Organic, Hemp and The Feds

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June 27, 2012 by thesoapalchemist

a sweet little ayate fiber soap bag

Yesterday was ordering day. I had to restock Ayate fiber scrubbies and soap baggies from a wonderful wholesaler that also sells crazy amounts of natural hemp fabrics. Their clients are as varied as Ford (an F-350 Concept Truck had their hemp in its interior), Paramount Pictures (all the costumes for The Last Airbender were made with their fabrics), and Project Runway (designer Leanne Mitchell’s charmeuse wedding gown was created with their hemp).

The day before, I had been perusing their website and my curiosity was piqued when I read the following:

“There is no such thing as organic garments or fabrics. Growing practices can be certified organic, but sizing and, often, dye have to be used in making fabrics from fiber, thus the fabrics can’t be certified organic, since various agents are used in the processing. Fabrics can be marked, “made from certified organic cotton”, but this creates confusion.”

I’ve spent considerable time researching “organic,” particularly regulation of the term as it relates to the cosmetic industry. Because of what I have learned, I remain highly suspicious of most soap and lotion products labeled “organic.” It was refreshing to see a company that could stand to win so much by simply labeling their T-shirts “organic,” but instead markets honestly and has taken on an eduational role in their dealings with their customers.

When I called to place my order, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of their customer service ladies. I seized the opportunity to discus “organic” with her. To elaborate on the quote I had found, she used the example of their Hemp T-shirts. “If we were to import the Hemp fiber from China, regulations require that it gets sprayed with pesticides upon entry into the U.S. This strips it of its organic status. Instead, we buy Chinese Hemp, and have the T-shirts manufactured there, too. The finished product isn’t required to be sprayed when it comes through customs. This preserves the organic nature of the fibers.” She further explained that a lot of people lose interest when they hear the T-shirts are made in China. “But if they were made here, they couldn’t be labeled “Made with Organic.”

Why, with a crippled economy, and people needing jobs, would a U.S. company choose to send all that business overseas, when some of their customers clearly take issue with the product being made in China?

Because Americans want natural fabrics.

And, they want them to be Organic.

But many also want them made in the USA.

In light of all of this, why not just use Hemp grown in the United States? A domestically grown product wouldn’t have to be sprayed with pesticides as the imported variety does.

Unfortunately, in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was signed into law, banning domestic cultivation of Hemp.

Hemp comes from plants of the species Canabis Sativa L., but unfortunately, so does marihuana. Cannabis plants produce Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marihuana. However, the type of cannabis grown for Industrial Hemp produces less than 1% THC, while the types grown for marihuana can contain between 3-20%. Additionally, Industrial Hemp plants produce another chemical called CBD which actually acts against the psychoactive effects of THC. Industrial Hemp is of no use to the marihuana industry.

“The history of federal drug laws clearly shows that at one time the U.S. government understood and accepted the distinction between hemp and marihuana.”1 The 1970 Act, however, makes no distinction between Cannabis grown worldwide for its fiber and seed oil, or Cannabis grown for marihuana. The Act makes it illegal to grow any type of Cannabis without specific authorization by the DEA. This appears to be yet another case of the Government being at odds with science.

Just as there are big differences between chili peppers and bell peppers, there are big differences between the different cannabis plants. And for those who might think marihuana plants could be easily hidden amongst Industrial Hemp plants, the differences in harvesting times, coupled with cross pollination (which decreases the quality of marihuana species) make that highly unlikely.

Industrial Hemp has many benefits over other domestically grown fibers, but the most important may be that it is naturally pest- and disease-resistant, making use of pesticides and antimicrobial sprays unnecessary. That’s a huge selling point, especially to those interested in going organic. Its long, rounded, resilient fibers are tough, yet soft and smooth, and can be used to make everything from paper to fine fabrics.

Of particular interest to a soap or lotion crafter, were Hemp to be grown domestically, it would certainly increase use of Hempseed Oil in cosmetics. Hemp Oil has an enviable fatty acid profile (geek-speak for ultra moisturizing goodness!).

Representative Ron Wyden (D-OR) has recently sponsored an amendment to the Farm Bill, S.3240, The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, that seeks to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana. This amendment will allow farmers in the United States to again grow Industrial Hemp, and enter the $400 million-and-growing Hemp industry. The cultivation of industrial hemp will be regulated by state programs and will not impact the federal government’s long-standing prohibition of marihuana.2

Additionally, another bill, H.R. 1831 introduced into the House this session, has a similar mission. Sponsored by Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), seeks to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana, and specifically seeks to define Industrial Hemp as Cannabis Sativa L., with a 0.3% or less THC content.

Still, there are many who oppose the de-regulation of Industrial Hemp. They argue many things, among them, that legalizing it opens the door to legalizing marihuana. These people have clearly not looked into the issue, and understand the science as well as the government does.

Given the obvious differences between the plants with psychoactive effects, and those sought for their fiber and seed-oil production, it makes no sense not to ammend laws that contradict reality. Our economy and environment stand to gain so much with a simple recategorization of a harmless, yet incredibly useful plant species.

Please consider contacting your representatives in Congress to express your support for these bills by clicking here. If you’d like, you can simply use the letter that is provided on that site, or you can compose your own.




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