The residents of Plumas county owe a great thanks to supervisors Kevin Goss, and Lori Simpson, for avoiding the cannabis hysteria which continues to grip so many people in Plumas county, including a majority of our Board of Supervisors (BOS). It is was a wise decision by supervisors Goss and Simpson to not support the recently proposed emergency moratorium for the cultivation of Hemp. And the recent Feather Publishing story about Hemp cultivation by the McInerney family in the Sierra Valley helped to dispel many of the myths which underlay the fear and hysteria which invades the public discussion about the future of Hemp and cannabis.
I dropped out of the public discussion about cannabis approximately a year ago when it became clear that both sides were locked down in extreme positions, which alternately proposed a future for cannabis which was rooted in the past, not the future. Once it was clear that neither side was interested to seek a middle ground where the needs and concerns of everyone could be addressed, I concluded that any further efforts by myself would be a waste of precious time. But now with the recent legalization of Hemp by congress and president Trump at the federal level, I feel it is time to return to expressing my views publicly in hopes this will further a more calm and business like approach to cannabis, whether marijuana or Hemp.
First, let’s clearly define some terminology. Both Hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, and with each variety containing over 200 different cannabinoid compounds. THC, the psychoactive ingredient which makes marijuana popular as a mood altering substance, is one of these cannabinoids. Marijuana cannabis has a THC content of between 10 – 25 percent, and some concentrates, such as hashish, or hash oils, can achieve even higher THC concentrations. Hemp cannabis has very low THC content — 0.03 percent or less THC. Human consumption of hemp or hemp products will not have any mood altering effect. Hemp is a highly versatile agricultural product used for fiber, paper pulp, food from the seed, industrial or edible oils, and highly effective medicines.
CBDs are another of the 200+ cannabinoid compounds found in Hemp, and CBDs have recently been discovered to be the key ingredient for highly effective medicines to relieve suffering for epilepsy and cancer. It is possible that many of the other 200 cannabinoid compounds found in Hemp could be medically beneficial. But funding for research to explore the medical uses of cannabis has been blocked by a federal requirement that such research can only be funded if the purpose of such research is to discover a negative consequence for the human consumption of any cannabis product, whether derived from Hemp or marijuana. So, basic research and development (R&D) must be left to citizen scientists, such as myself, to begin exploring the many possible health beneficial uses for cannabis. Some may decry the ability of individual citizens to do serious cannabis research, but consider the great work of Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk living in the mid 1800s who used his pea garden to discover the fundamental scientific principles of genetics — principles which are the basis for the modern technologies of genetic engineering. We sit today at a similar threshold, where there is so much to be learned about the cannabis plant, that even simple kitchen level research can potentially lead to significant discoveries about how humans can effectively use hemp, or marijuana.
From a historical perspective, archeological evidence exists showing the human use of Hemp for fibers and marijuana for religious or ceremonial purposes dating back approximately 20,000 years. Prohibitions against the cultivation or use of hemp or marijuana never existed until approximately 100 years ago … first by the British in their colonial empire, and later by the USA. Scholars surmise that part of the negativity which came to be associated with marijuana, and its concentrates, was due to the fact that these were first introduced to European societies when Napoleon’s soldiers returned from Egypt in the early 1800s, and at approximately the same time that opium was also first introduced to Europe from trade with Asia. In the early to mid 1800s both marijuana and opiates were viewed as “miracle drugs” which could be used to both heal, and to enlighten. Later, we learned of the highly addictive and life threatening potential abuse of opiates, and opiates became highly regulated. But this overlooked the scientific reality that marijuana is not an addictive substance, and there has never been a recorded death from overdose of human cannabis consumption. Hemp has never been used as recreational drug.
Still, any form of cannabis came to be promoted and eventually viewed as an equivalent of the opiate family of drugs. Eventually, scholars surmise that due to the influence of special business interests tree pulp for paper, and synthetic fibers from petroleum, all of which were in direct competition with Hemp, Hemp and marijuana were both banned in the USA by the Marijuana Tax act of 1937.
However it is significant to note that Hemp cultivation was given a brief reprieve during World War II when most uniforms for our soldiers in World War II were made of hemp, as it is the most durable of all fibers available, and is comfortable in a variety of climates. It is also interesting to note that Hemp fibers contain a natural anti-bacterial quality, so that socks made from Hemp help to prevent fungus forming on the feet, which was a significant problem for our soldiers in the tropical climate of southeast Asia during the Vietnam war.
The principle agricultural product of the USA, when colonies of the British empire, was Hemp, which was grown by our founding fathers, including George Washington, our first president. Paper made from Hemp is much more durable than paper made from tree pulp, which is why the original USA Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, both written on Hemp paper, have survived to the present day.
From a botanical point of view, cannabis is an amazing plant. It grows naturally in almost every climate and region of the earth, and displays an almost sentient capacity to adapt to any climate where cultivated. While the best agricultural yields are obtained when grown on fertile soil with good water, Hemp can be cultivated even in poor soils, with minimal water inputs, and little or no use of pesticides or herbicides. Cannabis is an “accumulator plant,” meaning that it will draw toxins from soils into the plant as it grows, and is therefore a great plant to grow for cleaning up polluted soils. This ability to accumulate toxins from polluted soil is why the purity requirements established by California law for marijuana used for human consumption are so stringent. I wish our food supply was so carefully protected from herbicides and pesticides as now required by marijuana regulations in California.
Still lost in the current debate are the potential beneficial uses of low THC cannabis (1 – 9 percent THC content). Because of the need to minimize weight and space for illegal transport, cultivation of marijuana in recent decades came to focus on creating products with the highest THC content possible. So we currently have little knowledge of how such low THC versions of marijuana might be able to provide beneficial products for human use or consumption.
Business is booming for Hemp. Revenues from Hemp products within the USA during 2018 totaled $650 million. The projected total revenues for hemp in 2022 (only 3 years away) are over $20 billion. Oregon, the current leading West Coast state for Hemp, cultivated 10,000 acres in 2018, and has issued permits for over 50,000 acres in 2019. These statistics are not from High Times magazine, but from the Capital Press the leading agricultural publication for the west coast. Total USA hemp revenues in 10 years could easily total $200 billion.
While Plumas County is an excellent region for the cultivation of marijuana, it is a spectacular region for the cultivation of Hemp, and especially for any Hemp product intended for human consumption. As mentioned previously, any cannabis plant, including Hemp, accumulates any toxins from the soil. If the stringent purity requirements of California laws for marijuana are equally applied to Hemp, many existing Ag regions in California and the USA will not be able to produce Hemp for human consumption due to the presence of herbicide and pesticides in the soil and water.
But Plumas County, due to its recent history of ranching rather than farming, has mostly been spared the current toxic practices of modern agriculture, and could thus be a prime agricultural cultivation zone for “high end Hemp” which has a very high level of purity. Since manufacturers always seek to locate their facilities as close as possible to their sources of supply, a strong organic Hemp cultivation industry could also bring a significant Hemp manufacturing industry to Plumas County.
Hemp could be the magical agricultural product to help bring a healthy, clean, and sustainable industry to Plumas County so the local economy could return to a level of activity reminiscent of the heydays of logging. We should offer our deep thanks to supervisors Goss and Simpson for staying cool under fire, and preserving this beautiful potential economic future for Plumas County.