“Hempcrete,” made from the woody core of hemp, is showing promise as an environmentally friendly building material.
October 6, 2020 — It has become almost a cliché to discuss the benefits of hemp, the supposed wonder plant with almost endless uses — from woven fibers to edible seeds to bioplastics. “Of course, hemp is that magic crop that does everything,” says Nicholas Carter, an environmental researcher who, along with Tushar Mehta, a Toronto-based doctor, runs the website Plant Based Data. His work involves reading through scientific papers and studies and summarizing the most important work supporting plants as a source of food and other important uses. Given the hype, Carter wondered just how much power hemp really had. “I wanted to see the research out there on it, to see what’s actually real, what’s actually backed by evidence,” he says.
Magic? Not exactly. But Carter came away from his attempted debunking a hemp believer. And one of the most promising of its many uses, he found, is its application as a building material known as hempcrete.
Like its namesake concrete, hempcrete is a material mixed with a binder that hardens it into a solid in the form of blocks and panels. Made from the dried woody core of hemp stalks and a lime-based binder, hempcrete can be cast just like concrete. But unlike concrete and its binding cement, which accounts for about 8% of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions annually, hempcrete actually sequesters CO2. According to a recent study, hempcrete can sequester 307 kilograms of CO2 per cubic meter (19 pounds per cubic foot), roughly the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of three refrigerators.
“While we’re growing it and building hempcrete, it’s sucking CO2 the whole time and encapsulating the CO2 in the structure,” says Eric McKee, founder of the U.S. Hemp Building Association.
S.R. Karade, senior principal scientist of the Central Building Research Institute in Roorkee, India, outside New Delhi, has been studying hempcrete and wrote in a recent paper for the Journal of Cleaner Production about how hempcrete performs as a building material in terms of insulation, durability, structural strength and acoustic control, among other criteria. Overall, Karade found, hempcrete meets the current standards of most building applications and in many cases outperforms materials currently used, particularly for insulation.
Hempcrete is not a direct replacement of concrete, Karade cautions. In the lab he’s been able to make hempcrete with a compressive strength of 3 megapascals (MPa). “Typical concrete blocks, used for making walls, have compressive strength values varying between 5 MPa and 20 MPa,” he wrote in an email. “Due to its poor mechanical strength, it cannot be sufficiently relied upon to undertake any structural loads. However, considering its impressive functional properties, in terms of thermal resistance and [moisture-absorbing] behavior, hemp concrete may be at the top spot in the list of walling materials in the future.”
In other words, it can’t supply the load-bearing structure of a building, but it can insulate and cover its walls.
That’s part of what makes hempcrete such a potentially transformative building material, says Steve Allin, director of the International Hemp Building Association. Not only can hempcrete itself sequester carbon, but its use can help reduce the production of more CO2. “What’s really important about this material is we can create new structures or we can update or retrofit existing structures so that they don’t need air conditioning,” Allin says.
As Karade notes, hempcrete has a high thermal capacity compared with concrete, making it good for both the structure of a wall and its insulation.
Hempcrete can also cut down on another big problem: construction waste. Concrete represents more than half of the debris generated by building construction and demolition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 23 million tons (more than 20 million metric tons) of concrete debris was created during construction in 2015. And while hempcrete can’t be used for structural sections of a building, it can be used to replace non-structural elements of walls that traditionally could use concrete. Hempcrete can also be used in place of common construction materials like drywall and plaster, which account for about 8% of building construction debris.
The challenge, he says, is availability. There are only about a dozen hemp processing plants that are able to process hemp into a form usable in the creation of hempcrete, and most are in Europe, according to Allin. “That’s really the logjam,” he says. “What we really need is investment in primary processing. And that investment needs to be on the longer term, rather than people expecting quick returns and thinking of it as some other standard quick buck.”
Karade notes that the other major challenge is the legality of growing hemp, which can be hard to distinguish from marijuana plants. “The commercial off-take of hemp concrete is still limited by the regulatory constraints of hemp cultivation,” Karade says.
But laws are beginning to change. In the U.S., the 2018 Farm Bill allows for the broad cultivation of “industrial hemp,” but with tight restrictions on grower licenses and the crop’s psychoactive content, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Allin hopes this will lead to more farmers producing hemp crops and entrepreneurs seeing the opportunity to build the processing plants necessary to turn that hemp into building products. He says builders are willing to use hemp in their projects, but the products have to be available, which relies on the processing, which relies on the farmers. “Once those things are in place, it will all become profitable,” Allin says. “In a way we’re talking about starting an industry from the ground up.”
4:20 or 4/20 is a term used in North America as a discreet way to refer to the consumption and/or support of cannabis and, by extension, a way to identify oneself with the drug subculture around cannabis. Phrases such as “420 friendly” sometimes appear in roommate advertisements indicating that the current occupants are tolerant of cannabis users.
Although many diverse theories exist to explain the origin of the term, one central root of the phrase stems from a group of teenagers at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California in 1971; the teens would meet after school at 4:20 p.m. to smoke cannabis at the Louis Pasteur statue. The term became part of their group’s salute, “420 Louis!”, and became popularized in the late 1980s by fans of The Grateful Dead.
Many North American cannabis users continue to observe 4:20 as a time to smoke communally. By extension April 20 (“4/20”) has evolved into a counterculture holiday, where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. In some locations this celebration coincides with Earth Week.
420 is also the title of a comic book series featuring the alternative superhero Captain Cannabis. Noting that “the national weed smoking day is 4/20
As a hemp activist, 4/20 is an ideal day to gather to celebrate & educate others about the benefits of the hemp plant. So wear your hemp shirts, skirts, and shoes … create art about hemp or even better using hemp products….change your social networking photos to a pro hemp image and/or write a post about industrial hemp, link to sites that promote hemp knowledge and industrial hemp products.
First hemp-weaved fabric in the World found wrapped around baby in 9,000-year-old house
Latest excavation work in the ancient city of Çatalhöyük in Turkey has revealed the world’s first hemp-weaved fabric, which was found wrapped around a baby skeleton in the ground of a burned house.
The city of Çatalhöyük is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. At a time when most of the world’s people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, Çatalhöyük was a bustling town of as many as 10,000 people. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is known as one of the best sites for understanding human Prehistory.
The linen, which dates back 9,000 years, was found as part of the latest dig, which involved 120 people from 22 different countries, and was one of the most striking findings of the season, particularly due to its high level of preservation.
“The fire warmed up the ground and platforms of the building and created a kiln drying effect. Therefore the pieces and this piece of cloth underground have been so far protected. Examinations in the laboratory show that this piece of cloth is linen weaved with hemp,” said Professor Ian Hodder, head of the excavations. “This is a first in the world and one of the best preserved examples.”
Hemp is a commonly used term for high growing varieties of the Cannabis plant and its products, which include fibre, oil, and seed. Hemp fibre was widely used throughout history for items ranging from rope to fabrics and even sail canvases. Hodder believes the piece of linen came from the eastern Mediterranean from the central Anatolia, and may be evidence of hemp used in trade.
Hemp has been cultivated by many civilizations for over 12,000 years. However, until the latest discovery, the oldest evidence of hemp fibre came from imprints found on Yangshao pottery in China dating to the 5th millennium BC. The Chinese later used hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes, and an early form of paper. The classical Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 480 BC) reported that the inhabitants of Scythia would often inhale the vapours of hemp-seed smoke, both as ritual and for their own pleasurable recreation. It is not known whether the inhabitants of Çatalhöyük in Turkey had discovered the more ‘recreational uses’ of the Cannabis plant.
Featured image: Excavations taking place at Çatalhöyük. Photo credit .
According to the Columbia History of the World, the oldest relics of our human history are fragments of hemp fabric found in tombs dating to 8,000 BC. The fiber obtained from the hemp plant has proven to be extremely durable, which is why it was historically often used for rope-making and heavy-duty canvas cloth. Hemp was widely used in the U.S. for centuries before the mid-twentieth century; Levi Strauss’ first pair of jeans was in fact made out of hemp fabric, as he found the combination of durability and comfort ideal for robust workwear.
The hemp plant grows quickly and efficiently without any need for pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, making it naturally organic. Hemp plants fix essential nutrients back into the soil, making them an ideal crop to grow on land the needs nourishment. This gives it significant headway when compared to cotton cultivation, which uses some of the most toxic pesticides on the market, immense amounts of water and yields much less fiber per acre.
The stem of the hemp plant contains the fiber used for fabric production, meaning that hemp belongs to the bast fiber group alongside flax, jute, ramie and kenaf. These types of plants contain the softest fibers in the inner core of the stalk, while rougher fiber makes up the outer layers of the plant stalk. Unlike other cellulose based natural fibers, hemp contains less lignin (a viscous, glue-like substance that holds the fibers together) making fiber separation relatively easy. Traditional, mechanical methods of hemp fiber processing require no chemicals, although modern, chemical intensive methods have been adopted by several Asian producers. Since hemp fibers are naturally very long, it is difficult to find machinery that will easily process and spin them into yarn, as many modern machines are made for processing shorter fibers.
Once spun, hemp fiber is often blended with other fibers like cotton, wool and silk for textiles that combine the best qualities of each fiber. Hemp and cotton blends are extremely soft, wool and hemp blends are superbly warm, and silk and hemp blends create a lustrous fabric that is strong and durable. Hemp fiber displays superior qualities as a fabric, as it insulates excellently, breathes well, efficiently blocks ultraviolet rays and is often not processed with the use of chemicals. Hemp fibers are actually much longer and stronger than cotton with eight times the tensile strength and four times the durability.
Other uses for hemp fiber include paper, rope, cording, animal bedding, biomass fuel and car interiors. Hemp seed is a by-product of hemp fiber production, and offers numerous health benefits when enjoyed in one’s diet. Many health food brands use hemp seed and oil in foods like salad dressings, dairy-free milk, granola, veggie burgers, protein bars, breads and crackers. Hemp oil can also be found in skin products, soaps, and household cleaners as it is a natural cleansing alternative to harsh chemicals.
Just because the #hempweek is ending doesn’t mean the rediscovering and celebration needs to end as well.
Being a contributor to Hemp History Week 2015 I offer this timeline of industrial hemp history
* Download this free time-line of industrial hemp history and use it as a talking point, as a base to your research to verify if the information is accurate, as a reference to milestones and history of Industrial Hemp
Energy. Fuel. Food…all are becoming more expensive.
One crop has great potential as a solution to some of our climbing costs and declining natural environments, but only if it’s made legal again.
During my Master Gardner classes last fall, we inevitably talked about crops — which species are best for which soils, how to rotate crops to prevent nutrient depletion, which species produce the most output for the least energy input, etc.
During these discussions, the overall benefit of one plant in particular stood out to me: cannabis.
Industrial hemp, ( cannabis sativa ), has more than 25,000 uses, from textiles to birdseed to health and beauty products. However, in the United States, hemp is illegal to grow, even though our founding fathers grew it and drafted our Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.
