A few decades back, if you were thinking about purchasing hemp products in the United States, a certain kind of stereotypical image probably jumped into your mind. Something akin to a pair of beach-bum feet sporting a decidedly unfashionable set of rope sandals made of hemp – or maybe hemp soap that smelled like wet hay.
Not so today. Quality and upscale industrial hemp products are now hitting shelves with incredible frequency and blowing the minds of consumers. From designer hemp-based topical lotions to chic clothing to hemp-constructed homes, industrial hemp is growing up.
So it’s no wonder that artists, too, have seized on this new medium – with its uber-utility, carbon-cutting abilities and natural beauty – to produce everything from couture dresses and makeup to sports car frames.
Enter Hemptsy.com, the brainchild of hemp futurists Doug Fine and Mike Lewis. The innovative co-founders of the site have assembled a web marketplace for artisans who create works from the soil. Similar to the popular website Etsy.com, a peer-to-peer e-commerce website focused on handmade and vintage items, Hemptsy is an online bazaar for “artisans whose work derives not just from hemp, but from any product that starts in the soil.”
Says co-founder Fine, the bestselling author of “Hemp Bound” and “First Legal Harvest” and a longtime hemp activist, “If shoppers want a unique gift – or a kitchen staple – that supports regenerative artisans worldwide, they now have that option.”
While hemp farming is legal in a minority of U.S. states, more than 30 nations currently grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity, including Kazakhstan, China, Romania and Switzerland. Classified in the U.S. during the 20th century as a Schedule I drug alongside marijuana (though hemp is the non-psychoactive sibling to the plant), it has been largely outlawed across the nation and has subsequently robbed the U.S. of a billion-dollar industry.
“My work in nearly every facet of international journalism has taught me that the future of humanity resides in independent folk who work the soil. It’s a climate-carbon thing. Most of us get that. The rest soon will.”
A 2015 report by the Federation of American Scientists posited that the global market for industrial hemp consists of more than 25,000 products and the U.S. market alone claims an estimated $580 million of revenue annually.
That figure is surely growing, say Lewis and Fine, as retail hemp sales are expected to cross the $1 billion mark in 2017. While that’s great news for the hemp industry and terrific for farmers, the duo has their sights set on a global scale to assist artisans worldwide with making the most of the digital age.
Fine was traveling the world for an upcoming hemp TV series when he saw a desperate need for something like Hemptsy.com.
“My work in nearly every facet of international journalism has taught me that the future of humanity resides in independent folk who work the soil,” he says. “It’s a climate-carbon thing. Most of us get that. The rest soon will. As hemp and other biomaterials take on a major role in the industrial supply chain, we’re trying to ensure that the independent artisan – whose product derives from a regenerative, soil-based source – has an opportunity to display his or her wares.”
The creation of Hemptsy is certainly a harbinger of good tidings for hemp, coming at a time when cannabis prohibitionists are releasing their grip on the plant once regularly harvested by George Washington and considered legal tender by the founding fathers. Current widespread interest in industrial hemp products is helping to reinvigorate hemp farming and has hastened legalization efforts in 17 states across the U.S. from Hawaii to Maine.
Kentucky farmer and craftsman Cody Gibbons, 29, has been waiting a long time for a site like Hemptsy. “I’m listing my lip balm and beard oil on Hemptsy because there’s no marketplace like it,” he says. “I want to live a rural life and support a family doing what I love.”
The site’s co-founder Lewis, a Kentucky hemp farmer and veteran who’s also a graduate student under legendary environmentalist Wendell Berry, says that the things that drew him to hemp were the sense of community in the industry and the potential to change the way Americans conduct business.
“Business as usual will not solve our planet’s problems,” says Lewis. “By considering how and why things are made in our purchasing decisions, we become reconnected, empowered consumers who recognize our place in the larger picture.”
Artisans can upload their wares on Hemptsy.com at the very affordable price of 30 cents per product for six months and as artisans fulfill orders, Hemptsy keeps 3 percent of sales.
“The plan is to make this as friendly to the artisans as possible, and always work to make it even friendlier,” says Lewis. “We’re all in this together.”