Posts made in December, 2015

2015 KCC Year in Review

Posted by on Dec 31, 2015 in Blog

2015 was an epic, monumental year in the Pennsylvania cannabis reform movement and Keystone Cannabis Coalition was right in the middle of it once again as in years past.

DSC_5573-LJanuary 10th we started out with the Pennsylvania Hemp Conference at the 99th annual Pennsylvania State Farm Show. It was there we held the press conference broadcast statewide on PCN where state senators Judy Schwank and Mike Folmer announced the introduction of the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Act, SB50, a bill that we had lobbied to introduce.

January 27th we attended the press conference on SB3. On that same day Erica and I met with the Executive Director of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee to discuss moving our hemp bill.

January 29th I gave a speech to the Denver and Ephrata area Rotary Club in Lancaster County regarding hemp and medical cannabis history and legislation.

February 11th Myself, Susan Love and Dana Ulrich met with State Senator Ryan Aument in his Lititz district office to discuss medical cannabis and industrial hemp legislation. In the evening, Erica and I attended the medical cannabis town hall in Bernville (Berks County) organized by our friend Luke Schultz.

February 20th Susan Love and I met with Representative David Zimmerman at his office in New Holland to discuss medical cannabis and hemp legislation.

16512_676072249181966_4592815079026788051_nFebruary 25th we attended the senate hearing on SB3. After the hearing we met with then minority chair of the State Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee John Sabatina and his Executive Director, Destiny Zelders. Right after the meeting we attended the press conference on SB 3 organized by Campaign for Compassion. After the press conference we met with State Senator Margo Davidson, state senator Judy Schwank and Folmer then Erica and I both did interviews on the Rick Smith radio show.

As we went into March there was no let up in the breakneck pace and in fact we even accelerated our momentum.

March 2nd I headed down to Trenton, New Jersey to be a guest on Fully Baked Radio with my good friends NJ Weedman, Lefty Grimes, Wayne Kannabis King Burrini and Phil. We had a good two hour discussion about hemp and all aspects of reform.

March 4th I was a guest on BCTV (Berks County Television) in Reading on the show called Community Conversations. I shared the bill with Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, State Senator Judy Schwank and Matt Null from the Council on Chemical Abuse. We had an hour long conversation on air about medical cannabis, industrial hemp, decriminalization and full legalization and took questions from the live audience.

10408606_951875711489197_9186161859628339854_nMarch 11th Erica and I gave speeches and participated in a panel discussion at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Lebanon County. Fellow participants and speechmakers were state senators Daylin Leach, Mike Folmer, Lt. Governor Mike Stack, well known Campaign for Compassion activists Lolly Bentch Myers and Dana Ulrich and highly respected cannabis expert Jahan Marcu.

March 18th Susan Love and I met with Representative David Zimmerman in his district office near New Holland in Lancaster County to discuss medical cannabis and hemp legislation. In the afternoon, Erica and I met with Representative Russ Diamond at his district office in Lebanon to discus his hemp legislation, House Bill 967. After the meeting with Rep. Diamond Erica and I both did interviews with WEEU radio station and drove to Philadelphia to participate in a panel discussion hosted by Cannavation.

11076270_691179444337913_5526321195463524022_nMarch 19th I went by invitation with a group of medical cannabis activists to Harrisburg to meet with and engage in dialogue with newly elected Governor Tom Wolf. Wolf listened to us and learned as well as imparting political advise on how to proceed. He assured us that he was on our side. This was a big breakthrough because the previous governor would not meet with medical cannabis advocates

March 24th Erica and I went to Philadelphia to attend the House hearing on medical cannabis. Baker had stacked the deck against us and allowed absurd reefer madness testimony.

10410099_693557670766757_4489395635912958169_nMarch 26th Erica and I along with Adam Thompson and Scotty Bolton attended and set up a hemp stand at the York Agricultural Banquet. While there we spoke with Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. I gave him a copy of my book and we secured his support for our hemp legislation. We also spoke to Rep. Seth Grove’s chief of staff and several others. Grove signed on as a cosponsor for SB50 the next day. The Sec. of Ag was seen with my book on his desk weeks later.

11113603_695334067255784_8041011163038947128_nMarch 30th we did a hemp lobbying trip to Harrisburg. We took a team of seven – Luke Shultz, John Musare, Jay Clymer, Adam Thompson, Susan Love plus Erica and myself. Together we reached 23 different legislators, concentrating mostly on members of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee to discuss our hemp legislation and the necessity for joint hearings.