The reasons hemp is illegal are somewhat disputed. One reason may be because it happens to look like a cousin, which, according to some, endangers human health – cannabis indica, otherwise known as marijuana. Because hemp and marijuana look the same, you can imagine the difficulty faced by federal drug enforcement officers if Americans were allowed to grow hemp but not marijuana.
But what if, say, someone bred a strain of hemp to be purple or orange so it would stand out against its naughty cousin? If the difference was clear, could we not grow it then?
Same Genus, Different Beast There are hundreds of cultivars, or varieties, of the cannabis plant. Though they share common genetics, industrial hemp and marijuana are not the same things.
For starters, to satisfy the United Nations Narcotics Convention, hemp has been bred to contain almost no delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Most hemp has about 0.3%. You could smoke a hemp cigarette every hour of every day and not feel anything. You’d just be tarring your lungs. Marijuana, on the other hand, contains between 6 – 20% THC. Smoke just one marijuana cigarette and, well, apparently it’s a different experience altogether.
Hemp was first lumped together with marijuana when the Marijuana Transfer Tax Act was passed in 1937. Some scholars believe that Andrew Mellon, the United States Secretary of Treasury at the time and investor in DuPont’s new synthetic fiber, nylon, was a major force behind hemp being added to the 1937 Act. The success of nylon, and Mr. Mellon’s investments, relied heavily upon the status of hemp, which was the major source of fiber before Act was passed.
William Randolf Hearst, America’s leading newspaper publisher during the time hemp was prohibited, had many timber holdings and could have benefited from the switch from hemp to trees for making paper. Coincidentally, according to some scholars, Hearst’s newspapers were the ones that published the country’s most sensational stories linking marijuana to acts of violence during the campaign in the 1930’s to spread awareness of the dangers of the “Marijuana Menace”.
Whether or not marijuana actually endangers human health or negatively effects human behavior anymore than, say, alcohol is a debate for another time and place, and one I’m not sure I’m willing to join.
But hemp and its potential for reducing deforestation, carbon emissions, and overall energy consumption, not to mention improving the health of humans and animals when consumed, is something I can devote some time to.
Hemp poses no known danger to human health, and in fact it can do a lot to improve the health of, not just humans, but the planet as a whole.
Industrial Substitute Hemp is the world’s strongest natural fiber. It produces four times as much material for paper per acre than a forest. And while trees take decades to grow, hemp crops required only about 120 days.
According to the World Resources Institute, 47% of the world’s forests have been lost. Only 21% are currently intact, however, everyday more are lost. Loss of biodiversity, particularly in tropical forests, is of grave concern. Once a species is gone, it’s never coming back. With almost half of the world’s forests now gone, what does that say about the loss of our planet’s plant and animal species?
Indigenous peoples living in some forests are being forced to leave their homes and completely change their lifestyles.
Hemp, which can be used as fuel for transportation and manufacturing, has a ton of industrial, commercial, and residential applications. It can be instrumental in providing for our energy and commodity needs while preventing further deforestation.
In 1938, Popular Mechanics wrote that “over 25,000 products can be manufactured from hemp, from cellophane to dynamite.” That was 1938! Since then, technology has flourished. God only knows how many uses the plant could have in the future.
According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council’s (NAIHC) website, “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.” Because hemp plants grow so tightly together, there’s little need for herbicides to control weeds.
And consider the following facts:
Rudolf Diesel designed the diesel engine to run on hemp oil;
Hemp can be used to make molded plastics, livestock feed and bedding, building and construction materials, clothing and other textiles, essential oils, medicines, paper products such as toilet paper and magazines, and tasty yet nutritional food products;
Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary to maintain healthy human life. You can buy hemp seed oil in almost any health food store in America;
Most birdseed in the United States has hemp seed in it, since it is high in protein.
You can sell hemp products in America, you just can’t grow it. Or can you?
According to the NAIHC’s website, though “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.” It’s much cheaper and less stressful to just buy hemp from Canada, which legalized industrial hemp in 1998 after 50 years of prohibition.
According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp Report of 2010, Canada regulates industrial hemp through the legislative body Health Canada. (What’s hemp got to do with health again? Oh yea, it’s healthy.)
The report describes the regulatory process in Canada as follows:
Anyone who wants to grow, import, export, sell, transport, or possess industrial hemp must apply to receive a valid license, permit or authorization from Health Canada. The application requires each person to submit their name, address, phone number, date of birth, the address of each place where industrial hemp is to be stored, sold or provided, the approved cultivar to be sown (from Health Canada’s official list of Approved Hemp Cultivars), the number of hectares to be cultivated for seed, grain, or fiber, the number of acres cultivated for industrial hemp in the previous two years, the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of cultivated sites and an accompanying map showing the site locations in terms of their legal descriptions, a statement that the applicant is the owner of the land to be used for cultivation or a statement, signed by the owner of the land, indicating that he or she consented to that use, and the address of any property where the applicant will retain records, books, electronic data or other documents required by the IHR.
So Why Not Here, Eh? So why can’t we grow hemp in, say, Minnesota, or any other state for that matter? One of the reasons hemp prohibitionists use when advocating against the legalization of hemp is that fields of it can be used to hide marijuana plants. But according to the NAIHC, “if hemp does pollinate any nearby marijuana, genetically, the result will always be lower-THC marijuana, not higher-THC hemp. If hemp is grown outdoors, marijuana will not be grown close by to avoid producing lower-grade marijuana.”
Several states, including Minnesota, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Maryland, Arkansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and (of course) California have all put legislation in place to allow the experimental growth of industrial hemp to determine the potential economic (and environmental, in some cases) benefits the crop can bring.
Colorado passed legislation most recently, Bill HJR10-1027 in 2010, recognizing “industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity, and, in connection therewith, urging Congress to clarify the federal definition of industrial hemp, facilitate domestic production of industrial hemp, and remove barriers to state regulation of the production of industrial hemp.”
With rising costs in energy, food, and things in general, the United States would benefit from changing hemp’s status back to what it was in the days when Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin found it of immense value.
Alternative Energy Natural gas drilling is touted as a bridge to energy independence. Natural gas is said to be much cleaner than coal. But is it as clean as alternatives?
Hemp is renewable and sustainable. Natural gas is not.
Because we depended upon hemp in the past, we already know that we can grow the hardy plant successfully and manufacture it at great economic and environmental benefit.
It costs a lot of money to convert a coal burning power plant to natural gas. Penn State University is spending millions to convert one of its Main Campus plants to natural gas. But when the gas is no longer viable, how many more millions of dollars will be spent converting to the next fuel source, to one that is sustainable and renewable?
“Wait, what’s that you say, little birdie? Why not just convert straight to the fuel source that’s already renewable and sustainable?”
Well, I’m not really sure. Here’s where you come in. Let us all ask someone who may be able to answer — someone who can advocate for real change in our state’s policies…maybe even work toward applying the benefits of agricultural hemp
Happy Earth Day, everyone. Remember to give alms to your planetary mother.
by Melissa Troutman
symbol for Earth Day from 1969 by ron cobb, released into the public domain
symbol for earth day, created in 1969 by ron cobb, released into the public domain.
For people who prefer to relax with a joint instead of a beer or martini , April 20th is a time to celebrate, especially if you live in the states of Washington or Colorado. Or the country of Uruguay. For those who don’t use cannabis of use hemp products it’s a time to stand up in support of their friends, family, and fellow citizens who face arrest for nothing more than what they put into their body. For the Drug Policy Alliance and the drug policy reform movement 4/20 represents something even bigger.
Fortunately, the tide is quickly turning against the war on cannabis & hemp. The movement to end cannabis prohibition is very broad, composed of people who love cannabis, people who hate cannabis, and people who don’t have strong feelings about cannabis use one way or the other. We all agree on one thing though – cannabis prohibition is doing more harm than good. It’s wasting taxpayer dollars and police resources, filling our jails and prisons with hundreds of thousands of nonviolent people, and increasing crime and violence in the same way alcohol Prohibition did. .
The war on cannabis won’t end, however, if everyone who supports reform stays silent. Maybe you smoke cannabis and are tired of being considered a criminal. Maybe you work in law enforcement and are tired of ruining people’s lives by arresting them. Maybe you’re a teacher or public health advocate tired of politicians cutting money for education and health to pay for the construction of new jails and prisons Maybe you’re a civil rights activist appalled by racial disparities in cannabis law enforcement. Or maybe you just don’t want your tax dollars wasted on ineffective policies.
Regardless of your motivation, April 20th (4/20) is a good opportunity for you to make a pledge to end cannabis prohibition. The Drug Policy Alliance is asking people to use 4/20 as the time to commit to doing something in 2014 to end the war on people who use cannabis. There are many ways to help end cannabis prohibition. Tell your elected representatives to end cannabis prohibition. Talk to your friends and family about why people who use cannabis shouldn’t be arrested. Wear hemp clothes and tell others about them. Twitter this. Change your Facebook status to announce your support for ending the war on cannabis. Stand up today with other Americans and get the word out there. This war will end; how soon depends, in part, on you
Legalizing marijuana is supported by clear majorities in Western, Eastern, and Midwestern states, and majorities in at least some Southern states such as Texas and Louisiana. 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. 16 states have eliminated criminal penalties for marijuana possession. Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana like alcohol, with Alaska, California, Oregon and many other states likely to join them between now and November 2016..
Did you know that hemp seeds are one of the most nutritional and highest/most digestible protein sources that exist?
And the best part? It tastes amazing!
I know what you’re thinking. Either, come on dude, you’re just a hippy who likes to get high and eat at the same time; hemp seed just kills two birds with one stone. Or, c’mon dude, shut up and pass it.
Well hear me out happening hipster, because hemp seeds might just end up blowing your traditional diet right out of the cosmos. First, hemp seeds will not get you high. Industrial hemp itself contains extremely little THC (.05% – 1%), the compound that destroys food pantries and makes CSPAN hilarious. Most commercial hemp products, like Nutiva brand hemp seeds, contain no THC at all. As a comparison, ‘marijuana’ has a THC content of somewhere between 3% and 20% (depending on if your dealer is James Franco or your cousin’s smelly roommate). Although marijuana and hemp are both cannabis plants, they are only relatives. To say they are the same is like saying a grey hound and a shih tzu are the same dog. The bottom line is that no matter how much hemp seeds you pour down your gullet, it won’t make you high, just healthy.
And speaking of health, hemp seeds are downright full of it! Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritionally beneficial substances known to man.
Here is a list of what makes hemp seeds so great, from an article in Body Ecology:
Hemp seeds contain:
* All 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) our bodies cannot produce.
* A high protein percentage of the simple proteins that strengthen immunity and fend off toxins.
* Eating hemp seeds in any form could aid, if not heal, people suffering from immune deficiency diseases. This conclusion is supported by the fact that hemp seed has been used to treat nutritional deficiencies brought on by tuberculosis, a severe nutrition blocking disease that causes the body to waste away.
