Grown by veterans on an Appalachian farm, then woven into American flags. “>
There was a time when the hemp plant was one of the United States most important crops.
Grown by family farmers and former presidents, marijuanas non-psychoactive cousin has myriad uses, from textiles to fossil fuel alternatives to superfoods. It grows almost anywhere, providing a sustainable, hardy crop that, unlike many, leaves the soil in as good or better condition than when it was planted.
That industrial hemp is considered by the DEA to be a Schedule I substance, meaning that its tightly regulated by the federal government, is a source of frustration for many farmers, activists, and, in growing numbers, a shockingly bipartisan coalition of politicians who want to restore a cash crop to impoverished green belts. Considering the United States is the worlds largest consumer of hemp products, to the tune of around $573 million in 2015, it does seem insane that farmers in many states simply cannot grow it. Of the 28 states that can produce it, under the 2014 Farm Bill, its often only in a limited fashion, and the selling can be even trickier.
Despite all this, and the fact that it ultimately offers far more societal benefits than its THC-laden relative, hemp often finds itself taking a backseat in the media and activists to medical and legal marijuanas state-by-state advance. One enterprising group of farmers in Appalachia, made up of veterans hoping to eke out a better living for their families, has turned to hemp, and its making a stand in a wholly uniqueand patrioticway. Filmmaker Dan Malloy spent some time with them, ultimately creating a mini-documentary.
I have no connection with the actual hemp plant and its many uses, Malloy told The Daily Beast. My motivation to make this film is the belief that this country is in desperate need of more small farms. I believe it is small farmers that are the true medium between nature and the civilized world. The way I see it, small and medium scale farmers should be looked at like the last old growth redwoods, but instead of creating parks and preserves, every last regulation in America should be built to preserve small family farms through economic viability. The viability of a healthy small-scale farm is a reflection of the diversity and independence of our people.
Watch his film, Harvesting Liberty, above, and click here to see the petition asking Congress to support the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, to be delivered on July 4, 2016.
Farmers in northern Cauca province, the centre of the countrys marijuana cultivation, have formed a co-op to capitalise on legalisation of the pot trade
When night falls on this south-central Colombian town, the hills above light up like a Christmas tree. Clusters of white lights glow in the darkness, marking the crops that have made Corinto synonymous with Colombian marijuana.
Half of all Colombias cannabis production is concentrated in the northern part of Cauca province, and 50% of that is grown in Corinto alone. Police estimate 100 hectares of land in the municipality are dedicated to growing weed; local farmers reckon the real number could be twice that.
So when Colombia recently legalised marijuana for medical and scientific purposes, farmers in Corinto figured they had a corner on the cultivation market.
A group of farmers came together in July to create Caucannabis, a cooperative that aims to be a prime supplier to companies hoping to cash in on Colombias new legal marijuana business.
In this region we have been deeply affected by illegal drugs and terrorism. This is an opportunity for us to make a change, says cooperative leader Hctor Fabio Snchez, one of 52 members of the cooperative, most of whom have or have had marijuana crops.
Betania Rodrguez, a cooperative member who asked that her real name not be used, says that marijuana and coca the raw material for cocaine are just about the only options for farmers to make a living in this isolated area. Her husband tends the bushes next to their home made of thick bamboo and wooden planks, while she works as a day labourer for other growers trimming the buds to prepare them for sale.
Its illegal but its all weve got, she says, wiping the sticky resin the buds leave on her hands with a cloth dipped in alcohol.
Since late June, the government has issued licences to three companies to process cannabis-based medicinal products that can be used to treat ailments such as cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
Through the licences the government hopes to cash in on the new but growing medical marijuana industry. Colombia could be the winner of this emerging global market, said Alejandro Gaviria, the health minister who spearheaded efforts to legalise it in Colombia.
But the industry has not kicked off yet. The licences granted so far are solely to extract the oils and resin from the marijuana, not to grow it.
The three companies who have won the licences plan to grow their own marijuana but farmers in Corinto say that for the new industry to have any real impact in the country, traditional marijuana growers should be the suppliers.
We are the ones who know the most about growing marijuana in Colombia, so we want to be involved, says Edward Garca, mayor of Corinto, who encouraged the growers in his municipality and four other nearby towns to form the cannabis cooperative.
The government has yet to grant anyone a licence to grow marijuana legally and Caucannabis wants to be the first. Companies from Canada and Germany have expressed an interest in possibly building an extraction plant in or near Corinto to buy up local production and produce the resin for export.
