This week, June 4-10, we proudly celebrate the 9th Annual Hemp History Week. We applaud the work that grassroots organizers, farmers, producers, and advocates are doing to change federal policy on hemp in the U.S. Read on to learn more.
What is Hemp?
First, agricultural hemp is not a drug. Although a variety of the plant Cannabis sativa L., hemp is genetically distinct from medical/recreational cannabis, or marijuana.
Hemp is a crop deeply rooted in American history, historically used in the production of fibers as well as seed-oil. At Kimberton Whole Foods, you’ll find it on our shelves in various forms, from hemp protein, to CBD oil, hemp seeds, pasta, soap, and more.
The History of Hemp
Did you know that the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper? Industrial hemp has been grown in the U.S. since the early 1600’s. Many of our founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, grew hemp and advocated for commercial hemp production.
Later, hemp was made effectively illegal under the 1937 “Marihuana” Tax Act, a law that required farmers to register their hemp crops with the government and purchase an exorbitantly expensive tax stamp. Yet, during World War II, farmers were encouraged to grow hemp for the war effort. More than 150,000 acres of hemp were cultivated as a part of the USDA’s “Hemp for Victory” program.
In 1970, industrial hemp’s status as an illegal crop was solidified when it became classified as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. (Despite the fact that decades of government funded agricultural research had identified industrial hemp as unique in structure and function.) At this time, the rise of synthetic fabrics and fibers skyrocketed.
In 2014, the Federal Farm Bill allowed Kentucky, Vermont and Colorado to became the first states to grow hemp in decades, under Section 7606, “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”. Hemp farming is now legal in 33 states. In 2017, over 20 thousand acres of hemp were grown in 19 states, including close to home at The Rodale Institute in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Today, manufacturers in the United States import raw hemp from Canada, Europe, and China. This is a missed opportunity for domestic farmers, for whom hemp would be more profitable than growing crops such as corn and soy.
“Hemp stands to once again be a vital and viable crop in the United States and around the world,” states the Hemp History Week website. Hemp farming in the United States would create long-term jobs in all sectors (including processing and manufacturing), strengthening regional economies and maximizing supply chain efficiencies.
Thanks to advancements in technology, hemp is now being used in a wide array of applications. From its historical use in ship rigging, paper, and canvas covered wagons; to modern-day applications such as supercapacitor batteries, product packaging, and car interiors; to it’s ever-relevant role in human nutrition, hemp is a non-toxic and healthy solution for the future. You can dig deeper into the many benefits of hemp on the Hemp History Week website.
Hemp as a crop has wide-reaching environmental benefits, particularly in the realm of regenerative agriculture. Its long taproot mitigates soil erosion and can remediate poor soil. As one of the fastest growing plants on Earth, it is efficient at carbon sequestration, and as a rotation crop, it can break disease cycles. Better yet: synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are not needed for its successful growth, so the farming of this crop will not further pollute our planet. Hemp’s prolific pollen production is ideal for our bees and beneficial insects. Learn more about how hemp helps bees.
The Nutritional Powerhouse
Hemp seed as a food crop is nutritious, high in Essential Fatty Acids and all nine Essential Amino Acids. The seeds contain “super omegas” Stearidonic Acid and Gamma Linolenic Acid, and are mineral-rich. Just three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 11 grams of protein and 3 grams of omega-3’s.
Gluten-free, delicious, and easy-to-use, hemp seeds are a great source of nutrition for many diets. Use hemp seeds to make hemp milk, top salads, make dressings, and more! Find additional recipes here. You’ll also find hemp on our shelves in the form of protein powders, in granola and crackers, as hemp milk, and even used in soaps!
CBD oil is a relative newcomer to the natural medicine world. Since there is some confusion around this topic, let’s clarify a few things: Cannabidiol (CBD), is a cannabinoid found in hemp and in medical/recreational cannabis. Phytocannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is also a cannabinoid found in both plants. THC is psychoactive, while CBD is not. Agricultural hemp is naturally high in CBD and contains less than 0.3% THC, making it non-psychoactive, while medical/recreational cannabis contains high amounts of THC, between 1%-30%.
Hemp-derived CBD oil is different than hemp seed oil (a nutritional supplement derived from hemp seeds) because it is extracted from all parts of the plant, including the seeds, stems, and stalks, and contains higher concentrations of cannabinoids. CBD oil can be taken straight, or try it in a Hemp Oil Latte.
The Road to Policy Change
It is abundantly clear that agricultural hemp is distinct from marijuana, and holds enormous potential. Unfortunately, hemp is still considered a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp History Week aims to shed light on this issue, and to encourage Federal and State policy change. The goal is to amend the laws to allow more U.S. farmers to grow hemp and by doing so, open up new possibilities in regenerative agriculture, the U.S. farming economy, human health, and innovation.
We need your help! Here’s how you can take action.
Information courtesy of Hemp History Week.