Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Amber Waves of Hemp

The neat thing about having friends with wide-ranging interests, a propensity to read about things, and intellectual curiosity is that they can be counted on to send you stuff they find interesting every once in a while on the not-too-off-the-wall assumption that if it interested them, it will probably interest you. Thus was I introduced to this website, which you drill down to from the home page: the website of the North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc. It's full all kinds of facts about this versatile plant. Which, of course, since it is of same family as marijuana, is illegal in the U.S., being considered by the mammoth intellects that decide such policies in this country to be as dangerous as heroin and crack cocaine.

So in case it's been a while since you read up on hemp, let me share just a few of pertinent facts about it with you about it. There are a lot more on the referenced web site. I've just pulled out some interesting ones and mixed them all up. Read the rest and then you tell me that our ridiculous policy of making the cultivation of this crop a crime makes any kind of sense at all. Further, you have to wonder when you read this kind of thing, why somebody with some balls in Congress or the Executive doesn't point out how utterly stupid this country is for letting its terror of recreational drugs effectively damn useful, profitable, and ecologically sound products to the nether regions where they can do no one any good. The amber waves of hemp is not something you can be expecting to see any time soon, unless there's some kind of miracle.

*Hemp has been grown for at least the last 12,000 years for fiber (textiles and paper) and food. It has been effectively prohibited in the United States since the 1950s.
*Hemp can displace cotton which is usually grown with massive amounts of chemicals harmful to people and the environment. 50% of all the world's pesticides are sprayed on cotton.
*Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified by taxonomists as Cannabis sativa, a species with hundreds of varieties. C. sativa is a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and/or oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).
*Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power-smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand.
*The US Drug Enforcement Agency classifies all C. sativa varieties as "marijuana." While it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require that the field be secured by fence, razor wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive. [Insanity]
*George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.
*Over 30 industrialized democracies do distinguish hemp from marijuana. International treaties regarding marijuana make an exception for industrial hemp.
*Hemp can displace wood fiber and save forests for watershed, wildlife habitat, recreation and oxygen production, carbon sequestration (reduces global warming), and other values.
*Because of its importance for sails (the word "canvass" is rooted in "cannabis") and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies.
*While the original "gruel" was made of hemp seed meal, hemp oil and seed can be made into tasty and nutritional products.
*The products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000.
*Hemp grows well in a variety of climates and soil types. It is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. It grows tightly spaced, out-competing any weeds, so herbicides are not necessary. It also leaves a weed-free field for a following crop.
*At a volume level of 81%, hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the "good" fats). It's quite high in some essential amino acids, including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient also found in mother's milk. 
*Hemp was grown commerically (with increasing governmental interference) in the U.S. until the 1950s. It was doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which placed an extremely hight tax on marijuana and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. While Congress expressly expected the continued production of industrial hemp, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, as its successor the US Drug Enforcement Administration, does to this day. 
*Canada now again allows the growing of hemp. [Canada is looking better and better all the time.] 
*Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent and more mildew-resistant than cotton. 
*Hemp can be made into a variety of fabrics, including linen quality. 
*Hemp can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre. This is four times what the average forest can yield.
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