Hemp dates back to civilization of man. It played a necessary role in the founding and building of this country. However, it has been absent for many years. Although, we will start to see a lot more of it within coming years.
Hemp production was widespread, until 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed. Michael Bowman, founder of FirstCrop and National Hemp Association member, says hemp is a relative to marijuana, sharing similarities and differences.
“Keep in mind, this is all cannabis sativa. Scientifically it’s the same plant, but it has different strains,” Bowman said. “Think of it as O’Douls and Guinness, or Chihuahuas and Saint Bernards. They’re beer, they’re dogs. But they’re different.”
Hemp production was then “laid to rest” in 1970, following the signing of the Controlled Substances Act.
“If you look at the period – from 1937, when this Act was signed to 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was put in place – there was little growing. There was still some activity in Wisconsin, in part from remnants of the Hemp for Victory Campaign, when there were investments by the government. But effectively, the industry was gone.”
The Controlled Substances Act listed industrial hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance. “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
However, determined activists helped pave way for the legalization of hemp. A shift in policy took place, starting in the fall of 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize industrial hemp. Since, forty-one states have legalized hemp.
In 2014, Farm Bill legislation included a provision, known as Section 7606, which allowed states who had legalized hemp to allow farmers to grow hemp on a research basis. Then in Senator Mitch McConnell changed language in the 2018 Farm Bill, which fully deschedules hemp, returning it for use as an agricultural crop.
Bowman talks about the opportunities this legislation provides.
“It does a number of things, including the interstate transportation of the products. It should open up the insurance market and banking should be relaxed,” Bowman said. “We’ve been naive to think it isn’t going to take a little time to work this through the system and get the bankers and insurance communities comfortable and engaged.”
Bowman also makes note of those nine states who have failed to legalize hemp. He believes industrial hemp production provides “a legitimate opportunity to open new opportunities for rural communities, and use this crop to draw young people back to rural communities and create new products for use both domestic and export.”
Stay tuned to the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network for hemp’s potential as a crop in Iowa.