05/06/20 Doug Fine

This week on Century of Lies, part one of our conversation with the journalist, hemp activist and farmer Doug Fine. We talk about hemp, renewable agriculture, farming, CBD, and Doug's new book American Hemp Farmer. Plus we hear from Louis L. Reed, national organizer for #Cut50, on COVID in prisons.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Guest: 
Doug Fine
Organization: 
Drug War Facts
Doug Fine
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050620
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DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate A Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of drugwarfacts.org. Doug fine is a solar-powered goat herder a comedic investigative journalist and a Pioneer voice and hemp and regenerative farming he's cultivated hemp in four US states and his weed genetics are in five more. He's an award-winning culture and climate correspondent for NPR, the New York Times And The Washington Post among others. His books include hemp bound, too high to fail, Farewell My Subaru, Not really an Alaskan Mountain Man and first legal Harvest Doug has a new book out. It's just been released. It's called American hemp farmer available at bookstores everywhere once book stores are open again. It's published by Chelsea Green publishing,  Doug. Thank you for joining us

DOUG FINE: It's always a pleasure to be with you Doug. 

DOUG MCVAY: So let's get right to it. Now. Your new book is American hemp farmer, the title kind of says it all but tell my listeners what it's about

DOUG MCVAY: the resurgent hemp industry worldwide is the economist side of folks likes to point out the fastest agricultural based economy to cross the billion dollar annual revenue generation of any industry. However, and that's fantastic, but for from my perspective, it only means something if the farmers are the beneficiaries of anything that comes out of the soil, especially with regenerative practices. Farmers have not been the primary Financial beneficiaries and we have the opportunity to change that in the hemp kind of a sphere. So I sort of explored what farmer friendly models farmer first models might look like as hemp. Continues to Surge.

DOUG MCVAY: you are a very strong proponent of organic farming in general. It's not just with hemp. But am I right you were into Organics prior to becoming a hemp farmer?

DOUG FINE: Yes. My second book is called Farewell My Subaru and it's about trying to live with modern Comforts. But without fossil fuels and embedded in that is organic and regenerative food practices and I like to think that I put very few non-organic Foods into my body.

DOUG MCVAY: Well you certainly seem healthy. So you look healthy, the so it must be working. I'm now I'm curious did getting involved with him have any impact on your perspective on organic farming. I mean you already into it, but it didn't have any impact on your your perspective on it. 

DOUG FINE: Huge impact. First of all a fun practical impact my home state of New Mexico, but I work in heaven cultivate have been a number of places around the world and one of the places where I have direct entrepreneurial effort a farm-to-table product growing is in Vermont. And when I and my farming Partners in Vermont had the or USDA certain, you know approved organic certifiers come out to our farm and then stamp our Crop Organic a crop that three or four years earlier was in the Orwellian final days of the war on cannabis, a schedule 1 felony.

That was a remarkably good feeling in general. just in terms of official that intimacy but when it comes to the idea of organic, I first of all think it's still valuable. It's a valuable stamp to have I look for it. If I'm not let's say at a farmers market or I'm not growing food myself. I'm actually in let's say a food co-op I look for it because it means a few important things. That's obviously not when something is federally mandated for 300 million people. It's Not going to be as strong probably as many of us would would want but it means something. These days, there's a lot of efforts on to improve on Organics. In other words alternate certifications that include things like fair trade and all that good stuff. I'm thinking of brother David's cannabis certification.

There's a lot of there's a lot of cool proposals out there. The main thing really is educated Customers knowing about asking the right questions about regenerative practices- organic is part of regenerative practices. My definition overall of regenerative, Doug is basically are you leaving everything not just your field in as good a condition or better as you found it, you know basic kindergarten stuff one example being I do a very small run Hemp products Farm stable organic product and I ordered composable non-tree labels with non-toxic Stickam and so expensive between front and back label.

We're talking a dollar a bottle, but it's like we were in the ninth inning for Humanity here from a climate change perspective, and there's no more time for putting these kind of decisions off. So I just bit the bullet and I encourage everyone else to do that. You could do every part of your Enterprise regeneratively these days and that also means
Focusing it regionally, you know not having an in-game of getting bought out by a hedge fund or going public but rather a long-term lucrative living for your family and your community. 

