Hemp A Help Or A Hindrance Essay

Hemp: A Help Or A Hindrance? Essay, Research Paper

Hemp: A Help or a Hindrance?

Hemp, also known as Cannabis sativa, marijuana, grass, and by many other names,

has not been a legal commercial crop in the United States for almost sixty years.

As common two centuries ago as cotton is today, hemp is not seen on the market.

As many groups fight for hemp to become legalized as a drug, many people are

battling for the plant to become legalized for its industrial and medical uses.

From Disney Indiana Jones hats to fuel for our automobiles, hemp is a

hardworking, environmentally sound renewable resource. People have become so

wrapped up in the “drug” aspect of marijuana that many are forgetting its uses

as an industrial material.

Hemp is an ancient drug, first mentioned in a Chinese manuscript in 2700 BC.

Its uses included treating gout, malaria, gas pains, and absent-mindedness.

Hemp was an integral part of early Indo-European religious ceremonies for

thousands of years. Records from Assyria in 650 BC referred to it as a drug

called azulla that was used for making rope and cloth, and which was also used

for experiencing euphoria. Hempen sails brought the Spanish, Dutch, and British

conquerors to the new world (Charpentier 18). In North America, hemp was

planted near Jamestown in 1611 for use in making rope. In order to keep a

constant supply of hemp available, a law was passed in Massachusetts in 1639,

requiring every household to plant hemp seed. In Maryland, Virginia, and

Pennsylvania, hemp was even used as a monetary unit. Thomas Jefferson’s draft of

the Declaration of Independence, released by the Continental Congress on July 4,

1776, was written on paper made from hemp (Whole Earth Review 46). And the

49ers washed gold from California creeks in Levi’s made from hemp. In 1937, the

United States government passed the Marijuana Tax Act which prohibited the use

of marijuana as an intoxicant and regulated its use as a medicine.

Although there are hundreds of ingredients in marijuana, the main ingredient is

a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC affects the brain and the

circulatory system, especially the heart. This makes the heart beat faster and

causes small blood vessels to expand. This is the most visible in the eyes,

where tiny capillaries swell and fill with blood, giving the eyes a bloodshot

look (Ravage 6).

Marijuana had its day of glory in the 1960s. Casual use was widespread, mainly

among college students, who saw it as a way to protest against the political and

social “establishment.” The use of marijuana declined in the decades following

the ’60s, but there is evidence that it is making a huge comeback-and with a

dangerous difference. Its use among teenagers is increasing.

A 1993 survey about marijuana found that more than twelve percent of the eighth

graders surveyed had tried marijuana at some time in their lives, and nearly

five percent had used it in the previous thirty days. Among tenth graders, 24

percent tried it at least once and more than 10 percent in the previous thirty

days. Among seniors, more than 35 percent had tried it and nearly sixteen

percent had used it in the past thirty days (Ravage 6).

With these numbers increasing, the federal government is trying to stop at

nothing to prevent people from using marijuana. But, unlike times before, there

is a new threat that needs to be dealt with. For the past forty decades, the

argument has mainly been whether or not to legalize hemp as a drug, but now

leaders are beginning to see hemp for its use as a strong industrial product.

For thousands of years, hemp’s fibers have been used to make many different

kinds of fabric including clothing and rope. Lately even big companies like

Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Disney have been testing the waters and offering

some hempen products to the market. Not only can hemp fibers be used to make

fabric, a 1938 Popular Mechanics article states that hemp can be used to

manufacture over 25,000 products-ranging from cellophane to dynamite-and a 1916

U.S. Department of Agriculture bulletin calculated that over twenty years, one

acre of hemp would yield as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees. There

have been no more-recent studies to either confirm or discredit theses reports

(Barry 22).

Contrary to the belief of many people , the supply of wood for papermaking is

not inexhaustible. As early as 1916, the federal government understood that the

trees were running out; Bulletin 404 recommended the cultivation of hemp as an

alternative source of fiber for papermaking. The USDA figured out that the

supply of trees could barely last a century. We can see the logging industry

fading away because all the easily-obtained trees have been taken, and there

aren’t that many left to harvest (Whole Earth Review 46). Even now in the

Pacific Northwest, economies are suffering due to the decreasing amount of trees

available. Their state governments are asking, “Could common hemp-more famed

for its smokability than its fiber in recent decades-help us out of our economic

doldrums?” (Wood Technology 8)

Kentucky Officials are facing a similar problem. Tobacco is the state’s leading

cash crop, with yearly revenues in excess of $700 million. In 1994, farmers

reaped 14% less tobacco than in 1984. And according to recent investigations,

the future for the tobacco market is dim. Higher taxes on cigarettes, declining

numbers of smokers, corporate flight, and the possible collapse of special

government price protection spell imminent disaster for small tobacco harvesters.

One man has staked his political career on the ability of the hemp plan to

rejuvenate Kentucky’s tobacco. Gatewood Galbraith has for years been a

supporter for the legitimacy of the hemp plant. Campaigning in his Hempmobile,

a 1980 Mercedes Benz fueled by hemp seed oil, Galbraith has caused a great stir

with Kentucky political leaders and has convinced them to consider a task force

to study the viability of hemp as a cash crop. Galbraith believes that if

Kentucky is the first state to legalize hemp, it could establish a near-monopoly

and give the economy a much needed boost (Charpentier 18). Even as recent as

this past week, a former employee of a major tobacco company, Phillip Morris,

has made accusations that nicotine, which is the addictive drug found in

cigarettes, was placed in cigarettes purposely to addict smokers to their

products so they would keep coming back for more. This is seriously going to

impact many tobacco companies and hard times are in the future.

