Growing up, my family’s southwest Missouri farm produced the usual things for the area: corn, soybeans, hay and beef cattle. It also grew something else: cannabis.
Before your mind goes in too many directions that it shouldn’t, let me assure you it was not a cultivated crop. Not at all. Instead, the cannabis grew wild on about 10 acres around our barn.
The plants were hardy. In the summer, they grew tall and thick—dense enough I could play hide-and-go-seek in them with my cousins, and we did.
At some point, when I was in high school, the county sheriff’s department started bringing a group of inmates out once a summer to dig up the plants and burn them in small piles in the field next to the barn.
No, I never tried smoking any of the cannabis. Besides, if I had and my little Baptist mother found out, she would have cut a switch off the Maple tree by our house and whooped my backside, or much worse, told me how disappointed she was in me.
Eventually, fewer and fewer cannabis plants grew each year, and the sheriff’s department stopped coming out to our farm to burn them.
I never knew the origin of the cannabis. My best guess would be that it was industrial hemp, which was widely grown at one time in Missouri and used extensively for rope. Industrial hemp doesn’t contain enough of the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to produce a high.
Why am I telling you this piece of personal history? Well, because of my experiences growing up , I’ve struggled with the idea of cannabis production of any kind (teenagers’ teasing could be cruel). I know many of you have, too, because I’ve read your emails and listened to you on the phone. We know from Farm Journal surveys 56% of farmers believe there’s a stigma to growing cannabis, yet 48% of farmers are interested in growing it.
I’m right there with you. Where I’m netting out, my personal view, is there are many good uses for cannabis today that have nothing to do with recreational drug use. Scientists say cannabis has great potential medically to address some of the deadliest diseases and afflictions of our time, including many forms of cancers, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
I’m not advocating for you or any farmer to produce and market cannabis. What I do hope, however, is you will read about the various forms of cannabis and how they’re used today. Talk to experts. Educate yourself, and then make an informed decision that’s right for you, your family and your farm operation.
As for Farm Journal, we’ll continue to report on cannabis and where production is headed in the U.S. I hope you will follow our ongoing coverage in the magazine as well as online at AgWeb.com/cannabis.