the rise of hemp could one day be America’s billion dollar crop. So why haven’t you heard about this and why isn’t every politician in the state singing this from the roof top? Because most of the political players are uninformed about this industry and have not dedicated the staffing to help them understand the benefits more clearly. In the case of the Gov. Hickenlooper, he is very informed about this plant and all of its many uses. He is also very aware that the plant is being harvested for Charlotte’s Web, the oil that appears to be stopping epilepsy in children (high CBD, low THC). So why hasn’t our governor been a cheerleader for this amazing 100 percent sustainable plant? Industrial hemp brings with it the issue of smokable cannabis and the continued battle between the alcohol lobbyists, the prohibitionist and the cannabis industry. The governor and most of Colorado’s politicians are struggling with the idea that hemp, in all of its forms, is here to stay. I think we should show them the way with new businesses, more jobs and higher wages in cutting edge agriculture and sustainable technology. And we are not blowing smoke… Editor’s note: Blowing Smoke is written each month by Wanda James. She would like to answer your questions. Send them and/or comments to Wanda James is the managing partner at the Cannabis Global Initiative and is a leading advocate in the cannabis industry. She worked with the regulatory process to bring medical marijuana to fruition and was appointed to the Colorado Governor’s Amendment 64 Task Force Work Group. Her political and professional work on cannabis reform has led to her being featured in numerous national shows including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and on CNBC’s Marijuana USA. She and her husband Scott Durrah, also own Jezebel’s Southern Bistro + Whiskey Bar in Denver.

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