Erica and I met with Representative Moul from Adams County at 9:30 AM. Moul was impressed. We told him about the work that Scotty Bolton is doing in Adams County, getting 18 municipalities on board with hemp over there and he said that he was well aware. He promised us that he would not only support the bill but also sign on as a cosponsor. Within a day he was in the news as a confirmed and enthusiastic cosponsor of HB967.

At 11:30 Susan, who was in between meetings she had scheduled, accompanied Erica and me  to our meeting with Representative John Lawrence. Lawrence generally opposes medical cannabis but was open to industrial hemp. We learned months later when his committee voted he was indeed a yes vote.

11113354_695333943922463_1958133818015561658_nIn between our scheduled meetings we dropped off some more materials with Rep. David Zimmerman from New Holland, who I had spoken with a couple of weeks ago with Susan. Zimmerman had a few extra minutes so he invited us in again and we talked for a few minutes before we had to run for our next meeting. We also met with Rep. Marty Flynn. Flynn was immediately and firmly on our side and immediately signed on as a cosponsor to HB967.

We also met with the sponsor of our hemp bill in the House, Rep. Russell Diamond. We had a good conversation for more than a half hour, strategizing an briefing him on our efforts.

We also met with Bill Evans, Executive Director for Senator Judy Schwank, sponsor of our hemp bill in the state senate, SB 50.

Then we dropped off information and books for Representatives Regan, Hill, Millard and Seth Grove. Adam, Susan, Jay, Luke and John met with another ten Reps combined or else dropped of information and spoke with the staff.

Luke also did some lobbying on medical cannabis and sometimes the medical cannabis issue was discussed in our hemp meetings as well, although we primarily focused on hemp.

April 3rd Susan Love, Erica McBride and myself met with the leaders of a Pennsylvania institution that may be interested in growing experimental plots of industrial hemp. It was a productive meeting.

April 8th we again went to Harrisburg for another Hearing on medical cannabis by Matt Baker’s Health Committee.

1908201_708218472634010_1262453965656735449_nApril 21st we had another Hemp Lobby Day. Adam Thompson, John Musare, Erica McBride and I had a very productive meeting with Rep. Martin Causer, the Chairman of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee concerning possible hearings concerning hemp. By the end of the meeting he was convinced that we needed to hold joint hearings.

After the meeting Erica and I met with two Deputy Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, both of whom offered valuable insights and who informed us that there is strong support from the Department and all the way from the top of the administration.

After the meeting, which kept us from witnessing the Governmental Affairs Committee vote on SB3, we briefed State Senator Judy Schwank on our efforts and then trudged around the halls and gave books, information packets, seed packets and brochures to 9 more state reps and senators and had in-depth conversations with their staff and chief executive officers. All of them were interested and we gathered more cosponsors for both of our bills and definitely more support.

We met with State Senator Mike Folmer and briefed him as well and one more meeting with Senator Schwank and staff and then it was back home to Reading.

Several reps told us that we gave the most professional presentation and best materials that they have ever seen. When we told Senator Schwank that she was a hero she said no, we are the heroes and thanked us for doing the heavy lifting.

May 12th Erica and I did a one hour television show on hemp and cannabis issues for BCTV in Reading. We took calls from the live audience.

11148454_719280788194445_1904067194640858253_nMay 13th we attended the joint hearing on industrial hemp legislation by both the State Senate and the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs committees. This is the hearing that we had spent so much effort to make happen. Geoff Whaling brought in people to testify, a hemp farmer from Canada and a person involved in the hemp industry in Kentucky. Pa. Farm Bureau and Penn State also testified in support. I submitted over 50 pages of written testimony.

May 16th we held the Lancaster Hemp Freedom rally and it was a success. It was attended by more than 100 people and we got some great press.

22691_721741681281689_4481019518293163939_nMay 18th we went to the Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg to meet with Governor Wolf and attend his roundtable discussion on medical cannabis. I asked if decriminalization was called for and the question was echoed by Derek Rosenzweig of Philly NORML. The press asked him about it and Wolf affirmed his support right there once again for statewide decriminalization of cannabis. Erica and I also had the chance there to speak with Policy Advisor John Hanger, Katie McGinty, Pa. Physician General Levine, State Senators Daylin Leach, Mike Folmer and others.

