Hemp is making needed comeback in Ky., Clark County

Published 4:13 pm Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hemp is a crop with a strong history.

Industrial hemp production in the U.S. can be traced back to the early 1600s with the first European settlers. Our founding fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. The likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams grew hemp and advocated for commercial production of the staple crop. 

However, in the 1930s hemp was made illegal when it was lumped under the umbrella of marijuana in the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which required farmers to register their hemp crops and purchase expensive tax stamps. 

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Despite decades of research into the benefits of hemp, this highly misunderstood crop was made illegal in 1970, when it was classified as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. 

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture reports that although it is a variety of cannabis, hemp contains no significant amounts of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in varieties of cannabis. 

Although local farmers weren’t able to grow the crop, recognition of the nutritional and health benefits of hemp was growing in the U.S. 

Hemp has a wide array of uses. According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products ranging from fabrics and yarns to paper, construction materials and auto parts to foods and drinks, body care products, cosmetics and nutritional supplements. 

Domestic farmers were missing out on a profitable opportunity to grow hemp, as U.S. manufacturers had to import raw hemp from Canada, Europe and China. 

One local businesswoman dreaded this missed opportunity and has joined the efforts of raising awareness and acceptance of the industrialization of hemp.

Laura Sheehan, owner of Full Circle Market, has been celebrating Hemp History Week at her business for five years — just around the time Kentucky became one of the first states to legalize hemp production in the U.S. thanks to the passage of the Federal Farm Bill. 

Today, there are at least 25 Clark County farmers participating in the hemp research pilot program, according to KDA. 

Hemp now stands a chance to once again be a vital and viable crop in the U.S. Sheehan and others will celebrate the benefits of the crop during Hemp History Week, which begins Sunday. 

Sheehan carries a variety of hemp products in her store and will host a community event Monday celebrating the crop and its bright future. She also has invited representatives from the University of Kentucky and KDA to talk with local people interested in growing hemp. 

Visitors can also sample many of the hemp products available in the area — including locally-owned Laura’s Hemp Chocolates — while learning about the health benefits. 

Marijuana’s misunderstood cousin is making a comeback, and we couldn’t be more excited.