There was a time when the hemp plant was one of the United States’ most important crops.
Grown by family farmers and former presidents, marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin has myriad uses, from textiles to fossil fuel alternatives to superfoods. It grows almost anywhere, providing a sustainable, hardy crop that, unlike many, leaves the soil in as good or better condition than when it was planted.
That industrial hemp is considered by the DEA to be a Schedule I substance, meaning that it’s tightly regulated by the federal government, is a source of frustration for many farmers, activists, and, in growing numbers, a shockingly bipartisan coalition of politicians who want to restore a cash crop to impoverished green belts. Considering the United States is the world’s largest consumer of hemp products, to the tune of around $573 million in 2015, it does seem insane that farmers in many states simply cannot grow it. Of the 28 states that can produce it, under the 2014 Farm Bill, it’s often only in a limited fashion, and the selling can be even trickier.
Despite all this, and the fact that it ultimately offers far more societal benefits than its THC-laden relative, hemp often finds itself taking a backseat in the media and activists to medical and legal marijuana’s state-by-state advance. One enterprising group of farmers in Appalachia, made up of veterans hoping to eke out a better living for their families, has turned to hemp, and it’s making a stand in a wholly unique—and patriotic—way. Filmmaker Dan Malloy spent some time with them, ultimately creating a mini-documentary.
“I have no connection with the actual hemp plant and its many uses,” Malloy told The Daily Beast. “My motivation to make this film is the belief that this country is in desperate need of more small farms. I believe it is small farmers that are the true medium between nature and the civilized world. The way I see it, small and medium scale farmers should be looked at like the last old growth redwoods, but instead of creating parks and preserves, every last regulation in America should be built to preserve small family farms through economic viability. The viability of a healthy small-scale farm is a reflection of the diversity and independence of our people.”
Watch his film, Harvesting Liberty, above, and click here to see the petition asking Congress to support the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, to be delivered on July 4, 2016.