Marijuana has also been found to be valuable in its medicinal uses. Beginning

in the 1980s, renewed interest in the therapeutic qualities of marijuana

prompted many medical researchers to study the possible effects of its use as an

antibiotic. The only authorized medical use of marijuana by the Food and Drug

Administration arises in the case of chemotherapy. The THC seems to help

patients who experience extreme nausea and vomiting that occur with chemotherapy.

Although its far from being a final cure, marijuana helps relieve pressure

caused by the eye disease, glaucoma. Research also indicates that short-term

smoking of marijuana has improved breathing in asthma patients. Muscle spasms

are relieved when patients with muscle disorders take marijuana. In England, it

has been used as an anti-depressant, and in South Africa, women smoke marijuana

to ease the pain of child birth.

Not only are people beginning to see hemp for its industrial and medical use,

they are seeing it as a way to possibly help reduce their taxes. A study was

done in 1992 concerning the potential tax revenues resulting from the speculated

legalization of marijuana. Michael R. Caputo, associate professor of

agriculture at the University of California, calculates that in 1991, at the

Drug Enforcement Agency’s estimated figures of $120.94 per ounce, the total

retail value of the marijuana would have been between $5.09 and $9.09 billion,

had the marijuana trade been legalized and federally taxed.

Since the beginning of the 60s and the “hippie” movement, federal agencies, such

as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, have made presses against hemp use. Their

primary concern being that marijuana causes harmful effects to people who smoke

it. It is now in the minds of American citizens that marijuana is a bad thing,

something that shouldn’t be a part of our society. The ones who smoke it are

somewhat cast out of society, and due to this, the percentage of people who used

it decreased over the last few decades. Now, due to the alternative movement

and a sense of needing to rebel, many teenagers have again taken up the habit of

smoking marijuana. Thinking that this is an unacceptable situation, millions of

dollars are being spent to rid our country of marijuana. Officials feel that

the “high” that marijuana gives people can be dangerous, especially to our


But now, with our country’s economy and natural resources suffering, many pro-

hemp companies can turn to the government and demand an explanation. Alcohol is

legal and has no significant industrial value at all and has been proven to

cause an equal amount or more damage than marijuana, so why isn’t hemp


There is no disputing that marijuana can be a harmful substance if misused. It

can cause damaging short and long term problems including effects on the

reproductive health of men and women. Use of marijuana during pregnancy is

known to be very harmful to a baby. On the other hand, there is no disputing

that hemp isn’t a valuable industrial resource. With hemp being so versatile in

its uses, its hard to say that we can’t “milk it for what it’s worth.”

I feel simply that marijuana should be legalized for use as a medical and

industrial used product. It offers too many advantages for the health of our

people and economy to turn away. The unfortunate thing is that there has been

an argument since the middle of this century about legalizing it as a drug.

Many contend that if alcohol is legal, then why shouldn’t marijuana be. The

legalization of alcohol has been dealt with over time and it has been accepted,

but that doesn’t mean that it is right. If there is already one bad thing out

there, why should there be two? There is no logical reason for us to purposely

endanger the health of our citizens any more that it already is. The alcohol

versus marijuana debate will live forever, but it has come a time for people to

see past it. It is not longer just a debate of a drug; there are significant

advantages of legalizing marijuana for forces of good. It is past time to stop

these petty discussions about getting high and understand the value of hemp as

it is. Marijuana should be legalized, but not for smoking or any other way to

experience euphoria. We have to use it for its industrial purposes. We need to

use it to replenish our forests, help spark dying economies in many states, and

at least to help comfort our ailing citizens.

The marijuana legalization issue has brought out the true colors of our society.

Some are so blind to things and so set in their ways that they cannot see and

accept that change is necessary. The marijuana drug issue is a big problem that

needs to be stamped out, but the laws aren’t managing to do it. 1.3 million

teenagers smoked marijuana last year (USA TODAY Health). “Anyone who thinks

we’ve licked the drug problem in this country is living in a fantasy land,” said

Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, whose department conducted

the survey. It has been the case thus far that no matter what the laws state,

people are still going to smoke marijuana. They aren’t afraid to take the risk.

The government may not approve of this, but it is going to happen. Legalize

hemp to be used for its practical purposes.

For many years, there has been debate on whether or not to legalize marijuana.

Hemp has been used in many ways. From using it to get high, to making paper for

money. Throughout its history the plant has been very useful. It has proven to

be a valuable asset to our economy and is something that cannot simply be

brushed away. Although there are many people that abuse it, they are far many

more people that can benefit from its legalization.

Works Cited

“Tree Free Paper.” Whole Earth Review Fall 1993: 46

Charpentier, Sean. “Kentucky’s Tobacco vs. Hemp.” Dollars and Sense

May-June 1991: 18

“Can hemp help Northwest solve its timber problem?” Wood Technology

May-June 1993 : 8

Ravage, Barbara. “Hemp or Health?” Current Health 2 Oct 1994 : 6

Mason, Alan. “Hemp for Victory.” Whole Earth Review Fall 1993 : 48

Barry, John Byrne. “Is grass really greener?” Sierra Nov-Dec 1995 : 22

“Marijuana use among teens nearly doubles in two years.” USA Today Nov 10, 1995

: Money