by Will Duffield
This weekend at the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party convention, I had the pleasure of meeting Shawn House, owner of Lancaster Trading House, and creator of the Hempzel. The Hempzel is a classic sourdough pretzel created with both wheat, and hemp seed. After purchasing the Lancaster Trading House from its former owner in 1997, Shawn began contracting with several Pennsylvania bakeries to produce the Hempzel. The dietary benefits offered by hemp seed have attracted the patronage of both individual internet customers through his webstore, and many natural foods retailers. Hemp seed contains proteins and a balanced mixture of several essential oils as well as potassium and vitamin E. Hemp seed also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, delivering many benefits in a small package. For those who seek all these properties in a plant based product, hemp is an essential food.
Since the introduction of the Hempzel, the Lancaster Trading house has started selling several other hemp based products including hemp mustards and gluten free hemp pretzels. While the Hempzels are baked locally, the hemp seed must be sourced internationally because of the current federal prohibition of all cannabis growing. Even though the hemp seed used in the Hempzels does not contain THC in psychoactive quantities, and is Test Pledge certified to ensure that consumers are not ensnared by drug screenings. Shawn must purchase his hemp internationally, a problem which often increases the cost of hemp based products. Despite these costs, the benefits of hemp add tremendous value to consumer products that incorporate the seed.
Shawn believes that hemp ought to be regulated not by the Drug Enforcement Agency, but by the Department of Agriculture. This sensible decision would help to revive the historical understanding of cannabis as a useful crop. Shawn warns against legislation that establishes minimum acreages for hemp growers. Current minimums in Canada prevent farmers from growing less than 20 acres of hemp, pushing hemp cultivation away from the realm of the individual farmer, and incentivizing corporate agriculture by shutting many small growers out of the marketplace. Historically, early Pennsylvania farmers would often grown an acre or two of hemp to supplement their main crop, often growing more when tobacco prices were low. Hemp historically added value to the crops of Pennsylvania farmers, and could do so again, were it not for current federal regulations barring the domestic growing of Hemp. Products like the Hempzel can help to revive domestic consumer demand for hemp in everyday foods.