Hemp Rediscovered Essay, Research Paper
?Make the most of the hemp seed and sow it every where,? a quote by
George Washington in 1794 (qtd. In ?Get the Scoop?). In early American
history hemp was an essential crop, it was used to make rope, sails, lamp oil,
and almost anything else. Henry ford built a car out of hemp that ran on hemp
fuel and oil. The original Levi jeans were fashioned out of hemp fibers. And
even the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution
were written on hemp paper (?Get The Scoop?). In fact, hemp was one of the
largest produced crops in the US until it?s demise in 1937 under the Marihuana
Tax Act. This act of Congress was aimed at Americas newest enemy, marijuana or
cannabis sativa C, but the bill also criminalized the cultivation of marijuana?s
cousin cannabis sativa L, commonly referred to as hemp. Hemp had one more day in
the spot light in 1942 when it was called into battle in World War II under a
flag that read ?Hemp for victory? (?About?). The Tax Act was quickly
reenacted after the war and hemp has not been grown legally on American soil
The reason hemp is such a valuable plant, is that it grows fast, dense, and
easily. The germination period for hemp is about one hundred days depending on
the application for which it is being used (?About?). In comparison with
other cash crops this is good, but in comparison with some of the resources it
can replace, such as trees and fossil fuel, there is nothing better. Hemp
provides a much higher yield than other American cash crops, and can be used for
so many things that it?s market value should remain stable with increased
production. Also, hemp can be grown without pesticides and it actually
replenishes the soil so it can be rotated with other crops to produce higher
yields of both (Field 1).
The maintainability of the hemp industry relies on demand, but with hemp?s
25,000 different uses this is no great barrier (?About?). With current
processing technology every part of the cannabis sativa L plant is useful. The
seeds can be hulled and used in food for flavor and as a protein supplement.
These seeds can also be crushed into hemp-seed oil which is used as lamp oil or
as a moisturizing ingredient in cosmetics and soaps. The leaves are used in
perfumes and powders, and the stalks are processed for fiber products (?Hemp
Knowledge?). Fiber strands processed from the stalk can be made into anything
from textiles to rope or even silk. The coarseness of the material is dependent
on the age and density of the crop (?Endless?). The leftover stalk fragments
are used to produce hemp paper and building materials. These fragments can also
be refined to make paint, sealents, and many of our fuels, such as gas and
The most notable uses of hemp in the United States today can be seen in the
clothing and beauty industries. There are several complete lines of personal
care products currently available to consumers. Shampoo, conditioner,
moisturizer, massage oil, and many others can be found using hemp-seed oil. The
key to this is the oils essential fatty acids, which, at first ring, sound like
something you should stay away from but they are very effective in skin and hair
care and can be used as treatments for many topical diseases. There are also
many clothing lines adding hemp to their lineup: Adidas, Ralph Loren, and Calvin
Klien are among the major distributors (?About?). Because of the plants long
fibers the cloths are long lasting and fade resistant. Hemp is also an insular
material, that is, it blocks 100% of the sun?s UV rays (?Endless?).
The two products that have not seen their potential are hemp fuel and hemp
paper. Because of shipping costs of importing hemp the US has not yet introduced
these products to it?s consumers but with widespread cultivation these
applications have the greatest potential. Fossil fuel is a nonrenewable
resource, of which the US has already exhausted over half of it?s reserves.
The answer, of course, is hemp. The US could sustain all it?s petroleum needs
by designating six percent of it?s land mass to cultivating hemp as biomass.
The fuel produced from the hemp?s biomass is nearly as efficient as fossil
fuels in the refining process while cutting pollution. When the fuel is burned
the fuel gives off only the CO2 it has taken from the air resulting in a natural
balance as opposed to the acid rain effect of petroleum based fuel?s CO (?Hemp
Hemp paper may just be the only thing that can save our forests. 260 million
tons of paper are consumed each year, at this rate all our forests will be
destroyed by 2020 (?Harnessing?). In fact we have destroyed 50% of the
worlds forests in the last 50 years. The hemp industry could alone meet all of
the fiber needs of the paper industry, and crops can be renewed in 100 days in
stead of 100 years. The process to make hemp paper is even environmentally
friendly, it results in only 15% of the pollutants and requires no bleach (?Achieving?).
