Alyssa Faith Erickson is cofounder of both Kentucky Hempsters and United Hemp Industries. She talked with Tom Martin about the move to bring hemp farming and production back to Kentucky.
Q: Tell us about these organizations. Since you’re a cofounder, who else is involved in getting them up and running?
A: The other half of both businesses is my business partner, Kirstin Bohnert. We’re both from Kentucky. And we recognize hemp as a way to revitalize the economy through agriculture. Kentucky Hempsters is an educational group. We try and educate and get other people involved who don’t know about hemp or are confused about what it is or what it’s not. And United Hemp Industries is an actual processor licensed with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and we will be processing hemp this year for research and development purposes.
Q: Where does the effort to fully legalize hemp cultivation and the production of hemp-based products now stand?
A: Right now, under Senate Bill 50 and the Farm Bill, states who have hemp legislation are allowed to grow under their department of agriculture for research purposes. This will last for 5 years. This year will be the third year Kentucky has had a pilot program growing hemp. There is a federal bill, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, that has been introduced in both the House and Senate by Kentucky legislators. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul, and Congressman Thomas Massie have all been on the forefront of this legislation.
Q: Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer has expressed concerns that legalizing hemp would make it easy for an unscrupulous farmer to conceal marijuana plants among hemp plants. He wants hemp made distinguishable from marijuana and he wants hemp to contain zero THC, the marijuana component that creates a high when it’s ingested. Can these stipulations be met?
A: I can’t answer those questions for you. I think they’re a little outrageous considering that all cannabis plants contain some component of THC. Eventually, they’re looking to come out with varieties with little to no, but sometimes that THC is going to be inevitable in that variety. And the varieties that we grow, as far as it being distinguishable, the projects that are licensed through the state are registered and the plots are registered. On the flipside, marijuana growers aren’t going to want to put their marijuana plants anywhere near a hemp plant because that will essentially take away the THC from the high THC marijuana plant they’re trying to grow. So, it’s more about assessing the recreational use and where that lies. You know, we look at this as a complete separate issue.