Legal Knots Still Block Hemp Farming in Maryland | WYPR

Legal Knots Still Block Hemp Farming in Maryland

Sep 28, 2017

Hemp fiber and oil have been used for centuries in rope, textiles, food, fuel, cosmetics and many other products.
Credit photo courtesy Pixabay

We’ve all heard of the campaigns in the US to legalize medical and recreational uses for marijuana -- the cannabis plant with potent therapeutic and hallucinogenic properties.  Less well-known is the campaign to legalize marijuana’s weaker cousin -- hemp -- an industrial crop that won’t get you high, but yields a high-quality fiber and oil that’s used to make thousands of products, from rope to soap. 

Hemp is grown commercially in about 40 countries around the world, including Canada, but not in the United States, where, since the 1970s, the federal government has classified hemp, like marijuana, as a dangerous drug.  But things are changing.  A resurgent interest in the economic potentials of this age-old crop has led the federal government and many states to take the first steps toward legalizing hemp production. Maryland has been slow to take those steps, but there are signs of change here , too, and we’re going to talk about that with three guests today who’ve taken a keen interest in hemp... 

Joining Tom in the studio is David Fraser-Hidalgo. He’s a Maryland State delegate - a Democrat who has represented District 15, including Montgomery County, since 2013.  He has also co-sponsored a series of hemp legalization bills over the past few years, including an unsuccessful measure introduced earlier this year during the 2017 General Assembly session. 

Also in the studio is Rona Kobell. She’s a writer for the Chesapeake Bay Journal, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, and the author of an Abell Foundation report published this past spring, called Hope for Hemp: A Misunderstood Plant Prepares for its Comeback.

And joining us on the line from public radio station WMRA in Harrisonburg, Virginia, is Glenn Rodes.  He’s a farmer from Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He is a partner in Riverhill Farms, and works with his parents, two brothers, and four nephews. The Mennonite family raises turkeys, operates a dairy, grows crops, feeds beef cattle, and does custom harvesting.  They also grow a bit of hemp.  Glenn Rodes is one of two farmers who’ve partnered with James Madison University on a hemp research project to explore ways to grow the industrial crop with existing farm equipment.