In 2013, I was a student at Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette, Indiana. My final project for an English Composition class was a researched argument paper. I chose the topic of industrial hemp, and – just to make it more interesting – I decided to write it in the form of an open letter to Governor Mike Pence. The paper received an A, and since that time it has been sent to Pence’s office and distributed to many other industrial hemp advocates across the state. Because Tippy Hemp Co. believes in the potential for industrial hemp to vastly improve Indiana’s economy and environment, I am posting it here so that it can be shared even further and educate even more Hoosiers. Enjoy, and please share! -Samantha of Tippy Hemp Company
Industrial Hemp in Indiana:
An Open Letter to our Governor
November 18, 2013
Gov. Mike Pence
Office of the Governor
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Dear Gov. Pence:
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for your strong support of Indiana’s agricultural industry. It is clear from your website that you are very passionate about doing everything in your power to promote and develop agriculture in our state. As you mention on the site, the value of Indiana’s agricultural exports is growing rapidly, and we are now the 8th largest exporter of agricultural commodities and goods. You also say that you want to make Indiana “a nationally-recognized center of technological development and commercialization in the agricultural sector” (“Support,” 2012). That is why I, a constituent who also believes in empowering Indiana’s farmers, am writing to urge you to support Senator Richard Young’s Senate Resolution No. 31, when it is reintroduced at the 2014 General Assembly (2013).
Sen. Young’s proposed legislation would allow the Interim Committee on Agriculture to study the potential benefits of legalizing industrial hemp production in Indiana. As you must be aware, nine states in our nation have already legalized hemp production, even though it has yet to be legalized at the national level (“Industrial Hemp,” 2013). Industrial hemp has been used throughout human history to manufacture over 25,000 different products, from food to fuel to textiles to construction materials (Small, 2002). Indiana should be at the forefront of the burgeoning hemp industry. Farmers in Indiana stand to benefit greatly from the versatility, profitability, and environmental benefits of this crop.
The cultivation of hemp has been traced back to the most ancient civilizations on every continent on Earth. The ancient Chinese are believed to have invented paper, which was made of hemp fiber. Ancient Romans thought hemp made the best rope. In ancient Japan, hemp was the top clothing material (Schaffer, n.d.). Hemp was already being cultivated by Native Americans when the our nation was founded, and Americans continued to grow and use the plant until the middle of the 19th century. Over time, hemp’s association with marijuana, its intoxicating cousin in the cannabis family of plants, led to its prohibition with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1938. Interestingly, an article titled “New Billion Dollar Crop,” which touted the many benefits of hemp, was published in Popular Mechanics magazine just months after the ban (Small, 2002). Now, 75 years later, American citizens and lawmakers are pushing harder than ever for its re-legalization.
The primary reason, of course, why Indiana should become a leading state in hemp production is that hemp has multiple uses for local use and export. I have already mentioned that its fibers have been used for paper, rope, and fabric. These fibers, taken from the plant’s stems, are also known for their strength and durability when used in plastic composites – which can be used in automobile manufacturing – and as construction materials like insulation, concrete, fiberboard, and plaster. In addition to its fibrous stems, hemp is also grown for its nutritious seeds, which are a balanced source of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and protein. The seeds can be eaten whole, either raw or toasted, or they may be pressed for their oil, which is used in foods, toiletries, and industrial liquids such as paint. The remaining oilcake after the seeds are pressed makes an excellent feed for Indiana’s livestock, as well (Small, 2002).
The ability to legally cultivate this versatile plant would be profitable for Indiana and the United States. According to “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity,” Agricultural Policy Specialist Renee Johnson’s (2013) research for the Congressional Research Service, it is difficult to accurately determine how much hemp the U.S. imports, but the available statistics for 2011 indicate that we imported $11.5 million in industrial hemp seeds and fibers. However, that data does not account for all the finished hemp-containing goods that are manufactured in, and imported from, countries where industrial hemp is not prohibited. The same research showed that current industry estimates suggest the retail market for these products is nearly $500 million per year.
Not only does Indiana’s economy stand to benefit from exporting hemp and using it in production of local goods, hemp is also good for our state’s soil and air. A Polish study published in 2002 showed that fibrous hemp removes significant amounts of heavy metals from contaminated soil without detrimental effects to the plant itself (Piotrowska-Cyplik). Growing hemp for its fibers would reduce deforestation in Indiana and the rest of the world, since less trees would need to be cut down to make paper and building materials. Hemp is also naturally resistant to pests, so farmers could reduce their dependence on expensive, environmentally-harmful pesticides. It requires less poisonous herbicides, also, because its dense leaves keep light from reaching smaller weeds. It can also be grown as a barrier crop for pollen and wind (Small, 2002). Also, if hemp could be produced locally, it could be deduced that there would be a reduction of carbon emissions from the transportation of hemp when it is imported.