* Nature’s highest botanical source of essential fatty acid, with more essential fatty acid than flax or any other nut or seed oil.
* A perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid – for cardiovascular health and general strengthening of the immune system.
* A superior vegetarian source of protein considered easily digestible.
* A rich source of phytonutrients, the disease-protective element of plants with benefits protecting your immunity, bloodstream, tissues, cells, skin, organs and mitochondria.
* The richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids.
And guess what? It gets better!
Hemp seeds are 25% protien, second only to soy in the plant kingdom. The reason hemp is preferred over soy is because soy contains a high amount of phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that prevents your body from absorbing certain minerals. Hemp seeds contain NO phytic acid! (phytic acid is actually a really interesting compound. It has a great amount of health benefits and detriments, and is a source of controversy regarding its proper level of intake in my own mind. For more information take a look at Healthy Eating Politic’s article on Phytic Acid.)
Furthermore, hemp seeds contain vitamin E, phytosterols (cancer fighting), fiber, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium.
This article has even more amazing information. It states that because hemp protein is 65% globulin edistin, and also contains albumin, it is very similar to the blood plasma already coursing through our bodies. This makes it the most easily digestible source of protein that we have ever found.
Why is that so great? It means less waste and greater efficiency. You can eat less and get even more out of what you put into your system.
The article explains that:
Hemp is not unique in having all the essential amino acids in its embryonic seed. Flax seeds also contain all the essential amino acids as do many other seeds in the plant kingdom. What is unique about hemp seed protein is that 65% of it is globulin edistin. That is the highest in the plant kingdom.
Globulins are one of seven classes of simple proteins. Simple proteins are constructed from amino acids and contain no non-protein substances. Globulins are in seeds and animal blood. Edistins are found in seeds: serum globulin is in blood. Edistins are plant globulins. And globulins along with albumins are classified as globular proteins. All enzymes, antibodies, many hormones, hemoglobin and fibrogin (the body converts fibrogin into non-soluble, fibrin, a blood clotting agent) are globular proteins. They carry out the main work of living.
Albumin, globulin and fibrogin are the major types of plasma proteins. Plasma is the fluid portion of blood that supplies nutrients to tissues. And the three protein types: serum albumin, serum globulin and fibrogin, compose about 80% of plasma solids. These plasma proteins serve as a reservoir of rapidly available amino acids should any body tissues be in need.
To wrap this up, I’d like to share a list of information provided by the North American Industrial Hemp Council found here. I’m not 100% positive how accurate all of this information is, but it is interesting nonetheless and worth further investigation.
I would also like to add to this list, and to your ideas for further investigation, that hemp oil has been showing a great deal of results in not only preventing many forms of cancer, but also curing it. Here are some great sites and videos to get started:
National Health Federation: Hemp Oil and Cancer
Cannabis Culture: Run From The Cure: How Cannabis Cures Cancer And Why No One Knows
Documentary: What if Cannabis Cured Cancer?
Author: Eric Fein
Nutiva Hemp Seed on Amazon Nutritional Information
Nutrition and Metabolism: The Cardiac and Haemostatic Effects of Dietary Hempseed
Body Ecology: Hemp: Is this Nutty Food Source with a Questionable Reputation Good for You?
Healthy Eating Politics: Phytic Acid: Helpful or Harmful?
National Health Federation: Hemp Oil and Cancer
Cannabis Culture: Run From The Cure: How Cannabis Cures Cancer And Why No One Knows
Hemp paper still makes for a fine variety of art papers, which is rather appropriate when you consider that the word canvas is derived from the word cannabis. Heavyweight and durable, hemp fibers makes for a very strong, yet soft canvas. Hemp’s durability compares with the finest linen used for the same purposes, and is usually sold off white and un-primed. Acid-free processing is used to produce these paper due to the low lignin content. Hemp papers make a fine long-lasting medium for prints and posters of value.
Things such as coffee filters, oil filters, and vacuum cleaner bags, for example. Some paper uses need to be permeable and still maintain their integrity. Filter papers are made of very small filaments, about 20 micrometers long, that allow liquids to pass through and solids to be trapped. Paper filters also absorb compounds that metal screen filters cannot. They are healthier and cleaner.
Tea Bags began as hand sewn fabric sacks and evolved to become paper based. Like other filters, tea bags need to be porous and maintain integrity when wet. Tea bags are usually made from blends, including wood fibers, natural fibers like hemp and sometimes plastic polymers. Re-useable, easy to clean, self-fill cloth hemp tea bags are available.
Hemp fibers have traditionally been used to add strength to paper money, which has to hold up to frequent handling, folding, and casual movement from hand to hand. The average life of a banknote is two-three years. More countries are switching to novel polymers these days in order to better incorporate novel security features, while other nations are experimenting with hybrid paper-polymer fibers for their currency.
To break the stigma associated with HEMP, it is important to understand the difference between “marijuana “, and hemp and what the word cannabis refers to.
Cannabis is the genus of the plant species. Cannabis Sativa L. to be exact.
Marijuana and Hemp are related through the same genus of plant, cannabis sativa L. They are like cousins. They are related and look somewhat similar, but behave very differently and are not the same thing.
While Hemp is a rather helpful resource in the world, due to it’s many industrial uses it lacks the stimulating, intoxicating power of the substance known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or for short, THC. It is this active chemical of THC that brings about most of the “high” associated with marijuana. While Hemp usually contains less than 1% of this substance (THC ), “marijuana” possesses between 4 % and 20%. Ingesting marijuana will intoxicate you. Ingesting hemp will not. You can utilize the fibers, bast hurds, & stalks of the hemp plant for a variety of fuel, fiber, & building materials. Hemp seeds can be cold pressed for their oil which is high in EFA’s and it used as a nutritional supplement. Hemp is considered to be an industrial product and nutritional supplement. Marijuana is used for it’s medicinal properties as a medicine or for it’s intoxicating properties as a drug.
This is the book that started the cannabis hemp revolution. Jack wanted this information to be available to everyone, so he published the text of the book on the internet for free. Though Jack Herer passed on from this life in 2010, his words, research, and influence continue to positively affect the hemp movement.
What is the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?
An overall overview:
The cut to chase answer is: the difference is in its use. The two are related through the same species of plant, both are forms of the plant Cannabis Sativa L. They are essentially weeds that will grow in a wide variety of conditions, climates, and soil types. Over the years both plants have been used for a wide variety of uses. However, they are not the same.
While industrial-grade hemp is a rather helpful resource in the world, it lacks the stimulating power of the substance known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or for short, THC. It is this active chemical of THC that brings about the “high” associated with marijuana. The term ‘Hemp‘ commonly refers to the industrial/commercial use of the cannabis stalk and seed for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials. The term ‘marijuana’ refers to the medicinal, recreational or spiritual use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers.
According to US law, hemp is the stalks, stems and sterilized seeds of cannabis sativa, and marijuana is the leaves, flowers and viable seeds of cannabis sativa. Male or female cannabis has no differentiation by law or science, beyond sex.
What Makes Marijuana a Drug?
No matter how you feel about marijuana, whether you would classify it as a medicine, a drug, a recreational tool, or a narcotic doesn’t really matter. What makes it this way is its THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)content. It takes at least 3% THC in order to get high and higher quality marijuana (used for drug consumption) will have 10-15% THC.
How Much THC Does Hemp Have?
Due to the way hemp is grown and its separation from marijuana, hemp has a much lower THC content. Industrial hemp contains only about 0.01% – 1.5% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinoids, the intoxicating ingredients that make you high) while marijuana contains about 5% – 10% or more THC. The low amount of THC is what makes hemp worthless for getting high. It has been estimated by some researchers of hemp that it would take an acre of hemp to get high. In one acre of hemp there is about 10-20 tons of plant material grown. Think about that.
Do they grow together? How can you tell them apart?
Often it is argued by those who know there is a difference between hemp and marijuana that they could be grown together thereby deceiving authorities and passerby while effectively providing marijuana for those who wish to use it. This isn’t an option however. Hemp is grown in rows one to two inches apart. The plants are grown very close together and shoot up toward the sky till they are taller then full grown men. They have a woody core and are stiff and hard to walk through. Marijuana on the other hand is grown with lots of room to bush out. You want 18″ or more worth of space between the marijuana bushes. You want them to have lots of low branches (something that doesn’t happen on hemp), leaves, and soft flexible stems. These growing methods encourage THC development making it better for use as a drug.
Growing hemp and marijuana together isn’t an option. By doing that you get cross pollination which leaves both plants infertile. When they cross pollinate you loose the buds of the flowers and the seeds. With hemp these parts are very useful for a wide variety of uses (oil, food, seed for the following year). With marijuana the bud is the part of the plant that has the most THC, if this doesn’t fully develop due to cross pollination then you loose a lot of the material that can be smoked.
The difference in THC levels make hemp and marijuana a lot different. There are thousands of products that can be made from hemp, but it must be set aside that hemp and marijuana are the same thing. It must be understood that hemp can not be smoked for a high, marijuana can not be grown in place of hemp and fool authorities, and marijuana and hemp can not be grown together (or even with in a mile radius of one another).
Compared to cannabis sativa indica, cannabis sativa sativa (industrial hemp variety) has a much stronger fiber. This fiber can be used in anything from rope and blankets to paper. Marijuana fiber has a low tensile strength and will break or shred easily, making it a poor fibrous plant when compared to industrial hemp.
Industrial hemp also grows differently than THC-containing cannabis ( Marijuana). Hemp is typically grown up, not out, because the focus is not on producing buds but on producing length of stalk. In this way, hemp is a very similar crop to bamboo. The stalk contains the fiber and hard, woody core material that can be used for a variety of purposes, even carpentry. Generally, THC-producing marijuana plants are grown to an average of five feet in height. Industrial hemp on the other hand is grown to a height of ten to fifteen feet before harvest. Also, it is fairly difficult to grow concealed marijuana within industrial hemp crops as the DEA alleges. Since industrial hemp is grown so close together and is generally a very narrow, vertical growth crop, any THC-producing marijuana would stick out like a sore thumb. Its wide growth would require a large amount of space to itself in order to get adequate sunlight from beyond the tops of the competing industrial hemp plants.
The two also differ in the areas that they can be effectively grown. THC-producing Marijuana must be grown in generally warm and humid environments in order to produce the desired quantity and quality of THC-containing buds. However, since industrial hemp does not contain these buds, and the hardy parts of the plant are the more desired, it can be grown in a wider range of areas. Generally, industrial hemp grows best on fields that provide high yields for corn crops, which includes most of the Southwest, Southeast, and Northeast United States. Furthermore, since industrial hemp can use male plants as well as female plants (since the object is not THC production), higher crop yields can result.
Hemp also has little potential to produce high-content THC when pollinated. As long as industrial hemp plants are pollinated by members of their own crop, then the genetics will remain similar with low levels of THC. One would have to place several marijuana plants in close vicinity in over several generations order to alter the genetics substantially of the offspring.
