HIA taps chief, partners with industrial hemp group on marketing checkoff effort

The Hemp Industries Association has appointed former marijuana activist Jody McGinness as its new executive director.

After a monthslong search with nearly 100 qualified candidates, the national hemp association selected McGinness, a veteran association executive in the non-profit sector.

McGinness last served as the head of fundraising for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for  the legalization of adult-use high-THC cannabis.

“We wanted someone with a strong record of leadership when it comes to revamping non-profits, empowering diverse teams for success, and strategic planning and alignment,” said HIA president Rick Trojan.

He added HIA is looking forward to working with McGinness as the association expands and crafts new strategies to lead the hemp industry.

The executive director role has been vacant since the departure of Colleen Lanier at the end of 2019.

McGinness is based in Washington D.C. and said he is inspired by the potential of the U.S. hemp industries to provide opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation to the benefit of all Americans.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the HIA team at what is truly a pivotal moment for the association and the industry,” said McGinness.

One project McGinness will help manage is a partnership with the National Industrial Hemp Council to explore the creation of a national hemp marketing checkoff, an agreement the two associations announced Wednesday.

The NIHC and HIA will form a working group with industry representatives to discuss the details of how a hemp checkoff would be structured and operate, and develop and submit a proposal to the USDA that will include an industry analysis, justification for the program, program objectives and the impact on small businesses.

“A checkoff program further legitimizes a rapidly growing industry and will help hemp farmers compete on a level playing field with producers of other agricultural-related commodities,” said Patrick Atagi, board chairman of the National Industrial Hemp Council.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the same agency that wrote the interim final rule for hemp production, oversees marketing checkoff programs to promote farm commodities and expand market opportunities for agricultural industries, funded through assessments at the first point of sale.

Checkoffs pool that money to use for research, education and promotion efforts aimed at expanding sales and improving production efficiencies.