Maine: Where America’s Hemp Begins
Maine is one of the states that has been progressive in its stance with hemp and it’s the furthest eastern state in the Continental United States. So America’s hemp does begin with… or could begin in Maine.
The war over hemp isn’t lost. Earlier this month, a bi-partisan amendment to the Senate Farm Bill to exempt hemp from the “Controlled Substances Act” was briefly discussed, then discarded. There is an opportunity for this Bill to be voted on again in December. And in the House, the issue has been sent to committee via a bill introduced by Ron Paul and co-sponsored by 33 others, including Maine’s Chellie Pingree. And on June 11, David Bronner — CEO of Dr. Bronner’s, one of the largest natural soap manufacturers in America — locked himself in a cage across the street from the White House, with a dozen hemp plants. The stunt allowed Bronner to explain how he’d prefer to spend his company’s annual $100,000 hemp oil budget on domestic hemp, rather than importing foreign oil.
When and if the ban is lifted, Maine could be poised to capitalize on hemp. According to a 2005 study by the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station, farmland across the state is well-suited for growing hemp for fiber. And most of Maine, south of Aroostook County, has adequate land and climate for cultivating hemp seed crops. Growing hemp is considered “green agriculture” because the plant doesn’t require pesticides to thrive. And hemp is excellent to grow in rotation with other crops. Planting tight grids of hemp suppresses weeds, counters erosion and restores organic matter to depleted soil.
Hemp also fits well with Maine’s long history of papermaking. An acre of hemp translates into four times more paper than an acre of forest. And it only takes four months, instead of many years, to grow and be harvested.
Plus, farmers can earn good money. Basing the numbers on Canadian prices, at $3,800 per acre, hemp is more valuable than Maine’s traditional crops. An average acre of blueberry barrens generates about $3,100. An acre of potato field brings in about $2,700. (Due to fruit flies and blight, per acre yields tend to fluctuate.) The only legal crops more valuable than hemp are tomatoes and tobacco, neither of which thrive in Maine.
A hemp industry could jump start, or at least stimulate, Maine’s economy. In addition to the new farm and hemp processing jobs, there would be increased demand for trucking. Many abandoned fabric and paper mills could be retrofitted to handle hemp fiber. And the products that could be manufactured in the state are amazingly diverse. In addition to creating textiles and rope, hemp fiber can be mixed with Maine lime into “hempcrete,” a greener form of concrete. Hemp is a helpful ingredient in paper recycling. Combined with wood, hemp turns into fiberboard for use in building construction. And hemp can be molded into chips or biofuel to burn for heat and electricity. Or the fiber can be pulped and transformed into rolling papers or Bible pages.
Hemp seed is an even more valuable food resource and an excellent vegan protein, chockfull of omega oils. Hemp, in various forms, has found its way into many types of breads, snacks, milks, oils and cereals. Hemp makes delicious beer. Paints, varnishes and lubricants can be also derived from the magic plant. And just think of all the ad agency, sales team and web design jobs connected to promoting and selling a plethora of Maine-made hemp products.
Also, hemp could replace corn used for making fuel additives, and would cost less to produce and it requires almost no fertilizer.