Pubdate: Thu, 03 Dec 2015
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Cannabuzz
Copyright: 2015 The Portland Mercury
Author: Josh Jardine


BY NOW, you know that cannabis is awesome for medical and 
recreational applications. But what about hemp?

Hemp is a type of cannabis sativa plant with low THC content and a 
skinny, tall-growing profile. At the risk of sounding like a 
ponytailed guy named Paul after one too many bong hits, I'd like to 
point out that hemp is also pretty awesome, and can be used to make a 
wide range of products-and not just drawstring tie-dye hemp pants, 
bracelets, and ponytail scrunchies, either.

How wide? More than 50,000 uses and counting. These include fuel, 
paper products, textiles, food, medicine, concrete and other building 
materials, molded plastic products, and so on. And it's not breaking 
news that hemp can replace all the petroleum and forest products that 
are currently and destructively used to make these things.

About 2,000 years ago, paper was made from hemp in China. During 
WWII, between 1942 and 1945, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) 
waived hemp farmers and their sons from military service. But this 
being 'Murica, we threw away the many benefits of the hemp plant when 
we ignorantly labeled it a drug, and forbid farmers from cultivating 
it domestically. Because plants are bad and scary and dangerous, 
unlike, say, this delicious tumbler of whiskey.

The USDA requires industrial hemp plants to have a THC content of .3 
percent or less. That's not a typo-a plant cannot have more than one 
third of one percent THC. For some comparison, most of the tested 
cannabis flower you purchase in dispensaries is 12 to 28 percent THC. 
And while that difference should be enough to assuage the fear that 
curious children are going to wander into fields and smoke this 
plant-which produces a fiber used to make sails and rope, and tastes 
as such-it has not.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22 states 
have passed laws relating to hemp cultivation. Thirteen of those, 
including Oregon, allow commercial production of hemp. Seven states 
have laws that say hemp is limited to agricultural and academic 
research programs.

So who's growing hemp in Oregon, and how is that going? Enter Jerry 
Norton, founder of American Hemp Seed Genetics. Norton first tried 
getting hemp into the minds and homes of Oregonians when he opened a 
hemp store in Salem 10 years ago, which he had to close after a month 
due to lack of interest and demand.

Norton renewed his interest in hemp a year and a half ago when he 
applied for, and received, a state license to be a hemp grower and 
handler. The most challenging aspect was sourcing the seeds. He 
attempted to work with Oregon State University on this, and they 
couldn't provide any options, so he finally located seeds in Eastern 
Europe. (This makes hemp seed the second-largest export out of 
Eastern Europe, right after wives for Donald Trump.)

This summer, Norton grew a hemp crop of 2.5 acres, along with 500 
plants in a greenhouse. He yielded 1,000 pounds per acre, and once 
the plants had dried, this yielded between 12 and 25 grams per plant. 
(For comparison, most of the sun-grown cannabis farmers I've worked 
with yield between five and seven pounds per plant, and in some cases 
more.) The plants had a life cycle, from sowing to harvest, of 106 
days, which Norton says could be modified to 90 days to maximize CBD 
flower production. Once extracted, he wound up with a product that 
was 35 percent CBD and .003 percent THC. Next year, he plans to 
increase his grow site, and produce two crops-April to June and July 
to September.

Norton used his crop to produce a variety of products-like high CBD 
products for medical patients. The seeds were used for food and oil 
products, and the stalks were processed into building materials, 
including "hempcrete," a concrete substitute that is lighter, 
stronger, and longer lasting than traditional concrete. It was the 
first time in more than 100 years that Oregon has produced a legal 
crop of industrial hemp.

Growing and using hemp is good for our state, our neighbors, and our 
economy. So let's remember as we continue to grapple with the world's 
problems: A pot plant doesn't need to get you high to be of great value.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom