Chicago, Illinois — About 1,500 state legislators, staff, policymakers, and other government officials passed through a booth display about industrial hemp sponsored by Hempwell Inc. a marketing firm for businesses with an interest in hemp products, at the annual National Conference for State Legislators held July 16-20 in Chicago. Those curious about hemp were nearly one-third of the 4,500 conference attendees.
The booth featured hemp goods from supporting companies The Body Shop, Artisan Gear, Eco Dragon, Hemp Supply, and Living Tree Paper, along with goods from a local supporter, Patricia O’Brien of Chicago’s Eco Fields, the Midwest’s only hemp retail store. Hundreds of copies of The Body Shop’s mini-Full Voice hemp booklet were given out, along with copies of Hemptech’s Industrial Hemp pamphlet, Vote Hemp fliers, and sponsoring companies’ catalogues. The Hemp for Victory video played continuously.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, says Hempwell president John Howell. “The ordinary state legislator is way ahead of the federal government on the issue of re-introducing industrial hemp into our nation’s agriculture. We heard from many legislators who plan to support and sponsor hemp bills in this upcoming legislative season. Ten states already have bills or resolutions, and with more than a half dozen in the works that we heard about at this conference, one-third of the states could be going on record as in favor of hemp by next year.”
Hemp was on the NCSL’s official agenda for the first time, and an opening day panel on legislative, agricultural, and law enforcement issues drew a standing room only crowd. Representative Cynthia Thielen of Hawaii made a persuasive case about that state’s political leadership on hemp issues and Dr. Don Briskin of the University of Illinois gave a concise history and description of cannabis as agricultural crop and product. A Missouri Highway Patrol representative gave an irrelevant speech about how growing hemp would confuse already pot-addled teenagers, a commentary greeted with silent disbelief by the large crowd.
The next day, a follow-up panel was scheduled to deal with hemp’s role in the natural products boom and to discuss legislative procedures. The exhibition hall opened, and the Hempwell booth clocked over three hundred visitors in the first four hours. In another development, there was talk not only about scheduling hemp as a topic on next year’s NCSL agenda but about NCSL consideration of a pro-hemp resolution at its annual executive meeting in December.
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