After starting or running many hemp associations for 25 years, I knew that once legal there would no longer be a reason for them to exist. As hemp becomes normalized, the hemp food companies are better-served by joining food associations such as IFT or OTA, hemp fiber companies by joining fiber associations such as NCTO, hempcrete companies by joining WBMA and ASTM, and cannabinoid companies by joining AHPA or UNPA.
The same goes for N.O.R.M.L., what’s a National Organization going to do once it Reforms Marijuana Laws, except pack up and move on? It thus has a perverse incentive to drag out legalization as long as possible.
As the hemp industry integrates into the mainstream it no longer needs lobbying to legalize or hemp cheerleaders, it needs solid technical assistance and networking with the larger players. The $8,100 to $25,000 companies pay associations annually would have more of an impact if used for PR or marketing.
That’s one reason it appears the hemp association I helped get on its feet in the ’90s, Hemp Industries Association, appears to be insolvent and in breach of contract with state chapters by misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues money. State chapters are demanding an audit to sort it out or be pushed into bankruptcy, its financial situation mirroring its long moral bankruptcy.
With a sorry history of mis-leading the public and courts, over the years it has hurt U.S. hemp far more than DEA ever could in its wildest dreams, devastating one emerging hemp market after another.
Using fabricated victimhood in order to garner sympathetic donors, pushing the narrative “mean ole gubmint picking on hemp again,” it was disingenuous from the start. Leveraging the public’s existing Mandela Effect regarding hemp, people bought it hook, line and sinker for the last 21 years.
I think we’re now seeing HIA in its death throes. Only after legalization did we see dozens of new competing hemp associations pop up like mushrooms in a pasture, and for the same reason. It’s obvious there’s more money to be made in hemp by lawyers and lobbyists than agronomists and farmers. Even in Europe the fiber hemp association is lobbying for raising the max THC to 0.3% from 0.2%, praying for an easy win to prove relevance instead of pushing for 1% like in Switzerland and many other countries, or for use of unapproved cultivars which is the reason for the phenomenal success of hemp in Colorado. It is an existential crisis for the old-school associations.
The primary requirement for a leader is ethics, honesty. Many of the ethical problems in the hemp industry today stem from HIA’s laissez-faire attitude towards ethics, starting years ago. The baggage from HIA’s frequent lapses in integrity while promoting itself as an organization protecting integrity should have doomed it long ago. If not for the efforts of its enablers and sychophants in other associations and the media, it most certainly would have already folded.
At this point, considering its long slow descent into irrelevance, the best thing HIA could do is quietly go away. Here is but a partial accounting of the backstory:
This is the same hemp association which killed the Golden Age of hemp foods in 2001 for years, by asking DEA for an opinion on the legality of hemp products then suing when DEA agreed to legalize them. That almost took Canadian hemp down with it, but made the association hundreds of thousands of dollars between the donations and DEA’s $200,000 payment for attorneys fees and costs. Killing the hemp food market cost me 8 years of work and $2.5 million, and set back the industry decades at a critical time that it had huge momentum behind it. Why? With no skin in the game, suing DEA for trying to legalize hemp foods in order to get donations and build Vote Hemp into a new lobbying group was an easy decision. It was a Hippie’s Dream, and the half-dozen lawyers begging members for permission eyed billable hours. Of the original plaintiffs, none of the U.S. companies had any burden of compliance for the rule. Soap doesn’t count: “not for human consumption”. The Canadians shipped to their U.S. customers, after clearing Customs. They had the burden of compliance, but none of the American plaintiffs did.
This is the same hemp association suing to stop DEA’s Interpretive Rule, which legalized outright 96% of the hemp industry, regardless of THC content. Hempseed oil was the only product at-risk, but cleaning it would have been cheap and easy, and HIA knew that. Who in their right mind sues DEA when it legalizes the hemp industry? One plaintiff (North Farms Co-op) literally had a hemp food ban right up until they joined the suit. I was a 14-year vendor to them, but could not get them to approve my hemp foods there. Literally every single other product I sold at the time was in that natural food distributor, and had been for years. The suit was so bogus Justice Kozinski refused to sign it: “even plaintiffs admit the Interpretive Rule would have no effect and relies on too many “mights” … “because the opinion we issue today is gratuitous, I am unable to sign on to it.”
