Industrial Hemp – Keeping the Green in the Red

Our initial plan for 13 Folds Magazine was to print it on hemp paper. This was a consideration in homage to our founding fathers’ ardent dependency upon the hemp plant, which inspired the wide use of hemp products. Consumables such as oil, fabric and rope were essential to their daily lives. From Thomas Paine’s revolutionary literature to Betsy Ross’ first American flag, hemp was invaluable to a movement that would change the world forever.[1] We also preferred to use hemp paper for its limited environmental impact compared to traditional wood pulp paper.[2]

Unfortunately, printing on hemp paper was cost prohibitive. Due to U.S. laws, which do not differentiate between hemp and marijuana, hemp for paper cannot legally be grown domestically and can only be obtained through importation. The team at 13 Folds is made up of strong proponents of “buying American to support America,” so importing originflagthe paper from another country (with China being the most cost effective) was contradictory to our ultimate message. So, in response to the authoritarian circus known as the DEA, we have been forced to present our readers with the very beautiful but “earth raping” editions of 13 Folds Magazine that you have grown accustomed to. All you have to do is go to your local supermarket or brand name store to gain a better understanding of the lunacy behind the current U.S. stance on industrial hemp. You can purchase many different brands of hemp food products ranging from non-dairy milk to “highly” nutritious seeds. I use the term “highly” quite loosely, as you cannot get “high” from the hemp version of the marijuana plant.[3] Other products, such as hemp-oil, clothing, linens, textiles and building materials, also are readily available and commonly sold on the U.S. market. But very few of these products are actually made in America, with even fewer being made with American hemp. It would seem that the moral of this story is that our government is only willing to allow the sale of hemp products if there is some sort of import tax associated with it. As a matter of fact, low estimates claim that the U.S. imports close to $500 million in known hemp products every year.[4] This is money taken out of the hands of American Farmers, American Workers and American Families, only to be given to those countries (such as China) that have embraced the cultivation of the hemp plant as a valuable natural resource. In return, these countries pay a hefty tax on their imports, which puts money in the U.S. coffers. This money, in turn, is used to pay back the interest on our enormous debts to these countries. This would all make sense except for one thing – that’s not what’s really happening. The duty and tariff rates for most hemp products are well under the national average. In fact, hemp oil actually has a duty rate of 0 percent when classified under Health & Beauty. These foreign countries have managed to not only dictate the chain of supply to the U.S. market, but have managed to do so with minimal opposition from U.S. officials. Take China for example. China is the leading producer of hemp products in the entire world, with these hemp products being among the most profitable of all the nation’s exports. Care to guess which country is the world’s top consumer of hemp products? If you guessed the United States, then you are correct. This means that the bulk of China’s success in the hemp industry is dependent on U.S. consumption. This is also true for countries such as Canada, India, Japan and Spain that also derive the majority of their hemp export business from the United States. In fact, there are more than 30 nations that currently benefit from the lack of a U.S. presence in the worldwide hemp market. Though these nations dictate the supply, it is the United States that dictates the demand. Because the United States is the largest consumer of hemp and hemp products, it seems evident that Americans should be allowed to capitalize on entering the global hemp industry. That undertaking would not only provide less expensive resources for U.S. businesses (factoring in the costs of shipping and tariffs), but also would provide an alternative cash crop to entrepreneurial farmers. This, in turn, would provide much needed jobs in the States while decreasing our dependency on foreign resources. Yet here we are, in the wake of economic collapse, still denying the viability of one of the world’s most dynamic crops to our society. So what are we as Americans doing to bring this market home? We are spreading the word with readily available facts to dispel the common misconceptions associated with the hemp plant.[5] Many organizations (The Hemp Industries Association, Vote Hemp and the Resource Conservation Alliance are a few of the more prominent ones) have provided vast resources of facts, data and research for individuals seeking knowledge on the industrial hemp topic. These organizations are lobbying, every day, to convince Congress to bring the hemp industry home. But they cannot complete this task alone. They need your help. There is a nationwide movement that seeks to include industrial hemp in the current U.S. Farm Bill. This movement has been championed by a number of congressmen (crossing party divides), with people like the Libertarian-leaning Rand Paul, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) and Senator Ron Wyden (D – OR) spearheading the charge. In an attempt to repeal the current restrictions against hemp in this country, Wyden even introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 as an amendment to the new House Farm Bill, currently being proposed. Unfortunately, H.R. 525 did not gain the support needed for inclusion in the five-year plan, though this is not the end of the Industrial Hemp movement in any way, shape or form. Though we often are tempted to believe that the government’s unjust scrutiny of the hemp plant is somehow due to failed leadership or the greed of a hidden corporate agenda, I find that the following quote presents a more sensible, if not unacceptable, dynamic.  “Ending the restrictions on industrial hemp is pro-business, pro-farmer and commonsense. As I’ve said, if you can buy it at the local supermarket, American farmers should be able to grow it. While support is growing, we have some significant challenges right now. Between the generational misconceptions about hemp within the Congress, continued opposition from the Drug Enforcement Agency, and no clear opportunity to vote on further Farm Bill amendments, the time is not yet ripe for industrial hemp. Better-organized advocacy on behalf of hemp, clearly separated from advocacy for cannabis, is vital to overcoming these obstacles. As we continue to build support and look for other avenues, state agricultural commissioners, farmers and business that would benefit from this legislation need to help get the facts out there and push for Congress to pass this bill.”

– Sen. Ron Wyden

Senator Wyden made that statement as all hope for the Industrial Farm Act’s inclusion into this year’s Farm Bill was being squashed by the opposition. We may not have seen the results we were after this time around, but we at 13 Folds are in the fight to fully normalize cannabis in the United States, starting with the obvious first step of tearing down the ill-conceived barriers in the way of a thriving domestic hemp industry. Can you say the same? 06.18.13 | David Sorgman | Editor in Chief of 13 Folds Magazine From the pages of 13 Folds • [1] – The Truth About Hemp, by Lawrence Wilson MD • May, 2011, The Center for Development [2] – The Sustainability of Tree vs. Paper, by Chen,Thuan, Pretty, Vanstone, MacDonald, O’Toole, Dwyer, Gruening • December, 1998, University of waterloo. [3] – Hemp: A new Crop with New Uses for North America. By Ernest Small & David Marcus • 2002, ASHS Press [4] – Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity, by Renee Johnson • March 21, 2013, CRS Report for Congress [5] – Hemp & Marijuana Myths & Realities, by David West • 1998, North American Hemp Council Other Sources Include: NORML, Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, Hemp Industries Association, Hemp History Week, Import Duty & Taxes made Easy, and last but not least: A Renewal of Common Sense: The Case for Hemp in 21st Century America, by Erik Rothenberg • March, 2001, VoteHemp, Inc., (I recommend anyone interested in the facts about Hemp, read this treatise).