I was inspired by a poli-sci class I took for fun at the University of Colorado at Denver in 1996. Colorado Senator Lloyd Casey attempted to introduce a hemp bill that year. These were the years of the DEA “comin’ to get ’cha!” And that’s what they did to prevent the bill. Ten years later in 2006, when I’d retired from advertising sales, I knew I had to do something about what I had learned. By then I understood that the powerful triad of Hearst (paper), DuPont (plastics) and Rockefeller (oil) was behind the banning of hemp in the U.S. as it competed with each of their businesses. I was fueled by my outrage for ten years and started my initiative in 2006 when I retired from US West Direct yellow pages sales. My effort to legalize hemp paralleled Brian Vicente’s work to legalize marijuana.
There was no hemp industry in the U.S. at this time and hadn’t been since the 1930s. In fact, the industrialists managed to prevent hemp cultivation in any country that accepted U.S. aid. For several decades most Western countries agreed to end cultivation of hemp, with the exception of the wonderfully bold French! Some Eastern European countries and China had active hemp industries. Canada resumed hemp cultivation in the ‘90s. North Dakota was active early on as they saw their Canadian neighbors and counterparts benefiting from hemp just over the border while US law prevented them from participating.
After retirement the first step was to contact my close friend Senator Suzanne Williams. I had written a paper in 1996 for the poli-sci class and I shared that paper with her. She remembered the bill which was introduced by Senator Casey and decided to support and boldly participate in my effort. She introduced me to key legislators at the Colorado capitol. My next step was to contact the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture to see if they were doing anything vis-a-vis hemp. They weren’t. But the woman at the Colorado Dept. of Ag suggested I contact Mike Bowman. Mike was a northeast Colorado farmer and an effective and knowledgeable activist. We met over coffee on Lincoln street in Denver and clicked. Through Mike we were able to connect quickly and effectively with the Canadian Consulate. We were fortunate to be in Denver for that connection alone. It was the three of us, Suzanne, Mike and me for a long time. The folks at the Canadian consulate were very supportive, Kim O’Neill in particular. In 2006 we began the long process of educating throughout the state. Colorado Senators Suzanne Williams and Gail Schwartz, and our lobbyist, Samantha Walsh were important to our success.
Mitch Yergert at the Dept. of Ag was instrumental in legitimizing our initiative and I stayed in close touch with him.
In early 2006 Brian Vicente and I were in a group of activists in the early stages of our individual initiatives. It was an amazing coincidence that allowed us to support one another on parallel paths. We didn’t work together per se because I spent 90% of my time explaining the difference between the two plants. It was better to separate our activities while supporting one another’s efforts. In 2012 hemp was made legal in Colorado on the coattails of marijuana thanks to Colorado Amendment 64.
In mid-2006 I gathered a list of influential people at the offices of the Canadian Consultant in the World Trade Center. I invited members of the State Patrol so we could educate them on why no one would hide marijuana in the middle of a hemp crop. We connected the two Highway Patrolmen on a conference call with the Canadian Mounted police so they could explain how it was working in Canada. Every one in the room was enlightened to learn that there were simply no issues of any kind. Anndrea Hermann came from Winnipeg to the meeting to share the reality of hemp cultivation in Canada. The meeting set us up to proceed without interference from law enforcement. They left the meeting enlightened and supportive. We had the official go-ahead to pursue our goal. There was plenty of work yet to be done informing Colorado farmers throughout the state. My friend, Erik Hunter, and I traveled to SE Colorado, the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, and Senator Gail Schwartz joined us when we met with farmers on the Western Slope.
In 2012 hemp was made legal in Colorado on the coattails of marijuana thanks to Colorado Amendment 64.
There is deep satisfaction in the fact that we started this initiative with no support from Republicans in congress and in spite of twelve years of resistance I foresaw that, ultimately, Senator Mitch McConnell would be our ace. Kentucky has a long history of hemp and the state needs a replacement for tobacco. The story starts with a very liberal Democrat woman and ends with a very conservative Republican man if the 2018 Farm Bill passes as is and is signed into law by the president. That would bring us full circle to the end of a long and satisfying effort.
I randomly opened a Cheryl Strayed book of her fabulous quotes and here’s what it said:
It’s folly to measure your success in money or fame. Success is measured only by your ability to say yes to these two questions:
Did I do the work I needed to do?
Did I give it everything I had?
I did and I did
~Lynda Parker – Founding NHA Member