Saturday, June 17, 2006
HEMP IN CALIFORNIA
The New World was ripe for hemp when the settlers arrived; not that they were really the first to plant it, as record exists to show that there was hemp already growing by the time Columbus sighted land in this hemisphere (see previous post, "Hemp in Massachusetts", 16 June). The Spanish needed it for their navy and had it planted in the sixteenth century. California was for centuries one of their possessions, and it is known that they cultivated this crop. Some of it in fact lives on it wild progeny.
The pioneers came to the Golden State in the nineteenth century in wagons covered in hemp, and it was not long before some of the fields were in turn covered in hemp; an 1870 report notes that 200 tons were grown. An early record of it grown on a commercial scale was that of Gridley, in Butte County, where John Heaney, who came from Illinois, not only grew it but devised a processsing machine. He then moved to Courtland, in the lower Sacramento Valley. On the Rio Visto, in Solano County, more favourable conditions were found, and advancements to the machinery were implemented. The fibre was strong, and lighter in colour than Kentucky hemp. Seed was often imported from Kentucky, including that which was used in the 1910s at Lerdo, near Bakersfield. The Kern River Valley was also a major growing area at the end of the nineteenth century.
Hemp then fell into a decline as it did in the rest of the country. Recent interest, however, has centred in this state, spurring on a number of Californians to write books calling for a revival in the hemp industry. Jack Herer started this trend in 1985, followed by Chris Conrad, Ed Rosenthal, John Roulac and others. The hemp industry did revive in the US due to their efforts in the '90s, with many shops opening in that decade including: Culture Shock, Good Humans, The Hemp Connection, Hemp Traders, Minawear Hemp Clothing, Hemp and Chocolat and Hemp in the Heartland and Nutiva.
There is much lobbying for legalisation of cultivation, with many challenging the federal government over their heavy handed tactics. A recent case involving Ed Rosenthal showed the solidarity most Californians have with hemp, even when grown medicinally, which is one of the more controversial applications. Many would simply like to grow it for food or cloth; presently all hemp is imported, so California companies are buying their textile hemp from China and their seed from Canada. The right to consume hemp seed products was challenged recently by the US Food & Drug Administration, headed ironically at that time by Asa Hutchinson; Asa means hemp in Japanese. Against this satirical madness stood John Roulac, who ultimately, but not without such spending on his part, prevailed.
There are now dozens of companies in the state that deal with hemp, perhaps hundreds if every retail outlet was counted. Companies such as Minawear, based in Santa Monica in southern California, can be seen at many of the various fairs up and down the state, where green and health fairs are common.
Political activism is widespread and bipartisan, with names on the left such as Woody Harrelson putting much time and work into the movement - he went so far as to post a $500,000 bond for a cancer patient the federal government was prosecuting in the '90s. Former Mayor of Santa Barbara Harriet Miller was also a keen supporter of hemp, adcvocating a public education programme to make people familiar with the issue. On the right, Sam Clauser campaigned to young Republicans, and there was a high level of support from the GOP in this state. That support was largely based on the economic potential of hemp, a fact that both sides can agree on.
Presently California stands with over a dozen other US states in that it has voted in some way to legalise hemp, but there is the federal government standing in the way. The future can be porsperous for Californians if this is relegalised, as they will able to farm, process and market most forms of hemp.
Below is a select list of California businesses:
Bikini Islands, 38 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA, 90291
Cannabest, 1536 Monterey St., San Louis Obispo, CA, 93433
Culture Shock, 7 Bolinas Road, Fairfax, CA, 94930
Greenfield Paper Co., 744 G St., Dan Diego, CA, 92101
The Hemp Connection, 412 Maple Lane, Garberville, CA, 95542
Hemp in the Heartland, 125 K St., Old Sacramento, CA, 95814
Hemp Traders, 2132 Colby Ave. #5, Los Angeles, CA, 90025
Hempwise, 971 Embarcadero del Mar, Isla Vista, CA, 93117
The Hempest 4, 336 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, CA, 93101
Humboldt Hemp Foods, PO Box 99, Whitethorne, CA, 95589
Minawear, 171 Pier Ave. Suite 444, Santa Monica, CA, 90405
Solutions, 1063 H St., Arcata, CA, 95521
Nutiva, PO Box 1716, Sebastopol, CA, 93024
Sativa's Kitchen, 5243 Highway 9, Felton, CA, 95018
Spectrum Naturals, 133 Copeland St., Petaluma, CA, 94952