Hemp Is Coming Back As A Farm Crop



One bit of news lately has not received much fanfare but probably should. State by state, hemp farming is becoming legal. The latest state, I think, is Ohio, which is a surprise to those who think the Buckeye State leans heavily toward the conservative side which generally takes a dim view of anything that looks like approval of drugs. But one of the first states to legalize industrial hemp was Kentucky, certainly several shades redder than Ohio. Now some ten states have some form of permit for growing the crop. And the Federal Government has removed pyschoactively-inert hemp from the purview of the federal Controlled Substance Act, so university researchers can now grow the stuff experimentally, the first step in legalizing it everywhere. So what is going on here?

Common sense is winning out once more, that’s what. Farm hemp or more officially “industrial hemp,” is a type of cannabis and a relative to marijuana, but does not produce the drug THC in amounts that you can get high on. There’s tons of proof but I sort of know from observation. Many years ago, I watched a group of young men try their smoking best to get high— and failing— on the industrial hemp that was growing wild, as it does many places in the Midwest. A good new book on all aspects of industrial hemp is just out—Hemp Bound by Doug Fine from Chelsea Green Publishing. Not only does farm hemp not cause the results that marijuana can, but it will cross-pollinate with the latter growing nearby and ruin the subsequent plants for drugging purposes.

But human beings, being human beings, always go overboard on everything, and those with a cultural horror of hallucinogenic drugs did not take time to get their facts straight and over the past eighty years or so made no distinction between the two. I can remember a field of hemp in shocks like shocked grain that I saw on my first trip to Kentucky in 1945. I was a farm boy and I did not know what I was looking at so I asked questions. For some reason I never forgot those shocks—just across the Ohio River near Mayfield, Ky. During the Second World War, there was a shortage of rope and the government for awhile had lifted the ban on growing hemp which had been in effect since the mid-nineteen thirties.

Farmers in China, parts of Europe, and more recently, Canada, have been making good money growing the stuff. Americans buy a half-million dollars worth of hemp products every year from Canada, says the book cited above. Hemp is a most useful plant. The seeds and the fiber can make all kinds of foods, body oils, lubricants, building materials, car fuel, roofing, textiles, paper, insulation, clothing, livestock feed, you name it. There is archeological evidence that humans were using it for thousands of years. Now a few American farmers in Colorado and Kentucky are gearing up to go into production. More will surely give it a try. It won’t be easy because hemp is difficult to harvest right now. Harvesters particularly designed to handle hemp are only in the startup phase.

The easier part is in growing the crop. It will prosper, so I understand, where corn and soybeans don’t do so well. It can withstand more drouth. Hemp advocates say it doesn’t need pesticides or artificial fertilizers to grow well, so at least it probably needs less. Hemp is also touted as a soil builder, in the sense that its cultivation results in less soil blowing and erosion than most other conventional crops. Since commercial production is in its infancy, it is too soon to say how much potential profit can be made with the crop. So far, profits are reckoned in the value-added products that can be made with hemp like breakfast cereal or hemp oil.

Myself, I have to smile at the way human “progress” ricochets from one extreme to another. I can see comedy coming. What if it is proven that medical cannabis (or so called recreational marijuana) really has curative power over disease as seems to be the case. Then I suppose it too will be legalized everywhere. Then a huge struggle could arise between farm hemp and pot because they will cross-pollinate if grown too close together. The government will have to step in and dictate where one can be grown but not the other and the same people who now complain about too much government involvement in the cannabis arena will be able to keep on complaining.




It’s not how the cannabis oil is made, it’s a selectively bred strain of cannabis that is low in (almost completely lacking) THC which is the “intoxicating” chemical in cannabis, and very high in another chemical called CBD which has strong antiseizure activity.

I don’t know about grazing but I remember watching my brother not being able to roll a joint because the goats would grab it right out of his hand.

Minnesota Farm Boy April 22, 2014 at 6:38 am

Minnesota Ditch Weed we called it. My grandfather grew hemp way back in the 20’s

Mr. Gene, I’m glad I could be of assistance. If I were to take you up on your offer and my question involved a moderately lengthy preamble would this blog be the best place to initiate dialogue or would you prefer such correspondence be conducted elsewhere? Thanks again. — R 🙂

Rachel, you haven’t taken up my time at all, in fact you have saved me lots of time by trying to get to the bottom of this and I thank you profusely. Feel free to ask me about anything. It makes writers feel so vainglorious to be asked their opinion. It is like asking me what book I am working on now. Be prepared for a forty page reply or so. Gene