DOUG MCVAY: In fact, I was just just looking through Facebook saw some kind of product that was supposed to be a hemp-based plastic container for the weed for dispensaries to use. Hmm interesting. That's very good. 

DOUG FINE: Sorry to interrupt. What that sounds like is packaging. Those are nice. The folks on the radio won't be able to see this. But since you and I are communicating visually you have this in the U.S. Grown hemp plastic 3D printed in the form of a goat since I'm a goat herder. Really the goodbye Pacific Garbage Patch movement is on the end of trash is the current National Geographic cover story and hemp and other biomaterials. It can play a huge huge role in that. It's a real thing. It's not just, you know, a righteous cutesy thing. It's we need to make Every step in the Industrial Pipeline regenerative or or we go away as a species, you know, the Earth will be fine.

DOUG MCVAY: to talk a little more about the environmental impact of hemp production. It's a I mean the plant itself has some impact but also the products I Know Jack was you know, the everybody likes to focus on the drug products, but Hemp itself really does have a lot of potential and it just seems to have more. Oh God all say the word. Seems to have more and more applications every day. Yes. You got me to say it. 

DOUG FINE: I knew you were going to say we joked about it before we went on the air all the buzz words that we're working our way into our into our dialogue spider heavy. 

DOUG MCVAY: You're just you're just that kind of an influencer Doug. Oh gosh. 

DOUG FINE: Oh my goodness, um a little inside job here for the benefit of the pretty confident us. So you guys it's a touch me with the environment talk more about the environmental impact of hemp and pimp production cultivation wise hemp can be the best of Worlds of the worst Two Worlds and the argument that I make in the new book American hemp farmer. Is that if we who decide to do things for regeneratively are willing to make that our brand and to shout out that are top shelf products are just that they're actually Superior and things like bio availability and performance precisely because we're focusing not just on immediate bottom line, but on sequestering carbon through good soil building practices for instance that that's our brand and if we can educate customers.

That those are the products to seek out, you know, it's sort of an extension of the know your farmer concept for anything that you buy that's food. But beyond that know your regenerative farmer asked questions. Like are you building soil and to give you one example of you know, the side of it that is is not the way that I love to grow. I'm a little against the current Trend in the Hemp side of growing sensimilla style. And you know, don't get me wrong. I love all sides of the plant big fan of of sinsemilla, but I grow dioecious hemp male and female hemp with the argument that everyone's happier when they're dating that there may be a hormonal balance kind of thing and it's a little bit against the grain not against the grain for the last eight thousand years Against the Grain for the last 10 years when folks started cultivating cannabis hemp for for specific cannabinoids other than THC, you know, the first big rush was CBD, but now there's a big rush for CBG on I really like CBC but in truth, I'm a whole plant kind of guy inlife in general.

I don't extract lycopene and take it in a pill. I eat tomatoes for instance. So with with hemp cannabis, I'm not really that interested in jacking up one or the other. I'm interested in varieties that have developed in a Locale and have what you might call terroir like a fine fine wine or a fine cheese. That's the market that I'm interested not how many, you know milligrams of CBD are in every bottle this tincture or what percentage of this Flower is just one or two cannabinoids. I'm much more interested in the balance. Right? So when you are growing Outdoors under God's sun in the soil by organic regenerative means and growing dioecious. And by the way, the bees were all into save the bees were the new save the whales right?

That's they love mail hemp flowers by the way the best when you're growing deliciously you're kind of doing it as Farmers have always done it in a way that's very natural. And that doesn't mean that sinsemilla style can't be grown regenerative, organic, but when I hear folks making the pitch. Oh, I grow my CBD organically in this organic approved plastic wrapping. I plug clones grown out of state somewhere in the ground in soil that I bought out of a bag and plug it through class. And guess what? It's organic. Everything's organic. I mean, yeah, that's a lot better than spraying, you know a toxin poison all over it, but then you're plowing the plasttic back under and then folks are like, oh, it's biodegradable.

Yeah. God didn't didn't make petrol Plastics. Sorry. So, you know everything comes from nature of course, but it's all about how things are the environments in which our plants feel comfortable and I think many of us now I was late Doug coming to the awareness about plant intelligence. I was always an animal guy, you know got along great with cats and dogs and you know a Raven wants to talk to me in Alaska and I got to see, see a Jaguar with their kittens on a rafting trip in the Amazon.

