Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jun 2016
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2016 Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.
Note: Paper does not publish LTE's outside its circulation area
Author: Barry Courter


Did you know that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of 
Independence on paper made from hemp? Or that Christopher Columbus 
used hemp ropes and sails on his ships?

Van Gogh and Rembrandt painted on hemp canvas, and until the early 
1800s, most legal tender in the Americas was made from cannabis hemp. 
Maps, Bibles, log books and clothes have been made in part from hemp. 
It's been around since at least 8000 B.C. We know this because the 
oldest relic of human history dates from that time.

You can find all of this information and more at, 
or you can attend an event Saturday, June 11, at the Chattanooga 
Public Library and learn even more about the history and many uses 
for the maligned plant. The first-time local event is part of the 
7-year-old national Hemp History Week, a movement to make hemp legal 
again in hopes of giving farmers another sustainable crop and 
manufacturers of 25,000 products, including food, clothing, paper and 
rope, cheaper and easier-to-get resources.

The project was initiated by the Hemp Industries Association and Vote 
Hemp and involves hundreds of hemp manufacturers, farmers, activists, 
volunteers and retailers.

"The event is for whoever is interested in learning about hemp as a 
sustainable economic movement," says Ashley Clayton, a hemp advocate 
who is organizing the event at the library.

"There is so much misinformation out there that is being repeated. 
This is a movement that could help our country."

The first thing people need to understand is that while hemp and 
marijuana are cousins in the plant world, they are different, she says.

"It is technically cannabis, the same plant, but hemp has no 
psycho-active element to it."

After a tax was placed on marijuana in 1937, and later made illegal 
altogether, hemp farmers found that dealing with all the red tape was 
too difficult to fool with. The government also didn't want to deal 
with regulating it, so it was made illegal also. Clayton says lobby 
groups from the cotton and wood paper industry also might have helped 
make growing hemp illegal.

The use of hemp never went out of fashion, however. The U.S. just 
imported it, primarily from China and Canada. Various groups, 
including farmers, started pushing to have it legalized several years 
ago, and today 27 states, including Tennessee, have started removing 
barriers. It was made legal to grow in Tennessee two years ago, 
though Clayton says state farmers planted their crops too late in the 
season, so the crop was disappointing.

"Farmers are having to relearn how to grow it after a 70-year lull," she says.

Clayton is a former teacher and stay-at-home mom who became 
fascinated with hemp and its history about 20 years ago when she 
visited the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam as a 20-year-old.

"I knew about marijuana, but I had no idea the industrial history of 
hemp. I couldn't believe it, and I've been fascinated ever since."

With the recent resurgence in interest in making hemp legal to grow 
in the United States, her own interest was rekindled.

"We imported $500 million worth of hemp just in 2015," she says. 
"That is something that our farmers could have grown here. It could 
replace tobacco, for example, as a cash crop."

The conference will include education films, guest speakers, vendors, 
display booths and giveaways.
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