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Putting the Hemp Back in Hempfield

Posted on August 20, 2000

Lancaster, Pennsylvania — It’s time for Pennsylvania, and the county, to join the crowd on Industrial hemp.

About 2 months ago Maryland became the fourth state to authorize the cultivation of hemp. On July 1 Maryland became the third state to actually plant hemp seeds. This important test crop is growing right now.

Maryland now joins Hawaii, Minnesota and North Dakota as states that have passed positive hemp legislation that will allow farmers to cultivate hemp.

Nineteen other states have passed prohemp resolutions or have hemp legislation either waiting to be passed, under consideration or are undertaking studies on the economic potential of a revitalized hemp industry. They include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Interest in hemp is intense and increasing. Hawaii planted hemp on Dec. 14,1999. There is hope that hemp will boost a sagging farm economy hurt by the loss of sugar cane, formerly Hawaii’s number one cash crop.

After passing positive hemp legislation in Minnesota last year, Gov. Jesse Ventura gathered farmers together to instruct them on how to apply for permits to grow hemp. He also wrote a letter to the Clinton administration, formally requesting that the federal government remove restrictions that prevent farmers from growing hemp right now.

Gov. Ed Schafer of North Dakota signed positive hemp legislation on March 17, 1999. The people of that state watched and learned from their neighbors across the border in Canada who have been successfully cultivating and profiting from the newly revitalized and rapidly expanding billion dollar hemp industry for half a decade now.

It is no wonder that North Dakota became the first state to pass positive hemp legislation. Farmers there are poised to grow hemp, especially for seed and oil as processing plants for flax seed oil already exist in the area and can easily process hemp seed oil.

In addition, the Navajo Nation and the Oglala Lakota tribe have announced intentions to grow hemp for self-sufficiency and as a boost to local economies. The Oglala Lakota held a planting ceremony on April 29, the 132nd anniversary of the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty.

The hemp harvested on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota will be used to make hemp-based concrete that is lighter and easier to work with than masonry concrete. It will be used as part of a building project on Pine Ridge to address a severe housing shortage.

Here in Lancaster, interest in the cultivation, processing, manufacturing and marketing of hemp has been shown by the Lancaster Farm Bureau, individual members and Leaders of the Tobacco Marketing Association, agricultural research firms and experimental farms, a textile factory, bankers, agribusiness, township supervisors, a Kiwanis club, a Rotary club, some political candidates and scores of farmers.

It has caught the, attention of the media, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at Pennsylvania State University, student activists at Millersville University and average citizens.

Historical craftsmen are eager to work with locally grown hemp fibers. There is a growing awareness of the historical significance of hemp in Lancaster County.

In a forum on hemp held in Yoders Restaurant (of New Holland) in March, Jean Laprise, an Ontario hemp farmer, pointed out that Lancaster County would have a tremendous geographic advantage in marketing of hemp. We are strategically placed in the center of a major population belt with many industries that could make use of hemp raised here.

Already here in Lancaster County there are many businesses that either import, produce or sell hemp foods, products and textiles. Hemp seed and oil products are being sold in local grocery and health food stores. The malls and other retail stores have carried hemp products for years now. Profits from sales of hemp products locally as well as nationally are projected to exceed all previous years.

Pennsylvania is the Keystone State. Our northeast corner borders a major hemp growing region in Ontario where tens of thousands of acres of hemp are cultivated yearly. The Maryland border graces Lancaster County. We’ll be able to see their hemp right up close. Are we to sit idly by and just watch it grow?

The time to enact legislation that will allow our farmers to cultivate industrial hemp is right now.

Les Stark, of Ephrata, is a researcher/historian specializing in the Pennsylvania hemp industry.

Copyright © 2000, Sunday News. All rights reserved.

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