By: Juana Poareo March 8, 2021
Misconceptions about hemp continue despite 2018 legalization What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “hemp”? If you Google “Is hemp…”, the first result that comes up is “Is hemp marijuana?” The short answer is Yes.
What is hemp?
The difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp has much less THC (0.3 percent or less) than marijuana. THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, one of many chemicals contained in the cannabis plant. THC is responsible for creating the “high” people get from using marijuana.
Hemp is simply defined by how much THC it contains, and doesn’t create a high when you use it. Hemp is legal, 'marijuana' (in many states) is not.
An incomplete education
As a health teacher to high school students in Illinois, Gina was faced with overeager students who wanted to know all there was to know about marijuana but Gina’s main focus was on the cannabis plant and by extension, hemp. She had no interest in helping her students get high, no matter how much they implored her to teach them how to get and use weed.
After encouraging her students to throw their health books on the floor and start a raw discussion about not marijuana, not smoking weed, and definitely not getting high, she started discussing the plant itself: hemp.
Hemp comes in different forms: seeds, oil, protein. The emphasis in her classroom was on learning about hemp oil not CBD oil. Her students loved it and she came to the classroom with lip balms and soaps containing hemp as rewards for trivia games.
Not only was Gina a high school teacher, but she was also a basketball coach for 10 years. The use of hemp protein was especially interesting to her student athletes and they just inhaled all the information she gave about hemp nutrition and how it could encourage building muscle.
But teaching about hemp came at a cost. The school administration didn’t take kindly to Gina teaching her students about hemp because it was not part of the school curriculum. (School administrators are firm, even rabid, about following curriculums to the letter.) They didn’t know what to do with Gina after she told them what was in the health books was a lie and she refused to perpetuate those lies.
Even when a school administrator came to her classroom to oversee her teaching, Gina continued to teach the health benefits of hemp. She wasn’t going to let the higher-ups intimidate her.
Her refusal to kowtow resulted in a meeting with the teachers’ union and lawyers from the school district. Gina stuck to her convictions, even after being called a drug dealer to her face. How do illegal drugs equate to hemp seeds, which are sold in supermarkets and natural foods stores throughout the country? The union reps suggested to her that she stay quiet and continue to follow the school curriculum if she wanted to keep her job.
Hemp brief history
When all of this was happening, it was the year 2013. When hemp was first discovered, it was used for commercial purposes, for production of twine, cord, and textiles. But in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act put into motion the regulation and prohibition of marijuana, but first was the heavy taxation of hemp use.
In 1967, the Act criminalized all use and possession of marijuana, and then in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act deemed marijuana (including hemp) a controlled substance.
It was only in December 2018, when the Farm Bill passed, that hemp became legal to use. Which is why we now see hemp-derived products everywhere.
Gina was advanced in her knowledge of the health benefits of hemp, and was determined that more education was needed. She had a final meeting with the school and then went out to grab lunch. On her way back, she was stopped by a police officer. At the time, Gina was 39 years old and four months’ pregnant. The police officer claimed he smelled marijuana smoke after seeing a Moms for Marijuana sticker in her car but the rolling papers and lighter belonged to her husband, who was a tobacco smoker.
The experience left a mark on her. Gina lost her career and she was forced to resign. Even though charges were never brought against her, the damage was done.
Growing a movement
The experience lit a spark in Gina and she became determined to educate others about hemp. Unsure how she was going to enter the hemp industry, she started making hemp oil soaps, selling them on eBay and Etsy and as holiday gifts for friends and family.
Then in 2014, Gina and her family packed up and moved to Washington State, leaving Chicago behind. Their plan was to learn about cannabis from the ground up, becoming growers and helping countless people. While in Washington, Gina learned she had a tumor in her bone. She turned to cannabis to mitigate her pain and symptoms, further emphasizing the medical benefits of cannabis. When the laws for cannabis access to patients in Washington State changed, Gina took everything she learned back with her to the Midwest. Even Lois, her best friend since childhood, joined her, and soaked up the knowledge Gina had gained. Back in Chicago, they would be the first people to begin adding CBD to their products in the Midwest.
Lois expanded her knowledge through research and by indulging her crafty talents, creating hemp jewelry and small clay stash jars. This was a chance to help her focus on something enjoyable, as her full-time job at IHG Hotels was stressful. The biggest motivator was her daughter, Eliana, whom she struggled to bring into the world. After earning some money from her creations, Lois decided to join Gina in her mission.
In 2016, Gina formulated the world's first CBD eye drop, C Better Daily, and the two formed G L Wellness in Wisconsin. After making their mark there, in product development, consulting, strategic networking, and helping farmers and extractors build their businesses, Lois and Gina are now ready to move on to Arizona to further educate others about hemp.
The vision of a utopian community is the driving force behind what is now the Hemp Sisters Nation. The two women have a hand in everything, from product development to supply chain, with loads of support from the community. They hope their message of acceptance and inclusion will open the doors to people who are interested in a communal experience, where everyone is treated equally.
The Hemp Sisters Nation is a hub of hemp education. Send your questions to Gina and Lois. Nothing is off limits!
Here’s how you can reach them:
General inquiries: email@example.com
Juana Poareo is a blog writer for podcasters, a part-time journalist and a recovering editor.
She has worked with Next Avenue, HuffPost, Saatchi Saatchi, Onco Link, MBLM, and Ambrosia Treatment Center.
Her website is juanawrites.com
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