You Must Read—Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution

Perhaps more important, the simple ancient cannabis plant provides, after industrial harvest, a residual feedstock for regional-based sustainable energy production that cuts out at once Monsanto, BP, and Middle East oil dictators. And it gets out Ring Around the Collar. [Page 105]

9781603585439I am unabashed fan of Doug Fine. I loved Farewell, My Subaru. I told you to read Too High To Fail. So, I am going back to the well one more time and asking that you spend a couple of hours reading his latest book Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution.

It feels like we are at an inflection point in the silly War on Drugs and the collateral damage that the over four decade long folly. You would think that after forty years of failed policy the answer would finally be do something different rather than more of the same. However, this is America and doing more of the same usually means that someone is making a lot of money off the failed status quo.

Led by Colorado and Washington, two states that boldly legalized recreational marijuana through ballot initiatives, the conversation is completely different surrounding all issues regarding the war on drugs. One of the long term casualties in this war was industrial hemp. Hemp is not psychoactive, but because of hyperventilating officials who thought that cartels would farm some Sour Diesel in with acres of hemp the crop remained illegal. Oh how some citizens voting have upended that apple cart.

Fields of hemp have been planted in Colorado. Kentucky is going forward with its own program that has the backing of current U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell—yes, that Mitch McConnell from the “repeal Obamacare because it is evil” camp—and his opponent in this fall’s upcoming mid-term election. If someone can find anything that a Republican and a Democrat can agree on these days it should be a cause for massive celebration.

The author shares my opinion of hemp aficionados who claim that the plant is a panacea for everything. Don’t you remember that person in college who had a bookshelf of odd little paperbacks that claimed hemp could take the place of every modern chemical, but it was forbidden because the big chemical companies were afraid of going out of business.  That image will endure because there are people out there still toeing that line. However, the reality is that there are a lot of smart and ambitious people in the U.S. and, especially, abroad who are putting their noses to the grindstone to build a modern hemp industry.

The hemp plant may not be the solution, but as I have said many times it can be a tool in the box for solving problems. Given the apparent fragility of our climate and our need to find alternatives to destructive modern practices don’t you think that we should gather every potential solution and put them to work? The answer is self-evident.

The other good point that I am glad is driven home is that hemp will not be easy. Sure, it grows like a weed but unlike corn or soybeans there is not a lot of institutional knowledge in the U.S. given that the plant has not been legal to cultivate since before World War II. Plus, seed varieties need to be matched to climate, geography, and intended industrial purpose to maximize the potential return.

The books reads a little bit like blog posts…er, dispatches that seem rushed to print rather than woven into a central narrative because I imagine there was a perceived time crunch to get the book into print. The landscape surrounding the reintroduction of industrial hemp in the United States is changing so rapidly that printing words on dead trees almost seems like a quaint exercise in the self-confidence of one’s own ability to project the future. The book is short—I read it on the outbound flight to Denver this weekend, which took a little more than 90 minutes—so the investment is minimal. Hemp, it’s the future.

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