Rethinking industrial hemp's image
In downtown Wilmington, MATT COLLOGAN is teaching area residents and visitors about something many have heard of but not fully understand – hemp.
Hemp has been included in restrictions, leaving the many benefits it offers to be missed. Much of the criticism of hemp comes from its similarities to marijuana – they come from the same plant species. But because hemp’s THC levels are significantly lower, it does not offer the same psychotropic or “high” feeling.
It is, however, purported to hold health benefits including reducing inflammation, promoting bone growth, and relieving pain, among others.
For proponents of the return of industrial hemp, the crop’s versatility is one of its strongest benefits.
Production of hemp in the U.S. ended when the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made it illegal.
A 2014 federal agricultural law allowed states to start growing industrial hemp again for research purposes, rekindling interest in the plant as a potential commodity with which U.S. growers might be able to turn a profit.
In North Carolina, hemp production is legal but only under a pilot program. A state commission this year passed temporary rules so farmers can apply to start planting the crop as part of the research pilot program.
“This crop is a cash crop and has great potential to help struggling farmers in North Carolina,” says Collogan (right), education director for THE HEMP FARMACY, which recently expanded to a second location in Wilmington. “Once hemp is treated like any other commodity such as corn or wheat, that’s when we will truly move forward as a nation with the benefits of hemp.”
To further the education of hemp, The Hemp Farmacy in downtown Wilmington offers free, one-hour classes.
“During Hemp 101 class, participants learn about the history of hemp (focusing on U.S. history), hemp’s many uses, and the nutraceutical benefits of hemp cannabinoids – in particular cannabidiol (CBD),” Collogan says.
CBD products are not currently regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“If the FDA decides to regulate CBD, I worry that only a limited number of large, pharmaceutical businesses will benefit, while the farmer and consumer have fewer options,” Collogan says, referring to plans of one company to seek FDA approval for its CBD product to treat certain epilepsy conditions and compete with the off-the-shelf options.
Hemp as an ingredient is turning up on more grocery shelves as well.
He adds that three tablespoons of raw, hulled hemp seed contain more than 10 grams of protein, essential amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids.
“You can find hemp foods in the form of granola, protein powder, milk, and more,” he says, adding that hemp seed is highly digestible, rich in minerals like magnesium, gluten free, and an antioxidant.
Classes at The Hemp Farmacy are every Thursday night at its downtown location, 117 Grace Street, at 5:30 p.m.
Starting last month, they also began classes Saturday afternoons at The Hemp Farmacy’s recently opened second location at 1402 South College Road.
“We have also started offering more focused specialty classes regarding a certain aspect of hemp,” says Collogan. “Those specialty offerings include a soils class about the phytoremediation potential of using hemp to clean polluted soils, a class about the industrial applications of hemp – there are more than 25,000 products made from hemp on the market.”
Common hemp uses can range from clothing to auto parts to wiring.
Collogan says he hopes the free classes being offered will help area residents and potential farmers learn more about the crop.
“These classes, which are being attended by folks of all ages and backgrounds, help to spread more accurate information about hemp that illustrates the fact that hemp can create jobs, provide health, and even build our houses,” he says. “These classes allow folks to ask questions in a casual environment where they don’t have to worry about being judged or saying the wrong thing. Education is paramount.”
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