May 19th I gave a speech on the history of the hemp industry in Pennsylvania at the Reamstown Historical Society in Lancaster County. I spoke and took questions for nearly two hours.

May 23rd Erica and I set up a stand for KCC at the March Against Monsanto rally in downtown Lancaster.

11900085_10153493628905937_213938213859231648_nJune 6th we had our favorite event yet – the Hempcrete Workshop. We teamed up with Riley Cote and his Hemp Heals Foundation for this event and brought in master builder John Patterson who led a class teaching participants to make Hempcrete blocks used for building.

The workshop included speeches by the sponsors of our House and State Senate hemp bills – State Senators Judy Schwank and Mike Folmer and State Representative Russ Diamond. I also spoke and we all had a blast. We received excellent press in the Reading Eagle.

11402722_734017813387409_1405778207844577864_nJune 12th we again traveled to Harrisburg for the press conference/rally featuring celebrity Montel Williams.

June 13th Erica and I set up a stand for KCC at the Pennsylvania Federation of Democratic Women Convention held in Lancaster.

July 11th we held the West Chester Hemp Freedom rally. Attendance was poor but we were able to get great press for it and it was a lot of fun. We had an after party and Ryan Olah’s band played.

10410979_757661834356340_3961200073741386798_nJuly 31st Erica and I set up a stand for KCC at Riley Cote’s Hemp Heals Music Festival. Definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. I got to give a speech to a crowd of about 6,000 people and hearing them roar when I said that we were going to legalize cannabis gave me an INCREDIBLE rush!

August 25th we attended a meeting with Lancaster City Council with Deb Guy from Lancaster NORML. We gave speeches and presentations on our proposal to decriminalize cannabis in the city. We gave them information packets and an ordinance already written based on the Philly decrim ordinance. We were well received and we are still continuing the conversation to get it done.

September 5th KCC teamed up with Jesse Nova of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Cannabis Network for the Wilkes Barre Hemp Freedom rally. It was a great time. George Wesley played music at both the rally and the after-party.

12033170_966770086722430_5536607709781657248_nSeptember 22nd we went to the medical cannabis rally organized by Campaign for Compassion and stood on the steps of the Rotunda.

October 6th we attended the historic House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee vote to move our hemp legislation to the full House for a vote. The vote was unanimous, 24-0!

11921621_798755886913601_5953640571893841067_nOctober 24th we took to the streets again on Continental Square for the York Hemp Freedom Rally. Another well attended and fun event that got us more great media coverage in the papers and TV.

October 27th we headed to Harrisburg once again for another historic occasion. This time it was the State Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee vote on our hemp legislation – SB50. Just as the House vote weeks earlier, the Senate ag committee voted unanimously to move SB50 out of committee and to the floor for a vote.

November 14th I traveled to York County for the Hanover MMJ and Hemp rally organized by Christy Billet and her organization. I had the honor of speaking there for about 10 minutes. It was another inspiring event that got good media coverage.

11221463_10205500310922910_5592068658703210292_nNovember 21st KCC teamed up with Dana Ulrich and volunteers from Campaign for Compassion and Legalize for Lorelei in Bucks County to hold the Bristol MMJ and Hemp rally. It was starting to get cold but once again, well attended and great press.

12313606_10206084736776063_4127293356550317789_nNovember 23rd I went to Harrisburg again for yet another medical cannabis rally organized by Campaign for Compassion and spent the rest of the day in the “waiting room” set up in the Rotunda to remind our legislators the urgency of passing SB3.

December 3rd Erica and I drove to Philadelphia to give speeches for the organization called Women Grow. We discussed our efforts on the industrial hemp, medical cannabis and decriminalization fronts.

PAHIC_logo_VerticalDecember 11th we officially announced the formation of PAHIC. After months collaborating with Geoff Whaling we joined with him to form the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Council. Geoff is our President and Erica is the current Secretary and Treasurer and future Executive Director. Riley Cote, Adam Thompson and myself serve on the board. The goal is to accelerate the return of the Industrial Hemp Crop to the Pennsylvania agricultural landscape. To effectively achieve our aim of broad adoption of Industrial Hemp as a rotational crop by farmers, we will build a vital and effective collaboration of agencies, individuals and the general public. We are very excited to have our debut event at the upcoming  100th PA Farm Show in January.

Our work with PAHIC will not slow down our work with KCC but will allow us to give space between the issue of industrial hemp and the broader reforms that we seek.

