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The high and low of how hemp is used

Marketplace Staff Aug 19, 2009

The high and low of how hemp is used

Marketplace Staff Aug 19, 2009


Bill Radke: Earlier this month, Oregon joined a handful of other states that allow their farmers to grow hemp. Cash Peters looks at how businesses are turning to this alternative product, and dealing with the stigma that comes with it.

Cash Peters: Hemp’s an amazing plant. Ask Lawrence Serbin, he imports it.

LAWRENCE SERBIN:It’s the only plant around that can provide fuel, clothing, building materials, and medicine.

Told you. In the 1800s, it was grown all over the U.S. The first Bibles were printed on hemp paper. The first Model-T Ford car was made from hemp. Then suddenly, in 1937 — pouff — it was gone: made illegal under federal law. How come?

Ted McDonald: Well, a lot of people associate hemp with marijuana.

Oh, right, that’ll do it. Same plant, different uses. Since then, even though it has a whole bunch of environmentally-friendly applications, it’s been banned at the federal level. Ted McDonald is a strong hemp advocate. Why’s it banned Ted?

McDonald: I wish I had an answer to say. It would be simple. Just clear this whole plot of land here and let’s start growing hemp and make the products that we need to make and life would be great, but it doesn’t seem to be going in that direction.

No. I mean it would help if the general public wasn’t completely clueless about it.

Peters: D’you think hemp should be legalized in America?

WOMAN: I don’t have any opinion on that.

WOMAN TWO: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

WOMAN Three: I have no opinion.

WOMAN Four: Go away.

WOMAN FIVE: I know nothing about hemp.

PETERS: D’you want to sit down and I’ll tell you all about it?

WOMAN FIVE: No, not at all.

Wow. The way Lawrence Serbin’s company, Hemp Traders, gets around the law is to import it from China.

SERBIN: While it’s illegal to grow hemp here, it’s not illegal to import any of the hemp products — like the fiber, the cloth, the clothing, the seeds.

PETERS: How do you use hemp in your ordinary life? Is this laptop computer made of hemp?

SERBIN: No, but my shorts are made of hemp. In my refrigerator I have some hemp seed milk.

Peters: Yeah, yes the milk. We’ll come back to that.

Oddly, consumers are slowly discovering hemp. Jay Beeton’s, just, you know a guy. But he’s been buying it for years.

JAY BEETON: There’s a little store in Manitou Springs where I live and there’s a hemp store. They’ve got marvelous fabrics in there, right down to hiking boots. They even sell hemp ice cream.

PETERS: Okay, so this is hemp milk.

LAWRENCE: Hemp seed milk.

PETERS: That tastes a bit like ground up ceiling tile.

So not as versatile as we thought then.

In Los Angeles, I’m Cash Peters for Marketplace.

Bill Radke: Humorist Cash Peters. His latest book is called “Naked in Dangerous Places.”

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