LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Delaware needs to pass Hemp Farming Act

Please urge your legislators to ensure that the Delaware Industrial Hemp Farming Act (SB 266) sponsored by Sens. Delcollo and Ennis and Reps. Carson and Wilson is passed.

There are now 17 states that have passed hemp farming bills, and Thursday the 2018 Farm Bill passed in the U.S. Senate 86-11 including a provision from Senate Leader Mitch McConnell that ends federal prohibition against industrial hemp. The House has already passed their version of the Farm Bill, so all that’s left is for the bills to reconcile before being signed by President Trump.

There needs to be a change to state law in order for the Delaware Department of Agriculture to comply with the pending federal hemp statute. Without changes to Delaware code, a level of uncertainty will exist that will discourage investment in local hemp agribusiness.

SB 266 makes those simple changes, and if enacted by the General Assembly before they adjourn tonight, Delaware farmers will have the assurances they need to plan and prepare for cultivating hemp in the 2019 growing season. Hemp will become, as it had been in the past, a commodity crop in Delaware agriculture.

Hemp has been used by people since time immemorial, being found in human artifacts from as far back as 10,000 BC, and was widely cultivated and utilized in Delaware and America prior to prohibition in the 1930s and 40s. Hemp was required by law to be grown by landholders in the Virginia colony because of its importance for the survival of the colonists. In 1714 in colonial Delaware a large hemp plantation was begun along a tributary of Duck Creek near Smyrna.

Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp on their plantations while Benjamin Franklin printed articles about the plant’s economy and usefulness. Drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the first two drafts of the United States Constitution were written on hemp paper. During World War II farmers across the United States were encouraged to grow hemp to support the war effort, with the War Department creating a film called “Hemp for Victory” that can be viewed online.

Hemp and marijuana are not the same thing, they are two distinct subspecies of the cannabis plant. Hemp does not get people “high” because of the very low concentration of THC (.3 percent or less by law). In fact, growing hemp in Delaware could hamper outdoor marijuana growing operations because cross-pollination from hemp plants could cause marijuana crops to go to seed, rendering those plants unacceptable for consumption as a drug.

The plant has more than 50,000 industrial uses and, much to our detriment, the United States is the only industrialized country to prohibit its cultivation. Until states began rolling back hemp prohibitions in recent years, all hemp products were imported into the United States from Canada, Europe, and elsewhere and sold by American retailers. Hemp products have always been legal, however its cultivation is not, leaving our farmers at a disadvantage compared to external competitors.

Every part of the plant can be put to good use: stalks, seeds, flowers, and oils all have applications. Both Ford and BMW are using hemp composites in car parts. Hemp fields produce fiber for paper in far greater yields and in a more sustainable method of agriculture than traditional tree farms for wood pulp.

Hemp cellulose is used for plastics, creating biodegradable plastics that break down in six months, as opposed to the centuries that traditional poly-plastics take to degrade. Hemp is now being used as a cover crop as well as for soil remediation, and could play a role in helping to keep the Chesapeake and Delaware bays free of excess nitrogen and phosphorous. Hemp fiber is commonly used for clothing, rope, insulation, plastics, structural composite materials, and paper products. Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, sprouted, or made into hemp milk. Hemp oil is commonly found in cosmetics, lighting, paints, varnishes, medicinal preparations, and biofuel.

And so on. My wife and I sell many hemp and hemp CBD products in our local store Puffster in downtown Dover, however we have no options for local suppliers. There are tens of thousands of current day applications for hemp and these products are widely available in Delaware today from farms and manufacturers outside of the state, but Delaware farmers are entirely cut out of supplying that market.

Hemp is part of our history; it should also be part of our future.

Please contact your legislators and urge them to vote hemp and vote for SB266.

Sam Chick

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