I live always had these sort of totemic animal relationships and only through the the journalistic and then now personal work with the Cannabis hemp plant have I recognized plant intelligence and one of the things I believe plants are telling us is that what we see coming out of the soil beautiful hemp plant or tomato plant is the result of a very happy microbial Kingdom in that soil and that's not an overnight Phenomenon that's about things like building your local microbes just to give one quick example you can this is something I learned from a practitioner of Korean natural farming a type of soil building agriculture that you can go up into your Watershed and I've done this and it works gather mycelial like mushroom crust from what parts of your upper Watershed diluted in the sort of rice mixture and then use it as a compost tea and all of a sudden you have much higher Mushroom microbial my cilia live in your soil and it results I believe in a better hemp crop.

So when we're talking about the environment all of these type of practices which give you a better product in the end are actually the product that the practice is that sequester carbon and have a chance of giving us humans an option after fossil fuels.

DOUG MCVAY: you're listening to an interview with Doug fine the journalists and hemp activist. His new book is American hemp Farmer published by Chelsea Green publishing will have more in just a moment. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host DougMcVay; Louis Reed is the national organizer for the cut 50 Campaign, which is organized by The Dream Corps. He was one of the speakers in Council on criminal justice has recent webinar entitled Corrections and covid-19 challenges and strategies;

LOUIS REED: in our minds We don't think that this takes you have a more degrees than a thermometer in order to be able to do something first and foremost. We need to make sure that we are identifying people who are scheduled to be released from prisons or jails within the next six months and we need to get them those individuals out and to home confinement barring a specific specific reason not to do so, that's number one. The second thing is is that we think that we need to procreate people who are over the age of 65 with priority given to those individuals who have pre-existing and or other underlying health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to the virus.

That's with two number three, we need to suspend co-pays for medical visits for people who are incarcerated when they have to go down to Medical all that stuff needs to be suspended, the next thing we need to make sure that his sanitizer stations and or other personal hygiene products are available to people who are incarcerated free of charge. I personally as someone who did almost 14 years in federal prison, I think that it's absolutely asinine that you have a state like New York that are having people produced hand sanitizing equipment where the offender population can't necessarily use it because it's considered contraband and last but not least. We need to make sure that we are implementing smart social distancing policies to protect more than 4.5 million people who are under some form of Community Supervision. So look this is not a matter of our heads. This is a matter of our hearts and ultimately in time our values are going to be interrogated. They are going to be prosecuted and they are going to be evaluated by how we responded to the so-called least of us. 

DOUG MCVAY: That was Louis Reed National organizer for the cut 50 campaign. He was speaking in a webinar on Corrections and covid-19, which was organized by the Council on criminal justice. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay,  now let's get back to my conversation with the journalist farmer and hemp activist Doug fine. You've been on quite a journey with this plant this last eight, ten years. How did it all start?

DOUG FINE: Well, I'll answer that directly, but I'm really glad that you asked that question because have it having what you might call the creds of someone that clearly cares about all sides of the plant and the and the farmers of all sides of the plant my endgame, Not just mine. I'm just a mouthpiece for many for many people who feel this way is the return to the reality that this is just one plant that the delineation we have today between cannabis and hemp is something that hopefully will go away and can and should go away and if it's okay, I'll explain why first off.

The definition of hemp as we have it today legally was the result of a 1976 paper Canadian paper small and Shepherd researchers and they said that they arbitrarily chose this based on studying a whole bunch of different varieties of like well, hey, it makes sense that to call everything on this side of here hemp, and interestingly. They suggested a testing method that's much more friendly than the flower Cola Bud testing the top and done today.

They suggested testing the leaves of the plant which we know, You contain ratios of cannabinoids, but not nearly enough in the amount that the buds do I mention this only because it's an important wonky policy issues for him for me right now because we're trying to do everything we can to get the burden off of farmers during during tests. Right? So on the .3 delineation of 1976 people today just assume that there are these two different plants, but actually for all of history, it's been one plant whether or not you were looking for roofing, Sandals a superfood or a party favor. It was just your cannabis plant people didn't even know.

