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Hemp History Week Launches Amid Crops Sprouting in U.S. Soil
Nebraska Ag Connection - 06/06/2014

The fifth annual Hemp History Week (June 2-8, 2014) is featuring events and activities throughout all 50 states this week, to raise awareness on the environmental, economic and health benefits of industrial hemp. Organized by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Vote Hemp, the nation's leading advocacy group for industrial hemp farming legalization--Hemp History Week is comprised of over 1,400 events this year, including documentary film screenings, a retail program, restaurant events, hemp plantings, and a call to action for a national week of lobbying legislators and representatives at both the State and Federal level to support the legalization of industrial hemp for commercial farming.

2014 has been a momentous year for the hemp legalization effort: February 7 marked the federal approval of hemp research and development pilot programs in states that have legalized the crop, per the passage of Sec. 7606 "Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp" in the Farm Bill. Just last week, on Thursday May 29, the House passed two amendments to the CJS appropriations bill, to preclude the DEA from interfering with hemp farming in states that have passed legislation legalizing hemp. HIA estimates for the total retail market for hemp in the U.S. in 2013 exceeded $581 million and sales of hemp food and body care products grew by 24% over the previous year to $184 million. Planting of hemp for pilot programs are currently underway in both Colorado and Kentucky. And the Industrial Hemp Farming Acts, S. 359 and H.R. 525 respectively, have gained significant support since their introduction in 2013, bringing the total number of cosponsors to 4 in the Senate, and 49 in the House. Given this unprecedented momentum and progress made toward revitalizing the hemp industry this year, the theme of the 5th annual Hemp History Week is "It's Time to Grow."

In Colorado thus far, farmers have been licensed to plant over 1,000 acres with hemp. In Kentucky, hemp pilot programs conducted by Kentucky academic institutions in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) are underway, despite the interference of the Drug Enforcement Administration in mid-May when DEA attempted to withhold certified hemp seed imported by KDA for the state's inaugural hemp plantings.

"This is a crucial time in the movement to bring hemp farming back to the United States. Through the pilot programs in Colorado and Kentucky, we're regaining the knowledge of how to best grow the crop, how to process it, develop the infrastructure needed for manufacturing, and collecting data on the booming hemp market to prepare farmers and businesses for the commercial hemp industry poised to take off in the U.S.," says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. "We're also putting current hemp legislation to the test and challenging the now bygone era of hemp prohibition, as the Drug Enforcement Administration has unsuccessfully attempted to block hemp cultivation in Kentucky. Not only will this spring determine much needed agronomic and economic knowledge about hemp farming in the U.S., it will ultimately prove the legitimacy of industrial hemp as a bona fide crop subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the DEA."

A list of the 1,400 Hemp History Week events taking place around the country is available on the event calendar on the Hemp History Week website: www.HempHistoryWeek.com/events/find-an-event-near-you/. More information and an informative promotional video for the campaign are available at: www.HempHistoryWeek.com.

With licenses to grow industrial hemp being issued in states that have legalized hemp farming, including Colorado and Kentucky, Hemp History Week will be celebrated this year by a number of spring hemp plantings. While the hemp amendment to the recent Farm Bill limits hemp cultivation federally to research and development pilot programs via state agriculture departments and academic institutions, sowing hemp this spring marks a monumental moment in hemp history and heralds the dawn of a revived hemp industry in the U.S.

Now in its fifth year, Hemp History Week is an industry-wide effort made possible by the support of leading natural product brands that are known for manufacturing the highest-quality hemp products. Hemp can be used in a wide variety of products and applications, including food, cosmetics, textiles and clothing, building materials, sustainable packaging, bio-composites, fuel, auto parts and more. Sponsors of Hemp History Week 2014 are comprised of leaders in the North American hemp market, including Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Himalania, Living Harvest Foods, Manitoba Harvest, Nature's Path Foods and Nutiva. Supporting sponsors of Hemp History Week include Hemp Technologies, and Doug Fine, author of the new book "Hemp Bound," published by Chelsea Green Publishing.

Hemp History Week is endorsed by a long list of celebrities and high-profile wellness experts, including Dr. Andrew Weil, Alicia Silverstone, Phil Lempert, Ashley Koff, R.D., Brendan Brazier, Elizabeth Kucinich, Ziggy Marley, Alexandra Jamieson, Dar Williams, Michael Franti, John Salley, John Trudell, Kevin Danaher and the Grammy award-winning band Ozomatli.

This year's campaign has included over 300 grassroots events nationwide, including events at farmers' markets and street fairs, retail store events, film screenings, lobbying, hemp planting events, educational forums for farmers, and more. Specific details about these grassroots events can be found on the Hemp History Week web site.

Bringing It Home, an award-winning, hour-long documentary film about industrial hemp, explores the question of why a crop with so many widespread benefits cannot be farmed in the U.S. today. The film recounts the history of hemp, its myriad industrial applications and current legalization efforts. Through an audience engagement tour comprised of more than 50 screenings, the documentary aims to magnify dialogue about hemp in order to facilitate America's transition to a more informed, sustainable and healthy future. The film will be screened in conjunction with Hemp History Week this year alongside events in cities and towns across the country. For more information about the film, please visit: www.bringingithomemovie.com.

Promotions and in-store events highlighting the benefits of hemp have been occuring in hundreds of natural product retail outlets across the county. Hemp product promotions will happen in more than 1,100 participating retail stores, including most Whole Foods Market locations in the U.S.

A renewable resource offering a long list of health and nutritional benefits, hemp is one of the fastest-growing product categories in the natural foods industry. Hemp seed is a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs), providing both SDA and GLA, highly-digestible protein, and naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E and iron, while also being a good source of dietary fiber. Hemp seed is a near complete protein, containing all ten essential amino acids, with no enzyme inhibitors, making it easily digestible by the human body. Hemp seed is also gluten-free and has no known allergens.

To date, 35 states and Puerto Rico have introduced pro-hemp legislation and twenty-two have passed pro-hemp legislation, while fifteen states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in those states still risk raids by federal agents if they plant the crop, due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive varieties (i.e., marihuana).

So far in the 2014 legislative session, industrial hemp legislation has been introduced or carried over in Puerto Rico and twenty-five states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois (carried over from 2013), Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire (carried over from 2013), New Jersey (carried over from 2013), New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington (two bills carried over from 2013), West Virginia and Wisconsin. Three state bills have passed and are awaiting the Governor's signature (Illinois, Missouri and South Carolina). For current and complete information regarding state industrial hemp legislation, please visit: www.VoteHemp.com/state.html.

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