Since there are so many differences between low-THC industrial hemp and high-THC marijuana, it seems to make sense that it would be a fostered, rather than demonized crop. Although technically hemp is not illegal to grow, it requires obtaining a special permit from the DEA. These permits are rarely given out and require that the crop be surrounded by security measures such as fences, razor wire, security guards, or dogs. Industrial hemp could transform the economy of the United States in a positive and beneficial way, and therefore should be utilized to its full potential.
The hemp plant was one of humankind’s first cultivated plants and there is quite a lot to educate oneself about this greatly historical plant. With the help of the hemp plant we, as a society could eliminate smog from current fuels, create a cleaner energy source that can replace nuclear power, remove radioactive waste from the soil, and eliminate smog from our skies in more industrialized areas. The hemp plant could assist in eliminating non-biodegradable plastics and cars by reintroducing Henry Ford’s 100 year old dream of building cars made from hemp with a plastic hemp car body that can withstand a blow 10 times as great as steel without denting, weighs 1 thousand pounds less than steel, hence improving gas mileage, can run on a vegetable oil based all natural hemp fuel, and has a completely biodegradable body. Nationwide hemp production could eliminate deforestation by converting current paper to hemp paper which can be recycled up to 8 times where as our current wood pulp is only recyclable up to 3 times, and we could thrive from eating hemp seeds and feeding it to our animals and livestock.
Industrial hemp can make our future roads, highways and freeways from hemp based concrete, which lasts for centuries. Society can benefit from the hemp plant’s attributes such as oxygen production, hemp’s dense root structure, and hemp’s nutrient and nitrogen production back into the soil. Chemicals in cannabis can be used in medicines and are estimated to treat around 250 diseases and illnesses, from which studies have shown inhibits the growth of cancer cells in rats, as well as a long list of other ailments. Finally, we could make an estimated 50,000 products ranging from building composites, cellophane, dynamite to shampoo, textiles, twine and yarn. If the US grew industrial hemp it could stop wars, save the environment, boost our economy, improve general health and well being, virtually end our reliance on any foreign entity, and save humankind from itself. But wait, wait, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
Studies have shown that hemp’s biomass can be converted into energy and could replace nuclear power and our current fossil fuels.[Belle, Mika] Just by farming 6 percent of the US’s acreage this could be achieved. “Hemp grown in biomass could fuel a trillion-dollar-per-year industry, while at the same time create more jobs, clean our air, and distribute wealth to our communities and away from centralized power monopolies.” Hemp’s biomass can be converted into gasoline, methanol, and methane at a fraction of the current cost of oil, coal, or nuclear energy.
An article from Montana State University states, “When burned in a diesel engine, bio-diesel replaces the exhaust odor of petroleum diesel with a smell something akin to french-fries. Bio-diesel is 11 percent oxygen by weight and contains no sulfur, so instead of creating sulfur-based smog and acid rain as by-products, it produces 11 percent oxygen instead. Bio-diesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as hemp.” The hemp grown through government farming and regulation is called “industrialized hemp” and contains no more than 0.03 percent THC content, which is not a high enough percentage for drug use. Canada, China, and England are examples of countries who have never prohibited, but instead have responsibly grown, produced, and thrived off of industrialized hemp [Hemp].
Imagine being able to dump our nuclear waste somewhere that wouldn’t have any adverse effects on the surrounding environment. The hemp plant can help with that as well. A nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Russia had a meltdown April 1986 and experiments have shown that the hemp plant can help remove the toxicity in the soil. “There is an estimated 30,000 sites in the United States are estimated to be needing hazardous waste treatment” and the hemp plant is the answer to this terrible environmental issue.[The McGraw Hill Companies].
Henry Ford had a dream of “cars made from the soil” and created the first bio-fueled car and also, a car made from hemp. The body of the car was made out of veggie-plastics made from flax, wheat, hemp, and spruce pulp.[Davis, Richard M] As an experiment, Ford struck the door with an ax in the dead of winter and it didn’t leave a dent. The material was “ten times” stronger than steel and yet one-third the weight, hence saving on gas mileage. “Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 76, No. 6, December,1941. Title: Auto Body Made of Plastics Resists Denting Under Hard Blows.“[Carver, George Washington] Henry Ford’s dream was saving American lives, human lives. The car was completely bio-degradable and so with that Henry Ford achieved his dream of “a car made from the soil.”[Malmo-Levine, David] Fords cars were in my definition: the poor person’s car. A car you could sustain on your own, distilling your own alcohol, or hemp and creating your own fuel in your own backyard while saving your family thousands of dollars per year. Hemp oil was even used, as grease to lubricate parts within the car’s engine. [Malmo-Levine, David]
Ford’s dream materialized before me, as I learned how he made a car grown from the soil, a car made out of and run off of hemp, and a plastic that is scientifically documented to be ten times stronger than steel and one thousand pounds less in weight. If this were our implemented into current day driving would be like bumper cars and getting into a crash might no longer be such an intensive insurance matter. If all the cars on the road were made with hemp the injuries and deaths would become considerably less. Industrial Hemp must again become our main crop producer and be used in the making of every single car produced in America. The hemp plant could saves millions of American lives. “Car accidents involving other moving vehicles accounted for the large majority of accident deaths in California in 2004 with 1,336 deaths due to collisions with other vehicles. This accounts for about 35% of all fatal car wrecks throughout the state. Telephone poles, palm trees, street signs and other stationary objects accounted for another 1,072 auto accident deaths in 2004.” [Resource 4 Accidents]
Despite Industrial Hemp having 50,000 uses, Dupont, Rockefeller, Hearst, Mellon and their constituents cornered the industrial and medicinal market with political propaganda. Dupont created Nylon, owned General Motors and was “one of the top ten U.S. based petroleum and natural gas producers and refiners.”[DuPont] Rockefeller owned Standard Oil and was soon known as the “richest man in modern history.”[Rockefeller] This is a political science paper and can be viewed at one of my Blogs here at http://marijuana-tax-act-1937.blogspot.com/. But lets not get off topic, so big business and capitalistic politics thrived and outlawed the hemp plant that had sustained the United States of America, since the days of our founding fathers and all for someone else’s selfish monopolistic goals.[Malmo-Levine, David] Henry Ford achieved his dream, but he was denied any true public recognition and any further industrial hemp progression. Every citizen of America was denied Henry Ford’s hemp dream of a car made from the soil.
In 100 BC, hemp paper was invented in China using hemp and mulberry. Since 100 AD, when the Romans wrote a guide to farming hemp it has since been farmed all over the known world. From the Germans, Franks, Vikings, Chinese (who have never prohibited the use of hemp all-throughout history), English, Canadians, Egyptians, and even Americans all grew, produced, and thrived off of hemp. In 1150 AD, Muslims created the first paper mill and for the next 700 years hemp paper was what most civilizations wrote upon.[Schaffer, C.] Civilizations around the world and for example; during the Napaleonic Era, ship’s sails, ropes, and sailor’s clothing were made from hemp.
Hemp paper can be recycled up to eight times while the current pulp wood fiber can only be recycled three times. By farming hemp throughout the United States and even the world it could assist in reducing deforestation by 50 percent, or more.[Hemphasis] George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were two examples of historical spokespersons for growing hemp and in 1619 the Virginia Company made hemp cultivation mandatory, which increased commerce with England and helped the American economy thrive. Our Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper and our first American Flag was made out of hemp. [Schaffer, C.] These historical economical and industrial concepts and examples can easily be applied to present day.
“Hemp seeds contain beneficial omega fatty acids and amino acids, more than any other source.” The seeds can be used in a number of food dishes in baking, prepared as tea, any type of food like ice cream, and milk. Cultures all over the world have consumed hemp seeds in times of famine to prevent starvation which has saved millions of lives.[Saunders, Clare] The nutritional facts astounding, for example; hemp seeds contains 20 percent complete and highly digest-able protein.[Earth Friendly Network] Canadian Hemp seed exports surged 300 percent a few years back and China, and other eastern countries have to this day never prohibited hemps cultivation and use it extensively. [Hemp]
“Only 1 acre of hemp is said to produce more oxygen than 25 acres of current forest.” [Bryon, Alan D.] Theoretically, if our cities had greenhouses on top of all the office buildings, like in Los Angeles, filled with hemp then the massive output of oxygen would be a massive intake of carbon dioxide. This in turn should make our cities skies once again blue, healthy and smog free. Methane is one of the main producers of green house gases and one of the many major causes for dramatic global climate change. [Hopwood, Nick, and Jordan Cohen] Therefore, our farmers can grow hemp in our cow pastures, so the hemp plants can have first hand absorption of methane gases via cow farts, and burps. The cows can also eat directly from the hemp plants around them, which would eliminate the need to use hormones and steroids, due to hemp’s nutritional facts.[Earth Friendly Network]
Hemp has a superior connection with the earth compared to other plants. When you plant hemp in an area that is infested with Canadian Thwack Grass, or Canadian Thistle Grass, the hemp plant’s dense root structure will smother out these invasive weeds and make that land again arable.[West, D.P.] Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Congress back when the colonies were first founded that requested that the government grow hemp instead of tobacco.[Hemp] Tobacco drains all nitrogen and nutrients from the soil, which leaves the land less arable, or harder to farm upon. Hemp restores nutrients and nitrogen back into the soil. [Davis, Richard M.] Another attribute is that hemp is drought and disease resistance, which gives hemp the added advantage of being able to be grown in even the most dry to wet climates and has little-to-no need for pesticides, because the hemp plant is highly resistant to plant diseases, illnesses, and pests. Hemp’s dense root structure helps prevent mudslides, erosion, and natural catastrophes. The hemp plant is one of the only plants that can be harvested year-around in states like California, or Florida for example, due to the harsh climates in those regions.[Davis, Richard M.]
In France there are bridges centuries old made out of a mixture of hemp and lime. This process is called Iso’Chanvre and is another great example of possible industrial innovations regarding the hemp plant.[Rawganique] Society could build roads and bridges that wouldn’t require continuous repairs and wouldn’t require endless tax payer dollars each year. Clothes, pottery, shoes, jewelry, shampoos, pies and so much more can be made from hemp and no part of the plant would go unused. From hemp’s roots, stems, leaves, and even what might be considered waste from the hemp plant can be produced into any of the estimated 50,000 products.
Our current education doesn’t teach us that Columbus sailed across the Atlantic with the rope on his ships, the caulking and rigging, and yes the sails, all were made from hemp.[Schaffer, C.] There was also no mention in our history books of the endless crates of hemp seeds Columbus and the other ships brought with them. Not only did they survive by eating the hemp seeds, but they planted the seeds in America and overtime, hemp now creates an estimated 50,000 products.[Carver, George Washington] The hemp plant’s most common product is it’s fiber, especially the bast fibers which are extremely strong and durable.
