The Hidden Economy of Hemp: Fueling its Emergence

Hemp…..Sure, knew a little about its nutritional repute. In fact, two women that I crossed paths recently at a social event were laudatory in their praise for this cannabis derivitive’s health qualities. But frankly, it wasn’t until picking up the book Hemp Bound: Dispatches From The Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution that it’s stunning implications for the U.S. economy became apparent to me.

First, a little about the author Doug Fine. He’s an investigative journalist with credits at the Washington Post, Wired, The New York Times and National Public Radio, among many others. And he touts his pride at being a father, rancher, patriot and citizen of the planet. But what I found most intriguing is the signature job title he has anointed himself with:

Hemp Journalist


So What’s All The Fuss About Hemp

Hum? Well let’s start with the fact that this variety of the cannabis plant possesses some of the strongest fibers on the planet. It’s seed oil is nutritious and has proven curative qualities. And it has demonstrated massive potential as an energy source and climate mitigation tool for the planet.

But, as Doug Fine points out…….

Federal law has effectively renedered it illegal to grow hemp (aka Industrial Cannabis) in the United States! Yes, you heard correct, it’s a federal felony to grow it in the U.S. even though Americans consume billions of dollars worth of hemp a year, mainly in the form of health products produced by our Canadian neighbors to the north. “

So all this, even though according to Fine:

-Betsy Ross wove the nation’s first flag from hemp fabric

-Thomas Jefferson composed the Declaration of Independence on it

-Early colonists paid their taxes with it.

Mike Dunafon, Mayor of Glendale, Colorado and self avowed championed for liberty believes that releasing hemp and other forms of cannabis from the shackles of government interference is key to solving key U.S. issues like border crossings, drug wars, and overrun prison systems. “If we take a look at the economic impact of hemp alone, it’s signaling that we need to change our thought-process about this form of prohibition. We need to start thinking differently about problems and come up with a critical path to solutions versus perpetuating victimless crimes that are a waste of time, money and resources. The government’s long held mantra of  ‘I am my brother’s keeper’ is a terribly wrong headed approach for the times that we are in.”

Is There A Change In The Wind For Hemp?

Doug Fine thinks so. In his book he highlights two watershed moments along this front: Kentucky passage of hemp legislation and Colorado near unanimous approval of commercial hemp cultivation in time for the 2014 planting season. The “Bluegrass State” is the lead dog in this movement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) one of its strongest proponents. His Senate colleague from Kentucky, Rand Paul, consistent with his libertarian leanings, is also a supporter.

Fine says that ten states now allow some form of cultivation, including North Dakota and Vermont. He’s quite optimistic about hemp’s resurgence and believes that we are seeing its final days of prohibition.

Hemp’s Hidden Economic Impact

One needs to look no further than Canada where the hemp is a half-billion dollar industry and is growing at a 20% clip annually. Many Canadian farmers have profited greatly from this boom. In his book, Fine notes that Canadian hemp farmers profit to the tune of $250 U.S. per acre as opposed to $30-100 for wheat. According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, it is anticipated that the hemp trade will double in acreage to one hundred thousand acres by 2015 in large part becuase of demand from the United States.

Beyond agriculture, hemp delivers a massive array of applications because of its rugged, eco friendly qualities. Consider these, just to name a few:

–Homes and Car Manufacturing
–Petroleum Free Energy Production
–Steel and Plastic Alternative

And yes, positive developments are occurring in the U.S. By way of example, Nutiva, a seventy-million dollar company located in Richmond, California that produces omega balanced and mineral rich hemp seed oil, growing a 41 percent trajectory per year since 2006. (NOTE: This is hemp that’s largely produced in Canada). In Ashville, North Carolina, one of my favorite cities, carbon-negative hempcrete-insulated houses are sparking a mini-housing boom.

What’s perhaps what’s most exciting to me is that agricultural conditions and legislative changes have my home state of Colorado poised to lead the hemp revolution in the U.S.

Can you say “Hemp, Hemp, Hooray!