Our group was on non-food agriculture, focusing on industrial hemp. Of course, the obvious choice for us could’ve been on cannabis, as it has become a larger part of the economy in Washington State and beyond. However, we decided to focus on the legalization of industrial hemp on a federal level for various reasons. Initially, we planned on having educational panels with political representatives, hemp farmers, and prospective entrepreneurs to discuss where hemp stands in federal law, its potential uses, and the benefits of legalizing it. Unfortunately, the people we contacted were unresponsive, save one or two people, and we deemed it necessary to redirect our efforts away from an educational panel and towards advocacy and outreach. The group members cooperated very well with each other and it was relatively easy to deal with our early setbacks. Because of this, we were able to regroup and think of more creative ways to educate the public on industrial hemp and the versatility of the plant. We then decided to create a pamphlet and video highlighting the benefits of industrial hemp. With those two tools, we encouraged viewers and readers to exercise their right to express their interest in the legalization process of hemp at the federal level by first, informing them of two new bills in Congress and second, informing them of actions they could take to affect change by supporting these bills by contacting their state representatives.
I was initially interested in industrial hemp because of one of the Jackson School’s Task Force projects that focused on hemp, its benefits, and business prospects around this plant. I found that hemp is an unusually versatile plant whose derived products range from woven textiles to environmentally safe building materials, medicines, as well as processed for use in nutritious food, and more. Because of its many uses and unique properties, the discussion around hemp has ballooned. Unfortunately, not much can be done yet to cost effectively farm and process this plant into a variety of products because of ‘unfair’ barriers placed on the plant. We believed these barriers to be misplaced and the plant itself to either be misunderstood (it is often confused with it’s cousin marijuana) or unfamiliar to potential beneficiaries of hemp. Because of this, I believe our group’s step toward educating people on hemp and introducing ways it could be produced effectively (for farmers) used (for producers and the consumer) was an effective way to affect change for the future of this plant.
Below is some information on the two bills we have highlighted in our pamphlets that we handed out and our video:
HR 5485 and S2667.
To help ensure our country takes this important step, you can contact your congressional representatives, and ask them to support their chamber’s bill. To find your congressional district’s representative, you can go to: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative