Tiny hemp house built in Bellingham

Alison Morrow reports.

Permits to build a house out of hemp don't exist, but that isn't stopping a Bellingham woman from building two hemp houses.

"This is what we call hemp herd," Pam Bosch said. "It's like straw only it's stronger."

Bosch hasn't ever built a home before. She's using lime mixed with hemp to create plaster.

"Anybody can do this," she laughed. "Grandma can do it. Grandma's doing it."

The 9-inch walls went up in early June when weather was hot and dry. The plaster had to wait.

"You want conditions like we're starting to see now - overcast, high humidity, because you don't want it to dry out too fast," Bosch said.

The process also took longer because the hemp is imported from Europe. Growing hemp on an industrial scale in Washington is still illegal.

Hemp is the cannabis plant with very low levels of THC. In fact, THC levels are so low, hemp is not included in Washington's rules governing marijuana.

However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers it a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance.

"And importing seeds without a DEA permit is currently not something we can do," said Sandy Soderberg.

Soderberg worked on state legislation that gives hemp its first chance in 80 years. Washington farmers can now feed it to livestock.

Bosch and others want to expand its use, and hope the new livestock feed law will create a hemp open house -- a chance to learn more about the plant's potential.

"We need to be building this way," Bosch said. "We should have as many buildings as we can that are built out of a renewable resource that sequesters carbon, that is healthy and if it were legal would be very affordable. It's an agricultural waste product we're using."

Hemp can be used for soil remediation, biofuels, plastic composites, organic body care and health foods, but until it's regulated, farmers in Washington would need permission from the DEA.

"And that doesn't sit well with people who are looking at sustainability for farming," Soderberg said.

Because hemp house permits don't exist, Bosch had to stay within 120 square feet.

She calls it a tiny house with big potential.

"I'm investing in this because I believe in it and believe someone's got to do it to make it legal," Bosch said.

 


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