Ministry of Hemp talks with Kehrt Reyher, founder of Hemp Today, the leading hemp media company based out of Poland.
Hemp Today is taking the lead role of being the voice of the global hemp industries – covering the global hemp movement as it gets legalized and grows in countries all over the world. In our interview, Kehrt provides us an overview of the European hemp industry, discusses why they felt the need to start Hemp Today, and envisions hemp’s potential in the global market.
Hi Kehrt, thanks again for being with us. We’re excited to get a chance to learn about the European hemp landscape, as many of us are based out of the US and are still learning a lot about this plant.
To start off, could you tell us about your role in the hemp community today?
Many of us in the US are not familiar with the hemp landscape in Europe. Can you give us an overview of the hemp industry in Europe? (regulations, markets, etc)
KR: It’s generally legal to grow hemp around Europe, and EU regulations do address it; there are even farm-oriented EU support programs for hemp. Of course, the bureaucrats could always help improve the situation, so there are regulatory challenges when you get into such things as THC levels, rules around CBD in the medical sphere, and so on. So there are challenges.
But the markets — for foods, CBD-based products, health and beauty products, textiles and building materials — are growing. The market has suffered its ups and downs but generally keeps moving forward. There are great in-country organizations supporting hemp and, of course, the European Industrial Hemp Association which in turn pulls all those groups together from across the continent and, really, from around the world.
Fifty countries were represented at the EIHA international conference earlier this month.
Some people are curious why hemp hasn’t taken off in Europe, especially if it’s as healthy & beneficial as many claim it to be. What are your thoughts on this?
KR: Well, I’d say it’s already taken off. Just look at food. It’s in mainstream grocery stores in several countries and is even being advertised on the radio in Germany. Consumers in almost all European countries are looking for healthier food alternatives — hemp fits perfectly in this case. So food is really front and center now as far as hemp is concerned. There are great European hemp food companies such as Hempoint in Czechia and Hempro and Hanf-Zeit in Germany. And there are lots of others operating in various niches, even if they’re only importing to local markets — they’re helping to raise awareness at the consumer level and driving demand. These are truly pioneering firms, and their time has arrived. EIHA indicators from earlier this year show that hemp foods will really come on strong in Europe in the next two years.
From HempToday’s perspective, we see the anecdotal evidence of this. I mean a lot of anecdotal evidence. Anyway, food is where hemp can really earn a place in the broader public consciousness — and that’s key to it taking off not only in the food sector but in other sectors as well.
Of course, we’re also big promoters of hemp building and insulation. Again, as people look for more healthy lifestyles, hemp as a construction material is absolutely perfect. It’s as green as green-buildings can get.
The medical stuff will advance. The companies and organizations working in this area are world-class and highly determined to see the industry follow the right path. They’re all socially conscientious firms and individuals. This is really the most exciting part of this end of the business. Plus the stakes — like for CBD — are extremely high, as can be the profits. Europe’s a leader in all of this. In some sense HempToday’s mission is to underscore the advancements and show the world what’s out there in all regions of the world. Hemp has just not yet been promoted properly.
From what you’ve noticed, what type of benefits have you seen hemp bring to your country (or continent)?
KR: We’re based in Poland, which is historically a hemp-growing nation. We see localized hemp growing and processing as having the possibility to give decent returns to small farmers. This is already happening in parts of France and Germany, where hemp interests cooperate up and down the value chain to share costs and benefits, keeping it as best they can in a Community Supported Agriculture scheme where final products are sold as close to their original source as possible.
Hemp fits in perfect in this sense too, if you think about all the things you can do with it, all the products you can create — from soap to houses and many, many things in between. Hemp is attracting interesting farmer entrepreneurs all across Europe. They’re creating clever products and expanding the hemp markets, but most of all they’re creating demand, economic activity and jobs.
You cover the global landscape for hemp, what type of trends have you noticed around the world in regards to this plant?
