Give Hemp a Chance

My active involvement within the cannabis industry began with doing product development for concrete construction. I have been promoting the use of insulated concrete forms (ICF) in residential and commercial construction for almost two years. My days are spent explaining the benefits of ICF to engineers, architects and developers looking to build energy-efficient buildings. During my prospecting, I decided to approach the cannabis industry and this is when I was introduced to industrial hemp.

The first time I attended a Cannabis Alliance meeting, I was introduced to hempcrete. Hempcrete is a composite of hemp hurds and lime to create a building product that has great insulating properties. (Hemp hurds, or hemp wood, consist of the woody, inner portion of the hemp stalk that has been separated from the fiber.) These products can vary from bricks to a stucco-like substance that can be applied wet into wall structures.

The industry reps I met there have been working all across North America to promote hemp. After a 90-year hiatus, a crop of industrial hemp has been planted in Eastern Washington.

You might be asking yourself why this is such a big deal. We already have cannabis growing Washington, but industrial hemp is not going to be regulated by the state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board. Industrial hemp will be regulated by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and there is a whole different set of laws and rules that apply.

President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, which included Section 7606 allowing for universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes. This allows hemp to be grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research also permitted by state laws. A year later, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 that would allow American farmers to grow industrial hemp and remove hemp from the controlled substances list as long as it contains no more than 0.3 percent THC.

Keep in mind that this only allows hemp to be grown as pilot projects in the participating states.

That brings us to our state industrial hemp bill, ESSB 6206, now enshrined in Chapter 15.120 of the RCW, aligning Washington laws with Section 7606 of the federal Agricultural Act of 2014.

The first 75 acres of legal industrial hemp was planted in Washington for the first time in 90 years June 7, 2017. This was accomplished because of the hard work and collaboration of the Hemp Industries Association; the Washington State Department of Agriculture; the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade & Economic Development Committee; Hemplogic and many individuals in the business who make hemp their passion.

Now, what do we do with it?

Time will tell. Because hemp is so versatile, we will only be limited by laws governing how the plant can be processed. Hemp can be used to produce items for food, drink, clothing, skin, health needs, pets, automobiles, gardening and biofuels—and the list goes on. Keep in mind that we are at the very beginning of growing industrial hemp and if the number of successful crops increases, the infrastructure can be justified to keep it going.

If Washington does this right, we just might see the birth of a new addition to our state’s economy. For more information, go to www.hempace.com.

Jeff Minch lives near Minter Creek.

July 2017
Writing by Faith