For the inaugural Alaska Hemp Festival that Niki Raapana organized in rural Alaska several years ago, she remembers public outcry was so intense that sponsors and planned venues repeatedly dropped the event after people complained.
That continued last year, she says, when four different venues abruptly cancelled on her. Rumors spread that the Alaska Hemp Festival would not be happening, though in the end she finally secured a spot at a venue in Wasilla, the state’s sixth most populous city.
“There’s a lot of hostility still around hemp and cannabis” in the state, Raapana tells ConsumerAffairs.
The general public in Alaska may not be embracing hemp, but the state’s conservative politicians are. Last month, the Alaska Legislature unanimously put their support behind hemp, passing a bill that would allow farmers to participate in a pilot program to grow hemp — a cannabis plant that looks like marijuana but has negligible levels of THC, its psychoactive component.
The bill was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Shelley Hughes, who said that the push to legalize hemp came from farmers. It is now awaiting Governor Bill Walker’s signature.
“There are farmers, there are ranchers, there are entrepreneurs in our state that are interested in hemp for a variety of purposes,” Hughes told KTVA. “We’ve got folks that are looking at is as a construction material, as a material for oil spill cleanup, to use in lotions and soaps, and to use as livestock feed and bedding.”
One resident in Homer, Alaska is reportedly insulating his home with hemp, a move he said is cutting down on energy costs. But because hemp is not yet legal to grow in the state, he must have it imported.
Rural America sees dollar signs in hemp
Assuming Alaska’s governor signs the bill into law, it will become