Jerry Norton; he’s like the Johnny Appleseed of the hemp industry. For the sake of this article, I’ll refer to him by his well known alias Jerry Hempseed. You may wonder, what’s all this jive about hemp, I thought this was a marijuana magazine? And in response, I would say why are you using the term jive? It’s 2017 dude. I would also say, marijuana and hemp are one in the same, just different varieties of cannabis. The only difference lies in how their THC and CBD percentages check out. Hemp is CBD only, an
d cannot test above 0.3% THC to be qualified as such. It doesn’t get you high, but you don’t have to get grumpy, there’s a slew of other uses for this miracle plant, and Jerry Norton is one of the biggest promoters and growers of it.
His mom’s side of the family are grass seed farmers, and have been for generations. He grew up around farming, learning about growing crops as he grew. With the cannabis industry evolving, so did Jerry. He grew towards a more pungent grass, one of the cannabis variety, but not the one most are attracted to. He took the OSU course on industrial hemp. “…that aligned me with a lot of individuals within the hemp industry.” Jerry states.
He’s not shy about the occasional bong rip, but his passion is invested in hemp. Jerry Hempseed started from humble beginnings – around 12 years ago he opened a hemp shop in a mall in Salem, Oregon… right down the street from his childhood home. I wish I could say that I remember it, but it was shut down almost as soon as it was established because Oregon wasn’t ready yet. Now, times have changed and most people either smoke or have smoked pot – including our last three presidents. Like converse and rompers, one had to become outstandingly popular for the other to be brought back. Marijuana is the converse in this scenario, and hemp is the romper. While marijuana has been cool for a long time, it took hemp about a century to come back in style.
Jerry Hempseed is the guy donning the metaphorical romper. He’s been working with higher education facilities in order to get his seeds certified as hemp seeds. In order for him to do that he needs to jump through a series of hoops, or “a matrix,” as he calls it. Hemp, although still cannabis, has zero psychoactive effects. Marijuana is for the mind and hemp heals the body – but it’s still up to the states to decide whether or not it can be cultivated. That’s the reason Jerry Hempseed is pushing to certify his seeds. Once certified, he can hand over his hemp seeds to other universities to get the ball rolling in different regions. Under the 2014 Federal Farm Bill, universities and state departments of agriculture are allowed to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes.
This man has a special kind of love for hemp and what it can be applied to. No longer are the years of hemp being known as ragged hippy jewelry. Now that it has it’s foot in the door, millions are discovering the different uses for hemp. “I want to see thousands of acres of hemp for the thousand uses it has,” and he went on to say, “My attorney just got a hemp car… these shoes are hemp… what more do you want? I mean, talk about sustainable living. We don’t need cotton anymore. You can build a society with it. Hempcrete [hemp insulation] you just mix lime and water with it, and put it into squares, and then boom. It’s strictly amazing what this stuff can do.”
Jim Sheridan, a city father in Sheridan, Oregon, contacted Mr. Norton with a peculiar request. The water by their city’s prison is toxic, and he wants Jerry’s help installing hemp plants as a filtration system. It’ll likely be torture for every prisoner who catches sight of the dank pond, but it’s the most sustainable filtration system there is.
Whether it’s hemp or marijuana, cannabis is growing in Oregon, and all eyes are on us according to Norton. “I was at the Oregon Department of Agriculture the other day, just checking some records. Last year we had 70 farmers, now we’re at 270.” The market is expanding, but at the moment the hemp industry is at a bottleneck. The demand for hemp has inflated exponentially these past several years, but the number of folks processing it is still low. Right now, you need a license to process either marijuana, or hemp, but at the moment one license doesn’t suffice for both. Those licenses aren’t cheap, so naturally people gravitate away from getting both. “We’re pushing for an amendment that will allow marijuana processors to also process hemp.” Once that happens, the bottleneck will free, and hemp products will flood the market. Hemp is nature’s duct tape, as Norton said, there’s a thousand uses for it, but right now we’re limited. “Lots of people want that hemp processed, and there’s only so many people that can do it. Lord knows I can’t do it all.”
Five years ago, Norton created PDX Hempfest Expo, which sprouted as a sort of hybrid consolidation of his two previous conventions: Oregon Medical Marijuana Cup and the Oregon Cannabis Convention. “When I first started getting into hemp, I realized that there was such a need for an advocate out there who shows that it’s all about coexistence of the plant.” Norton explained, “because it is the same plant, marijuana is just a little sexier.” Yes, hemp is like Brad Pitt’s younger brother Doug Pitt. Marijuana is the cool one that’s in all the movies and gets all the glory; while hemp just remains in its shadow. Dr. Dre never said “smoke hemp everyday,” so it must not be cool right? Wrong! Hemp is awesome. If curing major ailments counts as cool, then hemp deserves a gold chain, a leather jacket, and some sweet shades. You can learn about all of it’s uses from extremely educated stoners such as Ed Rosenthal and Rick Simpson, for an entry price of $20 at this year’s PDX Hempfest. Compared to most other shows, which usually run around $200, and your first born child, you’re getting an insane discount on an awe inspiring convention. That’s what we in the industry like to call “the homie hookup.”
Don’t expect this stoner to sleep in though, Norton is a busy man. When he’s through with his convention, he’ll be marketing his new product CannaShield, a clear vapor cartridge that is 87% CBD! The buck doesn’t stop there though, because along with that business he has a product called CBD Honey Stix. When he’s not marketing for those two companies, he’ll be pre-selling sections of his crop to an array of customers. Shampoo companies are a big one apparently. Who needs Paul Mitchell when you’ve got Mary Jane?
Jerry Norton is a pioneer, and for now, he may just be considered some guy who smokes and grows a lot of pot, but an expanding market carries with it expanding knowledge. Expect the legend of Johnny Hempseed to live on in the pantheon of cultivation. Nothing is unattainable, and it’s only when you lose sight of the goal, that something becomes unimaginable. Just 50 years ago, people couldn’t have imagined marijuana and hemp being where they are currently, but there were a few that did, and we’re where we are today because of those individuals, such as marijuana education advocate Jerry Norton.
Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, once wrote “imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality,” which is true. Thanks to Norton and many others, what once seemed unimaginable is now a reality. But, in order to keep the ball rolling, we can’t forget education is the only weapon in the war against legality. Study up stoners, grab your armor, set down that bong, and prepare for brain war. This decade will undoubtedly go down in history as a cosmic explosion of reality as the world comes to realize the difference between marijuana and hemp. Ultimately, neither one ever had anything to do with addiction, “reefer madness”, or any of the other stigmas, lies, and urban legends that had been passed around for generations.