Letter: Bring back American hemp | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Bring back American hemp

I was recently at American Renewable Energy Day and want to thank everyone involved for putting together such an informative and timely energy symposium. The new documentary “Racing Extinction,” from the Oscar-winning director of “The Cove,” was a very effective wake-up call concerning our current animal-extinction crisis. The fact that we’ve managed to wipe out half of the wildlife on this planet in the past 40 years is truly frightening.

I was at AREDay in the hope of informing people about the world’s most useful and sustainable plant, industrial hemp, grown extensively in the U.S. until the 1930s. Unfortunately, the knowledge and value of the hemp plant has been suppressed for more than half a century (due mostly to competitive fears from big business), but no other plant on the planet comes close to providing as many benefits to mankind and Mother Nature.

From food, fuel, clothing and building materials to plastics and medicine, every part of this plant can be used to make things while requiring only a fraction of the water, harmful pesticides and chemicals that we now use. It also sequesters four times more carbon than trees and can restore depleted soil. And just recently, scientists have discovered that its fibers can be used like graphene in supercapacitor electric battery technology.

Wow! Any talk about sustainability without including industrial hemp is missing an extremely important piece of the solution. There’s just one little hitch. Yes, we can buy hemp seeds at Whole Foods and hemp clothes at the Gap. But while the United States imports more than $150 million and sells more than $600 million of hemp products annually, our farmers don’t see a penny of it. That is because it’s federally legal to import industrial hemp from countries like Canada and China, but it is not federally legal to grow it here in this country. Anyone else think this is outrageous? Infuriating? And environmentally irresponsible?

There is, however, a growing wave of support for this incredibly versatile, non-psychoactive field crop, and it is possible we could see federal legalization as early as next year. Senate Bill 134 and House Resolution 525, the 2015 Industrial Hemp Farming Act, are in committee now (Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is chairman). Please help by going to http://www.votehemp.com to sign a petition to Congress. Tell friends and family in other states to do the same. American farmers must be allowed to grow hemp once again in this country. We all will be much richer for the effort.

Jackie Chenoweth