Of course, all this only tells the half of the story. We went to a dozen more meetings and other events. We wrote blogs and worked with several journalists who wrote outstanding articles for us on our issues. We kept everyone informed and up to the minute in our KCC group page on Facebook, wrote blogs and kept everything flowing. I’m sure I’m missing some things.

DemandChangeAll in all it was a good year for KCC and the cannabis and hemp reform movement in Pennsylvania. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of leaders like Patrick Nightingale of Pittsburgh NORML we now have decriminalization in not just Philadelphia but the biggest city on the western side of the state. The state senate passed SB3 way back in May for the second time. Our hemp bills are moving. We are like right on the verge of major change in Pennsylvania but yet we just are not there yet.

We look ahead to 2016 with hope and optimism tempered with a hard-headed realist approach. We know that the Pennsylvania General Assembly is not going to give in without a fight. We are going to continue to take the fight to them, working in collaboration with every organization or individual in the state who wants to end cannabis and hemp prohibition forever.

We see medical cannabis and industrial hemp legislation passing soon in the state. As soon as a budget is passed we expect they will finally get to the important work of the people. We are going to hold their feet to the fire.

Everything that we have been able to achieve in 2015 was made possible by the generous donations that we have received and we thank you all for making our work possible.

If you would like for KCC to be able to continue our work and effect real, positive and profound change then please consider making a donation today.

Together we will hasten the day when the national prohibition of cannabis and hemp falls.

Thanks for being a part of our KCC family and best wishes for a very Happy New Year!

~Les Stark




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PA Hemp – The Untold Story

Posted by on Dec 30, 2015 in Blog

10482577_727127870743070_7555340961000142276_nAs many of you know, I am the official and probably the only hemp historian for Pennsylvania. Before my research almost nothing was known about the historic Pennsylvania hemp industry. If you looked hard enough you could find a paragraph here and a paragraph there but nothing extensive had ever been written.

In 1997 I immersed myself into a five year research project. Within my first year I documented over 100 water-powered hemp mills in Lancaster County. I found out how they worked, who owned them, the years they were in operation, in many cases the exact dimensions of the mills and for most of them, their exact locations.

Funny thing is, I have never published my work on the hemp mills. No one ever said that there were 100 hemp mills in Lancaster County until I came along, discovered it and started telling everyone. And yet no one has ever challenged me on it. No one has ever asked to see the proof. Now you can find that fact all over the internet. It has been accepted as fact. I am so looking forward to publishing that information that proves it and fills in all the details.

Of course, I didn’t just find out about hemp mills in Lancaster County. Also in that first year I found dozens of hemp mills in neighboring York County and extending into Adams County. Then I found dozens of hemp mills in Berks County and more in other nearby counties.

I found all sorts of great information in that first year and starting in 1998 I started speaking wherever I could about the historic Pennsylvania hemp industry even as I was continually uncovering the whole story.

battles-willis-in-tax-book-at-boston-city-archives-022814I kept up the intensive research for another four years and by the time I was finished I had amassed a huge stack of important historical data with tons of great stories to go along with it all. All of this was done before I had a computer, the old fashioned way – by looking at the old tax assessment records on microfiche, census of agriculture, census of manufacturing, census of agriculture, estate inventories, wills, account books, law books, etc.

I hand-wrote a huge manuscript of over 600 pages. Then when I finally got a computer I looked at this handwritten manuscript and wondered how long it would take me to whip this thing into a professional looking book. I felt that it would take me years. So I decided to publish all of my information in a series of books.

2952I self-published Hempstone Heritage I in April of 2005. It had taken me two years to save enough money to print 3,000 copies. In the first book I concentrated on information regarding hemp gleaned from the wills written by our ancestors in Lancaster County. I put a lot of information in there to put the wills in context and included a chapter on the present and the future situation. Many people have told me that it was a powerful book and it opened the eyes of many.

Over the years I have had a burning desire to share all of my information but unfortunately my first book was not successful in the standard way. After ten years I still have two thousand copies of Hempstone Heritage I in storage and of the thousand that are missing it turns out that I probably gave away almost as many books as I have sold – hundreds of them.

Financially it was a bust. I put around $20,000 into the printing and promotion of the book, not to mention the thousands of dollars put into the research and the many thousands of dollars I lost while researching and writing it. I still have thousands of dollars to go before I break even.