Hemp can also be used in building composite material such as beams, studs, fire resistant building materials, fiberboard and even such things as paint, varnish, ink and carpet. There seems to be a consensus that hemp building composite materials are stronger, more durable and flexible than our currently used wood pulp composite building material. “In 1935, two years before being outlawed, 116 million pounds of hemp seed were used in the United States to produce paint and varnish.”[Robbins Pet Care] Is there anything hemp can’t be made out of? Hemp wood composite is fire durable, which would benefit those who lived in fire sensitive areas.
Regarding marijuana: You can avoid the whole problem of growing hemps psychoactive counterpart cannabis aka marijuana by growing the plants in a controlled environment and exposing the female plants to male plants. When the female plants are pollinated by the male plants their (THC) or Tetra-hydra-cannibanol level begins to drop. The longer the plants are held in these pollinating and harsh conditions, the THC level will continue to drop and you can maintain the THC percentage to stay below 0.03 percent making it impossible to use the plant as a drug.[Innvista] If other countries can responsibly produce and cultivate hemp for industrial uses then there is no reason why America cannot responsibly produce and cultivate the hemp plant too. Unless we aren’t a responsible nation?
Archaeologists have found evidence linking hemp and its psychoactive counterpart marijuana back to 8,000 BC when agriculture and hemp textile industries began in Europe and Asia [Medical Cannabis]. By 3725 BC, Shen Nung Pen Ts’ao of China wrote of cannabis in the world’s first medical text and Ts’ao declared cannabis as “a superior herb.”[Schaffer, C.] Cannabis sativa have been used for medicinal purposes for 4,800 years and has been prescribed for over 250 illnesses and diseases, for example: Asthma, insomnia, often used to treat pain in childbirth, migraines, used for AIDS and Cancer patients allowing them to have an appetite, glaucoma, relieves anorexia in Alzheimer’s patients, mental health, it can be used as suppositories for relieving the pain of hemorrhoids, and depression are just a few examples of the many conditions that cannabis alleviates.[Medical Cannabis] Recent studies in Italy have shown that a chemical found in marijuana, inhibits the growth of cancer cells in rats. THC pills, or Marinol, synthetic THC, are made with the ingredients necessary for the specific treatment of those disease, or illness, but some patients cannot swallow these pills, due to their condition and that is when smoking the plant is applied. There are countless other examples of marijuana’s beneficial medicinal properties, but here are two final and thought provoking examples to contemplate over: Medicinal marijuana is used to treat alcohol addiction and other drugs such as heroin and is used to treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in war veterans.
With the facts and knowledge acquired, it is apparent that hemp is humankind’s savior and that hemp must be re-implemented into our countries way of life. General George Washington stated, “Grow it everywhere, hemp is greatly viable for winning the war and sustaining a future fantastic for America.”
Are we at war with nature, or perhaps is nature at war with us? Hemp is grown by almost every civilized country and hemp benefits those countries economies and their countries citizen’s health. To not take the scientific approach in making the decision to legalize and produce industrial hemp is dooming humankind to more needless sufferings and perhaps even another Ice Age. Our current dramatic, devastatingly, unpredictable weather breaks records each year and these violent weather patterns are the first signs of nature’s end means. If the icebergs of the world melt, the sea level will raise by 20 feet, or more and force extinction upon millions of animal and plant species, and kill and displace millions of human beings worldwide. The Philippines, Hawaii, Florida and countless other countries, cities and homes will all be underwater if this were to occur.[Climatecrisis.net] Can you imagine watching the sunset with your child and as the low tide rolls out it reveals the rooftops of houses now underwater.
Only by the legalization of Industrial Hemp and its removal from Schedule 1 of The Controlled Substance Act, can we start working immediately towards the one thing that can save humankind from itself.[110th Congress] America would have a cleaner fuel and energy source, we would dispose of nuclear waste more efficiently, we’d create cars that could reduce traffic fatalities and are completely biodegradable, we’d have a paper product that can be recycled up to 8 times, instead of just 3 times, we’d reduce deforestation by 50 percent nationwide and eventually, worldwide, we’d have an endless supply of food products, livestock bedding, livestock feed and the benefits of the endless nutritional facts backing hemp. imagine roads, freeways and highways that wouldn’t require monthly repairs and endless taxpayer dollars, preventing landslides and improving our farming industry by using hem, as a crop rotator, having an estimated 50,000 industrial bio-degradable products, and regarding medicinal marijuana, having over 250 medicinal uses that could ease the suffering of so many people who simply can’t afford the proper care, or treatment.
The facts and history of hemp show boldly how important it is to humankind that we should all support hemps production and usage for our countries economical and health related benefits. With the debate of global warming over and as I like to call it, “dramatic global climate change” fast approaching we need someone, or something to save us from humankind’s destination. There are many facts and products that haven’t been discussed here and there is so much more relating to the history and benefits of the hemp plant for humankind. Only with relentless and patient education and constant communication can society overcome the propaganda and misperception surrounding the hemp plant. These fallacies have masked the history and extraordinary uses and benefits of the hemp plant. We, as a society, must continue learning and teaching others about the hemp plant and we must always network what we learn to others. If you’ve learned something from reading this article that you hadn’t known before you can help by spreading this knowledge of hemp to anyone and everyone. Can you imagine the gold mine waiting in everyone’s backyards, or empty fields, or, those thousands of acres of unused land nationwide, or along the sides of our freeways and highways?
The hemp plant is humankind’s savior and the more society knows, the sooner we can put into action what we have learned and the better off our future generations will be. There are an estimated 50,000 industrial uses that can benefit every aspect of our daily lives from this one humble and misunderstood plant, and the facts can’t be denied any longer. I think I see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
So remember to Seek the facts, Confront the truth, and Pass it on.
An explosion at a nuclear reactor on April 26th, 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine created the world’s worst nuclear disaster – so far.
The blast heavily contaminated agricultural lands in a 30 km radius around the reactor. The few people still living there must monitor their food and water for radiation. However the combination of a new technology (phytoremediation) and an old crop (industrial hemp) may offer the Ukraine a way to decontaminate it’s radioactive soil.
In 1998, Consolidated Growers and Processors (CGP), PHYTOTECH, and the Ukraine’s Institute of Bast Crops began what may be one of the most important projects in history – the planting of industrial hemp for the removal of contaminants in the soil near Chernobyl.
CGP is an ecologically-minded multinational corporation which finances the growing and processing of sustainable industrial crops such as flax, kenaf, and industrial hemp. CGP operates in North America, Europe and the Ukraine.
PHYTOTECH (see webpage: www.phytotech.com ) specializes in phytoremediation, the general term for using phyto (plants) to remediate (clean up) polluted sites. Phytoremediation can be used to remove radioactive elements from soil and water at former weapons producing facilaties. It can also be used to clean up metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, crude oil, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and toxins leaching from landfills.
Plants break down or degrade organic pollutants and stabilize metal contaminants by acting as filters or traps. PHYTOTECH is conducting feild trials to improve the phytoextraction of lead, uranium, cesium-137, and strontium-90 from soils and also from water.
Founded in 1931, the Institute of Bast Crops is now the leading research institution in the Ukraine working on seed-breeding, seed-growing, cultivating, harvesting and processing hemp and flax.
The Bast Institute has a genetic bank including 400 varieties of hemp from various regions of the world.
“Hemp is proving to be one of the best phyto-remediative plants we have been able to find,” said Slavik Dushenkov, a research scienst with PHYTOTECH. Test results have been promising and CGP, PHYOTECH and the Bast Institute plan full scale trials in the Chernobyl region in the spring of 1999.
Industrial hemp is not a drug. Unlike its cousin marijuana, industrial hemp has only trace amounts of THC – the chemical that produces the high. In 1973, the Department of the Interior and Department of Health and Agriculture of the former USSR issued an ultimatim to the Institute of Bast Crops – either create non-psycoactive varities of hemp or stop cultivating hemp. So, scientists at the institute created an industrial hemp plant containing only minute traces of THC. Modern testing in Canada confirmed the low THC content of the Bast Institute’s hemp.
New technologies in hemp harvesting and processing are also being developed at the Institute whose library contains more than 55,000 volumes mainly on hemp-growing and flax-growing.
Chernobyl may seem distant, but the EPA estimates that there are more than 30,000 sites requiring hazardous waste treatment throughout the U.S. including Hanford and Three Mile Island.
Phytoremediation with industrial hemp could be used at many of these sites. Unfortunantly, the U.S. government refuses to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp and clings to the obsolete myth that it is a drug.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and The Berne Convention on Literary and Artistic Works, Article 10, news clippings are made available without profit for research and educational purposes.
An examination and evaluation of the hemp industry in the United States of America with particular emphasis on current issues involved in the agricultural production of hemp both domestically and internationally. Discussion of the economic benefits of a re-evaluation of the legal issues, in particular those laws which necessitate importation versus domestic production of raw hemp for production purposes. A brief examination of the history of the hemp industry and hemp agriculture in the United States of America provides a background against which the current legal and economic status of hemp may be viewed. Discussion of various hemp products, the suitability of the product to American agricultural and production capabilities, and the potential of the market provide an economic understanding of the question.
Statement of Purpose
The purpose of this study is to examine the economic benefits/drawbacks which would result from changes in the current legal status of hemp production in the United States of America. Through an examination of current status of hemp production and marketing structures in the United States and a comparison of those structures in other nations, an economic understanding of the issue will be more easily achieved. Because of the very substantial profit potential involved in this industry a study of the subject was deemed beneficial to pursue.
Methods used in obtaining information relevant to the study.
Information was obtained primarily from three sources:
Published books and articles.
Online resources, particularly hemp related and politically related sites on the World Wide Web.
Personal interviews with individuals directly involved in the hemp industry, both domestically and internationally, conducted via Internet email.
The situation was addressed from an analytical, versus participatory, perspective.
Benefits accruing from the solutions presented.
Benefits to the hemp industry would include increased market shares on an international basis, substantially higher profit margins, reduced production costs, the potential to benefit from increased economies of scale, increased product development potential, andthe opening of new markets for current and newly developed products.
Benefits to the National economy would include the creation of a new and highlyprofitable agricultural industry, increased trade opportunities, an increase in the GNP, improved environmental conditions, new tax resources, and reduced costs with respect enforcement of current laws.
Personal benefits would include the ability to add additional, profitable, product lines to those currently carried by my firm, personal economic savings resulting from reduced costs of goods resulting from such changes, and the social benefits inherent in use of more environmentally beneficial products.
