• Ben Droz

POLITICO: Prominently Features The Hemp Guy




POLITICO:

Ben Droz used to be the best-known hemp lobbyist in Washington- strolling around the Capitol in hemp clothing and sporting a hemp briefcase, extolling the virtues of the magical cannabis plant.


On October 18, POLITICO Agriculture published an in-depth investigation into the growth of lobbying registrations for hemp. What they found was a staggering increase to over 80 'hemp lobbyists' today. But by looking back, they confirmed that Ben Droz, AKA 'The Hemp Guy', is the only one who has been at consistently over the past decade. The article prominently features Droz as the article continues.


We recommend reading the entire article, but we wanted to share the excerpts where with featuring the Hemp Guy. The particle begins:


Ben Droz used to be the best-known hemp lobbyist in Washington- strolling around the Capitol in hemp clothing and sporting a hemp briefcase, extolling the virtues of the magical cannabis plant.


The article then goes into a deep investigation of lobbying disclosures and legislative activity, before turning back to Ben:


And before Walmart and Patagonia had their hands in hemp, there was Droz. Starting a decade ago, he ran a one-man, one-issue lobby shop for Vote Hemp, who at the time was the only group advocating for the plant. He used to store hemp paraphernalia in his hemp composite briefcase such as granola bars and chapstick.

His opening message was simple: Hemp is not the same as marijuana. They may come from the same plant species, but unlike marijuana, hemp contains minuscule levels of THC, the compound that gives users a psychoactive high when smoked or ingested.

Once Droz's audience wrapped their heads around that key distinction, he then told anyone who would listen about the plant’s potential to give American farmers a huge leg up as a new source of revenue, as well as its ability to be used in clothing, building materials, food and countless other ways.

“I was just trying to normalize hemp so that people could see hemp was another bio-based resource, completely different from the stigma and cultural associations with marijuana,” Droz said. “We were trying to break those stereotypes that were pretty well ingrained back in 2009.”

Vote Hemp was trying to rally support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would have legalized hemp production. Gradually, members started joining as co-sponsors. Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) were the first sponsors in their respective chambers. Another early champion was Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.).

Eventually, seeing a major economic opportunity for farmers in his home state and elsewhere, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got on board with hemp. His support led to an amendment being tacked on to the 2014 farm bill that permitted states to run hemp pilot programs. After that, the hemp floodgates opened and pressure grew for the crop to be legalized for industrial production nationwide, which happened with McConnell's continued support last year.


Droz said he's not surprised to see hemp become legalized but he was caught off guard by how quickly things evolved. And he's aware of how industry participants have changed.

“Hemp is a microcosm of how things get done," he said. "As its been growing, it's been changing. It's losing part of its 'let's do it for the American people’ and now it’s more ‘how can big companies get bigger.’ It is a model of that.”








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