2000: Hemp Study Off Mark; Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hemp Study Off Mark. Natural Foods Merchandiser, March 2000, by Scott Yates.

USDA claim of thin market misses point, opponents say.

A recent study showing that the future for the hemp trade is “small and thin” misses the point that the modern market is in its infancy and could grow fast because the product is so useful, hemp supporters say.

Some hemp activists compared hemp to soy, which 40 years ago was little known. Now it is used widely as a food additive. Industrial hemp, which has no psychoactive properties, could be used not only as a food additive, but as a fiber used in everything from paper to car parts.

“It’s a very curious report,” said Richard Rose, president of the Hemp Foods Association.

Products sold in the United States now could be supported with 2,000 acres of hemp, according to the study released by the Department of Agriculture, but Rose said he can’t figure out how the agency arrived at that low number.

“They didn’t talk to any hemp importers that we know of, so I don’t know how they came up with those estimates,” Rose said. “I guess it was some kind of wild-ass guess.”

Canada alone grew more than 35,000 acres last year, much of it for export in products to the United States. Rose, who is also president of HempNut Inc., of Santa Rosa, Calif., said his company buys hemp produced from far more than 2,000 acres. “And that’s lust one company,” he said.

The report is so ridiculous, Rose said, that it shows how silly the government position on hemp has become. “I think we are now seeing the last death throes of a failed government policy regarding a plant that got this country on its feet.”

Other people outside of the hemp business agreed.

“The USDA study is probably meant to throw cold water on our movement,” said David Monson, a Republican lawmaker from Osnabrock, N.D., and a board member of the North American Industrial Hemp Association.

Hemp advocates blasted the USDA report as a tool of the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA has said that legal hemp production would jeopardize efforts to eradicate illegal marijuana plants, which look similar.

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