Farmer Ben Rooney spent several days last week rushing around Wild Folk Farm in Benton planting 300 seedlings of Maine’s trendiest new crop, industrial hemp. “We’re kind of in the heat of it now,” he said.
It’s an apt expression; hemp is Maine’s hot new crop after nearly a century of falling by the wayside. The kind of cannabis sativa that doesn’t get you high was once a commonplace crop in New England and throughout America, used to make everything from clothing to rope. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both grew it. Until 1933, the U.S. Department of Agriculture helpfully developed new varieties of it for farmers.
Then hemp began to slip into the shadows, nudged out of production by both the advent of cheap cotton and a federal noose tightening on a plant it considered too closely related to the kind of cannabis sativa that contains high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of cannabis sativa L, and industrial hemp has less than 1 percent THC, compared to the 4 to 20 percent typically contained in marijuana. [Read more at Portland Press Herald]