Organization: Hemp Industries Association
Position: Executive Director
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
As the Hemp Industries Association’s new national director, Colleen Keahey hopes to continue to educate farmers, legislators and the public on the versatility of marijuana’s sister crop.
“All cannabis plants have value for humanity,” she says.
To help educate people about the differences in cannabis varietals, Keahey launched the now-famous “Hemp looks like this” campaign, which promoted the many uses of hemp, including textiles, foods and nutritional supplements, all from a supply that has to be imported.
“The fact is we already have this on the shelf in the U.S.,” she says. “We have the ability to grow that domestically.”
Growing up in the ‘90s, Keahey always understood the difference between hemp and marijuana thanks to a clothing store in the Tennessee town where she lived. The purses and jewelry provided an “early awareness” of the plant’s industrial, not psychoactive, nature.
“I understood it was a textile,” she says.
Fast forward to 2013 and Keahey was working at the state chapter of the National Rural Water Association. Her father had 80 acres of land and the family was trying to figure out what to do with it that would be “meaningful and have a lasting impact.” One February afternoon, she went to pay for lunch and pulled out a dollar upon which someone had stamped “I grew hemp” over President Washington’s head.
She eventually started a Tennessee chapter of the Hemp Industries Association, but she never forgot the first message that made her look deeper into hemp.
“I still have it,” she says of that stamped dollar bill. “I had it framed.”