John Roulac: Caring About Hemp Way Before It Was Cool

Meet John Roulac, the founder and CEO of Nutiva, the world’s leading organic superfoods brand of hemp, coconut, chia, and red palm. Also, the man at the forefront of the movement to legalize Hemp.

John Roulac, Founder & CEO of Nutiva

In 2001 Roulac successfully sued the US DEA to keep Hemp foods legal and has been a champion of whole foods and water, land and energy conservation since the early ’90s.   Legislation that lumps Hemp production in with controlled substances like cannabis or CBD oil, has made it difficult for Hemp farmers to receive recognition for Hemp as an agricultural crop (recognition includes water rights, access to grants and funding etc.)

Through Nutiva, Roulac continues to lead the whole foods and sustainability charge, with their introduction of their USA grown, Organic Hempseed. Most Hemp products are sourced internationally so this is a big win for Hemp farmers, organic farming and their advocates. 

Nutiva hemp seeds next to salad on table.

Although awareness of the incredible benefits of superfoods, like Hemp, is increasing, there continues to be confusion about the relationship between Hemp, as a superfood and marijuana. Roulac has patiently and consistently crusaded for not just the health benefits of Hemp but the economic and environmental benefits as well. While it seems that the US government is finally catching on (p.s. welcome to modern times, p.p.s. seriously legislators, just google it) there is still advocating left to do.  

We wanted to pick Roulac’s brain on where some of the breakdowns in understanding lies and how Hemp advocates balance the need to distance themselves from marijuana while benefiting from its evolving decriminalization and social acceptance as a medicinal option.


So much of your work and advocacy focuses on education. You seem to have a triple focus: educating legislators (and the general public) to legalize commercial Hemp production because of its economic possibilities, AND talk about the environmental benefits AND talk about the health benefits. Do you find it hard to balance emphasizing the economic possibilities with the more “altruistic aspects*”? Do you have to kind of, pick a lane?  Authors note: *I say altruistic because our current administration seems to think health and the environment are “nice to have’s,” not “need to have’s.”

My greatest interest with Hemp lies in the drastic environmental impact and health benefits associated with the superfood, but the economic avenue is an important aspect to address too, especially given it provides another opportunity to connect with more people. I don’t necessarily feel like it’s about picking a particular lane, but more about focusing the conversation to the audience I’m speaking with. I’m always thinking about which aspect of the Hemp movement that will resonate most strongly with the people I’m sharing a conversation with because ultimately, the goal is to educate and inform to garner more support for Hemp. The more people we have onboard, whether it’s in relation to the environmental impact, health benefits or economic possibilities, the more impact we can make within this growing industry. 

Nutiva's Real Food Manifesto

Other than the association with Marijuana, are there other basic misunderstandings or misnomers that fuel the argument against Hemp? 

There are certainly a great deal of terms that often get thrown around amid the Hemp conversation, including marijuana, which does make it difficult for people to understand the differences between the two. Much of the stigma with Hemp has typically revolved around the association with marijuana. Before you know it, Hemp, marijuana, cannabis, CBD, etc. are all being clumped into a conversation together which leads to a great deal of confusion and makes it difficult for people to understand that they actually differ greatly. I think it ultimately boils down to a lack of education about what Hemp is and how it’s different from marijuana. It’s really exciting because we’re at a pivotal turning point for the Hemp industry in the United States with the introduction of The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 to the Senate, which demonstrates that attitudes are changing and people are becoming more informed about the many benefits of Hemp. When the bill passes, it will remove Hemp from the federal list of controlled substances and treat it like a regular agricultural commodity, which would allow for the U.S. production of Hemp to grow dramatically. 


"Let’s plant the seed. Growing hemp can power jobs and growth in rural counties. Its time has come."

Nutiva USA grown organic Hempseed

Increasingly, marijuana is being decriminalized and medical marijuana is becoming legal across the country.  Ultimately this may make DEA objections to Hemp a moot point. Even though this would make life for Hemp proponents easier, do you see any continued challenges with this association? 

I think as long as there is a lack of education and collective misunderstanding of how Hemp and marijuana differ, we’re bound to run into roadblocks. While I imagine the legalization of marijuana certainly will help, I believe many people will remain opposed if there isn’t that level of education to help people understand the benefits of hemp. Giving people knowledge and emphasizing the individual health, collective environmental benefits and economic opportunities of Hemp are three vital pieces to achieving continued industry growth. Right now, most Hemp products are sourced internationally, so that’s why we we’re particularly excited to launch Nutiva USA-Grown Organic Hempseed, the first USDA Certified Organic Hempseed product grown in the U.S. from a national organic brand, and support our Hemp farmers here at home.


Critics of the Hemp movement claim that it’s not as “green” as the proponents claim; saying it requires a lot of water resources and human resources to harvest (Ignoring the fact that meat and corn take up so many more resources). Why do you think Hemp gets held to a different standard? 

In the scheme of things, there simply is no question that the agricultural benefits of Hemp significantly outweigh those of meat and corn. In fact, it’s a great rotation crop for farmers growing corn, soy or wheat because it helps manage organic soil fertility and reduce soil-borne diseases while helping reduce the need for pesticides when growing crops. Not to mention, a staggering 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from raising animals for food consumption alone. One of Hemp’s greatest assets lies in its ability to support the health of both the people and the planet. Not to mention, it’s incredibly versatile and innovative, offering sustainable applications for both design and technology. As the industry grows, it will be interesting to watch the innovation behind this currently underutilized superfood build. Ultimately, my hope for the Hemp industry’s future is to build a dynamic, thriving industry as the legislation inevitably starts to catch up.


What is your favorite quote or soundbite about the benefits of Hemp? 

Let’s plant the seed. Growing Hemp can power jobs and growth in rural counties. Its time has come. 

Written by Krystin McBrien

Svn Space contributor

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