And because of hemp?s long fibers the paper produced is stronger and longer
lasting. In fact hemp documents have been discovered from Ancient China dating
back as far as 8000 BC (Nix 1).
Still, with the many known uses of hemp, there is a lot of resistance to
re-legalizing the cultivation of cannabis sativa L. All of the objections
publicly stated are based on marijuana control. Legalization of hem falls in the
DEA?s jurisdiction as it has been wrongfully classified as a Schedule I
controlled substance. It is the DEA?s opinion that if hemp cultivation was
legalized it would undermined the United State?s drug policy, sending the
wrong message to kids. The DEA office is also concerned that henp could be used
to camouflage illegal marijuana crops (Stauber 4).
The concerns of DEA and other legislators could only stem from one of two
things: insufficient information on the differences between hemp and marijuana
or outside influence from petroleum and lumber lobbyists. The hemp plant,
cannabis sativa L, and marijuana, cannabis sativa C, are specific plants in the
cannabis genus (Hickey 1). The obvious difference between the two is that hemp
grows tall with wood-like stalks with dark leaves while marijuana is shorter and
dense, normally a much lighter green than the hemp plant. The most significant
difference in current legislation is in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. THC
is the psychoactive ingredient that gives the marijuana plant it?s euphoric
properties (?About?). Marijuana contains anywhere from 2 to 27 percent THC
while hemp contains only .3 percent (?Hemp Knowlwdge?). This in combination
with the coarse smoke of hemp prevents any use of industrial hemp as a drug.
When grown together the plants cross pollinate to weaken the hemp crop and
effectively reduce the THC in the marijuana. A hemp field would be the last
choice of someone trying to grow marijuana, not only because of the THC loss but
because of their different physical properties the only camouflage hemp provides
is that of line of sight.
With countries around the world lifting thier own industrial hemp bans
American farmers are crying out for their piece of the pie. America?s hemp
industry alone yields $50 million per year increasing each year by 50%, which is
still limited by the price of imports. Together with the fact that Canadian hemp
growers, although new to the industry, are netting $200 per acre while American
farmers are barely making $20 per acre on their cash crops, it?s enough to
turn the heads of the agriculture industry. Farmers are begging the government
to "Repeal restrictions on the production of industrial hemp as an
agricultural and industrial product,? as was Montana?s recommendation to
Congress in House Act 2 (?Achieving?). Anyone who cares about the
environment agrees with these farmers. It just makes sense to take advantage of
a crop that has the potential to preserve the environment while saving some
?About Hemp.? NORML. 6 December 1999. <http://www.norml.org/facts/hemp.shtml>
?Achieving a Sustainable Planet.? Hemp Times. 2 Dec. 1999.
Brandl, Marc. ?A Growing Trend: Hemp Legislation is the hot item these days
legislatures.? The Shore Journal 7 March 1999: 3. 6 Dec. 1999
?Endless Variety Yet High Quality!? Hemp Times. 2 Dec. 1999.
Field, Joan S. ?Hemp: Income, Market Questions Remain.? Agri-View. 1 Dec.
3 Dec. 99. <http://www.welcomehome.org/cohip/PAGES/IND_HEMP/NAIHF.HTM>
?Get the Scoop.? Kenex. 6 December 1999. <http://www.kenex.org/hempfacts.shtml>
?Harnessing Hemp.? Agri-View. 3 Dec 1999.
?Hemp for Fuel.? Rev. of Energy Farming in America, by Lynn Osburn.
Fornits. 3 Dec. 1999.
?Hemp Knowledge.? Hemp Times. 3 December 1999.
Hickey, Joe. ?Kentucky Farmers File Suit Against Federal Government to
Legalize Hemp.? Hemp.
June 1998: 2. 3 Dec. 1999. <http://www.ndsn.org/MAYJUNE98/HEMP.html>
Nix, Steve. ?Pot for Paper.? About.com. 3 Dec. 1999: 5. 6 Dec 1999.
?Some Facts About Hemp.? Xpoint. 3 Dec. 1999.
Stauber, Karl. ?Industrial Hemp and Other Alternative Crops for Small-scale
Agri-View. 1995: 4. 3 Dec. 1999.