Industrial Hemp: Why It’s Important for New Mexico’s Economy

The owners of Joe’s Dining Santa Fe, NM support Senate Bill 94.  We are convinced we must restore to America and New Mexico the legal right to grow industrial hemp. The bill will be presented in 2015’s legislative session. It is important that misconceptions are cleared so that informed citizenry can support this effort without ambivalence. To that end, we submit this information piece.

I am sourcing primarily from Dr.David West’s paper.  Although written more than 10 years ago, the information is so comprehensive and scientifically sound, that no better source could be used to clarify the muddy waters of this polemic subject. We give Dr. West full credit here. His complete text is attached or available at:

PART I       Hemp and Marijuana:
  Myths & Realities
by David P. West, Ph.D. for the North American Industrial Hemp Council

Dr. West holds a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding from the University of Minnesota and has spent 18 years as a commercial corn breeder. Since 1993 he has served as an advisor to the emerging hemp industry regarding industrial hemp germplasm.
North American Industrial Hemp Council     PO Box 259329   Madison, Wisconsin 53725-9329

Surely no member of the vegetable kingdom has ever been more misunderstood than hemp. For too many years, emotion, not reason, has guided our policy toward this crop. And nowhere have emotions run hotter than in the debate over the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana. This paper is intended to inform that debate by offering scientific evidence, so that farmers, policymakers, manufacturers, and the general public can distinguish between myth and reality.

Botanically, the genus Cannabis is composed of several variants. Although there has been a long-standing debate among taxonomists about how to classify these variants into species, applied plant breeders generally embrace a biochemical method to classify variants along utilitarian lines. Cannabis is the only plant genus that contains the unique class of molecular compounds called cannabinoids. Many cannabinoids have been identified, but two preponderate: THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient of Cannabis, and CBD, which is an antipsychoactive ingredient. One type of Cannabis is high in the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and low in the antipsychoactive cannabinoid, CBD. This type is popularly known as marijuana. Another type is high in CBD and low in THC. Variants of this type are called industrial hemp.  In the United States, the debate about the relationship between hemp and marijuana has been diminished by the dissemination of many statements that have little or no scientific support.

This report examines in detail ten of the most pervasive and pernicious of these myths.

1. Myth: United States law has always treated hemp and marijuana the same.
Reality: The history of federal drug laws clearly shows that at one time the U.S. government understood and accepted the distinction between hemp and marijuana.

2. Myth: Smoking industrial hemp gets a person high.
Reality: The THC levels in industrial hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it. Moreover, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high. Hemp, it turns out, is not only not marijuana, it could be called “antimarijuana.”

3. Myth: Hemp fields would be used to hide marijuana plants.
Reality: Hemp is grown quite differently from marijuana. Moreover, it is harvested at a different time than marijuana. Finally, cross-pollination between hemp plants and marijuana plants would significantly reduce the potency of the marijuana plant.

4. Myth: Legalizing hemp while continuing the prohibition on marijuana would burden local police forces.
Reality: In countries where hemp is grown as an agricultural crop, the police have experienced no such burdens.

5. Myth: Feral hemp must be eradicated because it can be sold as marijuana.
Reality: Feral hemp, or ditchweed, is a remnant of the hemp once grown on more than 400,000 acres by U.S. farmers. It contains extremely low levels of THC, as low as .05 percent. It has no drug value, but does offer important environmental benefits as a nesting habitat for birds. About 99 percent of the “marijuana” being eradicated by the federal government-at great public expense-is this harmless ditchweed. Might it be that the drug enforcement agencies want to convince us that ditchweed is hemp in order to protect their large eradication budgets?

6. Myth: Those who want to legalize hemp are actually seeking a backdoor way to legalize marijuana.
Reality: It is true that many of the first hemp stores were started by industrial hemp advocates who were also in favor of legalizing marijuana. However, as the hemp industry has matured, it has come to be dominated by those who see hemp as the agricultural and industrial crop that it is, and see hemp legalization as a different issue than marijuana legalization. In any case, should we oppose a very good idea simply because some of those who support it also support other ideas with which we disagree?

