On October 14, 2015 the new board of directors for the Hemp Industries Association had their first board meeting and elected me, Lawrence Serbin to be the new president. Our previous president, Anndrea Hermann will continue to serve on the board of directors.
I would first like to applaud Anndrea Hermann for all the work she has done over the years with the HIA as well as all the great work she has accomplished for the hemp industry as a whole. It will be a challenge to follow in her footsteps.
Many people know me in the industry, but for those who do not, I would like to provide an introduction.
I first got involved with hemp 25 year ago in 1990, right after I graduated from college. I had been contemplating what to do with my life and wasn’t sure which industry I should pursue. I knew I wanted to start a company and felt I should do something which would help the planet. One morning I awoke and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I would start an environment hemp company to promote and sell hemp products.
It was not easy at first because at that time, there were no hemp companies in existence. I bought a copy of the "Emperor Wears No Clothes" and began to do my research. From that book, I got to know Chris Conrad of the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp (BACH) where I volunteered to help out. I also met Jack Herer the author of the Emperor Wears No Clothes. Within 6 months of volunteering, Chris Conrad moved to Europe to write his own hemp book, and I became the national director in his place. I ran BACH for about a year and a half from early 1991-to late 1992. I left BACH to start my own business in 1994. I formed Hemp Traders, specializing in selling hemp textiles. During the next 22 years, my business slowly grew and my company is now the largest supplier of hemp textiles, twine, yarn, rope and fiber in the United States.
I joined the HIA in 1995 and have always been a member. I served as an early Fiber and Fabric committee leader, and around 5-6 years ago I was elected to the board of directors and became the secretary and vice president.
There have been so many changes in the hemp industry over the years. From the beginning, hemp enthusiasts constantly had to endure the jokes about smoking our products. People were constantly inferring the only reason we supported industrial hemp was because we wanted to legalize marijuana. The early days were mostly about educating the public on the difference between hemp and marijuana and the benefits of industrial hemp.
But it has been a long and frustrating process. We did see some early advances with a number of western European countries legalizing industrial hemp in the mid to late nineties and Canada legalizing industrial hemp in 1998. But nothing seemed to change for industrial hemp in the United States. Even when a number of states began legalizing medical marijuana during the next decade, the status of industrial hemp stayed the same. A few states did legalize industrial hemp, but without federal approval, viable seeds could not be imported and practically nothing was grown.
But things finally began to change with Colorado legalizing industrial hemp in 2012. The U.S. Congress included a provision in the Agricultural Act of 2014 that allowed colleges and state agencies to grow and conduct research on hemp in states where it is legal. 2015 has seen the first viable industrial hemp crops grown for commercial and research purposes, with Colorado and Kentucky taking the lead.
So what is happening with the HIA and what is the status of hemp? In my next article I will discuss the exact measure the HIA will be taking to promote hemp and empower our members and state chapters. In the meantime, I would like to provide a parable.
Imagine there is a farmer who has magical seeds. The farmer knows these seeds are special and represent tremendous possibilities. These seeds hold the potential to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medicine for all humanity. The farmer talks about the magical seeds to the neighbors who are also stewards of the land. Some listen intently but others dismiss his claims. They don’t quite seem to believe what the farmer is telling them. They want to see proof.
But something is wrong with the land and the seeds will not grow. Year after year the farmer plants the seeds, and year after year they fail to germinate or are eaten by birds. The neighboring farmers shrug their shoulders and shake their heads. After many years the farmer feels frustrated and even contemplates giving up.
Then one spring morning the farmer notices something has changed in the air. The wind is blowing from a different direction and the soil seems more fertile. There is a feeling of positive energy all around the land. So the farmer decides to give it one more try. He takes his magical seeds and scatters them across his fields. At first, nothing seems to be happening, but after a couple of weeks the farmer notices a few sprouts have appeared. Not all the land is fertile, but in a few fields, the green leaves of his miraculous plants have begun to grow. The farmer does not get discouraged because the plants are only growing in some areas, nor does he feel impatient because the plants are not fully grown. The farmer is thrilled because he realizes this is the beginning of something tremendous.
Even with some of the plants now growing, the farmer understands the work is just beginning. With new vigor, the farmer sets out to cultivate the plants which have developed. He also continues to plant in the areas of his fields which did not sprout. For the farmer knows these areas will eventually become ripe for growing.
It is the spirit of the farmer’s new vigor that the HIA should to emulate. Hemp in America is just starting to sprout, but there is a lot of work which needs to be accomplished to bring our industry to harvest. Don’t be discouraged or impatient if things seem to be moving too slowly. Hemp plants grow on their own time and only need to be nurtured.
Over the years I have been told certain things about hemp were impossible. It would be impossible for hemp to be legalized. It would be impossible to get seeds. It would be impossible to make fine textiles, it would be impossible to build a house. It would be impossible to make paper. When I hear these things I just smile, for I know todays impossibilities are tomorrows realities. There are miracles happening everywhere with hemp. All it takes is love, imagination, and application.
Membership in the HIA has doubled during the past year, and our annual conference was the biggest and best ever. We expect more states to legalize industrial hemp and lots more acreage to be planted next spring and in the years to come.
I look forward to working with all hemp entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, students, and farmers during the next year. I am always available for business advise and will be happy to listen to your questions and plans for hemp. I am most easily reached by email.
Hemp Industries Association
About the Hemp Industries Association
The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) represents the interests of the hemp industry and encourages the research and development of new products made from industrial hemp, oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. To learn more about the HIA and the benefits of membership, visit our web site at: http://www.TheHIA.org