Unearthing Cannabis Roots To Support Future Growth

By Kelly Rippel.

The long, winding, and complicated history of cannabis in the state of Kansas is not well documented, but hopefully moving forward that lack of transparency will change.

Many reasons exist why little public information is available on the subject, with the exception of generations of zero tolerance legislation and law enforcement records. Among those factors are events that can be traced back to lingering angst from extreme conservative groups, religious organizations, and influencers such as temperance activist, Carry Nation, who fought for alcohol prohibition until her dying day.

Like other areas of the country during the early 1900s, an influx of anti-immigration sentiment paired with stigmatization of cannabis or “marijuana” was hurled onto minority populations. This led to removing cannabis from the U.S. Pharmacopeia, discrimination-based policies such as Jim Crow laws, and eventually Presidents Nixon and Reagan’s enforcement known as the War on Drugs – all disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable populations of society. Yellow journalism found fertile ground in America’s Heartland. Early and quick through print, then radio. At the same time, corporate interests of exclusivity were beginning to rise with the industrialization of new technologies.

Among those advancements were chemical applications for agriculture and synthetics which competed directly with hemp and cannabis-based products. Just as Kansas was a battle ground during and after it became a Free State in 1861, it was also witness to a culmination of every aspect behind prohibition of cannabis in all its forms – including research.

The Sunflower State has always been a leader of agricultural production because of its strategic position occupying the largest intact portion of the Great Plains. According to an archived USDA Ag Report, Kansas was even ranked first in the nation in 1863 for its production of hemp bushels per acre. However, what many do not know is sometime between 1940 and 1964, the state removed industrial hemp from its annual agriculture report.

Shortly after, during the 1970s, research was conducted at the nation’s first land grant school, Kansas State University. Among the analyses of cannabinoid content, researchers also evaluated the most effective ways to eradicate hemp, or what authorities thought was “marijuana.” I know this because my father was a volunteer in that research as an undergrad student earning a biology degree. At a young age he told me about his involvement, and after years of learning about humanity’s relationship with cannabis I eventually obtained the publications in their entirety from Hale Library on K-State’s campus.

Using a lens of scientific standards and industry-accepted methodologies, it can be argued the studies contained numerous conflicts of interest. Most importantly, conclusions proved the legal enactment prohibiting cannabis of every kind was not supported by recorded observations. A full review of the studies can be found here. I assert this finding is significant for multiple reasons including the following:

  • There is documented, state-sanctioned evidence showing cannabis varieties that naturally occur in Kansas were not the preconceived “drug-type," but rather the identified “fiber-type.” These unearthed confirmations further prove that varieties of cannabis growing throughout the state are not only low in potency, but do not fluctuate in cannabinoid content. This means authorities knew at the time of its publication there was not an objective or scientific justification to eradicate hemp based on the sole argument it was thought to be a drug.
  • Conflicts of interest involved corporate funding from a global chemical and pharmaceutical conglomerate, and suppression of the historical research signals clear intent to conceal such works as it is still not open access information to this day. Additionally, all authors gave acknowledgements to the Marijuana Control Steering Committee which influenced language and terminology to be biased in nature, showing confusion between the two genetic cousins. The text even originated from, and gave reference to, previous medical and pharmaceutical research.
  • This discovery of data may point to the possibility that similar studies exist in vaults or archives from other colleges and universities throughout the United States, which must drive further reviews in both historical and modern contexts. If anyone locates information along these lines, Planted Association of Kansas is interested in partnering to develop a shared system to house this data. Please reach out to us at www.plantedks.org

With all the excitement surrounding our country’s reintroduction of hemp and cannabis industries, it can be difficult to wade through the vast amount of information. A main challenge has become finding trusted sources of data and support who operate with intention of improving the common good. I firmly believe by searching for primary sources and understanding assumptions of the past, we can make better decisions for our collective future.

Joining over forty other states, the Kansas legislature unanimously approved the reintroduction of industrial hemp in 2018, signed by then-Governor Colyer. Then in 2019 Governor Laura Kelly expanded the hemp research program to participate in the permanent cultivation of commercial hemp, aligning state laws with the federally-enacted 2018 Farm Bill.

In its first year the state has licensed 203 growers, representing over 5,500 acres approved to cultivate hemp. Processes will continue to expand and evolve over time, so gathering and disseminating information in the coming months will be crucial. It may be a long road to rebuild our once-flourishing supply chain necessary for hemp cultivation, processing, and manufacturing, but the movement is well on its way.

Unfortunately, while progress has been made on the industrial side in Kansas, years of pushback from elected officials, staunch prohibitionists, and leadership has prevented any substantial access to medical applications of cannabis cultivars. This has resulted in an unknown export of revenue, not to mention forcing numerous patients to move out-of-state seeking cannabis treatments approved elsewhere. It is encouraging however, to see recent shifts occur in leadership, discussions through interim committees at the state level, and traction nationally through the recent FDA hearing on cannabis-derived products and the House Judiciary hearing, “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.”

Momentum has never been stronger to return the legacy crop of hemp to farmers as well as allowing proven safe and effective cannabis treatments to patients and the medical community. While it may not be a solution to all of humanity’s troubles, the complexity of cannabis must be understood better. Now it is up to us to hold decision-makers accountable to responsibly protect shared values of restorative and equal justice, harm reduction, and education so public health and our environment can continue to improve as policies change with the times.

Photo by Kelly Rippel.

Kelly Rippel is Vice President & Co-Founder, Kansans for Hemp; President, Planted Association of Kansas; Advisor, Bleeding Kansas Advocates; Appointed Advisor, Kansas Department of Agriculture; and on the Industrial Hemp Research Advisory Board.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

Posted In: CannabisNewsEducationOpinionMarketsGeneralkansasKelly Rippel

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