In other ways though, my book was a huge success. Hundreds of copies of my books got to the people that needed to know the information the most – college professors, museum curators, historical societies and historians, newspaper editors, spinners and weavers, historical re-enactors, politicians, farmers and people in the ag industry, etc. Hempstone Heritage I has in a way, revolutionized our understanding. It gave me a strong platform to launch the campaign for hemp in Pennsylvania.

State Senator Mike Folmer said that it was Hempstone Heritage I that convinced him to introduce hemp legislation to Pennsylvania and State Senator Judy Schwank agreed to be the prime sponsor of SB50 after receiving a copy. All of the members of the Pa. State Senate and House Agricultural and Rural Affairs committees received a copy before agreeing to a joint hearing on the legislation and many more in the Pa. General Assembly have received a copy.

The point is, I am really proud of Hempstone Heritage I but I still have that burning desire to get the whole story out to the world because when the entirety of my work is revealed it will truly blow people’s minds.

Officially, I ended my research phase in about 2002 with a massive amount of information, stories, anecdotes and historical data. I thought I knew it all. But, from 2002 until 2013 I continued to find more and more information about the Pennsylvania hemp industry.

At the beginning of 2014 I marveled with how much more information I had gathered since my official research phase “ended”.  But then something incredible happen – I found incredibly rich veins of information that have allowed me to amass almost as much information in the last two years as I had gathered in the previous 16 years!

I can’t take sitting on all of this information. I finally decided that it is time for Hempstone Heritage II and then Hempstone Heritage III and possibly IV. I want to publish all of this information as soon as possible. Hemp legislation is likely to pass soon in Pennsylvania and I want to help with the great hemp awakening by making the entire state aware of our deep connection with hemp and the great potential for the future.

10625122_590263341096191_9086065072119710320_nI really want to tell about the hemp mills. I found over 200 of them throughout the state. Hemp mills existed in virtually every township in every county throughout the state. There are probably a hundred more waiting to be discovered but as of now I can prove over two hundred of them in Lancaster, York, Adams, Fulton, Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Northampton, Lehigh, Northumberland, Cumberland, Perry, Juniata, Lebanon, Dauphin and basically counties throughout the state.

As much as I want to tell that story though, first thing will be to publish Hempstone Heritage II: Hemp in the Old House. I don’t expect it to be a huge seller. This is serious information for scholars, researchers, genealogist and people like me who really have a burning desire to know intricate details about the historical hemp industry.

Hemp in the Old House is the result of one intense phase of my research – a five month period where I spent 4 seven hour days a week looking through over 12,000 old estate inventories of Lancaster County covering the years of 1729-1840. I came away with a list of thousands of people with hemp in all forms and studied the information to fully realize how hemp was used in the households of early Pennsylvania. The book will be around 300 pages. Many people will discover that like me, their ancestors were hemp farmers for generations.

I think I can have Hempstone Heritage II ready in a month or two at most. Then, it will be a matter of getting it published. I took a big hit by self publishing so I have no desire to try it again. I am confident that I will find a publisher but if not I will make the information available for free.

Then after Hempstone Heritage II is published I will have a big decision to make. I could make Hempstone Heritage III all about the hemp mills of Pennsylvania. With photographs and stories it will contain a couple hundred pages. Problem is, even if I do that I still have about 300 pages more to publish. So I will decide if I will make it a four book series or publish the hemp mill info in context of the whole story and call it something like The Great Book of Pennsylvania Hemp History.

44848-keanu-reeves-whoa-gif-nOupWhen the whole story is told it will contain about 1,000 pages of hemp history in either three or four books that basically nobody ever knew before. I guarantee it will blow people’s minds and change everything.

All that’s pretty amazing but you’ll never believe this…after I publish all of that information, hopefully over the next year, I intend to publish over 300 pages about the history of medical and recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania! I think people will love it but you first have to understand the hemp industry and how the cannabis situation evolved here. Then it will be time to show how medical cannabis took hold here followed by recreational cannabis and the reefer madness campaign that led to the outlaw of its use here in 1933 and the campaign and debate that has raged in the state for the past 83 years.

100_0907I have a lot of work cut out for me but the hardest part has already been done. Thousands of hours of research has been done over a period of nearly 20 years and I am so anxious to tell the world the whole story – a story that has never been told before, meticulously uncovered and unveiled in all it’s glory – a story that when told and fully understood will change everything.

If you are interested in my first book, Hempstone Heritage I, you can purchase it here.  Your purchase will give me some income as I work to make the fullness of my research known to the world.

~Les Stark


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