7. Myth: Hemp oil is a source of THC.
Reality: Hemp oil is an increasingly popular product, used for an expanding variety of purposes. The washed hemp seed contains no THC at all. Sometimes, in the manufacturing process, some THC- and CBD-containing resin sticks to the seed, resulting in infinitesimal traces of THC in the oil that is produced. No one can get high from using hemp oil.

8. Myth: Legalizing hemp would send the wrong message to children.
Reality: It is the current refusal of the drug enforcement agencies to distinguish between an agricultural crop and a drug crop that is sending the wrong message to children.

9. Myth:   Even though THC levels are low in hemp, the THC can be extracted and concentrated to produce a powerful drug.
Reality: Extracting then refining THC from industrial hemp . . . would require such an expensive, hazardous, and time-consuming process that it is extremely unlikely anyone would ever attempt it, rather than simply obtaining high-THC marijuana instead.

10. Myth: Hemp is not economically viable, and should therefore be outlawed.
Reality: Statistically the market for hemp products is growing rapidly

PART II        Editor’s Notes:
Hemp, an Economic Sleeping Giant

Consider this model: Canada’s Industrial Hemp industry started in 1998 and has been exploding year after year. Because of a misinformed maze of laws, we in the US must import hemp. That, despite the fact that US demand for hemp products grows by more than 20% per year. From Canada alone, we import a half billion dollars of hemp products annually. Additionally, we import from China and France.
Jack Noel in his 2012 industrial hemp task force report for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture says, “We are talking about an industry that will be the fastest in US history to reach the fifty-billion–dollar-per-year mark. And the Denver Post Jan. 14, 2013 said, “industrial cannabis could be an industry as much as ten times larger than that of psychoactive cannabis, itself already America’s number one earning crop.”

Hemp farming is showing itself to be as much as 900% net more profitable for the farmer than for instance wheat, soy or corn. That fact alone could revitalize farming – attracting youth and young families to farming as a viable profession.

And as a sustainable crop, agricutural hemp takes ½ the water of popular crops, requires no pesticides or herbicides and returns nutrients into the soil thereby rebuilding drought ravaged topsoils in 2 to 3 years. Confirmed profitable for Canadian farmers, hemp has tremendous potential for our drought stricken US farmlands.

May I emphasize – industrial hemp is not a political or social issue. It is an agricultural and economic issue. For the good of New Mexico and for the good of this country, we simply need to look back. Hemp was historically a valuable staple crop in America. Our first flag was fashioned from hemp. It’s in our highest interest to restore hemp agriculture to America, to remove the stigma, understanding the critical distinction between hemp and marijuana. Thus we will restore dignity and value to this ancient and most useful of all plants.

Let’s move forward with this. Farmers, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, inventors, visionaries, investors and designers need to be put to work. Will New Mexico be at the bottom of this list as well? Let’s not allow it.

Partial list of industrial hemp end products:
Textiles (clothing, furniture, rugs), rope (stronger than any other rope material, historically preferred in shipping), building materials (hempcrete is a carbon negative building material – think about that – carbon-negative!), neutraceuticals (CBD oil is so effective for multiple health conditions it is now being replicated and synthesized into 3 pharmaceutical drugs), animal feed, human food (hemp seed and protein exhibit an impressive nutritional profile), paper products, insulation, acoustic materials, auto bodies (by Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Saturn, Volkswagen and Volvo), animal bedding, packaging (think of anything plastic – hemp does it better, non-toxically and biodegradably), highway sound-proofing material, bio-fuel, body care products, soil remediation, nuclear clean-up (it is used in Chernobyl).

Editorial comments by Sheila Nixon, co-proprietor with her husband Roland Richter, of Joe’s Dining, Santa Fe, NM