Its a new kind of pot bust.
The Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed criminal and civil charges against two Colorado men who allegedly reaped more than $12 million from selling bogus stock linked to a hydroponic marijuana firm.
The men, William Sears and Scott Dittman, used false financial filings and bogus letters from a lawyer to prop up FusionPharm Inc., inflating sales of refurbished shipping containers called PharmPods that are designed for growing pot indoors, the SEC said in a statement on Friday.
The case in Denver federal court comes as Colorados pot industry has grown in value to $1 billion since voters legalized marijuana retail sales in 2012. While the sales generated more than $100 million in much-needed tax revenue last year, the freewheeling industry has also triggered unforeseen legal problems.
The SEC claims Sears orchestrated the scheme from as early as 2011 with Dittman, his brother-in-law who is also chief executive and sole officer of Commerce City, Colorado-based FusionPharm. Sears allegedly hid his connection to FusionPharm because he controlled three other companies and didnt want to scare off investors.
He and Dittman issued stock in the three firms with the aid of bogus corporate documents, reaping $12.2 million in profit, the agency said. Sears allegedly used some their windfall to prop up the pot business, reporting the cash as revenue in press releases and financial reports to mislead investors about sales of the marijuana-growing containers. The conspiracy ran through at least 2014, the SEC said.
Sears and Dittman are facing criminal securities fraud and wire fraud charges. Searss lawyer, Fredric Winocur of Ridley McGreevy & Winocur PC in Denver, didnt immediately return a call for comment. Dittmans lawyer, William Taylor of Sideman and Bancroft LLP in Denver, also didnt return a call.
The criminal case is U.S. v. Sears, 1:16-cr-00301, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado (Denver).
Despite what farmers call ideal terrain, state lawmakers fear hemp is a gateway to recreational marijuana and block laws permitting cultivation of crop
Twenty miles east of his office at the University of Nebraska, plant geneticist Ismail Dweikat finds what hes looking for at the fringe of a budding cornfield: wild hemp.
Mixed among other roadside weeds, the hemp bears the familiar narrow five-fingered leaves synonymous with marijuana but almost none of pots psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
But hemp is unlikely to be anything more than a ditch weed in the Cornhusker state this year and possibly for years to come. Despite terrain that farmers say is ideal for growing hemp, Nebraskans havent been able to cash in on what they believe is a potential gold rush, caught in an epic battle with the government.
There are so many obstacles, bemoans Dweikat.
The only permissible means of growing hemp in the state is through university research. But even researchers have faced a series of hurdles that have meant not a single hemp growing operation has launched in Nebraska.
Dweikat was hoping to plant two acres of hemp this spring at a test plot but almost four months after the University of Nebraska sent paperwork seeking to import seeds from Canada to the Drug Enforcement Administration, researchers do not have all the permits necessary to import special seeds from Manitoba, Canada, with THC content certified at less than 0.3%.
If and when the seeds arrive at the university, they will receive the kind of security usually reserved for precious gems. Dweikat says the seeds will be locked in a metal safe inside a locked cage. The university was asked to add metal reinforcement under the safe when DEA agents worried someone could saw the wood beneath the strongbox to get to the seeds, he says.
There is such a misunderstanding of hemp, it just dumbfounds me, explains Jon Hanson, an organic farmer in Marquette, who says hed love to grow hemp on his 480-acre farm.
Unlike neighboring Colorado, where its legal to grow such commercial marijuana strains as Purple Haze and Chemdawg, farmers in Nebraska and elsewhere are forbidden by law from planting industrial hemp for prosaic purposes such as fiber and seed oil.
The DEA considers hemp a Schedule I drug the same as heroin and LSD. The US Farm Bill signed by Barack Obama in 2014 carved out an exception for research and pilot programs, if states pass laws permitting it. Twenty-nine states have done so, according to the Hemp Industries Association.
But in Nebraska, a state bill to allow farmers to apply for this exception was thwarted by senators and police officials who feared hemp would be a gateway crop to recreational marijuana. An amended bill passed that limits hemp to university research.
Anything to get the ball rolling, says former Nebraska senator Norm Wallman, a 78-year-old, fourth-generation farmer who sponsored the legislation. You can plant it early in the spring, and its tough as the dickens.
Dweikat says Nebraska has ideal conditions for growing hemp, which requires few pesticides and no herbicides. Driving around the state during a severe drought in 2012, he says the only green patches in the parched countryside were wild hemp plants.