Hi Gene, I have some links here that might be helpful. It appears that some people are interpreting the 2014 Farm Bill as having removed hemp from the Schedule 1 list, but the following link indicates that may not be the whole truth (http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/2014-farm-bill-the-legalization-of-hemp/). This article states that research is now permitted without a permit from the DEA in states that have legalized hemp (so in essence it has been decriminalized), which is only 10 out of the 50. Rand Paul et al. have introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act but it is not yet out of committee(s). I haven’t read the book you posted about but I’m having difficulty corroborating his assessment of current law, so I called Rand Paul’s office in DC and they said that while it has been removed from the Schedule 1 list it is not legal for the general public to grow — it is only legal for “researchers” to grow it in the said 10 states. As far as Ohio goes, it also appears that it is not legal but that there are ongoing attempts to bring the issue to ballot this November. In order for that to happen 353,000 some odd signatures need to be gathered by petition by July 2nd for the issue to make the ballot in November (https://www.facebook.com/ohiorightsgroup/info). I tried to call this Ohio Rights Group to find out about petition signing events but apparently they don’t answer their phones. More information about pending statewide ballots in Ohio can be viewed here: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/LegnAndBallotIssues/BallotBoard.aspx#Issues . Apparently there are a number of cannabis related petitions circulating…Hope this is informative and thanks for spurring such important dialogue. I’d love to hear your opinion on a number of other matters but I’ve taken up too much of your time as it is. — Sincerely, Rachel

thetinfoilhatsociety April 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

I am looking into the possibility of our spinners and weavers guild teaming up with a local college to trial hemp as a remedy for denuded soil and as a wearable fiber; I’m sure the college will also want to look into gasification of the plant for fuel as well.

You know, one of the most schizophrenic things about the whole “war on drugs” is the idea that some substances are good and therefore should be legal — or legal under certain circumstances — while others are bad and must be illegal. Alcohol and tobacco, therefore, fall on one side of the fence, as do medicinal substances that require a prescription. Both alcohol and tobacco are potentially addictive (well, in the case of the tobacco, there’s no potential to it) and affect the brain. Yet you can buy either, and in large quantities, as long as you’re old enough. Marijuana, on the other hand, despite its very similar properties, is illegal. Methamphetamine and cocaine are classed with marijuana, although is also legal for some medical purposes. Foxglove and aconite, either of which can be extremely poisonous, are considered pretty flowers. It’s a crazy world we live in…

The Canadian government has already become involved in the pharmaceutical cannabis business, but not in any way us freedom loving gardeners like. For the record: I don’t grow the stuff, just because I don’t want to have to deal with the paranoia, and my drug of choice is coffee. The recent developments are taking permits away from small people and giving them to Big Pharma. A missed opportunity. The good part is that the healing properties of this miraculous plant are being acknowledged.

Rachel, I was at a meeting of organic grain growers in Ohio and I understood that a law had just been passed that day making hemp legal in Ohio, so I did not bother to check it out (and don’t even know where to check it out). I may have misunderstood. It just seemed from the tenor of the announcement to be a done deal. Could be my fault, here. But the Feds have removed hemp from the list of plants that come under the purview of the Controlled Substances Act. That’s in the preface of the book I cite on page x. Gene

As with nearly everything banned without a reason follow the money. The reason hemp was banned looks like the government was picking sides….again. It benefited a powerful industrialist who through monetary influence was able to get a legalized monopoly. By waging a propaganda war against the citizens we believed that cannibis, all of it, was going to be the next great scourge like opium dens. Funny how it benefits a corporate interest. http://obrag.org/?p=413, Pray that reason does prevail. I doubt we’ll need Monsanto. I can’t find to many bugs or diseases that do well in a stand of hemp.

Gene, you obviously have a very mischievous mind (as do I) re your comments towards the end of this blog (as we all have have deduced from your earlier entries over several years)! A lovely mix of rural/down home commonsense vs commercial “reality”. It will be very interesting to see where the current commercial/political realities lead us poor plebs into whatever hole they decide. By the way; this same debate (not sure if that is the right word or not for this conundrum) is happening down in my area of the woods (NZ and Australia).

Never touched the stuff recreationally (and I went through through the Vietnam era) but can very much appreciate the value of it as an extremely valuable commodity across a wide spread of fronts.

I guess what happens, happens.



Can anyone point to the Ohio law that specifies that hemp is legal in Ohio? As I understood it we were going to have to wait until Nov. ’14 to push this forward on the ballot and that legalizing hemp was being tied to this ballot initiative in November along with legalizing medical marijuana in the state. In regards to Federal statute, I was unaware that the Schedule 1 list had been modified — is there any verification of this as well?

Not yet legal in INDIANA far as I know. I’d like to see a field of it. Corn & beans never do that great in our area, south of the glacial till. I’ve heard it said that Indiana climate (at least at the time the study was done) is the most perfect climate to grow hemp in the world.

Paul, parents are giving cannabis in an oil form (orally or through stomach tubes) to children with seizure disorders when other pharmaceuticals, with their great cost and host of side-effects, have not worked. The children do not get “high”–having something to do with how the oil is made which I’ve now forgotten, but the cannabis is proving much more effective.

