Take a moment and think about the word “hemp.” What’s the first thing that comes to mind? If it was marijuana plants, hippies wearing hemp cord chokers and bracelets or other stoner stereotypes, you wouldn’t be alone.
The organizers and participants in Hemp History Week — which will be celebrated in Asheville, as well as many locations — aim to change those common misconceptions with a national campaign to educate the public and government on the beneficial aspects of industrial hemp crops. The plants have been grown and cultivated in the United States since the early 1600s, according to the Hemp History Week website, and George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson all grew hemp crops and advocated for commercial production. (Banned in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act, hemp has been lumped in with other drugs despite having no drug value. Though hemp and street marijuana come from the same plant, the subspecies used for industrial hemp contains very little of the psychoactive substance THC.)
Local resident Timothy Sadler has worked to organize Hemp History Week in Asheville for the past three years. This year is the first time it has been made official by a local-government proclamation: During the regular May 27 meeting of City Council, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer proclaimed June 2-8 as Hemp History Week.
During the week, Sadler hopes to educate about industrial hemp crops. “I look forward to this every year,” he said. “I make sure I’m in a place where I can give 100 percent to it, because I know how important it is to our future.”
Hemp can be used for textiles, biodegradable plastics, food, detergents and a single acre of hemp can be used to produce four times the amount of paper that could be produced with an acre of trees. “I identified industrial grade hemp as the single greatest thing we can do toward a sustainable future,” Sadler said.
Hemp even brought the veteran to Asheville in its own way.
The metro area is home to nation’s first house built primarily out of hempcrete — a lightweight, insulating building material crafted from mixing the hemp plant with lime. The house, owned by former mayor Russ Martin, includes other green features, such as walls and doors made using recycled paper. Sadler came from Pennsylvania for two weeks to help get that house built and immediately fell in love with the area. “I was blown away by how amazing this community is,” he said. “Specifically the people and the ability to have an intelligent conversation wherever you go — it was alien to me.”
Sadler said he went back to Pennsylvania, packed up what he had, quit his job and moved here in the “dead, cold of winter” with no friends and no regrets.
In his third year of one-man organizing, Sadler feels as if, for 2014, he has taken it to the next level. Eleven local businesses are participating in Hemp History Week, including Green Life Grocery, Rosetta’s Kitchen, Alembic Studio and The Green Sage.
All of the participating businesses will be highlighting products they make or sell that utilize hemp, including a hemp ale at Wedge Brewing and a vegan ice cream made with hemp milk at The Hop Ice Cream Café. Members of the public can win $10 gift cards to French Broad Food Co-Op or West Village Market by participating in a business card scavenger hunt. By collecting cards from each businesses and taking a single photo including all of the cards and emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org, winners can get one of the limited supply gift cards of their choice.
A complete list of participating locations is below:
Rosetta’s Kitchen (111 Broadway)
Spiritex (14 Haywood St.)
Green Life Grocery (70 Merrimon Ave.)
The Circle (426 Haywood Rd.)
Honey Pot (86 N. Lexington Ave.)
West Village Market (771 Haywood Rd.)
Wedge Brewing Co. (125b Roberts St.)
Alembic Studio (13 ½ Eagle St.)
Green Sage (5 Broadway)
The Hop (721 Haywood Rd.)
French Broad Food Coop (90 Biltmore Ave.)
In addition to Hemp History Week, Asheville Community Theatre will hold a special screening of “Bringing it Home” on Tuesday, June 17, at 7:30 pm. The documentary film about industrial hemp usage was created by North Carolina filmmakers Linda Booker and Blaire Johnson and received the Jury Award at this year’s Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival. Booker and Johnson will be participating in a question and answer session after the screening.