Hemp gaining ground in the US | TheFencePost.com

Hemp gaining ground in the US

LOVELAND, Colo. — The fifth annual Northern Colorado Hemp Expo gave attendees a glimpse of the products and strides the industry has made in the U.S.

Hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana, has grown as an industry in Colorado in recent years after voters approved Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in the state, and the previous farm bill allowed for more opportunities in the industry.

But it wasn't always that way, and a leader in organic foods talked during the expo about his career in and experiences with hemp.

Arran Stephens is the co-founder and CEO of Nature's Path, an organic food company based out of British Columbia, Canada.

Stephens said his mission in life was to change the way people eat and live. And that started with him.

Stephens said his dad was a farmer who stopped using chemicals in the 1950s. Stephens quoted a piece of advice he got from his dad:

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"Always leave the soil better than you found it."

Stephens campaigns against the use of genetically modified organisms, and said he practices regenerative farming.

He believes in no-till farming, but it doesn't fully make sense with organic farming, so he keeps it to a minimum. He relies on rotating and cover crops to help boost the fertility of the soil.

Last year, he planted more than 700 acres of hemp, and through regenerative farming was able to increase the nitrogen level in the soil.

STEPHENS' JOURNEY

Stephens said he's been in the hemp industry for almost 51 years.

He first learned about the medicinal properties of cannabis when he was studying in India. He noticed marijuana plants in public places, in fields just along the roads.

Then a teacher taught him about the medicinal properties of marijuana.

While only cousins, parts of the hemp plant contain medicinal properties, too, and once hemp came along, Stephens said, he "wanted to popularize" it.

He developed Hemp Plus Granola, which contains hemp and flax seed.

"It was one of the first food products containing hemp in the United States, post Thomas Jefferson," Stephens said.

Because hemp was illegal to grow or to be processed in the United States, he produced it in Canada and shipped the products to the U.S.

One customer who really enjoyed the granola was actor Woody Harrelson, best known for his roles in "Cheers" and "The Hunger Games." Harrelson also is a hemp advocate. Stephens said he got the chance to meet Harrelson, showing those in attendance a photo of him with the actor.

Harrelson was once arrested for planting four hemp seeds in the '90s in a symbolic protest against hemp and marijuana being lumped together, legally.

But that's changing.

Stephens said his interest also came from a "stick it to the man" mentality, and now he's finally seeing the crop gain momentum. ❖

— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at sfox@thefencepost.com, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.

Senate Hemp Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill April 19 that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, which will legalize the crop on a national level. As introduced, the bill sets hemp up to be an agriculture commodity.