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Harvesting Colorado Hemp: New Visions for Plant Medicine

Just about a year ago, I was harvesting hemp as part of an illegal – and very much patriotic – protest at Loflin Farms in Springfield, Colorado, and so I made my return to see what activist-hemp farmer Ryan Loflin is up to under the now regulated hemp industry.
Harvesting Colorado Hemp: New Visions for Plant Medicine

September 25, 2014

Apparently it's another big year at Loflin Farms, carving out a fresh path for cannabis and agriculture, while challenging how America thinks about its healthcare. Because the symbol of the American farmer is rarely associated with cannabis in the public mind, some find digesting the image of a hemp farmer hard on the imagination.

But as you might see, Loflin is more pioneer than farmer: This season, he's harvesting a hemp medicinal cultivar (<0.3% THC) to develop a host of new products that won't make you feel high, but in many cases, might make you feel better. The controversial extract – known as cannabidiol (or CBD) – is one of the buzzing issues in American medical news.

Even in Congress, CBD is being heard out for its ability to alleviate more chronic conditions like epilepsy, addiction, arthritis and common varieties of inflammation. Coming from a federally prohibited plant, everyone will have to patiently cope with the D.C. political crawl until the new treatments can be expected to reach mass amounts of patients.


Loflin, far right, clipping and collecting hemp tops alongside volunteers.

As it stands with the Feds, CBD oil is a marijuana derivative, open and shut. But hope arrived in a July bill introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), which states “therapeutic hemp” and CBD “shall not be treated as controlled substances.”

If successful, these substances would be reclassified among the list of federally scheduled drugs and make them adequately available to patients who qualify, likely an issue to be handled by state boards of health. The bill, titled “Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014,” takes its name from Charlotte Figi, a 7-year-old Colorado girl with Dravet Syndrome. After attempting traditional pharmaceuticals with little success, her parents were finally able to treat her condition with a high-CBD, low-THC strain of cannabis called “Charlotte’s Web.”

Some have contended that the language in the proposed House bill is too fine a legislative line and should ensure cannabis for much broader medical use, like cancer treatments. But regardless of the details, it would be the first time a pot-prohibiting federal government accepts cannabis as a legitimate medical therapy, something that would immediately remove it from Schedule I status (see govt. cannabinoid patent).

The Charlotte’s Web bill comes after 11 states – many of them quite conservative – have legalized CBD for limited medical use or research. Add that to another 20+ states that regulate medical marijuana already, and well...I think you can see where this is going. Until Congress and the Dept. of Justice officially reign in the dogs at the DEA, patients and scientists are still at risk, even where valid state licensing exists.


A Whole New Health

For the last two years, besides building his seed stock, Loflin has been growing hemp for CBD extracts, and more personally, for a close friend suffering from a life-threatening illness. The courage it took for his illegal but celebrated crop last year was more than making national headlines or fighting for farmers' right to grow.

This time last season, dozens of volunteers flocked from across the West to be a part of history, all in the small town of Springfield, CO, to join the first large-scale American hemp harvest in the last 50 years. Since Colorado voters legalized hemp and marijuana by passing Amendment 64, advocates and entrepreneurs have been shuffling around the state to build a future for the plant.

To think, farmers once had to grow the stuff in the U.S. Cannabis plants contain an assortment of chemicals, THC just happens to be the most psychoactive and popular among them, so most folks use it to feel high, just like people use other substances like coffee or alcohol to alter state of mind.

But what if their muscles ache or cramp? Or they can't sleep? Has it suddenly become medicinal? Or even therapeutic? Does enjoying the feeling make a difference? As the growing national acceptance of cannabis becomes less "reefer madness" and more lifestyle choice, the public will see the difficulties faced when trying to compartmentalize cannabis to a single disease or highly exclusive group.

But now we see people growing it across the country testifying to a boost in health from not only smoking but also through juicing raw cannabis leaves and consuming high-CBD edibles. Instead of intellectual progress, heavy-handed moralistic laws have left scientists hard-pressed for better data to highlight the confirmed benefits of cannabis, but like the logic, the dog is chasing its own tail: essentially, legislators have ensured limited knowledge by their own policies.

The rapid evolution of the cannabis lifestyle, with it's scope of tinctures and products, has led to a subculture that's into more than just the oft-stereotyped "stoner" mentality. It's important because canna-health is nothing new in the human drama: We've known for thousands of years that cannabis had special healing properties – an ancient Hindu text even refers to the plant as “sacred grass.” And then there's the 2,500-year-old Siberian "ice princess" found buried with cannabis, and a breast tumor.


Harvests like these represent an avant-garde and almost underground therapy in the West. It's not unreasonable to expect CBD extracts to become more readily available as states continue to investigate hemp pilot programs and CBD legislation, mostly because the medical industry can no longer ignore it.

Take a step back from all this for a second: You just might glimpse a generation resurrecting ancient plant knowledge and fusing it with modern extraction technologies to create a bio-pharmacopeia that represents a fundamental counterpunch to the limitations of our healthcare system, even winning over the likes of Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

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