Every year I find a new plant (usually a medicinal or culinary herb) to work with from start to finish. Receiving the seeds in the mail from a mail order catalo; then working with it from germination to harvest all while taking notes so that I may better understand all that the plant has to offer. In the meantime, researching and learning as much about the plant and its best use as a medicine. For some the aerial part, some the root, some both, and some are simply meant to be touched and smelled.

This past year, however, I hadn’t chosen that seed from a catalog, but rather it came to me from a very energetic and, looking back on it, a pushy salesman. He talked of a hemp project that he (a retired neurosurgeon and veteran) and several sponsors were working on. He had apparently tried to reach me a month earlier for us to consider donating a large chunk of land for the project; seed provided. All we had to do was keep it cultivated and he and his helpers would do the rest. We talked in the front yard about the project, the benefits of hemp, its potential as a medicinal, animal feed, never mind the fiber part of it; really what I was most interested in. He had me sold, but unfortunately, all the seed had been dispersed to those committing to the project and perhaps next year.

After our conversation, I decided that I would try to locate a small packet of hemp seed; never knew how difficult it was to acquire.

I gave up on the idea for the season, knowing that it was a newly legalized plant and that the seed had been sold out. A week later, the salesman showed back up with a ziplock baggy tightly rolled in the palm of his hand. Talking to me over the coffee counter, he reached over and handed it to me; stating “he had a few seeds left and thought I should have them.”

Overly excited, my middle daughter and I (who is currently apprenticing in herbal studies) headed to the greenhouse to begin this years herb project. It was an amazing plant to watch as it grew at a tremendous rate with the most beautiful foliage. Within a month, we transplanted it at the end of one of the corn rows, placed a beautiful HEMP plant sign for all to see throughout the growing season. It was also located near the back eating patio for all to observe its beauty while enjoying lunch or brunch at the farm.

Several months after transplanting, with the plant well on its way and towering above 5 feet at this point, there was an article in the local paper mentioning the growth in hemp production, mentioned the farms growing and at the end of the article, how these producers were licensed throughout the state to grow; similar to pot, however twice the amount—$500 rather than $250. I took down the hemp sign, my daughter continued to lose sleep over the fact that we might get arrested, and I took it upon myself to let be what would be.

I assured her, although I wasn’t sure myself, that there was no way that 8 hemp plants would require a $500 license. Especially knowing that we were not in it to sell or harvest for anyone but ourselves and really, how much can 8 hemp plants produce for an end product?

During this particular summer, I held an herbal gathering for 30 secondyear med students from a local hospital. Giving them an opportunity to walk around the gardens and to learn the art of listening to plants as they lure them in for healing; should they need it. Once lured in, they are asked to pluck a few leaves and or flowers from the plant, bring them back to the circle to discuss its properties and perhaps begin the process of thinking outside the box of alternative healing methods. More on this at the end of the blog.

The growing season was coming to an end, and with threats of frost in the horizon, one of the things that was said the plant shouldn’t get hit with, I headed out with my son to harvest my hemp and cover up all of the other vegetables that wouldn’t have made it. The size of the stocks required an axe and tree pruners to get them cut. It took the two of us four trips back and forth to the nearest building; all the while my son telling me it smelled like pot. I assured him that it was hemp, a family member of pot, but totally different. He said it smelled just like the stuff the kids smoke in the parking lot before and after school. I assured him again, that this wasn’t it and that perhaps the kids at school were smoking the wrong stuff. Either way, with daylight leaving us, I didn’t have time to argue the point.

Day 2: A Monday, my day off, I spent four hours separating all of the flowers/seed pods and made infused oil for later testing on joint/arthritis kind of ailments on family and friends, hung the stocks in the ceiling of the barn for further drying and to process at a later time with the remaining flowers laid out to dry for use as perhaps a tea blend.

Day 7: While checking in on the dried hemp one of my workers said “You do know that what you have is not hemp right?” With a puzzled look, I asked him what he was talking about. He assumed that I knew that what I had was pot. Being familiar with pot, he thought that I was just kidding around by telling people I was growing hemp. One after the other, friends and other workers said the same; assuming I knew the difference.

If you have never grown up around or with it, never used it, never been with friends who use, how the hell is one supposed to know the difference between the two? Cheap form or not, I was more nervous now about having 6 bags of dried, hemp wanna (my new name for the plant). I reached out to a friend who had a friend who new his “stuff” who then confirmed, that, yes indeed it was pot and that it wasn’t even really good pot.

Somewhat saddened by the time and energy spent on the plant, and then learning not only did I have pot, but that it wasn’t even good pot, I decided that I needed to do something with it.

So, this past solstice weekend during the full moon, I offered my hempwanna to the skies, the farm if it wanted or needed it, and to all who were driving by to enjoy while the bomb fire was burning in our front yard. Along with the hemp wanna, was some ashwagandha, mugwort, and few other miscellaneous clearing herbs that would help diffuse some of the odor.

What I learned:

To the salesman, all I can say is thank you for the experience. I am now able to identify what pot looks like, and I will never buy unmarked seed that comes in a ziplock baggy that is quietly handed to me over the coffee counter.

To the herbal students this past summer, I now know why you were all so attracted to the hempwanna; you new more than I did. To myself, I now know what POT looks and smells like; not a fan.