John Lupien, who runs a company that separates hemp fiber from the rest of the plant, has been importing his hemp from Canada but would rather get his hemp from local farmers.
Were stuck in the mud, Lupien says. There are lots and lots of farmers interested in growing an alternative crop in the rotation. It would break the disease and pest cycles and have huge benefits economically and environmentally.
The Hemp Industries Association estimates some $573m of goods containing hemp were sold in the United States in 2015, almost all of it imported. These goods included foods, supplements, body care products, clothing, auto parts, insulation and construction materials and medicine.
A large number of people in Britain are committing crime to alleviate pain and suffering. They do this by growing cannabis for medicinal use. But cannabis cultivation is a criminal offence that can carry a substantial prison sentence, even in these circumstances. Some sick people grow cannabis for themselves, but often growers provide cannabis for others which means committing the more serious offence of drug supply. The law labels these people as drug dealers, despite their altruistic motivations.
This all runs counter to common-sense understandings of criminals as people who commit crime for personal gain or to inflict pain and suffering on others. It also runs counter to beliefs about providing healthcare: that medicines should be available to those who need them. And this is why a group of MPs working on drug policy reform has called for a change in the law to allow for cannabis to be prescribed by doctors, and even to allow patients to grow a limited number of plants themselves.
Ive been researching cannabis cultivation in the UK for more than 15 years, and have spoken to a lot of people who grow cannabis for medical reasons. In some of these cases medical experts also supported their use of cannabis even though there is no legal recognition of the medicinal use of the plant under UK law. This places not just the patients, but their doctors, in a moral dilemma.
The Hippocratic oath that doctors take means they are supposed to do anything in their power to help patients, but to advise patients to use this drug means encouraging them to break the law and could be construed as incitement to commit a crime.
Despite the legal position, there is strong evidence that cannabis is beneficial for a range of conditions. Even when there is no direct medical benefit in the form of alleviating symptoms or curing an illness, cannabis can be beneficial. As the wife of one terminal cancer patient told me, smoking cannabis meant the difference between dying of cancer, and living with cancer. I helped her find a supply of locally grown cannabis, which arguably makes me a criminal too. But who can really stand by and watch someone, especially a loved one, suffer? Isnt it the law itself, rather than breaking it, that is wrong in these circumstances?
Legalise small-scale cultivation
Medical cannabis growers dont like the fact that they have to break the law to get the medicine that they need, but they see little choice when the alternative is unbearable pain, or suffering the side effects of conventional medicines. They often comment on the irony of having to become drug dealers themselves to avoid the need to buy their medicine from drug dealers.
Not all people who grow cannabis do so for medical reasons, as I also found in my research. Some are in it simply to make money. And legalising cannabis for medical use may provide cover for some non-medical users and profit-motivated dealers. But complete prohibition leaves too much of the market in the hands of organised crime (a lesson we should have learned from the US experiment in alcohol prohibition in the 1920s), and forces desperate or compassionate growers to break the law. Legalisation of small-scale cultivation would not only benefit those who suffer from a range of illnesses, it would also undermine the links between cannabis growing and other, more serious, types of crime.
The work of the Global Cannabis Cultivation Research Consortium which aims to get a better understanding of domestic cannabis cultivation shows that people all over the world turn to growing cannabis as a source of medicine. The difference, in an increasing number of countries, is that access to therapeutic medicine is now legal in some form or another.
Finally the worlds of marijuana and fine dining have collided in a delicious (and some would say appetite-enhancing) way.
Bloomberg reports that Colorado-based Cultivating Spirits, a cannabis tour and event company, has a verbal commitment for a $400,000 investment and wants to help you plan your next elegant cannabis-focused fine dining event.
Cultivating Spirits’ founder Philip Wolf is one of the nation’s first accredited cannabis sommelier, with “interpening” training from Denver’s Trichome Institute. The school’s website says, “Interpening is a method used to identify and understand cannabis variety, based on interpreting the plants terpenes and flower structure.”
Wolf wants his cannabis pairing (a three-course meal with fine wine, food and cannabis for 10 people starts at $1,250) to enhance food and wine, not compete with it. He thinks of cannabis as a “third layer” of flavor and each strain of marijuana is carefully paired to complement the gourmet ingredients and wines that comprise each course.
The company also organizes bachelor and bachelorette parties, holiday parties and events at the company’s own eatery.
If you’re in Colorado with a hankering for Gorilla Glue with a side of ribeye steak, consider your prayers answered.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.