America has a long and illustrious history of farming industrial hemp dating back to its founding. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp and wrote about its value and importance to commerce and defense of the country. The U.S. government even encouraged hemp farming during World War II and produced a classic video called "Hemp For Victory". American farmers stepped up and grew hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp to help with the war effort. Unfortunately American farmers are no longer able to grow hemp due to an outdated federal policy that confuses non-drug industrial hemp with marijuana.
I began working with industrial hemp in 1992 as the co-founder of Ecolution, a sustainable clothing manufacturer of 100% hemp jeans and shirts. After searching for sources worldwide, we began importing hemp from Hungary and Romania where it had been grown for centuries. In 1994 we joined with others in the industry to start the Hemp Industries Association (HIA). Our mission was to educate the public about the many beneficial aspects of industrial hemp and to collaborate with others who were manufacturing and selling hemp products. We all agreed that it was in our common interest to have domestic hemp farming so that we would no longer have to import our products. The added costs of sourcing, importing and shipping hemp from other countries drove up our product cost and increased our time to market.
HIA members worked hard to effect change but we soon realized that we needed a political arm to work towards that goal and in 2000 I helped co-found Vote Hemp to educate lawmakers and push for reform at the state and federal level. Canadian farmers are growing more hemp each year and reporting profits of $200 an acre or more. Over the past 15 years the HIA and Vote Hemp have been at the forefront of efforts to pass state and federal laws allowing for or encouraging hemp farming. Since we began 17 states have passed pro-hemp legislation, the National Farmers Union and The Grange have passed supporting resolutions and 26 members of Congress have signed up to support legislation in the House of Representatives. We are hopeful that a bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate this session and are also requesting that the Obama administration allow states that want to regulate hemp farming under existing state law to do so.
To celebrate the American history of growing industrial hemp and urge the return of hemp farming, the Hemp Industries Association, Vote Hemp, hundreds of American manufacturers and retailers, and allied companies and organizations have declared May 2 to May 8, 2011 to be Hemp History Week. Throughout the week, people will recognize America’s legacy of industrial hemp farming and call for reinstating respect for American farmers’ basic right to grow industrial hemp.
I urge you to visit our web site and consider attending or getting involved in Hemp History Week events across the country (www.HempHistoryWeek.com). I also urge you to check out all the amazing hemp products available at more than 550 participating stores. Just search for your state to find the events and store locations near you. Let’s celebrate Hemp History Week together and continue the fight to bring back hemp farming in America.