A brief history of legal hemp in America
In contrast to modern laws which prohibit the agricultural production of hemp and severely regulate the importation and production of raw hemp and hemp products, early colonists not only were free to cultivate the plant, they were required by law to do so. Puritans, for example, grew hemp to meet the conditions of their 1607 contract with the Virginia Company.(Robinson, 1996)
Throughout the colonization and political unification of what is now the United States of America, hemp production played a key role in international trade and in the development of a significant agricultural industry within the emerging nation. So important was the product, in fact, that any list of prominent Americans of the era who were involved in the hemp industry tends to resemble a list of American political figures. Among the many well known individuals whose writings clearly demonstrate their personal involvement with this industry are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams. Economically, the industry was so vital to the prosperity of the colonies that the Massachusetts House of Representatives commissioned a study of the subject in 1765, in which the author, Edmund Quincy, clearly stated:
It is presumed none will be at a loss to determine, that the two most important materials which the inhabitants of these colonies should be principally encouraged in the growth of, are Flax and Hemp of any which can be so easily and generally produced in North America. (Quincy, 1765)
Indeed, so common was the use of Hemp during the era that the first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the final version of the Constitution of the United States of America were, in fact, printed on paper made from hemp.
Throughout the nineteenth century, hemp continued to excel as a domestic agricultural crop and the uses for the product, ranging from paper making to the production of sails, rope, medicines and clothing continued to be expanded by visionary entrepreneurs who were able to recognize new potential markets and capitalize on their development. In times of war, particularly, hemp was of critical importance to the nation, a trend that held true well into the twentieth century. During the Second World War, in order to promote production of this vital material, the government inaugurated programs which exempted American farmers from military duty if they agreed to produce hemp products in support of the war effort. (Frazier, 1991) As the industrial revolution took hold in the nation, new means of production which incorporated hemp products as integral parts of the processes were introduced. Even Henry Ford, one of automations greatest innovators, Aenvisioned a future where plastics from hemp polymers were the building blocks of almost all products and where fuel was provided by hemp biomass. (Robinson, 1996, p. 139) Ford even went so far as to develop an all organic car which was constructed from a combination of hemp and other products and which ran on hemp fuel. (Henry Ford Museum Information Center, Greenfield Village) In 1938, Mechanical Engineering magazine called hemp Athe most profitable and desirable crop that can be grownin an article that, due to production delays, was published shortly after the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 which rendered the production of hemp illegal.
Under current U.S. law, the agricultural production of hemp is forbidden, except under special permit, by Federal statute. Internationally, hemp is grown commercially in most European and Asian countries. Australia, Canada, and Germany have granted limited research plots. The U.S. has not granted any large-scale licenses since the 1950’s. (Industrial Hemp Information Network, 1996) As a result of these restrictions, all industrial production of hemp products in the United States of America requires the importation of raw materials, resulting in higher production costs and decreased competitiveness in both domestic and international markets.
Economic implications of agricultural hemp production in the United States of America
To understand the economic implications of hemp production we must examine both the basic principles of agricultural economics and the nature of hemp agriculture itself.
While agriculture, in general, adheres to the basic economic principles applicable to any industry, there are several unique and very relevant characteristics which must be considered in any examination of agricultural production. These may be divided into discrete areas, which include:
The Farm Market System.
Social Control of Land Use.
Governmental Policies and Agricultural Supports.
Seasonality and Natural Hazards in Agricultural Production.
1. Regional Specialization.
Due to climatic and geographical concerns, agricultural production is commonly divided into distinct areas of specialization, within each of which unique mixes of products are produced. Unlike many forms of production, in which such concerns as labor availability or materials costs are the primary factors upon which location is based, in the agricultural market weather and soil conditions provide the primary determinants. By necessity, therefore, all things being equal, those products which are adaptable to the widest range of climatic and geographical conditions provide the greatest potential for agricultural production.
Within the continental United States ten distinct farm production regions have been defined for statistical purposes. They are, respectively, the Pacific region, the Mountain region, the Northern Plains, the Southern Plains, the Lake States, the Corn Belt, The Delta States, the Northeast, the Appalachian region, and the Southeast. While considerable overlap exists, the differences between these regions are significant enough to define the product mixes which may be produced efficiently within each as being distinctly different from the product mixes appropriate to any other region. Cotton, a major competitor of hemp products, is, for example, produced primarily in the three southern farm regions while, due to poor climatic conditions range livestock production, among the least efficient of all forms of agricultural production due to excessive requirements for land and feed, is the primary agricultural product of the Mountain region. (Wilcox, Cochrane, & Herdt, 1974)
Hemp, unlike nearly all other common agriculturally valuable products, is unique in its ability to thrive in an extremely wide range of climates and geographical conditions. As a result of this property, it can profitably be grown in all ten regions. In addition to its heartiness with respect to climate, it is a particularly efficient plant with respect to nutrient requirements, and therefore, is as effectively grown in relatively poor soil conditions as it is in the nutrient rich soils of the farm belt. This characteristic makes the plant ideally suited to agricultural production in regions where most cash crops either require extensive (and expensive) fertilization and irrigation, or cannot be grown efficiently at all. Combined with the particularly low labor costs inherent in the agricultural production of hemp, a very high yield per acre planted, and the lack of any significant requirement for costly (and environmentally damaging) insect or weed eradication measures, this results in extremely low production costs and, therefore, an average cost curve significantly lower than that for comparable products. Thus, hemp production may, given a ready market for its output and a sufficiently high demand (both of which already exist or may easily be developed as will be demonstrated later in this paper), be considered to have a remarkably attractive profit potential for investors. Indeed, even the most cursory examination of the relatively high profits currently enjoyed by such agriculturalists in nations which permit the commercial production of hemp clearly demonstrates the potential income available to the American farm industry, one reason the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest farming organization in the United States (4.6 Million members) passed a unanimous resolution at its 77th annual convention in 1996 stating:
We recommend that the American Farm Bureau Federation encourage research into the viability and economic potential of industrial hemp production in the United States. We further recommend that such research includes planting test plots in the United States using modern agricultural techniques (Kriho, 1996)
2. Enterprise Combination.
Modern farmers plan their production to include the most profitable mix of products in a Acropping sequence@ or crop rotation. (Wilcox et al, 1974) The result is a mix of crop and livestock enterprises which is determined by the principle of equal marginal returns. Hemp, due to its exceptionally low fertilizer and irrigation needs, high nutrient return (with up to 70% of all nutrients absorbed by the plant returned to the soil), and its short-day growing cycle, is an ideal rotational alternative for use with short season high-demand crops. (Hemp, 1994) Thus, it offers modern farmers the opportunity to make optimum use of available resources with the lowest possible average cost figures, given the nature of the secondary crop (which often can utilize, at least in part, the nutrient and soil enrichment properties of the hemp crop in lieu of expensive and ecologically damaging fertilizers) and, therefore, provides a far more attractive cost curve than is the case for other agricultural products. In addition, because many of the byproducts of hemp production are appropriate for use as livestock feed, the range of efficient product mixes is even greater than is the case with many other product choices.
3. The Farm Market System.
As a close approximation of a perfectly competitive market organization, agricultural firms have above average needs for efficient and cost effective means of production. In addition, due to the nature of a competitive market, the opportunity to compete on the basis of product differentiation is essentially non-existent, and the sole criteria for successful production becomes the ability to produce goods profitably given the fact that the product demand curve for agricultural products is perfectly price elastic (from the standpoint of the individual firm, of course, from the industry perspective, the curve is highly inelastic). Thus the selection of a product mix which maximizes the potential for profit under as wide a range of conditions as possible is a necessity for any firm which wishes to remain competitive. Moreover, due to the nature of the farm market itself, which is based in large part on speculative investment in future production (the commodities market) as well as the wide range of uses for its outputs, which in the case of hemp include such diverse applications as the production of paper, use as a fuel, food production, clothing production, and industrial applications, crop selections which maximize not only production possibilities but market possibilities as well increase the likelihood of profit while minimizing the impact of any potential substitution effect as a result of the lowering of the price of other agricultural products. Indeed, given the exceptionally wide range of products which incorporate hemp into their production, the likelihood that a substitute product will adversely affect product pricing is exceptionally low, a positive inducement to farmers to produce the crop.
4. Environmental Concerns.
Due to the very low requirements for artificial fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides in the production of hemp, the crop produces substantially fewer external diseconomies than is the case for nearly any other domestic agricultural product. Not only does this provide a direct benefit in terms of reducing the environmental impact of crop production, a significant problem, given modern agricultural methods, but the nature of the products produced from the raw hemp themselves offer similar benefits, with the concurrent reduction in environmental costs inevitable in such a transition. Paper produced from hemp fiber, for example, requires far less chemical processing than is the case for the wood pulp based form, despite its comparable cost of production. Studies done at the Wageningen Agricultural University, in fact, demonstrate that waste from the hemp pulping process does not contain toxic elements (as are common to wood pulping processes), and that all components are biodegradable with the exception of a very small percentage of the lignin, which is expected to be resolved by further research as well. (Van Roekel, 1995) In addition, because hemp produces substantially greater biomass per acre of cultivation than is true of trees, and requires a far shorter growth cycle to produce yield, the impact of a conversion to hemp production for such products as paper, building materials, and other products commonly associated with the lumber industry would result in the reduction of many of the negative effects of the timber industry on the environment, including preservation of forests and wildlife habitats, erosion of topsoil due to logging, and pollution of lakes, rivers, and streams, all of which costs represent diseconomies with respect to the wood industry. (Environmental and economic benefits, 1996)
5. Social Control of Land Use.
As a remarkably high yield crop, hemp produces significantly more usable product per acre than is the case for any other modern agricultural product. The result of this high yield is to maximize the use of land resources while minimizing the impact on society resulting from the dedication of such land to agricultural uses. Indeed, an area of land only 25 miles square (the size of a typical U.S. County) is sufficient to produce enough hemp fiber in one year to manufacturer 100 million pair of denim jeans, thus providing an equivalent yield to an area ten times the size planted in cotton, and offering the additional benefit of producing clothing which is 10 times stronger than cotton and that, in contrast to cotton which requires exceptionally high applications of pesticides and enormous quantities of water, requires no pesticides and only minimal quantities of water as well. Moreover, by being amenable to production in all 50 states, versus the 10 states in which cotton can be reliably produced, hemp offers the additional advantage to clothing manufacturers of being relatively immune to price variations due to climatic variations or natural disasters, thus permitting more accurate long run cost stability for such producers.
In addition to these social benefits, because hemp products include such socially valuable items as non-fossil (and non-polluting) fuels, highly nutritious high-protein oils which exceed the nutritional and industrial values of soybean oils with a lower cost associated with their extraction, and because hemp production in the United States of America could significantly influence the balance of trade in a positive direction, as well as providing a source of additional export revenues (rather than an additional cost of production associated with import costs, as is currently the case in the United States of America), the social costs of hemp production are exceptionally favorable, and thus social control of land resources clearly favors the production of hemp as a viable alternative to less efficient uses.
6. Governmental Policies and Agricultural Supports.
Current government policies prohibit the production of industrial hemp (defined as hemp plants containing less than 0.03% THC and thus non-intoxicating substances) and no current policy exists with respect to the production and marketing of such products. Based on European models, however, it can be successfully argued that hemp production would, due to the nature of the market, be highly unlikely to require any form of government subsidies in order to be profitable or competitive in the farm market. Indeed, it is very possible that the legalization of hemp production in the United States of America would actually reduce the cost of agricultural supports by the government in that it would offer a highly attractive alternative crop to agricultural interests which currently rely on subsidized or price supported products as their primary crops.