This is the same hemp association costing the industry at least $6 million in sales for just those years, and the momentum which never recovered. It took 12 years for Canadian hemp production to recover to 1999 levels. Year 2000 is when “the Suits” started to co-opt the hemp movement from the “long-hairs,” including a former CIA Director and anti-Marijuana zealots. When you sue to be allowed THC in hemp foods, don’t be surprised if everyone thinks there’s THC in hemp foods. Extrapolate the trend line for sales at the beginning of hemp in Canada: had those with no skin in the game left us alone it would be far larger today. That organic momentum is the magic that propels nascent industries, a gift from God. Instead, today it’s the rarest commercial seed available and you pay twice what you should for it.
This is the same hemp association which killed the 3,000 ton/year birdseed market for hemp in 1999 over a lie, the “U.S. Hemp Embargo” that wasn’t. The truth they hid from everyone was that the importer wrote on export documents to the U.S. “Contains less than 10 ppm THC“. In the zero-tolerance U.S., that’s an admission under penalty of perjury of importing massive RICO/CCE quantities of a highly-restricted Schedule 1 controlled substance. Months earlier the importer was warned such a seizure was likely and exactly why, but chose to ignore it. The public brouhaha scared away the notoriously-conservative North Dakota birdseed makers, who immediately reformulated their mixes without hempseed. Over the last 21 years, that’s a loss of $60 million in industry sales.
This is the same hemp association which was protecting its members’ investments in Canadian hemp from U.S. hemp legalization in the years 2004-2018, until it was such a foregone conclusion even Mitch McConnell couldn’t ignore it any longer. Why? It knew Canadian hemp’s biggest customer would otherwise become its biggest competitor, a reality we see today. Without them, hemp would have been legal in the U.S. around 2005 instead of 2018.
This is the same hemp association which treated the three largest CBD companies so rudely they asked me to start the Medicinal Hemp Association to push back.
This is the same hemp association which said “there’s no CBD in hemp” and “CBD is Schedule 1” and “CBD is not covered by HIA v DEA 2004” until they realized how much money they could make off CBD companies, and changed their tune. Could the fact that a founder of HIA also has Founder’s stock in GW Pharmaceuticals be behind trying to reduce competition in CBD for so long?
This is the same hemp association which silently stood by while one member contracted a Sasketchewan hemp co-op to produce seed in 2006 then used that to get a better price from Manitoba farmers, costing SK farmers over $100,000. It took years to overcome the glut, great for the processors wanting that very thing but bad for farmers, driving down price and increasing storage costs. Ironically, a few years later South Korea would pay half as much as American consumers for the same product, meaning only high profit margins for processors prevented timely consumption of all that excess seed. “Stimulating Over-production For Fun and Profit.”
This is the same hemp association which pushed out its long-time Executive Director to make room for a young graphic designer with no experience in association management, hemp or policy.
This is the same hemp association which celebrated the member called out in High Times magazine in May 2000 “We Saw What You Did!“. That member was even on HIA probation for trying to drive a wedge between it and NAIHC. He later cost a SK hemp co-op six-figures by not honoring his contract. A long-time HIA member recently told me: “I hold my cards close as there’s far too many wolves out there, and I don’t want copycats. That’s where I see what John did to you as a lesson that I don’t want to learn the hard way. Unfortunately, the world is full of Johns.”
This is the same hemp association with many members on the California Industrial Hemp Advisory Board (IHAB), but refusing to actually encourage or assist hemp farming in the state. They buy their hemp out of the country, even the largest hempseed company located in California buys from Canada. One IHAB member produces CBD not in California, but in Colorado and South Carolina. Expect rigorous testing to come from it next, all but guaranteeing hemp grown outdoors in California be impossible.
This is the same hemp association working in concert with sister lobbying group Vote Hemp, which was the subject of a hostile takeover from its founder by an HIA executive and funder.
This is the same hemp association which had for years as President a notorious patient-shamer and anti-activist, trying to manipulate hemp markets in WA and NY (to this day, WA hemp suffers). Quoted in Dope Magazine seemingly proud of misleading farmers about hemp’s viability.
