At least 30 countries produce hemp commercially, and most of the hemp imported into the U.S. is grown in China, Canada and Europe.
Rough industry estimates suggest that a few hundred million dollars’ worth of hemp products, such as soaps, body lotions and hemp granola, are sold in the U.S. every year.
All of it is imported, which maddens David Bronner, chief executive of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap based in Escondido, Calif. His company uses 20 tons of hempseed oil in soaps every year and has contributed $50,000 to Washington’s campaign and $50,000 to Colorado's.
‘‘The Canadian farmers are laughing at us all the way to the bank,’’ Bronner said. ‘‘We give $100,000 a year to the Canadians. If American farmers could grow industrial hemp here, we'd recognize 25 percent savings, for sure.’’
That kind of talk intrigues farmers like Ted Durfey, who has a seed press at his Sunnyside, Wash., farm to help turn the canola and flax he grows into biofuel.
‘‘If it’s sanctioned, it would lend itself pretty well to enhancing our local economy,’’ Durfey said. ‘‘But I'm definitely not going to grow a commodity that’s illegal under federal law.’’
Another central Washington farmer, Tom Stahl, said that if the initiative passes, he'd likely grow it until federal authorities caught on and warned him not to.
But even some farmers interested in experimenting with hemp aren’t necessarily planning to vote for the ballot measures. They include Rob Jones, a southern Colorado potato farmer who has unsuccessfully lobbied the Legislature to permit industrial hemp.
Told the marijuana measure on ballots this fall would do the same thing, Jones scoffed. ‘‘It’s going to be legal to smoke it in this state before we can grow it for legitimate purposes,’’ Jones said.
Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle. Wyatt reported from Denver and can be reached at https://twitter.com/APkristenwyatt.