Indiana’s various types of soil – loose, clay-like, or sandy – are all ideal for growing hemp. In fact, hemp is known to grow best in areas that also grow the best corn. That is why hemp was historically grown in the American mid-west. From 1865 to 1912, almost all of America’s hemp was grown in neighboring Kentucky. A small hemp industry survived in nearby Wisconsin for 20 years after its prohibition. It was grown right here in Indiana’s soil during World War I and II (Small, 2002). Gov. Pence, it should be an honor for Indiana to take part in renewing the tradition of American hemp farming.
It is understandable that, as someone raised during the decades of America anti-marijuana (and, by proxy, anti-hemp) propaganda, you may have some reservations about the legalization of industrial hemp. You may assume that hemp is the same as marijuana, and Hoosiers will use it to get high. That is simply false. While both are, indeed, varieties of the cannabis sativa plant, the difference lies in their cultivation. When it is farmed as industrial hemp, only the male plants are cultivated because they produce the most fiber and seeds. The amount of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, which is the intoxicating chemical in marijuana) in industrial hemp is so minute that it is ineffectual. A study done in Berkeley, California, in the year 2000 showed that the regular consumption of hemp food products meeting federal regulations of less than 5 parts THC per million would result in a negative drug screen (Leson). You may worry that some farmers will try to illegally grow female cannabis plants, or marijuana, amidst their hemp fields. That is simply not possible. Growing female cannabis plants in close proximity to male plants will inevitably result in the females turning male, or “going to seed” (Small, 2002).
Simply put, there is no good reason for the continued prohibition of industrial hemp. It is inaccurate for hemp to be classified along with marijuana as a controlled substance, and the more states that pass legislation to legalize its cultivation, the more likely it is that the ban will be lifted nationally. Already, efforts are underway at the national level with the introduction of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, in Congress and the Senate, in February. The legislation seeks to modify the definition of marijuana to exclude industrial hemp, thus making it legal for farmers to grow and process those plants with a THC level of under 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis, in accordance with individual states’ laws.
It is my sincere hope that you will move confidently into the future of Hoosier agriculture by, at the very least, supporting Sen. Young’s bill allowing the Interim Committee on Agriculture to study the implications of legalizing industrial hemp in Indiana. In a recent article on Forbes.com, Logan Yonavjak writes of the importance of studying hemp, “[A]s we transition to a future that embraces more sustainable agriculture practices industrial hemp can help lead the way. With focused and sustained research and development, hemp could spur dramatic positive ecological and economic benefits” (2013).
Hemp is an exceptionally versatile crop, with many tried-and-true uses and science-backed proof of its health benefits. It would be a profitable new venture, creating new jobs for Indiana’s farmers, manufacturers, carpenters, and retailers. It would reduce the negative environmental effects associated with the heavy use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, and it would cut down on deforestation both locally and globally. Legalizing hemp will not lead to drug addiction or other illicit activity. It will lead only to prosperity for our proud Hoosier farmers.
Thank you for your consideration, Gov. Pence. I look forward to the re-introduction of SR-31 in the 2014 General Assembly. Once again, I urge you to take the time to support this resolution so that Indiana can remain an agriculturally innovative state.
Samantha K. Schutz
P.S. This letter is enclosed in an envelope made from 25 percent hemp and 75 percent post-consumer waste. Hemp products are unnecessarily expensive in our current market, but I believe them to be good investments until, one day, they can be produced locally.
Hemp, Inc. issues clarification on vast difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. (2013, July 18). Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/hemp-inc- issues-clarification-on-vast-difference-between-industrial-hemp-and-marijuana- 215992301.html
Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, S. 359, 113th Congress, 1st Sess. (2013).
Industrial hemp industry inches closer to the end of prohibition on the federal level with recent amendments by lawmakers in California and Washington, DC. (2013, May 28). Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/industrial-hemp-industry- inches-closer-to-the-end-of-prohibition-on-the-federal-level-with-recent-amendments-by- lawmakers-in-california-and-washington-dc-209170201.html
Johnson, R. (2013, July 24). Hemp as an agricultural commodity. Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32725.pdf
Leson, G. and Pless, P. (2000, June). Evaluating interference of THC in hemp food products with employee drug testing. Retrieved from http://nutiva.com/documents/THCStudySummary.pdf
Piotrowska-Cyplik, A. and Czarnecki, Z. (2002, July 12). Phytoextraction of heavy metals by hemp during anaerobic sewage sludge management in the non-industrial sites. Retrieved from http://www.pjoes.com/pdf/12.6/779-784.pdf
Senate Resolution No. 31, 118th General Assembly, 1st Session. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2013/PDF/SRESF/SR0031.pdf
Small, E. and Marcus, D. (2002). Hemp: A new crop with new uses for North America. Retrieved from http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html
Support and grow Indiana’s agriculture. (2012). Retrieved from http://mikepence.com/issues- agriculture (**EDIT** Original link is no longer active. For a summary of the original content in a different article, look HERE.
Yonavjak, L. (2013, May 29). Industrial hemp: A win-win for the economy and the environment. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/05/29/industrial- hemp-a-win-win-for-the-economy-and-the-environment/2/