Hemp legalization and production is moving at a slower pace than that of marijuana, which is easier to produce and offers immediate gratification. The benefit of non-psychoactive hemp and marijuana, both part of the cannabis species, is economic as well as health for people and planet. Some estimate that the global market for hemp consists of more than an astounding 250,000 products. China, Russia and South Korea account for 70% of the world’s hemp supply, with 30 other industrial nations accounting for the remainder. Meanwhile, due to Federal law, America is the only industrialized nation with no real industrial hemp production (outside of research uses), and is therefore still dependent on imports with a negligible $500 million in annual retail sales.

Well, the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore. ‘Cause when life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door.  –Robert Hunter

We all have to get out our crystal balls now because hemp is most likely the next shale oil business in America, but with far larger impact, and a hugely positive environmental friendly mission statement. Indeed, the government should be subsidizing hemp, not shale oil and fracking, which didn’t need it in the first place.

Legislation filed in both houses of Congress would exclude hemp from the legal definition of marijuana. While states are legalizing hemp rapidly, Federal prohibition is too overpowering of a threat to get much done in the short-term. All the same, national legalization is now only a matter of time. Over half of states have already legalized cannabis in some shape or form; there are bills under discussion in Congress for national legalization of cannabis; there is substantial lobbying and funding from the likes of George Soros; and, finally, over half of Americans want cannabis legalized and 55% live in states that have decriminalized pot or have medical-marijuana laws.

Think this through with me. Let me know your mind. Wo-oah, what I want to know is are you kind?

Cannabis legalization is as simple as a presidential order to the DEA, or a Congressional vote, to remove cannabis from the drug schedule. Indeed, in an interview with Vice News on 16th Mar., President Obama said, “At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

In Feb-2014, Congress passed an agriculture bill that eased restrictions on cultivation in the 20 states that have legalized hemp in some fashion. According to Vote Hemp, “Twenty (20) states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. These states will be able to take immediate advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision, Section 7606 of the Farm Bill.”

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting hemp in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On 2nd Feb. this year, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group who hopes to plant 25 acres this spring. The Tennessee Agricultural department recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon there too.

However, inertia prevails. Take South Carolina, for example. “A law passed by the General Assembly in May 2014 defines industrial hemp as hemp grown by a licensed grower — but doesn’t say who would perform that licensing or what’s required to get a license. It doesn’t explain how a farmer could legally get hemp seeds to grow, either, as they remain illegal under federal law. Brad Hutto, an Orangeburg, South Carolina Democrat who’s running for U.S. Senate., explains, “We’re going to have to go back and clarify the law. Here we’ve set a licensing role and not designated an agency.”

It’s a Buck Dancer’s Choice, my friend, better take my advice. You know all the rules by now and the fire from the ice

On the other hand, states like Massachusetts believe that they have gotten around prohibition and the Federal government’s reach. The bill classifies industrial hemp as a ‘product from cannabis,’ and legalizes that crop for production and distribution as well as recreational marijuana and “cannabis cafes.” If Massachusetts succeeds with H1561, the state will join five others that have effectively circumvented the Federal stranglehold over hemp: Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont. It will also be the first state to legalize both hemp and marijuana for recreational purposes through the legislature instead of popular vote. If H1561 fails, a 2016 vote will decide the matter.

Hemp is the more revolutionary opportunity among the two cannabis families because hemp has historically been the lifeblood of the world economy, including America from its colonial days to 1937 and then during WW II. Since WW II, hemp has been illegal to grow in America under Federal law because of its relation to marijuana, and any imported hemp products must meet a zero tolerance level. For a concise history of how hemp managed to become illegal in 1937, via a DuPont ally on the House Ways and Means Committee, under the Marijuana Tax Act bill, see this.

Hemp is extremely unusual in the diversity of products for which it is or can be cultivated. As early as 1938, Popular Mechanics magazine touted hemp as “The New Billion Dollar Crop,” directly following the development and partial integration of the decorticator, the machine that makes the processing of hemp less labor-intensive. Today, the hemp products that hold the most promise for North America include foods, medicine, papers, plastics, wood & fiberboard, textiles, clothing, industrial and personal-use oils, alcohol, and fuel.

Will you come with me? Won’t you come with me? Wo-oah, what I want to know, will you come with me?

Hemp is typically more efficient than competing materials. For instance, according to the US Department of Agriculture, one acre of hemp, grown in one season, can produce 2-4 times more paper than one acre of trees grown over 30-40 years; hemp is ten times stronger (and softer) than cotton; hemp requires no herbicides and few or no pesticides; most hemp derived products are nontoxic, biodegradable and renewable.

Given its versatility and use in as many as 250,000 products, hemp is a threat to the status quo of business in America. Hemp threatens to change the flow of money in a country that is well-controlled by corporate interests. However, once the genie of hemp is unleashed, those same corporate interests will change the flow of money gladly to their own benefit. As soon as cannabis is legalized, for example, Big Tobacco and other Big Business will more than likely attempt to take over the more legitimate cannabis penny-stock companies already in existence, and kick-start their manufacturing and production operations virtually overnight.

Goddamn, well I declare. Have you seen the like? Their walls are built of cannonballs, their motto is Don’t Tread on Me

Fortunately for the consumer and state-level hemp entrepreneurs, smaller, more local businesses will grow and process their higher-quality and organic hemp production right alongside Big Business’s mass production, which will mostly be of lesser quality, and mostly non-organic hemp, with lower prices as bait, in effect. High quality hemp manufacturers and retailers demand high quality hemp; so small business, in alliance together, will always have a substantial market share of the hemp market.

Like anything in politics, there is always a lot of back-and-forth and grandstanding from Democrats that want legalization and Republicans that generally do not. But if you followed what happened in DC over the last few months, you would have gotten a sense for how rapidly cannabis can be legalized. Strictly one of the many medical marijuana territories only a year ago, DC decriminalized last summer and legalized on 26th Feb.

It’s the same story the crow told me. It’s the only one he know – like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go

In the run-up to legalization, the DC Council and mayor were threatened by significant jail time and heavy fines for violating national prohibition, for example, but in the end, it was clear that this was all political theatre designed to assuage the minority of Americans who remain opposed to legalization. The move to legalize cannabis in the city that our national government occupies is emblematic for where the movement is going. It is difficult to imagine a legalized DC for very long without a legalized nation.

Ain’t no time to hate, barely time to wait. Wo-oah, what I want to know, where does the time go?

Legalization of hemp and marijuana, both of which have established a nationwide movement, will happen, and it’s just a matter of time. Perhaps the larger uncertainty is how long it will take to plan and operate the new Hemp Economy, regardless of barriers at the Federal level.

Come on along or go alone. He’s come to take his children home. –Robert Hunter


By Robert Brand