What was it 64 that THC even got isolated and identified. So I think it's important that we return back to this concept of one plant and to I'll give you two quick reasons. Why one is when you are growing for we talked a little earlier about hemp plastic when you're going for a fiber application like that or clothing or Camp Creek feedstock, For animal bedding or all that, you know rocket parts or any of it. You don't necessarily want the lowest possible THC to make the strongest fiber now, no one's going to smoke that flower at least not commercially, so it should be the completely the burden should be off the farmer on the THC. It should be completely irrelevant.

It should be cannabis that's legal to grow and no one, no farmer of any kind of cannabis even ganja farmers in the Emerald Triangle. No Farmers should be subject to THC testing until and unless a Final flower product that is potential psychoactivity is going to be making it to the public into the retail market and when I first floated this and others floated this a few years ago people thought it sounded so crazy. Now there's a whole movement on and it really just makes sense and it's about protecting farmers.

DOUG MCVAY: Of course you can you do a lot more than hemp. Obviously you have testified at the United Nations in Vienna before the commission on narcotic drugs where you represented encode the European Coalition for Just and effective drug policies. Are you still involved in the international scene? In your spare time. 

DOUG FINE: Yeah, when I'm not home schooling the kids and milking goats and stuff. Um, so um, by the way Doug I just have to say as I go in to answer this question that you are proof of what Bob Marley used to saying. I'm let's he didn't say Let's get high. He'd say, let's get steady. I mean you have like nearly photographic memory and that's I can't I can't believe that you can just off the top of your head remember and list all that stuff. But so yes the the hemp boom is very much an international phenomenon.

I've been participating in efforts to bring him back ranging from the Netherlands to Hawaii and talking now about places like Haiti and Ethiopia. So I'm interested in you know, we need to build soil. The the world over India is another place that has a lot of interest and a lot of potential and a lot of history. So it is an international phenomenon and just to tie a loose end on one of your earlier questions about how did this all start for me? It started for me since you've been working so so fervently to bring about the Cannabis peace for longer than I have.

You'll recognize the story that spurred me to first start researching cannabis and professionally as a journalist and as an author and that was I live really remote in New Mexico and you know, when there's a car where it's not one of the ranchers on the area coming in when it's like 30 Cars of all kinds of agencies with guys with ear pieces coming out and automatic weapons and helicopters flying overhead, you know that there's something weird going on and what was going on in 2010 was a close neighbor of mine like physically, you know, he was, you know, probably couldn't hear if I shouted to him right now, but what passes for close neighbor he was being raised as a retiree from a corporation, mellow guy has grown 11 or so plants for PTSD mitigation of Vietnam era veteran and someone who had a falling out with him tipped off our law enforcement folks in a millions of dollars were spent on these few plants put my family at risk with automatic weapons that could go off I to drive through them to get home and we know that kind of thing is insane.

We're going to be laughing about it when we tell our kids and grandkids about it, but it can answer your earlier question. This is actually what spurred me to spend a good, you know portion of my career energy for quite a number of years figuring out what the mutt we all knew we were going to we have a love affair with this plant, Humanity as love this plant. It was a camp follower anthropologists call it a camp follower. We were even sedentary Farmers. We were carrying it around in our pouches and Pockets because it provides a lot of great valuable things and we knew that we were going to return to the plant but the question was how would it look in a way that was good for Humanity and that's that's what I've been investigating the last 10 or so years. 

DOUG MCVAY: Let's get back to hemp. That's that's American Hemp farmer. That is the name of your new book. There are a lot of companies in the CBD Market these days hemp derived cannabidiol. CBD is everywhere. It's the big box stores the corner shops CBD, you know kind of seems to be the thing that's pushing him forward now is that is that a misperception is that actually the case are those other products going to become just buy products made with the waste material once CBDs been extracted?

DOUG FINE: Well, CBD is definitely a gold rush and there was gold. Let's say in the 49er gold rush in California. There was gold to be had people want CBD, you know as they should I eat cannabinoids every day as I mentioned. I'm more of a whole plant guy than isolating one cannabinoid, but it's a real thing feeding our endocannabinoid systems. I mean, there's a reason we evolved endocannabinoid system. So it's a real thing and it's worth many many billions of dollars, but as in the actual Gold Rush, it's very few of the actual Prospectors of the are the people who strike it rich. It's the people who sell them the shovels and the flower and all of that some of those businesses and stores are still like I lived in Alaska for a while some of the ancestors of the people that sold the coffee and the bags in the mules are still in Skagway Alaska because they did great.