One family from Tennessee recently moved to Colorado so they could get this medication legally and in a controlled and standardized dosage for their infant. This family recently testified before the Tennessee legislature that the pharmaceuticals had been costing taxpayers (they did not have insurance) $60,000/month and did not work. The parents are now paying about $60/month for the cannabis oil in Colorado that does work.

That said, I am going to visit my children and grandchild in Colorado next month and plan to imbibe in some “recreation” to see what all the commotion is about.

Steve, it’s my understanding that it was the plastics and timber industries of the 1930s that really pushed to ban hemp, as it could be used for many products they wanted to have a monopoly on, such as rope,other fibers and paper.

Gene says
quote [ What if it is proven that medical cannabis (or so called recreational marijuana) really has curative power over disease as seems to be the case. ] unquote

I would like to see the evidence for this. Way down here in the Antipodes we often smoke for recreation. But I doubt you can make a blanket suggestion claim that cannabis has a general curative power. In fact I would ask what does it cure.

It cures a really bad day for me, when the wolves are snarling at my mind, but you see that is only a palliative, not a cure .

Gene, thanks so much for your blog. I love having my afternoon cup of tea on Wednesday’s and reading your post- always insightful with your contrary sense of humor.

Maybe Monsanto will produce GM Cannabis that has sterile seeds or is tolerant to glyphosate! I am sure we will all bitch and grip as this “new” crop unfolds.

At the very least there may be a few less corn and bean acres planted and a little more plant diversity.

Has anybody tried to graze it yet? I would think hogs would love the stuff as well as cows as long as it does not spread like Johnson Grass and Multi flora Rose!

Bring it on.

My son, a proponent of legalized hemp – and recreation marijuana, for that matter – told me a story I cannot confirm or refute. He said it was the cotton industry that had a strong hand in lobbying the Federal Government to ban production of hemp their competition, way back when.Anyone know if this is true? I would not be surprised.

Well I didn’t know that! That useful nugget of information will now be stored away in my little brain that industrial hemp will cross with the medicinal stuff and render it useless.

life of the hand - life of the mind April 16, 2014 at 9:11 am

What goes creeping creeping along at a snail’s pace and has been so creeping for the last 15,000 years? Liberal thought, progressive thinking. Why? Because reason always wins. And while reason does occasionally get waylaid here and there or a few weeks or a few millennia, it always gets back up, regroups, and creeps on. Why? Because yes is more powerful then no. Because when no sayers die, their kids are mostly yes sayers. Hemp is today’s example via Gene. And so what if the freeing of hemp is not quite the victory as was the freeing of the slaves. For reasonable people everywhere, it’s a quiet and liberating victory.

Also. Notice the spellings: liberal — liberate – liberating. Why does reason always win? You guessed it: Because people naturally want to be liberated.

Also: Notice the spelling: naturally — nature. Why does reason always win….?

Well for years I’ve avoided sharing the knowledge that cannabis ropa would cross pollinate and ruin the medicinal cannabis because I figured if the government knew this they would legalize industrial hemp everywhere as a cure all for domestic medicinal marijuana. For years it was claimed that it was the number one cash crop in the U.S., which I never believed was anymore that propaganda supporting the enforcement agencies ever expanding budgets. Since as noted medicinal marijuana can’t be grown in areas where industrial hemp render it impotent medically. Now someone has written a book revealing this fact. The cannabis cat is out of the bag.

It is interesting to watch the development of the legal marijuana for recreational use as well as medicinal in the two states of Washington and Colorado. The amount of tax dollars collected during the first week of operation in Co. was reported as being in the hundreds of thousands “cash” for that state. There is an issue of the Federal law still making it illegal, but I saw (on TV) the Attorney General of the U.S. say that the money could be deposited in Federally insured banks and that they were not going to take any action and watch the development and reassess the Federal position. They want the money and it is not about the safety of the legal marijuana dealers ‘safety’ from having so much cash on hand. Millions, if not billions of dollars will be collected quickly from recreational use of marijuana and that money will go into the general treasury of those states and lessen the burdens of all tax payers. This activity will go on legal or not since we obviously have lost the “war on drugs”, so why not capture a share of the money for the public good, plus disable/subvert the underground that current supplies illegal marijuana? The same can be said about the cannabis itself. Since the medical cannabis produces just as much fiber and usable materials/products as the industrial rope cannabis, I can see the one variety eventually being the only variety as it has even more value when medical and recreational use is included.

Another insightful and interesting piece from Gene Logsdon. Thanks for your writing sir.

Best Regards,
Jason Rutledge

My father, who would have loved your blog, was a strong proponent of industrial hemp all through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when he died. If it ever becomes legal to grow it in Pennsylvania I would love to honor his memory by planting it on the land he loved.

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