For over two hundred years, farmers in the state of Connecticut legally grew and harvested hemp for use in sails, ropes, and clothing. In fact, the value of hemp in colonial-era Connecticut was so high that it was actually illegal for farmers to not grow hemp. That sentiment continued all the way through World War II, when the U.S. government was distributing propaganda films urging farmers to plant hemp crops for the good of the nation.
In the 1950’s however, the hemp plant got caught up in the misguided reefer madness over marijuana, and has not been grown in Connecticut ever since.
But as cannabis acceptance grows in the state, so too does the demand for the right to grow the incredibly useful and perpetually renewable resource of hemp.
In Connecticut, 52% of all registered voters support the full legalization of marijuana. That number jumps to 80% in favor when voters under the age of 30 years old are polled. When it comes to the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program, a full 90% of voters approve.
In February of this year, President Barack Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014 into law. Section 7606 of the new law is titled “The Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research” and it allows state governments and colleges and universities to begin growing and studying the plant for the first time since 1957.
Just a few short months later in June of this year, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy followed the President’s lead and signed into law House Bill 5476 allowing his state to grow hemp and conduct the associated feasibility studies.
The goal, as defined by the law that took effect on July 1st, is to determine if industrially grown hemp can be useful in “the purpose of encouraging economic development and increasing the number of new businesses in this state.”
In 2013, hemp-based products sold in the United States topped $581-million. Since it is was illegal to grow hemp domestically at that time, but perfectly legal to import it, foreign farmers cashed in on the boom.
Hemp is one of those rare issues that seems to ignore the typical political party lines that kill so many pieces of legislation. In fact, Connecticut’s new hemp law was authored by Republican Congresswoman Melissa Ziobran (R- East Haddam) before being signed into law by the Democratic governor.
“It is a concept in these economic times that we ought to be looking at,” Rep. Ziobran told the Hartford Courant regarding the potential cash crop.
Hemp is estimated to have over 25,000 practical uses, and Connecticut is now one of 19 states in America that has tasked itself with studying the potential benefits of growing the plant on an industrial scale.
Nevin Christensen is a farmer with 45 acres of fertile land in Simsbury, CT who would love to sew his fields with hemp seeds. “I think it’s got to become part of our agricultural economy again,” says Christensen, “It has so many uses. … We never should have banned it.”
Simsbury, it turns out, once had a fully operational hemp mill that was used to process the plant for use in highly sensitive fuses for explosives.
So with the market for hemp-based products blowing up, the Connecticut state Departments of Agriculture, Consumer Protection, and Economic Development have been tasked with providing a report on their analysis of what impact commercially grown hemp would have on the state economy.
Though the study is not due until January 2015, the Department of Agriculture has pretty much confessed that their work is done and that hemp can certainly flourish in Connecticut, as it did decades ago. It will be up to the other two Departments to determine whether or not locally grown hemp can be as affordable as cheap Chinese and Romania hemp imports.
Considering the fact that the University of Connecticut (UCONN) holds a patent on a biodiesel reactor system that can convert hemp into fuel, and considering that there are at least 24,999 other uses for the easily-sustainable plant, it is probably safe to say that there is plenty of money in American-grown hemp.