So we're seeing that today through things like wholesalers people that sell processing equipment or just outsideside investors, so the task at hand is how does a multibillion-dollar market no matter what side of the hemp plant were talking about. How does that benefit rural communities and Farmers would be nice if we did not need a far made anymore just as you know as much as I love the music, it'd be nice if farming was a lucrative profession like Dentistry or something like it would be fantastic when we reach the point of 30% of Americans making their living from the soil as that as was the case when cannabis Federal cannabis prohibition started in 1937. So just as I was researching that started to research This Book American hemp farmer, and in fact after a field day, I was in my field.

I with my partners in Vermont. I was hanging out and I notice I had a voice mail and it was from Wendell Berry the great farmer philosopher from Kentucky now in his 80s. I had written to him on hemp paper at PO Box 1 and whatever Town Kentucky and ask him to attend a him conference and some friends were organizing not far from where he lived and he called back immediately and in his voicemail, which I've saved. He said my one real message for him Farmers is please do your own thing. I'm just paraphrasing here do your oh, he didn't say influencer or app.

By the way. He said, please do your Do Your Own Thing, Market your products, control your products, because if you just wholesale surf to the vicissitudes of the buyers, you're going to face the same, you know destitution and problems and not to mention environmental destruction that farmers of nearly every other crop have faced around the country and around the world. So that has that has stayed with me as a number one mission that regardless of what products the market demands that farmers be the ones who are benefiting at that retail dollar today farmers get about three percent three, 3cents on the food dollar and the goal that I and many other share. This was told by a told to me by a friend at a great organic hemp Cooperative in Colorado. We said our goal is Farmers getting 100 cents on the dollar less expenses. There should be nobody else involved just the farmers getting paid and you know, that's an extreme position and I support it, but it comes down to If you're forming an Enterprise. You should either be them in my view. Sorry to you should you should be the farmer or the farmer should be a co-owner a revenue share in that operation and not a not a wholesale wage slave and then just to come back to your original question while CBD is a gold rush.

It's also giving way to the next best thing. Now a lot of farmers now are looking for CBG heavy crops. We've got a hundred plus known cannabinoids, but the niche im going for side steps that a little bit and is looking for the idea of Imagine in your in Sonoma some beautiful Wine Country somewhere and you go into a wine fine. Fine wine shop that top shelf offering that has a particular varietal from that year. That's what I'm looking for is what I try to cultivate myself or if you know if somebody's inviting us over for dinner and we want to bring over wonderful hemp product, whatever, it is tincture book shirt.

Look for the real farmer cultivated top-shelf regionally made distinctive, you know product you go and take a trip to Botswana. You're not bringing home somebody. I hope you're not bringing home. Somebody, you know a fridge magnet that says Botswana you’re bringing home someone a really cool crafts from there, but someone made and that's how the the niche help Market the high-end Craft Market that that I feel I represented and Not exclusively speak for but the people that I'm trying to support our these type of family and Community Based hemp providers no matter what the side of the plan in my own product.

I don't just use the flower. I also use the seed the seed being a superfood so I don't think flower only, Let alone CBD only is the long-term play for hemp Farmers. The question is are folks in it for the long term play. If you're desperate farmer who's saying, you know, I'm about to sell to sub developer and not make any money for my GMO soy or whatever. I'd like to give this tempting a try. It's really easy really, you know read my book you'll see if we should have a three to five-year game plan. They've got mortgages this year. So it's a it's a gut check any entrepreneurial ism is gut check whether or not it's depending on the whims of Mother Nature but in particular it's important for hemp entrepreneurs to have a long-term game plan and not just chase the let the latest Gold Rush somebody else is going to grow The CBD for a chain drug store Coke CBD, you know, it's coming the big MickMac CBD or whatever is coming. That's not going to be you and me we're going to be the people that are doing something better and different and hopefully that is a market Niche that customers will patronize. 

DOUG MCVAY: That was my conversation with Doug fine. His new book is American hemp farmer published by Chelsea Green publishing find him on the web at Dougfine.com. And on social media where he's at @organiccowboy. And for now, that's it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies where production of the drug truth Network. This is Doug McVay saying so long “so long” for the Drug Truth Network. This is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition. The Century of Lies, Drug Truth Network programs are kept at the James A Baker III Institute for public policy.