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10 Years of Hemp Advocacy: the Stories of Our Favorite Hemp Heroes (1/2)

This week we celebrate an exciting milestone: the 10th annual Hemp History Week! The success of the campaign has only been possible because of the hard work and dedication of many, and we are incredibly grateful for all of you! In this two part blog series we give the microphone to a group of fantastic people that have supported the campaign in important ways, and have made great contributions to the success of the hemp movement as a whole: meet 10 of our favorite Hemp Heroes!

Hemp Victories!

The last 10 years, the hemp movement in the U.S has moved mountains! Millions of people have been educated about hemp’s many benefits and uses. Slowly but surely, public perception of our beloved plant started to change, and with it also state legislation. Thanks to the tireless efforts of many, victories were achieved in different parts of the country and society, with the important milestone of Federal hemp legalization at the end of 2018! Our Hemp Heroes have been at the forefront of the movement, working tirelessly and leading important victories across the nation and beyond.

Working to change hemp legislation in different states, Courtney Moran shares: “one of the most important moments in my hemp journey was the passage of Oregon HB 4060 (2016), the first bill I passed, which created one of the most comprehensive hemp programs in the U.S. to date. The bill removed restrictions on cultivation opening up the Oregon Hemp Program, resulting in an incredible expansion from 11 licensees in 2015 to 77 in 2016, with over 1,300 in 2019.”

With small and large successes everywhere in the country, the movement’s voice grew louder, and legislators finally started to listen. Marcus Grignon describes a moment that stands out on his journey where he: “received a phone call from Senator Tammy Baldwin's office asking if we support her being a co-sponsor to Senator McConnell's Hemp Farming Act of 2018. We replied yes. It was the first time in my 10 years working on a Farm Bill where I was asked if a Senator should take a position on a piece of legislation. I'm sure many folks out there have that ability; for me it showed the respect a Senator's office had of my view on the issue.”

Some even took the hopeful message about hemp beyond the border! Doug Fine shares that: “a magical moment was testifying before the United Nations to advocate for the obvious: a return of one of humanity's longest utilized plants to aboveground society, where it belongs, and where it has been for most of human history”.

Adventures & Special Moments

The road to legalization has certainly not been an easy one, and often required a good dose of creative problem-solving, determination, patience.. and humor! Here are a few stories from our Hemp Heroes that we think are pretty incredible!

“So many awesome things have happened along the way,” says Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner. “Taking the DEA to court in 2001 and winning in 2004 was huge—the 9th circuit issued its ruling on Bob Marley’s birthday (Feb 6th). And who would’ve dreamed that McConnell would become an ally in our fight? It just goes to show that hemp has the power to unite people across ideological divides.”

HIA’s Executive Director Colleen Keahey Lanier shares a memory that is another great example of the determination and inventiveness of the hemp movement: “In 2014, a Hemp History Week ceremonial planting of the first legal hemp seeds in Kentucky was to take place on Mike Lewis's farm in Mount Vernon, Kentucky, but federal government agencies had ordered a stop to the transport of the seeds– They were later released. Despite the disruption to our plans that day, we continued with the programming and heard about the hope and promise that folks anticipated hemp to do to reinvigorate small farming communities. They later planted the hemp seeds in the shape of the American flag in a direction that would be recognized by law enforcement helicopters.”

To reach audiences everywhere with hemp advocacy and education, many of us have been traveling to communities and gatherings across the country. Coach Freddie has been using a very unique and adventurous way to draw attention to hemp by driving around the nation in a hemp car! In his own words, he is “driving a 1966 Austin Healey 3000 across the US from Maine to California and still running. I always find great mechanics whenever the ‘Healey’ decides to stop running. Where ever I go the ‘Healey and Trailer’ attracts people that wants to talk iHemp.”

There were some moments where the rewards for years of hard work came together beautifully. Courtney Moran: “One of the most exciting moments of my hemp journey was April 12, 2018 the day the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 (S 2667) was included in the Senate version of the 2018 Farm bill leading to the ultimate passage and legalization of hemp on December 20, 2018! When I learned of the news I was on a flight to Juneau, Alaska to meet Governor Bill Walker for the signing of SB 6, a bill I had also worked on pro-bono for the previous year and a half, that legalized hemp in Alaska. I knew then that the two previous years of pro-bono work on the federal legislation with the offices of Senator Ron Wyden, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Rand Paul, and Senator Jeff Merkley, along with the months of education and negotiation with other offices in both the Senate and House would bring us to our ultimate victory for hemp.”

Some of the special moments our Hemp Heroes recall were more quiet, small, or personal. Annie Rouse, co-founder of Anavii Market shares: “Stepping into my first hemp field was a moment I will never forget. The smells, the breeze, the energy. It was a special moment for me.” Touching moments for long-time advocate Anndrea Hermann were “when I cried in being overcome with happiness that this is my life, or when I stepped into my first field of the Joey cultivar. So many happy memories!” For hemp farmer Michael Lewis, a treasured memory is “the amazing picture of Roscoe and I running in a hemp field in the 2015 calendar.

