BATTLE FOR HEMP
Directed by surfer-environmentalist Dan Malloy, the documentary follows Lewis as he explains how he and Growing Warriors, the nonprofit he founded to help veteran families grow organic food, became some of the first private citizens to grow industrial hemp on U.S. soil in more than 70 years.
The process of obtaining hemp seeds took more than a little political jockeying, but in 2014, Lewis found himself, much like the country’s earliest settlers, “ventur[ing] into uncharted waters.”
A variety of the Cannabis sativa species, hemp is one of the most versatile and low-maintenance plants at our disposal. Hemp fibers can be turned into clothing and other textiles; hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into flour, cold-pressed into oil, or turned into fuel. “Hempcrete,” a mixture of hemp and lime, is sometimes used as a construction material.
This year, the United States will import an estimated retail value of $500 million in products made of industrial hemp. That’s $500 million of potential employment dollars that Americans are missing out.
How hemp fell out of favor is grist for speculation—and conspiracy theorists. Although frequently confused with marijuana, hemp’s industrial form has virtually no psychoactive properties.
Once the crop was ready for harvest, Lewis worked with Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed to turn the hemp into a symbol of its role in the country’s history.
“We chose to create and grow an American flag on principle,” Lewis says. “The flag represents a collective history and future of an entire people; our people. So it shouldn’t be made anywhere other than here. And it should mostly certainly not be made cheaply.”
The flag, Lewis adds, also represents what America could be.
“When you think about the type of industry that typically take place in Central Appalachia, you’re looking at coal and manufacturing and those are both very extractive industries. They pull things out without giving back,” he says in the film. “Industrial hemp is a community-building industry. It’s not a ‘let’s come in and take what we can get and leave’ type of industry.”
“We took simple seeds and we turned them into this flag that represents the strength and ingenuity of the American farmer,” he adds. “I can only imagine the wonders that we will see when every American farmer has the opportunity to grow this amazing crop.”
On July 4, Patagonia, Lewis, and other hemp proponents will deliver a petition urging Congress to pass the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015/2016 (S.134 and H.R. 525) and legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States.
You can sign the petition here.