The 6th National Hemp History Week commences next week, could it sway lawmakers this time around?

by | May 27, 2015 | POLITICS

Is the fear of reefer madness preventing Virginia lawmakers from having a more economic and environmentally prosperous future?

Is the fear of reefer madness preventing Virginia lawmakers from having a more economic and environmentally prosperous future?

The 6th National Hemp History Week 2015, which runs through the first week of June, is approaching and Virginians have yet to discover the advantageous results of commercial industrial hemp. As a fiber substitution, hemp has the ability to be manufactured into a wide array of textiles, fuel, building materials, body-care products, healthy food sources and even plastic for 3D printing.

As a multimillion dollar industry, the production and manufacturing of industrial hemp has the capability of significantly improving the state of America’s economy and providing millions of new jobs.

America’s peak in hemp production began in the early 1600s, when it was required by law for Virginia farmers to grow industrial hemp. Oddly enough, such a prosperous industry is forbidden by modern laws with violators earning a felony and up to 40 years jail time.

Jason Amatucci, founder and director of Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition, said hemp was one of the first major cash cash crops in the state.

“Over time, the British got highly addicted to Virginia tobacco and it became known as the best around the world,” he said. “They started growing more and more tobacco in place of hemp and tobacco kind of pushed out hemp as the number one cash crop.”

Although a proven cash crop with great potential to sustain the economy and environment, hemp contains traces of THC, which has a comfy spot on the Controlled Substances Act classified by the federal government.

“We have to get the federal government to take industrial hemp off the Controlled Substance Act,” Amatucci said.” “There are two bills that we need support on the U.S Representative and the U.S Senate, and that is the House Bill 525: The Virginia Industrial Hemp Farming Act and S134, which is the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.”

Amatucci added those bills would remove industrial hemp off of the Controlled Substance Act.

Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition sponsored Bringing It Home, a documentary about how the United States imports exorbitant amounts of industrial hemp, yet has laws against the production and manufacturing of it. This major cash crop’s history, multimillion dollar industry and media publicity is illustrated throughout the documentary, giving viewers the inside scoop on why America should jump on the commercial industrial hemp bandwagon.

Bringing It Home and the industrial hemp movement aims to educate people on the benefits of hemp while negating the argument that hemp and marijuana go hand in hand, the main argument preventing lawmakers from passing the bills needed to remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substance Act.

“We’re a cash crop, we’re a non-drug,” Amatucci said. “ You cannot make a drug out of hemp whatsoever.”

“Marijuana and hemp are not the same, and we have to get that in the public’s eye that they’re not the same,” he added. “Even though they’re lumped together, they’re completely different. That’s like saying corn and Jack Daniels are the same.”

On Sunday June 7th, The Byrd Theatre & Foundation in Carytown will screen Bringing It Home at 1:35 pm. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Nationally known musician and “hempster” Jason Mraz, is performing at Richmond’s Altria Theater on June 7th, and might make a guest appearance after the documentary screening. Along with a question and answer panel discussion after the film, Richmond’s own Hemp Dog Cafe will give out free samples to promote the cause.

The Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition refers to industrial hemp as the “sober brother of cannabis,” while channeling its efforts toward making the procedure and regulations of industrial hemp more lenient over the next year. HB 1277, legalizing university hemp research is a big jump for Virginia, but the VIHC will not stop there.

Amatucci said it’s only a matter of time before its legal, so the long-drawn out process must come to an end.

There’s no reason for delays, there is no argument that this is a cash crop,” he said. “There is no argument that it will be profitable, it already is profitable.”

The greatest way for our nation to learn about the benefits of the industrial hemp industry is for them to witness the effects firsthand and for our nation’s farmers to “get their feet wet,” as Amatucci says.

A renewable source that needs less water than corn and provides for an unprecedented amount of environmental and economic change, industrial hemp production and manufacturing is the new way of the world.

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram

Becky Ingram was with RVA Mag in the Summer of 2015 and has continued writing for and ever since, mainly submitting festival coverage. She has recently relocated to Berlin, Germany where she works as a photo-journalist for a fashion photographer. She hopes that her B.S. in Economics from VCU and her international journalism experience will help her acquire a content manager position for VICE Video some day. Her interests include surf cinematography, gonzo journalism, and funky bass lines.

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