USHBA President Henry Gage Jr.: '2023 is the Year' for hemp

Departments - The Last Word

U.S. Hemp Building Association President Henry Gage Jr. says creating affordable infrastructure and eliminating THC testing are priorities for the organization in the coming year.

Photo courtesy of Henry Gage Jr.

In early January, the U.S. Hemp Building Association (USHBA) submitted hemp-lime (hempcrete) insulation for certification in U.S. building codes. In late September, the International Code Council certified hempcrete to be used as a standard material in residential construction beginning in 2024.

With USHBA’s top task in 2022 complete, Henry Gage Jr., USHBA president and certifications director, describes what the hemp building advocacy organization has in store for 2023.

Andriana Ruscitto: You mentioned the USHBA is working on creating mills. What does that entail?

Henry Gage Jr.: My goal as president of USHBA is to figure out [how to finance a mill] document it and then spread it to every state. So we’re talking border-[to]-border, coast-to-coast and all the territories so that every community can get a mill.

The idea is a mill plus a makerspace. We’re talking about a full-service process where you drop off what you have, … process it, get the raw material separated, and then [it goes] on to the next destination. [If] you have a person who’s interested in making bolts of fabric …. instead of ordering from China, the idea is they order from America. So, [changing that] supply cycle reduces the CO2 footprint because you’re not shipping that stuff across the ocean.

What a mill does is when the plant grows, the stalk is hard and you have to crack it open and then peel the fiber away from the woody core, separate the two in a clean way, make sure it’s efficiently dry, then prepare it for transportation to its next destination. [A mill] has a piece of decorticating equipment, which has different technologies for splitting open the stalk and separating materials and cleaning the materials. At the end stage, what you get is long strands [of] strong fibers.

AR: What does the USHBA have in store for 2023? What is the organization most excited about?

HG: I’m excited about improving the[organizational] infrastructure so members can better communicate with each other and support each other. For example, what we are looking to do is make sure we have multiple representatives in each state. We’re looking to strengthen the regional leadership model, and then we’re looking to deliver services at a regional level so they can be successful locally as they sponsor events.

The other big thing is we’re going to start the process of applying again to the International Code Council, but this time for commercial [building]. To start the process, we really are focused on ramping up our engagement with universities, the government, and the industry to get it funded in a mutually beneficial way.

AR: What are your predictions for the hemp building industry in 2023?

HG: I think 2023 is the year. It’s possible that the farm bill will be influenced by the [Industrial Hemp Exemption], which will result in [treating hemp] like a regular agricultural crop, [eliminating THC testing protocols and] making it easier for farmers. I’m planning to start a financing process here in New York to get a mill built so I can … share it with the other states. We’re going to likely focus on private investors because they move 10 times faster than state organizations.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity. Read the full conversation here.

Andriana Ruscitto is associate editor for Cannabis Business Times.