It’s not pot! That’s one of the main messages behind Hemp History Week, says Eugene hemp activist Michael Moore, better known as Papa Hemp. Eugeneans will gather for a free educational event from noon to 10 pm Saturday, June 8, at 267 Van Buren St. across from Ninkasi, and learn more about the plant that can’t get you high.
“So many people today, when they hear the word hemp, they immediately think of the word marijuana,” he says, and while more people are now laughing at the Reefer Madness-style depiction of cannabis, there’s still a lot of misinformation about hemp, which has ineffectively low levels of THC, the psychoactive substance that gets people stoned. Hemp is legal in the U.S., but growing it isn’t.
Moore says that until agricultural hemp was criminalized in the 1930s, it was as important as oil. Naval fleets used it for their sails, and it was an important structural piece of levees designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, allowing water to spill over, if necessary, while maintaining structural integrity. Part of the reason it was criminalized, Moore says, was its ability to compete with the timber industry, which could look at reincorporating hemp into its troubled business model.
Canada re-legalized agricultural hemp in 1998, and after a brief period of infrastructure development, it began exporting hemp and its products, to the tune of $10 million (Canadian) by 2010. Much is sold to the U.S., where it’s used in many products — mostly foods like hemp milk or in clothing. Advocacy group Vote Hemp says that the U.S. hemp industry is already worth more than $400 million in retail sales.
Moore says that he called one inventor who made a car from hemp to talk about bringing one to a event, and he was told that the inventor couldn’t make another car due to a hemp shortage. He says Oregon’s economy could benefit if industrial hemp was legal again, and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley agree — they’ve sponsored the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, which would legalize growing the already legal product.
Saturday’s speakers will discuss different aspects of hemp’s uses and economics, including Hemp Shield, a local company that creates a deck stain and sealant. Foodies can check out hemp ice cream from 4 pm until supplies run out, and parents can bring young ones to the kids zone. Leave those pipes and bongs at home, though, Moore requests. This isn’t that kind of event.
For more information, see the event’s Facebook page at http://wkly.ws/1hn.