“The promise is unparalleled comparing to any other plant nature gives us”
KR: Mostly I notice a trend toward legalization, and herculean efforts in some cases to establish a reasonable regulatory framework for the hemp industry. The forces that have long been fighting for both cannabis and hemp are extremely well organized these days and the message is getting through that neither cannabis nor hemp is bad for you and that, quite the opposite, the promise is unparalleled comparing to any other plant nature gives us.
It may not be a trend, but there are absolutely amazing projects going on in hemp building such as Steve Allin’s (International Hemp Building Association) projects to rebuild with hemp after the earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti, and Monica Brummer’s project (Cannabric, Granada) to use shiv from naturally occurring cannabis that grows in Morocco’s High Central Rif to rebuild traditional farming homesteads which are architectural treasures as well. In Morocco, they’re also trying to cut down on the drug trade by working to legalize both marijuana and hemp for use in medical treatments. Getting the laws to support cannabis in all its forms is really happening. And it will cascade worldwide once the USA removes cannabis from the Schedule I drug list, where it never should have been in the first place. Market-wise, as I mentioned before, and in the coming next few years, hemp food will see a good strong upward curve.
What are your thoughts on the future of hemp in the US? What potential do you see?
KR: In many parts of the world, hemp is seen as a chicken-or-egg proposition. This isn’t so in the United States, where the market is already estimated at more than $500 million — even though there’s really no domestic farming to speak of. So that’s all based on imports but it’s the demand indicator that makes it all so fascinating. That’s due to a lot of people who have been promoting hemp for a long time both in official policy circles and in the marketplace, to the consumers. Hemp marketing is reaching a fever pitch in the USA, which we can always count on for world-leading market-to-consumer communication.
Meanwhile the science is really advanced in the USA as a lot of universities are now probing the material for a variety of uses, working on seed science, and so forth. We’re definitely predicting a boom in North America once hemp is fully legalized. It’s getting incredible play in the media even down to the smallest small-town newspapers and local TV and radio stations — especially in the traditional farming states. In short, hemp will be huge in the USA — and that will have a domino effect all around the world in a lot of ways.
What is HempToday’s big project at the moment? What are you guys working on?
KR: We just released our first-ever print edition, in conjunction with our partner the European Industrial Hemp Association, for their annual conference. We enjoyed the advertising support of about 25 leading global hemp firms from as many as 12 countries all around the world.
In July we’ll produce our first annual Big Hemp Yearbook with regional reports from around the globe; as many statistics as we can track down; specific buy/sell offers and a lot of profiles and features of leading international hemp players.
“Our goal is to build a truly sustainable local economic model based entirely on the hemp crop”
What kind of benefits do you hope to see from these projects?
KR: The Yearbook is one of our foundation’s “retail” media products where we’re trading information for cash income which helps cover the cost of research, newsgathering and production. We’re feeling strong demand and great support. We’re able to produce great information products at a reasonable cost as more and more companies participate by buying subscriptions, advertising, and the communications services we offer in our media hub — where we boost our customers’ marketplace presence by working in collaboration with other great firms all over the world.
To Grow A Village, as I said, is aimed at creating economic activity and all the benefits that come with it. Of course, we want to get into various forms of hemp processing so we’ll need the material our farmers would deliver, but we know we’ve got to prime the pump, in our case, from the middle.
But with hemp, the main benefit is working with and learning from leading practitioners based all around the world. I find people in hemp are always more than willing to share information, knowhow and resources with others in the industry and even newcomers. This will greatly speed up the industries’ development and expansion around the globe.
How can our fellow hemp advocates in the US help?
KR: Of course, as with any small operation, cash is always at a premium. So we offer premium media opportunities and products at a good value for price for companies looking to get global exposure. Next, most important, is we look for the right fit with people and companies who have experience at all levels of the hemp value chain — for advice, to develop exchange programs and work together on things like field equipment and processing solutions.
We’re active in barter and try to work with great companies based on their means and needs even if they’re tiny, with the goal of raising the water level for everyone. Finally, we work only with firms that have a strong ethic regarding sustainability and who give back to their communities and to the hemp industry in general.