(NaturalNews) The second annual Hemp History Week took place from May 2-8, 2011. Organized by Vote Hemp and The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), the week-long education campaign included nearly 600 celebrations in all 50 states and an online petition drive that encouraged the Obama administration and Congress to change federal policy and allow American farmers to once again grow industrial hemp.
This year's effort expanded on the inaugural campaign held in May of last year, which mobilized supporters of hemp farming nationwide, including hundreds of volunteers who organized around 200 events in thirty-two states.
The 2011 campaign's theme of "Hemp for Health and Sustainability" attracted endorsements from Dr. Andrew Weil, Alicia Silverstone, Phil Lempert, Ashley Koff R.D., Brendan Brazier, Alexandra Jamieson, Dar Williams, Michael Franti and Ziggy Marley. Hundreds of natural product retail outlets across the country participated through promotions and in-store events, including almost all Whole Foods Market stores across the U.S.
On Whole Foods Market's Whole Story blog, writer Alexia Case said, "The second annual Hemp History Week (May 2-8) is here and we couldn't be more excited! I'm sure you're waiting for the punch line but Hemp History Week actually has a pretty serious mission -- educating the public, debunking myths and changing public policy -- to support the industrial hemp industry."
Portland, OR was a hot spot for retail store participation in the campaign including New Seasons Market, Food Front, People's Co-op, Alberta Street Co-op, and Whole Foods Market.
"We're proud to provide high quality consumer products made with sustainably and organically grown hemp," says Lisa Sedlar, President and CEO of New Seasons Market. "The demand for nutrient-rich whole foods made with hemp seed and hemp oil continues to rise, and we're excited to offer a wide variety of options for our shoppers."
Hemp is a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids and is a good source of dietary fiber, plus it's gluten-free and a complete protein. Hemp can be used in a wide variety of products, including food, cosmetics, clothing, building materials, auto parts and more. Sponsors included Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, French Meadow Bakery, Living Harvest Foods, Manitoba Harvest, Merry Hempsters, Nature's Path Foods, Nutiva and Sequel Naturals.
"For nearly ten years, the Bronner family has financially supported efforts to lift the ban on non-drug industrial hemp farming because it is an environmentally-sustainable crop," states David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the top-selling brand of natural soap in the U.S. "Despite our efforts, we are forced to continue purchasing the twenty tons of hemp oil that we use annually from Canada. This is a lost opportunity for American farmers and businesses, which is becoming more absurd and outrageous with each growing season that passes."
The HIA estimates that U.S. retail sales of hemp products exceeded $400 million in 2010, yet American companies making hemp products have no choice but to import their raw materials, due to the federal government's ban on hemp farming. While demand for hemp products continues to rise, it is becoming a challenge for Canadian growers and processors, the primary suppliers of hemp seed and oil to the U.S. market, to keep up and meet that demand.
To date, seventeen states have passed pro-hemp legislation, and six states (Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia) have already authorized the licensing of farmers to grow the crop. Despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in these states risk raids by federal agents if they plant the crop, due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive varieties. Meanwhile, the Canadian government recently funneled nearly $1 million into their hemp industry, as they look to increase production capacity and make even greater inroads into the American market.