This is the same hemp association which wrote the worst hemp laws in the country, designed to block hemp while appearing to legalize it in California and Hawaii. Sponsored by an Assemblyman with zero farms in his district of San Francisco, it was written to prevent hemp pollination of downwind medical grows. Banning CBD and use of flowers, allowing only seed and fiber, mandating certified cultivars even for latitudes where none exist, no female-only (95% of today’s hemp), grown only as densely-planted field style outdoors, ornamental cultivation is prohibited, even culling or pruning and tending of individual plants is prohibited, and nothing planted until the Feds legalize. A more-restrictive hemp bill can’t be imagined, even if turning the pen over to the cops. Luckily, in 2006 the Governor vetoed it in California, but it passed in 2013, a year after Colorado started growing hemp legally. Then in 2016, AUMA contained virtually the same provisions. This legislative history of hemp in California and Hawaii is profoundly dysfunctional, and these bills literally have HIA’s name in it four times.
This is the same hemp association which pushed research-only-for-years bills for hemp (makind’s oldest cultivated crop, at least 12,000 years) in the U.S., making adult-use marijuana more legal to grow than hemp in 10 states.
This is the same hemp association which blacklisted a founder and a prolific hemp elder to this day for pushing back on its culture of faux victimhood and its subsequent damage to the industry.
This is the same hemp association which intentionally chose to divide the industry, exiling its best, brightest, and most-productive with whispered slander and defamation. It subsequently re-wrote hemp history to remove our contributions. One person told me people at HIA say I was in a motorcycle accident and had a head injury. Those who know me know I always wear a helmet, and haven’t crashed since the ’70s.
This is the same hemp association which tried to burden hemp in Colorado. “When I was finalizing HB12-1099 the Phytoremediation Hemp Remediation Pilot Program in Colorado in 2012, HIA attempted to add a paragraph that would have forced us to buy Canadian seed from the start. They tried to push it on me, then went to Senator Gail Schwartz to try the same, but she laughed him out of the office,” said Jason Lauve. Mandating certified seed rewards HIA’s friends, and puts the success of the program in the hands of a few foreign for-profit corporations. No certified seed exists for south of 35 latitude. It also sends money abroad instead of encouraging domestic hemp seed development; later, Colorado’s phenomenal hemp success would be due to proprietary cultivars, not certified.
This is the same hemp association which ignored hemp farmers’ many problems in the US, instead preferring to play only the role of paid “cheerleader.”
This is the same hemp association which encouraged the first two brand names be appropriated by competitors, Hemp Nut and Hemp Hearts, thereby sucking tremendous value out of the industry. It even demanded the trademark to Hemp Nut or it would oppose it to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
This is the same hemp association which lost a suit in 2018 against DEA because it ignored DEA’s comment period regarding moving CBD to Section 7650, and again when FDA asked for comments regarding pre-DSHEA ingredients.
This is the same hemp association which was actively opposed to hemp product quality improvements and market innovations, such as “zero THC” hemp foods and the emerging CBD industry.
This is the same hemp association which pushed the narrative that hemp foods are incapable of causing drug test interference, when it knew it to be untrue, in order to reduce legitimate lawsuits for consumers hurt by poor quality control.
This is the same hemp association which was working only for certain members, to the detriment of the industry overall. Being a 501(c)6, like a Chamber of Commerce, it is legal but disingenuous. Meanwhile, it calls itself “the voice of the hemp industry,” a blatant lie considering it works solely for members’ interests, by law.
This is the same hemp association which allowed a member to threaten and bully her way to into Presidency, then harm it as she also worked for a competing association, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. See below for more.
Might insolvency threaten HIA’s mandated seats on many state industrial hemp boards and commissions?
Karma might take a while, but it one day arrives. For the U.S. hemp industry, not a day too soon.
Need more proof? Read it and weep:
Purportedly a May 2020 demand letter from state chapters to HIA regarding anticipatory breach of contract:
Purportedly notes of a call between state chapters regarding HIA’s anticipatory breach of contract:
In order to see the books and where the money disappeared to, HIA is requiring state chapters to sign this first:
How to be appointed an Officer at HIA? Do good work, move the industry forward? Not so much:
Notice her self-appointed title is “Senior Paralegal” for an un-named law firm, yet she impugned the integrity of effective Colorado hemp activist Veronica Carpio solely for using the courts to protect her interests, compiling and sharing numerous documents of Carpio’s court filings with a negative spin, shared as seen here on Google Drive.
Apparently this was HIA legal counsel’s reply:
And then the inevitable “let’s make-up” letter; she would soon be President:
With friends like this, who needs enemies? If the definition of integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching, what is called when you do the wrong thing when everyone is watching?
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”Martin Luther King, Jr.
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