The Hemp Family

Hemp has the power to connect. The plant offers solutions and opportunities for people with various backgrounds and interest, making it easy to find common ground, shared goals and passions. To Courtney Moran, the best things about the hemp movement are: “the smiles, the laughter, the education, the support, the community-building, and the excitement of famers and the public alike for the amazing Cannabis Hemp plant!”

Michael Lewis shares: “One of the things that always sticks out to me in retrospect, is the amount of positive energy and love that that the leaders of this movement have for the planet and the people who inhabit it. Compassion runs rampant in this growing industry and that is my favorite part. No doubt, we are all one, and the companies and advocates that have led us to this point in hemp history remind us of that every day.”

Some of our Hemp Heroes built lasting friendships. Lauren Stansbury made an unexpected friendship for life while on a reservation shooting a hemp video: “In June of 2016, I traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to meet with hemp farming leader and advocate Alex White Plume of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe. I was directing the production of our Hemp History Week video, "Breaking Ground," which told Alex's story of an illegal federal government raid on his property, once he started growing hemp. While I was there, the community was celebrating an annual event-- the Lakota War Pony Races, which celebrate the Lakota victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, which you may know as 'Custer's Last Stand.' I camped out on Alex's land, Kiza Park, for a week to direct the video and attend the races. During that time I fell in love with a puppy; Alex's dog had given birth to a litter not long before. Alex insisted I take him home with me. Kiza is my best friend, my hemp dog, and whenever anyone asks about his breed (he is quite the unique canine) I am sure to tell them he is a Lakota dog”.

Colleen Keahey Lanier shares: “Many of the advocates and stakeholders that I met became friends and colleagues. Not long after that hemp advocates and stakeholders in Tennessee started to show up to the TNHIA events that I coordinated on a monthly basis at MTSU. Early supporters became some of my dearest friends including one in particular who I later married.”

Hemp History Week

The Hemp Heroes featured in this article all contributed in important ways to the success of Hemp History Week. With the campaign being a week-long celebration receiving significant attention from the media and public, our Heroes found fun and unique ways to leverage this for their own advocacy efforts.

David Bronner gained a lot of attention by organizing direct action protests, and was arrested, in order to draw public attention to the outdated and misguided drug policy that prohibited American farmers from growing hemp. “Harvesting seeds and and milling hemp oil locked in a cage in front of the White House has got has got to be a Hemp History Week high point for me. Also when Ryan Loflin defied federal prohibition and planted hemp acreage in Colorado Hemp History Week in 2013, inspired by the example of Alex Whiteplume and our own DEA headquarter hemp seed planting—and then we got to celebrate his harvest with him.”

Marcus Grignon, who works on raising awareness about hemp for tribes and local communities in Wisconsin recalls: “we tagged a line during our campaign to legalize hemp in Wisconsin, ‘Hemp History Week is every week in Wisconsin,’ whenever someone visited our booth to inquire what we were up to. This role also propelled deep education in both the Menominee and Oneida Reservations in Wisconsin. The growing season of 2019 will see both communities grow hemp due in part to our educational efforts.”

“The last few years I have been involved with Hemp History Week within Kentucky,” Annie Rouse shares. “I went to my first event in June of 2015 - a field day at the University of Kentucky - and helped organize events from that point forward. I often use this week as a way to help normalize hemp in the local communities - like bringing it to markets and planning events that utilize the products.”

We are happy the campaign has been able to support the hard work of many people these last 10 years, and we hope for many years to come!

Coach Freddie’s favorite thing about Hemp History Week is: “connecting with people at hemp events, music events, car shows, speaking events, and meeting like-minded people.”

“Hemp History Week is so on-brand for this Organic Cowboy,” Doug Fine shares, “because it emphasizes the patriotic role hemp has played throughout U.S. and human history. I'm a homeschooling neo-Rugged Individualist goat herder, and it is important to my family to be able to cultivate a plant that was so vital to our Founding Fathers.”

Anndrea M Hermann: “As a board member of HIA I have been able to watch the Hemp History Week campaign educate, inspire and engage the public. It has given us all the opportunity to share our respect for hemp together all during the same week.”

Michael Lewis: “I think the best part about Hemp History Week is that it did such a great job leveraging the assets of the past to craft narrative for the future. And now we all get to write a new book together collectively. Let’s make it a love story please.”

Those are some powerful words to end this article. With the legalization of hemp farming, we stand at the threshold of a new beginning for hemp farming. This is the moment in time where we have the opportunity to join together and write a new book for hemp. Let’s reclaim the virtues of hemp after more than 80 years of prohibition, and write a new story for future generations of farmers, consumers and manufacturers—a righteous, modern narrative of regenerative agriculture, renewable resources, plant-based nutrition and healthy lifestyles. While we praise the efforts of our Hemp Heroes and many others and others in the movement today, let’s commit to further solidarity as we work to ensure the successful emergence of a vibrant, deeply rooted, ecologically-conscious hemp industry in the United States.


* Coming up soon is part 2 of this blog article series featuring our Hemp Heroes: ‘the Road Ahead for Hemp!’ *

Learn more about our Hemp Heroes and the projects and companies they are involved in:


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