Someone posted a meme at Facebook recently that showed a Henry Ford car made entirely of hemp. I’ve known for a long time that our constitution was printed on paper made of hemp, but it never occurred to me that it was strong enough to manufacture things like cars. Since then I’ve seen all kinds of memes promoting the value of hemp, which is not legally grown in the U.S., but legally grown in every other first world country. Just as Colorado is blazing a new trail by being one of the first states in the nation to legalize marijuana, it is also now legal to grow hemp in the state.
But nothing about growing hemp is easy. First it is illegal to import any of that hemp seed into the US, or to transport it across state lines. So hemp farmers such as Adam have to find seed suppliers within the state in order to grow their product.
I first met Adam at what looks like a farmer’s market booth, but is not on Main Street with the rest of the booths. Instead it is at a coffee shop popular with young, trendy adults. He was selling ice cream sandwiches, where the cookie’s ingredients included hemp. They are pretty tasty. Adam gets excited when he talks about the possibilities for hemp. “Imagine a landfill where everything, all the plastics, are biodegradable” he gushes, as his blue eyes sparkle.
I asked Adam what kinds of hassles he had with getting in on the ground floor of an industry that is as yet only quasi-legal, and he immediately mentions getting set up as an LLC, not the regulatory burdens that I expected. He is growing hemp on a 3 acre plot of land where he plans a three year crop rotation, with alfalfa growing on two acres and hemp growing on one. He has a license to plant one acre in hemp. The problem is that he really doesn’t have a market for anything but the seeds. The fiber, the stuff out of which Henry Ford made plastic for his car, has no market because there are no commercial processing facilities in the U.S. Adam can’t transport it across state lines without it being fabricated into something, and there are no local manufacturers needing his product. He’s experimenting with fodder and paper, but for now he’s a commercial seed grower hoping that lots of farmers will join him in growing the renewable and biodegradable products of the future.
He also proudly tells me that the labs that have tested his product have detected zero THC, the component in marijuana that is psychoactive. However, his plants have 3% CBD, which is the component in medical marijuana that has the most medicinal applications.
Certainly there needs to be a future for a product that can replace fossil fuel based plastics with hemp based plastics that are biodegradable and don’t involve chemicals any more toxic than fertilizers. I applaud risk takers like Adam and his partners. They are blazing a way for a greener future for all of us.
Now, if only we could get rid of the regulatory restrictions that Adam shrugs off.