7. Seasonality and Natural Hazards in Agricultural Production.
All forms of agricultural production are subject to seasonality and natural hazards. Seasonality, or the tendency of agricultural prices to follow a seasonal pattern (normally at a low point at or soon after harvest and a high point just prior to harvest), results in a cyclic variation which, by necessity, influences both marginal revenues and, as a result, profits. While such a pattern is integral to the production of any crop, in the case of single-season, limited region products (such as avocados or oranges) it is far more influential than in the case of crops which grow well in a wider range of climates, or which are adaptable to multi-season, multi-harvest production. Hemp, because it meets both these criteria, and because its crop yield is not as time immediate (i.e., it is less perishable than is the case of many other agricultural products) tends to be far less influenced by such variations and, therefore, offers the potential for more stable and accurate revenue forecasting, with the resultant increases in benefits to the producer.
In a similar manner, all crops are subject to natural hazards such as droughts, floods, late (or early) frosts, or similar disadvantageous conditions. Hemp, however, by nature of its botanical characteristics, is far more immune to such influences than is true of most other agricultural crops grown in the United States of America. Two of the most notable characteristics of hemp, from a production standpoint, are its relative immunity to frost damage and its inherent ability to thrive in widely varying conditions with respect to water. Coupled with the ability to grow hemp in essentially all parts of the United States, thus avoiding dangers of localization with respect to natural disasters, hemp may be considered an ideal crop from this aspect as well. From an agricultural perspective, few, if any, products combine the economic benefits of hemp with the ease of production inherent in the crop.
Industrial and Commercial uses for hemp and hemp products.
The hemp plant lends itself to a very wide range of production possibilities, and thus is particularly appealing to the agricultural firm seeking new markets. Some of the products which may be, and are being, profitably produced from hemp include: Animal bedding, auto/boat covers, backpacks, bags (both paper and canvas), balms, bandages, baseball caps, baskets, bed linens, belts, bioplastics, birdseed, books, boots, bread, butter, candlewick, candy, canvas, cardboard, carpeting, caulking, cellophane, cement, chairs, cheese, cloth and paper napkins, cloth and paper towels, coffee filters, compost, cosmetics, curtains, cushions, denim, desks, detergents, diapers, dolls, draperies, duffel bags, dynamite, erosion control, fabrics, fire hoses, fiberboard, fishnets, flags, floor mats, flooring, flour, fuels, furniture, futons, gloves, glues, hammocks, harnesses, hats, ice cream, inks, industrial coatings, industrial oils, insulation, jackets, jeans, linen, livestock feed, lubricants, luggage, magazines, medicines, moisturizers, mulches, natural pesticides, nets, newsprint, note pads, oil-spill absorbents, packaging, paints, paneling, pants, parachutes, particle board, pasta, pet foods, pharmaceuticals, pillows, plaster, plywood, polymers, protein, purses, quilts, roofing materials, rope, sails, salad oils, salves, sandals, scarves, shampoos, shirts, shoes, skirts, slippers, soaps, socks, sofas, stationary, tablecloths, tables, tea, tents, thread, tissue paper, toilet paper, twine, varnishes, wallets, and wallpaper. (Environmental and economic benefits, 1996, Frazier, 1991, Industrial Hemp Informational Booklet, 1996)
With respect to production, one researcher summed up the position of industrial hemp in the agricultural marketplace quite definitively when it was stated that: ANo tree or plant species on earth has the commercial, economic, and environmental potential of hemp. Over 30,000 known products can be produced from hemp.@ (Environmental and economic benefits, 1996)
World wide production of hemp and hemp products.
Despite major legal obstacles to industrial hemp production in many nations, and complete prohibition in the United States of America, hemp still produces substantial sales internationally. According to Canadian Government figures, world production of hemp in 1992 equaled 124,000 tonnes, comparing favorably to other vegetable fiber crops (none of which suffer the legal limitations of industrial hemp) such as sisal (383,000 tonnes) and flax (610,000) tonnes. (Hemp, 1994) While it is obviously impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy the market share that would ultimately be occupied by industrial hemp were legal limitations on its production removed, some indication of the potential of this agricultural product may be discovered by a comparison to cotton production (a crop for which hemp serves as a direct substitute) which in 1992 was 18,064,000 tonnes. (Hemp, 1994) Given the far greater production potential of industrial hemp with respect to other fiber crops, and given the increased agricultural regions in which it can be profitably grown, there is no reason to doubt that once established as a viable world wide competitor for cotton and wood products (among other uses) it would equal or even exceed this volume. Indeed, in Canada where hemp production is still limited in scope, and thus the overall production possibilities are not, as yet, fully realized, the gross revenue generated by chopped hemp stalk is $750 per hectare, comparable to Ontario corn. (Hemp, 1994) Once hemp production has been expanded and thus made more amenable to modern technological methods (as has been projected by Canadian agricultural experts), it is reasonable to expect this figure to become even higher.
Clearly industrial hemp can be shown to be a viable product of enormous economic benefit to the United States agricultural market. Even the most cursory examination of its economic and social benefits easily demonstrates the necessity to follow the recommendations of the American Farm Bureau Federation with respect to researching the introduction of this crop into the American agricultural market. Not only would such an introduction benefit the agricultural industry itself, but due to its extensive economic, environmental, and social values as discussed earlier in this paper, it would provide substantial benefits to the nation itself. By reducing dependence on imported products, it would provide impetus to manufacturers to develop new product lines (or revise their production approaches to old product lines) incorporating the use of industrial hemp, thus simultaneously enhancing domestic production and improving the balance of trade as those products were produced for export, rather than being imported as is currently the case. In addition, by providing a more dependable, heartier, and less seasonally affected crop for agricultural interests it would reduce dependence on government farm subsidies and price supports, thus enhancing the economic structure of U.S. agriculture even further.
A number of steps must be taken if such a change is to occur, given the current status of industrial hemp in the United States of America. First, and most important, research needs to be conducted to demonstrate the applicability of hemp cultivation to modern American farming techniques. Next, legislators and other government officials need to be provided education concerning the nature of industrial hemp which demonstrates the non-drug nature of the plant, and thus provides justification for the elimination of overly broad legislation concerning its cultivation. Finally, an intensive effort aimed at developing a new market within the United States, as well as abroad, for the products resulting from agricultural production of industrial hemp would need to be undertaken in order to insure a solid, and profitable, market for the product once farms began to produce it in volume.
Clearly, such change is inevitable. Given that hemp production on a world wide basis has steadily increased over the past several years, and each year an increasing number of nations are experimenting with, or actually legalizing, the production of industrial hemp (one of which, Canada, is a major competitor to United States agricultural interests, particularly in border states where shipping costs are relatively similar to those borne by United States producers), by necessity the United States of America will ultimately have to give in to international pressure and legalize the production of this valuable product. Hopefully, such a change in policy will occur before other nations become so firmly entrenched in the market that they will present a significant barrier to international trade for American agricultural and manufacturing interests.
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by Bill LeudersFrom ISTHMUS, “the weekly newspaper of Madison” Feb 8-14, 1991Reprinted by permission. Further reprints permitted with credits.
There aren’t many things upon which long-haired radical Ben Masel, state Department of Agriculture official Erwin “Bud” Sholts, agronomy researcher Pat LeMahieu and corporate head George Tyson can be expected to agree. Among them: kicking puppies is mean, Drano should not be taken internally, and hemp – commonly known as marijuana – could become a major cash crop for Wisconsin.
According to these and other participants in a, ahem, budding scientific discussion, the hemp plant could be cultivated not just for such traditional uses as rope and fabric, but also as a readily renewable resource for making paper, construction materials, high protein food, and safe, clean fuel.
Masel, director of the Wisconsin Chapter of NORML, (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), in 1990 spoke in more than 50 US cities on the potential uses of the pot plant. Scientific American last December published an item on the nascent “grass-roots” movement in support of hemp; Masel was just interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for an upcoming article on the same.
A primary organizer of Madison’s annual “marijuana harvest” festival, the oft jailed Masel says his goal is “to relegalize this useful plant for its paper, fiber, fuel, food, medical and recreational value.”
Sholts, director of the state ag department’s development and diversification program, affirms part of Masel’s message: that hemp grows well in Wisconsin, even on soil not good for much else.
“My father raised it on his farm,” Sholts recalls of the time during WWII when farmers were encouraged to grow hemp for the war effort. (Masel, citing old US Department of Agriculture reports, says Wisconsin was once the nations leading producer of hemp, in some years accounting for more than half the nation’s total crop.)
Because hemp grows quickly and has a high per-acre yield, Sholts says “It’s a very, very prime product for biomass” -organic material that can be converted to fuel. Hemp is also seen by “people with expertise” as preferable to kenaf, (aka ambry) a warm weather fibrous plant, for making paper and other products.
But alas, Sholts points out, hemp has one big problem: With its current properties its illegal.”
LeMahieu, director of operations for Agrecol, the Agricultural research division of Madison-based W. T. Rogers Co., has a solution in mind: the development of a strain of hemp that is “socially acceptable.” In other words, hemp that has been genetically engineered to remove the alkaloids that get people high.
“It’s feasible,” insists LeMahieu, formerly a leading agricultural researcher at the UW-Madison. “Any trait can be bred out of a plant with recombinant DNA.” Engineering a strain of hemp with the desired traits for mass cultivation will require “massive amounts” of money and commitment, says LeMahieu, who thinks Wisconsin- which has “the top plant-genetics research groups in the nation, maybe in the world” – is ideally suited for the task.
“It truly is an amazing plant” says LeMahieu of hemp. “If you look at all the possible products that could be made from the hemp plant, it makes you wonder why we haven’t pursued this.”
Tyson, chairman of the board of Xylan Inc., a biomass research firm in the University Research park, takes the point beyond wonder to rage. “We have the technology now to convert biomass into the fuel we’re fighting for in the Persian Gulf,” he says, asserting that the United States could eliminate its dependence on foreign oil simply by growing high-biomass crops like hemp on the acreage it now pays farmers to keep fallow.
“It just seems silly to be paying farmers $26 billion a year not to produce something that would replace something that we are importing at the cost of over $100 billion a year.
“This,” Tyson asserts, “is a national disgrace.”
Throughout most of U.S. -and indeed human- history, hemp has been domestically cultivated for a variety of uses, including textiles, rope, and paper. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their farms; the rigging and sails of the U.S. Constitution were all made from hemp (some 60 tons worth; Betsy Ross used hemp cloth to make the first U.S. flag; hemp canvas (the word “canvass” comes from cannabis, Latin for hemp) covered the pioneers’ wagons and prairie schooners; Abraham Lincoln used a hemp-oil lamp to study law.
