Dear Friend of Industrial Hemp,
I am writing to share great news about industrial hemp in North America.
During the past year great progress has been made in both Canada and the United States.
Our Canadian colleagues are planting their second commercial crop. This seasons Canadian hemp acreage may more than double last years crop. Products from the Canadian hemp crop range from hemp oil and nut products (butter, salad dressing, and candy bars) to hemp fiber products (animal bedding, yarns, fabrics, carpets and even auto parts).
As for growing industrial hemp again in the United States, NAIHC can see the light at the end of the tunnel. NAIHC is confident that it is truly daylight and not that from an oncoming train. We now have a 50-50 chance of growing industrial hemp in US soil in 2000.
Let me tell you about the exciting breakthroughs the NAIHC has made:
- As of this writing, North Dakota, Minnesota and Hawaii (led by NAIHC board member Cynthia Thielen) have changed their laws to encourage the cultivation of industrial hemp. Virginia and Montana have petitioned the federal government to end the ban. Industrial hemp legislation is pending in New Mexico, New Hampshire, Montana, Vermont, Iowa, Maryland, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Oregon. Other states are also moving forward.
- NAIHC representatives, including myself, had a meeting late April with US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey and several of his aides. NAIHC has been trying to get a meeting with McCaffrey since our inception. He had the NAIHC stonewalled for four years. Joining me at the meeting were NAIHC board members Paul Mahlberg and William Miller, as well as R. James Woolsey and Bruce Swartz of the law firm of Shea Gardner. Dare I say, the NAIHC coalition made an impression on the General. He finally “gets it”: industrial hemp is not marijuana. We briefed him on the benefits to the American farmer, industry and the environment that could occur if the United States again grows industrial hemp. We left the meeting highly optimistic, but with a sober knowledge that much more must be done.
- In the summer of 1997, several NAIHC board members met with the number-two person at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and several top aides. DEA came out of that meeting with the clear knowledge and understanding that NAIHC was not a front for those who want to legalize marijuana. The effect was the beginning of the shift of US government position. DEA still has to deal with the anti-marijuana lobby who is one of their main constituencies that advocate in Congress for the agency’s budget and therefore wants to change slowly. The DEA official line has begun to change however. It is no longer that “hemp is marijuana” but now “hemp is not economic.” The DEA is now forced to argue the economics of growing and manufacturing industrial hemp, treading on areas of expertise of the US Department of Agriculture, the Commerce Department, and the market itself.
Why the change? Because the politics of industrial hemp are changing and NAIHC has been instrumental in changing them.
How did the NAIHC change the attitudes of General McCaffrey/White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the DEA? By first changing public attitudes on industrial hemp. The council already knew that a majority of Americans knew the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana and supported the growing and use of the former. The challenge was making it a public issue.
The strategy of the NAIHC – though initially difficult to implement – is working. From the beginning of the NAIHC in 1995, the council knew that it had to not only separate industrial hemp from the highly contentious political issue of marijuana, but also convince the American public, media and government that advocating for industrial hemp was not advocating for marijuana. The key was to build a coalition of supporters who were interested solely in industrial hemp.
The NAIHC knew that a groundswell of hemp supporters was beginning at the state level and made the most of it. NAIHC board members did what they could to help it along, including Jeff Gain and other board members testifying as numerous state legislative hearings.
NAIHC knew it needed to engage the public interest community because of the environmental, economic and social benefits industrial hemp. The NAIHC asked Ralph Nader for help and he delivered. Through his associate Ned Daly (also on the NAIHC board), the Resource Conservation Alliance developed administrative rule making petitions to both the US Drug Enforcement Administration (reclassify marijuana to exclude industrial hemp) and the US Department of Agriculture (to promote and regulate hemp cultivation).
Next, the NAIHC decided to make an industrial hemp a news story. NAIHC retained Fenton Communications, one of the nation’s most prestigious public relations firms to help us make our case to the media. David Fenton says “If you don’t like the news, make your own.” And make our own news we did. Fenton and his staff were instrumental in working many reporters, editors and anchors through the “giggle factor” about industrial hemp and marijuana being the same species. The result was extensive and favorable news coverage in many newspapers and on television and radio, including extensive front-page coverage in the New York Times.
The DEA administrative rule making petition languished until recently, when NAIHC board members Gain and Daly met with the DEA to move the process forward. Increasing media attention was also a positive factor. In our system of government, a bureaucracy has to first say they are going to change, before they change. And too often, they change their rhetoric, but not their actions. That’s why we must keep up the pressure.
NAIHC knew it needed to educate key Congressional people, especially on the agriculture committees, about industrial hemp. It also had to get directly through to McCaffrey. NAIHC retained James Woolsey, best known as the Central Intelligence Agency Director under President Bush. Woolsey has the access to Capitol Hill and the White House that the NAIHC needs.
Why does Woolsey care about industrial hemp? Is he just doing it for the money? Let me assure you that he “gets it”. He believes that national security is best served by ending our dependence on oil, especially foreign oil, and instead growing our fuels on the farm. Hemp, because of its high biomass, is a strong candidate for biofuels. Given how little NAIHC is paying for his services, let me assure you he’s not doing it for the money.
NAIHC knew that it needed to build a support base in American agriculture. This has happened. Farmers also “get it” and want to grow industrial hemp. As a state agriculture official, I found the DEA argument that industrial hemp was ”uneconomic – and therefore we should not grow it” to be laughable. Both because Canadian farmers are making lots of money on industrial hemp, and these days American farmers are losing lots of money on corn, wheat or soybeans.
NAIHC also began building a coalition within American manufacturing. It’s tough. Many large Fortune 500 companies have told us privately of their interest, but they fear getting involved in the “marijuana” issue. From my conversations with representatives of several of the largest corporations in this country, I am confident that tens of millions of dollars will be spent on industrial hemp research and product development and marketing – just as soon as it is re-legalized in the US.
Fortunately, some distinguished companies have come forward, including Interface Corporation, the largest maker of commercial carpet in the world. Interface’s CEO Ray Anderson (Interface Research Vice President Ray Berard is on the NAIHC board) wants to use industrial hemp to make better and recyclable carpets. Anderson is also the co-chair of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development.
I could regale you with more stories of the effectiveness of the NAIHC network, but the identities of our allies are confidential. Many still fear difficulties if their support of industrial hemp were revealed publicly at this time.
The next real challenge of the NAIHC will be to continue to make progress. We need to convert the 50-50 chance of growing industrial hemp next spring to a certainty. It can be done, And with your help, membership and contributions, progress will be quicker coming.
What can you do to help the progress continue? Please read on to see how you can become part of the NAIHC .
Sincerely, Erwin A. “Bud” Sholts , Chairman