This week, June 4-10, is celebrated as Hemp History Week by advocates for industrial hemp on the local and national levels.
Hemp, a particular strain of the plant Cannabis sativa, has been grown and utilized by humans throughout the world for reportedly thousands of years for a number of uses including the production of paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, and food. More popular images of this plant revolve around strains which have a lower fiber yield and are known for their tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, a psychoactive drug extracted from the plant’s buds. I’ve learned that strains vary dramatically and that while strains with a THC content from 2% to over 20% is classified as marijuana, industrial hemp has less than 0.3% THC and is not able to be used as a psychoactive drug.
While industrial hemp productions for paper and textiles had been a large business on southern plantations in the United States for much of its history, business changed with the enforcement of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 and narratives depicting the plant as extremely dangerous such as the 1936 film Reefer Madness. Commentators like Mitch Earleywine, Preston Peet, Laurence French, Magdaleno Manzanárez have suggested the movements towards criminalization reflected a history of business conflicts between hemp producers and other production industries supported by business magnates Andrew Mellon, W.R. Hearst and DuPont. In 1970, the Controlled Substance Act, under Nixon, classified all strains of cannabis, including non-psychoactive industrial hemp as Schedule I Drugs.
With a long of advocacy, it appears that business interests seem to be altering to make room for both industrial hemp and marijuana as state by state, new laws have permitted research on industrial hemp as in North Carolina, the legalization of recreational marihuana in 9 states and medical use in 29 states.
Although some commentators suggest profit motivation in the expansion of private prisons in the United States and the War on Drugs as a possible challenge in complete legalization of marijuana, industrial hemp seems to be taking root in places like the southeast where only Arkansas and Florida have legalized medical use.
According to the NC Department of Agriculture, “Hemp production has been legalized in North Carolina, but only as part of the states’ pilot program as allowed under federal law.
Kentucky Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would introduce legislation legalizing hemp production in his state, Kentucky, and nationally with The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, a proposed law to remove hemp (defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) from Schedule I controlled substances and making it an ordinary agricultural commodity.
In 2014, Asheville City Council recognized Hemp History Week, particularly noting local businesses and exploits using industrial hemp, generally grown in Canada. This week, In celebration of Hemp History Week, I was able to attend a press panel at Frannie’s Farm in Leicester on Tuesday, June 5th, where hemp farmers and supporters came together to talk about industrial hemp and demonstrate product and agricultural experiments.