Hemp History Week
Hemp legalization in America didn’t happen easily.
It took decades of activism from thousands of citizens spending countless hours educating the American public. For over 80 years, hemp was outlawed in the United States, thanks to rampant propaganda surrounding the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act and the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. With media stereotypes of the hippie-stoner and movies like Reefer Madness (1936), education and reform seemed like an uphill battle. However, hemp legalization gained traction with strong support from unlikely allies- from conservative senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to racial justice advocates to environmentalists. Although not without its flaws, the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp at the federal level, allows us to share what we’ve known for ages- hemp can heal.
Earlier this month, we were thrilled to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of hemp advocates at the 10th Annual Hemp History Week in San Diego. An initiative of the Hemp Industries Association, “The campaign aims to raise awareness about the environmental sustainability, health benefits, regenerative agriculture potential, and new technological applications of industrial hemp.”
One of the most exciting parts of the hemp industry is the mix of optimism and opportunity. Planting hemp in the US has been, quite literally, the “wild west”. Our partner, Aaron Rydell, recently told NPR how there was no manual or google search for how to plant hemp when we began back in 2015. During the long months of trial and error, we turned to the small US hemp community for knowledge, encouragement and camaraderie.
When we all gather together for Hemp History Week, it’s really special to celebrate the success of how far we’ve come, while also having honest discussions about how far we have to go. We are at an interesting juncture where the industry is doing it’s best to self-regulate and steer itself toward inclusivity, sustainability and responsible practices. Farmers and advocates who had the courage to plant hemp in the first place also have the courage to tackle issues such as upcoming oversight regulations and industry standards. Not everyone will see eye-to-eye, and that’s ok. Better to have a team of rivals than an echo chamber.
Hemp History Week’s 2019 Featured Farmer is Cee Stanley-Anderson, who owns Green Heffa Farms in North Carolina. It would have been easy for her to keep her speech focused on the tremendous accomplishments of her work, or the industry in general. But we’re grateful that she spoke her mind and called on everyone in the hemp industry to walk the walk when it comes to racial equality and inclusivity. Whether it is the ‘war on drugs’ that incarcerates Black Americans at a rate 5X higher than Caucasians for the same crime, or bias when it comes to banking practices, or the fact that only 4% of private land in the United States is owned by black Americans, we have a long way to go in eradicating institutional discrimination. Let’s keep our eye on the goals.
This week we’ve been planting more acreage and getting ready for our 4th annual Hemp on the Slope event on our ranch. We are shipping out our products and working with new farmers. It seems almost like any other agricultural industry- except it’s not. It’s a hard-won victory that we do not take for granted. Because of the explosion of growth, many times we are running before we walk. But we have smart, dedicated teammates helping us along and guiding a new path for successful regenerative agriculture in the United States.