This week marks the first Hemp History Week
, as businesses and activists organize at 200 events and 32 states for the re-introduction of hemp as a legitimate agricultural crop.
Among the states hosting events is Oregon,
where hemp supporters and groups will gather at 5:30 pm Tuesday, May 18 at Bridgeport Brew Pub
. They'll talk about the environmental and economic benefits of farming hemp — which has uses for food, clothing, tree-free paper, auto parts, fuel and building materials.
Speakers will include Lisa Sedlar, president and chief operating officer of New Seasons Market; and Hemp Technologies co-founder David Madera. Guests can sample free hemp food and body care products. Bridgeport's director of retail operations, Bob Negele, will lead a free tour of the brew pub, which is located on a former hemp rope factory.
Hemp History Week is organized by nonprofits Hemp Industries Association and Vote Hemp. According to Hemp News
, the Hemp Industries Association estimates that in 2008, the annual retail sales of hemp products in North America was around $360 million.
In 2009, the Oregon Legislature legalized hemp farming and production, making Oregon one of 17 states with what hemp supporters call pro-hemp farming laws. But they say federal law still requires a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has refused to issue the licenses.
The newly passed Oregon law still allows only a low-THC hemp — a patented seed that farmers could only get by buying it from a company in France
. However, there's also a signature-gathering effort in Oregon to put a marijuana-legalization initiative
(PDF) on the November ballot that would make hemp farming completely unregulated.
Hemp History Week organizers say they aren't associated with that initiative effort. They are trying to gather 50,000 signed postcards to send to President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to change the federal restrictions. Tuesday's local event in the Heritage Room at Bridgeport Brew Pub will run from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. For more information check out hemphistoryweek.com.
Hemp was demonized in the 1970s, when its jurisdiction was handed over to the Department of Justice, says Christina Volgyesi, project coordinator of Hemp History Week and a founding partner of Living Harvest Foods, a Portland-based company that is the largest manufacturer of natural and organic hemp food products in the country.
“It has no drug value," Volgyesi says. "There was just confusion about what hemp was,”
Hemp activists often indignantly point out that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper and that the United States is the only industrialized country to ban it completely.
Although there are plenty of available hemp products on the market, legal goods in the United States are all imported.
The hybrid hemp also purchased by Canadian and EU farmers produces only 600 pounds of seed per acre. Wild, high-THC seeds in the United States – which can't be used for drug purposes – produce 8,000 seeds per acre. The wild seed also reaps more oil and fiber.