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.