U.S. slowly gets with the program on hemp farming

By Alexandra Richmond

If you have found yourself at the other end of the tunnel regarding the recent gluten-free trend, starting with denial and having worked through Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages all the way to acceptance, brace yourself now for the incoming arrival of hemp to the mainstream.

From the grocery to the drugstore, be aware that the expansion of hemp to a dizzying array of products will not get you high, but may cause whiplash with the quickness in which they hit the shelves. Sure, hemp has been an ingredient found in a few far-flung products found in crunchy health food stores. But are you ready for hemp to be the new star ingredient making everything better, from pizza and beer to hair spray and moisturizer? Get ready.

The United States is missing something other countries have. America is the only industrialized nation in the world that has outlawed hemp farming. The cannabis plant produces both marijuana and industrial hemp, but hemp lacks the thing that gets you high, the active ingredient THC.

The potential uses for hemp include cosmetics, nutritional supplements, fuel, and pharmaceuticals. Currently, all products sold in the US are made with imported hemp. ABC reports that trade group Vote Hemp puts the value of hemp products in the U.S. at $600 million, based on imports only because U.S. farmers were not allowed to grow hemp – until now.

The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill, which defined hemp as distinct from marijuana, cleared the way for states to regulate it for research and pilot programs, reports ABC News.  Since then, 29 states have passed hemp legislation and nine have established pilot programs licensing production, according to the trade group Vote Hemp. About 12,000 acres were planted this year, primarily in Colorado, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Making us about a year out from being ankle-deep in a whole new batch of US-grown hemp products, many of which will be delicious and/or good for you. There are a few popular hemp products you may have encountered, or used or at least ones that I have. Such as:

Dr. Bronner’s Almond Hemp Castille Soap: Dr. Bronner’s started adding hemp oil to their soaps in the year 2000 after extensive customer trials revealed that hemp’s essential fatty acids produce a smoother lather that customers preferred that in their soap.Made with a mix of organic extra virgin coconut, jojoba, and hemp oil plus almond essential oil, Dr Bronners Almond Hemp Castille Soap smells like marzipan. It’s as enjoyable and intoxicating as a non-boozy Amaretto, savored while you wash. There are no synthetic foaming agents, because hemp and coconut oils create the lather (it’s not super sudsy but gets the job done). No thickeners or preservatives are used, and the bottle urges users to “Dilute! Dilute! OK!” for a reason. It’s triple-concentrated, which means one bottle can be transformed into three.

Bob’s Red Mill has been owning the cereal section of the local grocery store for many years now, stealthily adapting like a ninja in a comic book to embrace diets as they wend away from gluten and toward the cavemen, all the while never deviating from his initial mission of touting whole grains.

Can there be a crunchier element than the humble hemp seed?

Bob loves hemp seed because it’s a complete protein, with 5 grams of protein in a 2 Tbsp serving, making them a great addition to vegan and vegetarian diets. Hemp is truly a super food providing a perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids in each serving. These fatty acids promote heart health, lower triglycerides, work to reduce inflammation, promote brain health, and support the immune system. Low in carbohydrates, hemp seeds are ideal for those following the paleo diet or who need to be carb conscious for their health.

Hemp seeds and marijuana come from the same species of plant, but different varieties and the similarities stop there. Hemp seeds do not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active substance in marijuana. Consider hemp seeds a pantry staple with a nutty flavor that can work in sweet and savory dishes, be tossed into smoothies, or added to cereal. Bob even suggests using it to top ice cream, cook pesto, cookie bars, chocolate or meatless burgers, all of which have recipes at Bob’s Red Mill’s website.

Alexandra Richmond is a writer living in Austin, TX. She lives with her husband and their dog. Because she is a nihilist, she most enjoys doing nothing.

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