By Ben Olson
It never hurts to plan for the future. For Idaho farmers, the cultivation of hemp as an agricultural crop is close to becoming a reality, especially now that Idaho Representative Caroline Nilsson Troy plans to introduce legislation in the near future to legalize hemp in Idaho.
To help educate local farmers and others interested in the cultivation of this useful crop, Sandpoint businessman and hemp advocate Joel Bordeaux with Global CBD is hosting an event called Hempire Genesis at the Hive on Saturday, Feb. 2.
“The objective of this event is to get the farmers in our area to come up and learn,” Bordeaux said. “We believe the farm bill will pass in Idaho, so we want people to start thinking about hemp in the near future.”
The U.S. Congress approved an $867 billion farm bill in December that would allocate billions of dollars in subsidies to American farmers. It would also legalize hemp, among other things.
“Washington, Oregon and Montana all allow the cultivation of hemp,” said Bordeaux. “If we don’t pass this in this legislative session, we’ll continue to fall behind. For every year we wait to legalize the growth of hemp, our farmers will make half the money they could be making.”
Hempire Genesis will feature guest speakers addressing the cultivation of hemp, such as Bordeaux, as well as Alf Wheeler from Zeoform, who has been leading the drive to replace plastic with biodegradable hemp fibers.
“Hemp is a wonderful feed stock, full of cellulose,” said Wheeler. “We take cellulose and water using a patented mechanical process and we can create moldable pulp in 3D shapes.”
Wheeler said hemp fibers could be used to form furniture, walls, instruments, doors, and conceivably anything else, all while being made from plant material.
“You can make heirloom products that could last generations and be passed down, or make items that have a shorter life,” Wheeler said. “The common thing is, at the end of their life, these products can go into the ground and biodegrade leaving absolutely nothing toxic behind. This is a closed-loop cycle following the laws of nature, learning from mother nature.”
Wheeler’s company, Zeoform, is based in Australia, but he has just recently established an LLC for the U.S. and hopes to spread the technology for others to cultivate.
Despite the many beneficial uses of hemp — it can be used for everything from clothing to fuel to a replacement to plastic — Idaho remains one of the last states in the nation which currently outlaws the cultivation of hemp. Idaho currently considers hemp extracts with cannabidiol (CBD) to be a controlled substance unless it is derived from excluded parts of the hemp plant and contains no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical in cannabis that produces the high.
“This is more than CBD,” said Bordeaux. “It’s about creating jobs and income for our farmers. It’s about looking to hemp to replace plastic, to change the thought process. Instead of Idaho saying we can’t grow hemp because, ‘It’s going to lead kids to start smoking marijuana,’ we need to be thinking of our kids putting tons of plastic in our landfills in the future.”
Bordeaux said Hempire Genesis is open for anyone interested in learning more, but it is mainly catered to farmers who want to have all the information to cultivate hemp.
“We want farmers to know there is a market for this,” he said. “I also want to make Sandpoint a hemp capital. This could be really good for us economically, from a tourist standpoint. There is so much upside to us getting this happening here. Hemp is even more sustainable than timber – it takes 20, 30, 40 years to grow a tree, but you can grow a couple acres of hemp every year.”
Tim Shaughnessy, an Oregon hemp farmer and owner of CO2 Dynamics, will also be speaking at the event, as well as Karen Sprague, a cannabis female entrepreneur and consultant. There will be presentations starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by music by DJ Bon Panda Breaks, drinks and a chance to speak with the presenters. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at HempireGenesis.com.
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