IHA: Legalize hemp now
AMES – The first thing they hammer home is,?”Hemp is not marijuana.”
That fact was repeated several times Sunday during a three-hour informational meeting on hemp returning as a potential cash crop for Iowa farmers.
Members of the Iowa Hemp Association and hemp growers from Colorado and Kentucky, were on hand to talk with farmers and Iowa State University ag entrepreneur students at the Scheman Building, in Ames.
The day was designed to encourage farmers and students to speak to their lawmakers about clearing hemp as a non-controlled substance, making it legal to grow in Iowa.
Boris Scharansky, founder and chief executive officer of Heartland Hemp Co., based in Des Moines, said bills have been filed in both Iowa houses this legislative session to legalize hemp production.
A similar effort was made in 2015, but the measure failed to make the cut during funnel week.
Hemp does not have the psychotropic effects of marijuana.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is so low in hemp it’s useless as a mood-altering drug, Scharansky said.
He said lawmakers, in 2015, feared real marijuana might be planted in the middle of a hemp field.
But he said cross-pollination between to two types of cannibis would ruin marijuana’s psychotropic effects.
According to Scharansky, hemp is as versatile a crop as soybeans with industrial applications for diet supplements, as an oil seed, as fiber for textiles and manufacturing, as biomass for cellulosic ethanol, as insulation for homes with an R40 value, and is said to make better capacitors in batteries.
Iowa Hemp is lobbying for passage of hemp as a legal cash crop, claiming the plant’s products will spur the state economy by creating a myriad of small industries and manufacturers close to the rural sources where the plants will be grown.
Fred Checchini, a business management coach working for the legalization of hemp, said looking far into the future, developing hemp stands to be the biggest industrial boon in U.S. history.
“Even bigger than steel,” the Pittsburgh native said.
Besides the economic impact, Scharansky and Colorado farmer Rick Trojan touted the plant’s environmental potential.
- A large tap root for breaking up soil compaction.
- An extensive root base that holds soil in place.
- Fast growth that chokes out weeds without spraying.
- Resistant to gnawing and sucking insects, requiring little or no pesticide use.
- A tall-growing plant that sequesters large amounts of nitrogen.
- Is easily processed making it a carbon-negative, or in the worst case, a carbon-neutral product.
Trojan said his farm in northeast Colorado planted 300 acres with 26 different cultivars of hemp in 2015. His enterprise, Hemp Cultivars, is growing hemp for seed.
A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation through selective breeding.
Trojan told farmers different cultivars are ideally suited for different end products.
Hemp Cultivars’ 30O acres tried different seeding rates, mostly through broadcast seeding, but hemp seeds can also be drilled. Seeding rates ranged from 1.5 to 2 pounds per acre.
Yields as seed ranged from 30 to 35 pounds per acre, and the plants yielded about 50 pounds of fiber per acre.
He said fertilization was with manure only. Plants were sown in irrigated and non-irrigated fields.
He said the plant is drought tolerant.
WWII cash crop
Scharansky said hemp was a staple crop during America’s colonial days as Britain needed the fiberous crop for sails and rope for the its navy.
It continued to be sought out by textile manufacturers, competing with other crops like flax, through the 1930s.
But in 1937, the U.S.’ passage of Marijuana Tax Stamp Act, all members of the cannibis family were outlawed for growth.
That prohibition was set aside during World War II for the nation’s Hemp for Victory campaign. The prohibition was reinstated after the war’s end.
But hemp’s suitability to Iowa’s climate is proven in that 70 years later, Scharansky said, Iowans are still finding it growing in ditches and fence lines.
CBD, not THC
Hemp’s medicinal advantage is cannabidiol, or CBD. It has negligible amounts of THC.
THC travels through the bloodstream and attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain creating a variety of psychological effects.
CBD does not attach to brain receptors, but inhibits fatty acid amide hydroxylase, or FAAH, an enzyme which metabolizes Annadiane, which in turns stops the release of dopamine.
By inhibiting FAAH, CBD becomes a medicinal use for treating epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and glaucoma, without making the patients “high.”
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