Bringing it Home
by Linda Booker and Blaire Johnson
A documentary about industrial hemp, healthy houses and a greener future for America.
There are documentaries that change our minds and other films that offer a perspective that provide support for a point of view we already hold. After watching the movie Bringing It Home, I am now convinced that my natural inclination is correct — that the cultivation and sale of hemp crops should be legalized in America. The brief documentary (52 minutes) portrays the advantages of industrial hemp and hemp food products in a non-biased non-partisan, and non-slanted seamless format. It presents so many interesting facts that I had to watch it twice.
Some of the questions addressed in Bringing it Home include: what is hemp, how is it grown, how is it different from pot, why is it illegal in the US, and what products can be made from it? Hemp, a cousin of marijuana, is a versatile plant that is bred for low concentrations of psychoactive drug compounds(THC) and which yields products such as fiber, oil, and seed. The use of hemp goes back millennia; evidence of it is found even in the Egyptian pyramids. Throughout time, hemp has been used for paper, building materials, and clothing fabrics. It is a plant that gives back both to communities and to the environment. Hemp’s root system returns organic matter to topsoil, fights remediation, and pulls out pollution and heavy metals from the soil.
In the US, hemp has had a spotty history. From the very beginning, Columbus used hemp sails and rope on his adventures, and the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 lumped hemp in with psychoactive marijuana and put hemp farms of out business. Growth of industrial hemp was again encouraged during WWII with the Hemp for Victory campaign, yet the 1950s were the last time industrial hemp was commercially grown in the US. President Nixon finally outlawed its growth completely when he signed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, lumping industrial hemp in with all cannabis as an illegal crop.
Meanwhile, 20 developed countries are currently growing hemp commercially. Eight of them are exporting hemp products to the US in order to satisfy our demands for hemp food products, fabrics, and building materials. Three of the largest producers: China, Canada, and the UK are successfully managing hemp farm industries. British farmers are licensed, subject to background checks, and have their crops tested for low THC levels. Because hemp is bulky, transportation costs are expensive, and it is best processed with 300-500 miles of the harvesting.
Bringing It Home presents all of these facts without beating the drum. There is no filler footage in the film, just information presented clearly without insulting your intelligence. It has been seamlessly edited using stop motion animation, vintage footage, and interviews with a large variety of participants in the worldwide hemp industry, as well as with avid and experimental users. Experts, including farmers, university researchers, architects, builders, and designers, all share their amazement at hemp’s versatility. Representatives from familiar Whole Foods-supplying and fast-growing companies such as Nutiva and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps tout the virtues of their hemp products.
The film weaves personal stories into the narrative. One of the families uses hemp construction materials in their search for a healthy and safe living environment. Their young daughter Bailey, diagnosed with severe autism and dealing with the challenges posed by multiple allergies, has responded positively to their allergen-free home which includes hemp insulation and walls (hempcrete). Inspired by this success, the parents are in the process of building Bird’s Nest Center for Autistic Children in North Carolina to serve Bailey along with other children in need of therapeutic environment. “The natural world is healing,” says dad Anthony Brenner. Their planned retreat will be the first non-toxic hempcrete residential facility in the world.
Hempcrete is a mold-resistant building material made from hemp stalks and lime. A variety of building products can be developed from hemp. The plant provides a clean, carbon-neutral substitution for glass insulation and drywall, as well as a strong material for car panels. In addition, the plants seeds, often from the same plant, are harvested for both food and cosmetics. While we sometimes think hemp is just one type of plant, there are different varieties; in Britain alone, sixteen are approved for growing, each with different maturity times and pros and cons. Of these, three strains are used for food, based on taste.
Hemp is also blended with a myriad of other fabrics to create such hybrids as hemp denim, hemp silk, hemp twill, and hemp suede. Hemp fabrics are very breathable and washable and are suitable for people allergic to dyes or chemicals. Yet, these fabrics are more expensive than they would be if they were grown in the US, as the hemp must currently be imported from countries such as China and Canada.
In 2013, the political tide is shifting. The nationally proposed Industrial Hemp Farming Amendment would permit crops with 0.3% of THC or less to be cultivated and 20 states have introduced hemp legislation — with bipartisan support. On September 27, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 566, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, allowing California farmers to be prepared to grow industrial hemp upon federal approval. The bill would permit growers to cultivate industrial hemp for the sale of seed, oil, and fiber to manufacturers and businesses that currently rely on international imports for raw hemp products.
The film’s website provides actions you can take, including: supporting the hemp clothing industry through buying and wearing hemp products, consuming hemp foods, contacting your legislators to support industrial hemp-related bills, and celebrating the annual Hemp History Week in June. In addition, Bringing It Home is available for community screenings; details are on the website.