Hemp was also used to make fine linen and underwear. Masel has a friend in Hungary [actually Germany] who still uses his family’s hemp tablecloth – made in 1820. According to Jack Herer’s pro-hemp manifesto, The Emperor Wears No New Clothes, the word “towel” comes from its original material-hemp tow, a silk-like textile professedly four times as absorbent as cotton.
There is little historical record of people smoking hemp grown for rope or fabric. Masel, who testified as a marijuana expert in a 1988 court case, says plants used for such purposes would be harvest before flowering, and thus be more likely to cause headaches than highs, Still, some hemp grown for seed was smoked for its psychoactive and medicinal properties-a use no one seemed too bothered by until the plant became a threat to U.S. petrochemical companies.
As outlined in Herer’s history of hemp, super-efficient fiber- stripping machines invented in the in the 1930s promised to do for hemp what the cotton gin did for cotton, Corporations like Du Pont and industrialists like William Randolph Hearst feared hemp would compete with their pulpwood paper and synthetic products.
The Hearst chain of newspapers declared hemp and other drugs Public Enemy No.1. Hemp, renamed “marihuana,.” was blamed for crime and car accidents and linked to black jazz musicians and Mexican revolutionaries. “Marihuana makes fiends of boys in 30 days,” screamed the headlines of one Hearst story, which claimed that hemp “goads users to blood lust.”
Du Pont, which had just patented a new process for making pulpwood paper and was at work on a petroleum-based synthetic it later named nylon, behaved similarly. Banker Andrew Mellon, Du Pont’s chief financial backer and President Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of the Treasury, tapped his nephew-to-be, Harry Anslinger, to head the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Anslinger, backed by the Hearst papers, crusaded for pot prohibition. (Among his favorite slogans, “If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with the monster marihuana, he would drop dead of fright.”) Such efforts resulted in the “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937”-the apparent death knell of legal hemp.
As it happened, however, the government was unable to keep a good weed down. Hemp was still needed for a variety of uses, especially naval ones (hemp being the only natural fiber that can withstand saltwater for long). When World War II began and Japan blocked U.S. imports of Indian hemp, the government called on the nation’s “patriotic farmers” to resume growing the monster marihuana.
A 1942 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) film entitled “Hemp for Victory” evoked hemp’s historical usefulness (“For the sailor, no less than the hangman hemp was indispensable,”), noting that the plant – “now little known outside of Kentucky and Wisconsin” was sorely needed for war items ranging from tow lines to the webbing of parachutes.
“In 1942, 14,00 acres of fiber hemp were harvested in the United States,” the narrator proclaimed amid strains of patriotic music. “The goal for 1943 is 300,000 acres. “The film also touted hemp’s agronomical virtues: “A dense and shady crop, hemp tends to choke out weeds. Here’s a Canada Thistle that couldn’t stand the competition, dead as a dodo. Thus hemp leaves the ground in good condition for the following crop.”
When Asian markets reopened after the war, domestic hemp production again came to a halt. Well, sort of: State agriculture official Sholts notes that, as a result of its erstwhile cultivation, hemp still grows wild over much of Wisconsin – including on his father’s farm, 11 miles south of Madison.
Observes Sholts, “It’s a very prolific plant.”
At this point, no one knows just how prolific or useful hemp may be-because, unlike such crops as corn, hemp has not benefited from modern agricultural techniques, including plant genetics.
Although Agrecol (the company’s name, like its mission, blends agriculture and ecology) has had impressive results test-planting kenaf, division head LeMahieu says hemp has higher-quality fiber, more potential uses, the ability to withstand cold better, and possibly higher yields: “If it weren’t for the alkaloids [psychoactive ingredients] in hemp, we wouldn’t even be talking about kenaf.”
Masel, who last September garnered 11,230 votes in a pro-hemp Primary challenge to Gov. Tommy Thompson, is especially fired up about the potential as a renewable source of paper and other products traditionally made from wood. One advantage of hemp over trees, says Masel, is that it contains significantly less lignin, a natural adhesive whose content must be lowered in the papermaking process.
Roger Faulkner, a UW research specialist who works at the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab in Madison, adds that annual growth plants including hemp generate four to five times as much biomass yearly as trees. The disadvantage is that trees can be cut and stored until needed, but annuals not immediately processed or properly warehoused will degenerate. A “polymer scientist,” Faulkner is part of a team of Forest Products Lab researchers studying the feasibility of using high-fiber plants to make “structural components.” Within the last year, the group has made high-density construction boards using both kenaf and hemp-the latter from “ditch weed” (low-grade wild marijuana) that Tyson brought in. By blending plant fibers and polymers – compounds of high molecular weight – Faulkner thinks the same techniques can be used to make hemp and kenaf auto-body parts. (Hemp is already being used in some wallboard made in Germany.)
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that hemp’s one of the best fiber crops there is,” says Faulkner, “Certainly, it’s the best-adapted plant for Wisconsin.”
Faulkner further laments that both the Forest Service and private industry seem more interested in timber than annual-growth plants – although the USDA is funding a mill in Texas that will make paper from kenaf. Cultivating fiber on farms, he argues, is ecologically preferable to growing “monocultural” forests for pulp. What’s more, it would allow fallow farmland to be put to use without adding to surpluses of existing crops.
Another potentially useful hemp product is seed, which can account for 50% of the weight of plants grown for this purpose. Hemp seed, Says Masel, is about 16% protein and contains eight amino acids, compared with just four in soybeans. Masel has made cake from imported hemp seeds (legal if sterilized to make them “incapable of germination”) and envisions their use as a high-protein food or animal feed. (In China, hemp-cake was used to feed animals for centuries.)
Hemp-seed oil, at least 35% of seed content by weight, can be used as a lubricant (as it was in World War II fighter-plane engines), a cooking and salad oil, or even as a diesel fuel. Gatewood Galbraith, a Democrat running for governor of Kentucky on a pro-pot platform, last fall campaigned with singer Willie Nelson from Lexington to Louisville in a diesel Mercedes powered with 25% hemp-seed oil. The engine, says Masel, would have run on straight hemp-seed, but Galbraith didn’t have a big enough supply.
Masel, who sells $35 dollar hemp T-shirts and $10.00 hemp product sampler kits through an outfit called Wisconsin Hemp Products Inc. (P.O. Box 3481, Madison 53704), also thinks the hemp plant’s “Styrofoam-like stalk” could be used as an insulator, or to make biodegradable fast-food clamshells. Can Masel see the day when McDonald’s sells hamburgers in containers made from hemp? “I can see the day when they will be paying me royalties on the patent.”
HARVESTING THE SUN
Perhaps the most exciting us of hemp is as biomass fuel. Through process called pyrolysis-the application of intense heat in the absence of air-hemp and other organic material can be efficiently converted to charcoal, oil, gas, or methanol.
Hemp is a favored crop for biomass-organic material-because it grows very rapidly in a variety of climates. Indeed hemp has been called “the world’s champion photosynthesizer,” capable of converting energy from the sun more readily than any other plant.
Biomass boosters further claim that pyrolytic fuels would be good for the environment. Pyrolysis charcoal, said to have the same heating value as coal, is virtually sulfur-free, unlike coal or other fossil fuels, a key cause of acid rain. What’s more, hemp and other high-growth plants produce beneficial oxygen when grown- and take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere equal to the amount they release when burned. Thus, hemp hounds assert, if biomass replaces fossil fuels, the amount of acid rain and smog will be reduced and the trend toward global warming – the so-called greenhouse effect – will have a chance to reverse.
“We’re fighting in the Middle East for the right to pollute ourselves,” hemp guru Herer told Al Giordano of Massachusetts’ Valley Advocate newspaper. “We have a plant that can win a war. We have a plant here that can save the planet.”
James Converse, chairman of the Department of Agricultural Engineering at the UW-Madison, says university researchers hav done some work converting biomass material – corn, primarily – to ethanol. But he thinks the day when it makes sense to talk about biomass fuels replacing fossil fuels is a long way off: “Biomass will hold possibilities only when the price of fuel or the availability of fuel becomes such that you can make a profit with [biomass.]
Tyson, whose company develops and licenses rights to emerging biomass technologies, disagrees. “These people [the UW scientists] are ten years behind. They don’t know the current state of the art,” he says. “We are much closer than that.”
Still, Tyson stresses the need for “a national policy” to develop the technology and build the refineries to convert biomass to fuel. “Bring the troops home and put them to work to build this infrastructure,” he urges. “That will scare the daylights out of that part of the world. When [oil exporting countries] see we don’t need them anymore, oil prices will come down. More importantly, we will not have to go to war for this reason anymore.”
“Let’s harvest the sun through the process of photosynthesis,” continues Tyson in a tone reminiscent of the narrator in Hemp for Victory. “Let’s harvest solar energy into clean, safe fuels.”
The revival of hemp and the development of other promising non food uses for fallow cropland will be discussed at an April 5 conference in Middleton organized by Sholts and other state agricultural officials. Gov. Thompson, outgoing federal Small Business Administration head Susan Engeleiter, and representatives of agribusiness will attend the all-day affair, which is open to the public for a $20 fee.
Tyson, who is now focusing on “demonstration projects” to prove the viability of biomass technology, hopes Wisconsin can get the ball rolling by genetically engineering a strain of hemp that lacks psychoactive properties. “It can be done,” he says unreservedly. “We can make anything we want to now.”
Agronomist LeMahieu agrees, saying the goal should be to create “a whole new plant” that lacks alkaloids and doesn’t look like ordinary marijuana – ostensibly to foil folks who might wish, as Masel puts it, to “sneak a few” smokeable specimens alongside those grown for fiber or biomass.
But LeMahieu frets about the legal roadblocks to any use of hemp. “State laws would have to change, federal laws would have to change, and we have international agreements that prohibit it.,” he says.
Jim Haney, assistant to state Attorney General James Doyle, notes that the state Controlled Substances Board can issue permits allowing possession of otherwise illegal drugs “for purposes of scientific research, instructional activities, chemical analysis, or other special uses.” However, rejoins Masel, the wholesale cultivation of hemp would still be illegal under state and federal laws-which define marijuana in terms of plant parts, not alkaloid content.
Ultimately the psychological obstacles to renewed hemp production may prove more formidable than legal ones. UW researcher Faulkner is uneasy even discussing the plant’s potential, sensing “widespread opposition to and repression of the whole idea that hemp may have other uses.”
Masel is more optimistic. “I think [domestic revival of hemp] could happen surprisingly quickly,” he says. Whenever one state moves the others are going to follow, rather than see that state make all the money.”
Does Wisconsin, which in 1990 seized and eradicated 849,324 domestic marijuana plants, 97% of which were wild plants no self respecting marijuana smoker would want, have the gumption to become that first state? Put it another way: Is making billions of dollars while helping save the environment and achieve domestic energy independence a strong enough incentive for officials like Thompson to let a long-haired radical like Ben Masel say “I told you so”?