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1996 | Woody Harrelson speaks to Kentucky elementary school students about hemp

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Woody Harrelson with Simpsonville Elementary School teacher Donna Cockrel and her fifth grade class (1996).
Woody Harrelson with Simpsonville Elementary School teacher Donna Cockrel and her fifth grade class (1996).

The Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative (KHGCA) stirred national attention when members surprised Shelby County, Kentucky elementary school students with a visit from famous actor and environmentalist, Woody Harrelson. Donna Cockrel's fifth grade class at Simpsonville Elementary School thought they were celebrating the last day of school when Woody showed up, wearing a none other than a hemp shirt, hemp pants and "100% Kentucky Hemp" hemp hat.

Woody talked with students about industrial hemp and how it's different from its "controversial cousin," showing them products made from hemp, including hemp seeds (which were a banned substance in the state of Kentucky.)

Jake Graves spoke to students about his family hemp history in Kentucky, while KHGCA member and hemp activist, Craig Lee, brought the hemp seeds for show and tell. Joe Hickey, Executive Director, had developed a relationship with Woody and initiated his Kentucky visit.

While the kids were excited about the surprise visit, some Shelby County parents were not happy. Shelby County deputy sheriff, Audrey Yeager, claimed Woody Harrelson's presentation earlier that month had contradicted her anti-drug message to students. Ironically enough, Yeager had been scheduled to hand out trophies and certificates to students graduating from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education ("D.A.R.E.") program offered the same day.

After the visit to Simpsonville Elementary by Woody Harrelson, a series of events took place, from a hemp seed planting to a lawsuit between Cockrel and the Shelby County School District.

Click the links below to learn more about the Harrelson and Cockrel trials:



Isaacs, B. (1997, January 10). HARRELSON: HEMP'S CAPPED CRUSADER. Retrieved December 3, 2015, from

Robinson, R. (1997). 23: The People vs. Woody Harrelson. In The hemp manifesto: 101 Ways That Hemp Can Save Our World. Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press.

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