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"Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

Posted August 14, 2013 8:40 AM by HUSH

I can't name another raw material that has the stigma and misinformation, or the potential for industrial applications, as cannabis.

Seemingly, social consciences in the U.S. are beginning to change about this plant. Last year, the states of Washington and Colorado somewhat-radically approved marijuana use for everyone. Last week, the state of Illinois became the 20th state to approve the drug for medical use. This movement has gained some notable proponents recently; doctor and media personality Sanjay Gupta announced his public support last week after saying he had been "terribly and systematically misled." He noted that only 6 percent of marijuana research goes towards discovering the benefits of the drug, while the remainder goes towards researching its harmful effects which are already well-documented. Recurring presidential candidate Ron Paul has vocalized his support as well, saying one of his priorities - if voted into office - would be to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, a DEA list of highly-dangerous substances with a high potential for abuse.

Cannabis became illegal in the U.S. under myriad circumstances anyhow; it was some combination of poor legislation, racism, and industrial pressure. First, New York State began outlawing opiates in the 1860s, and sought to restrict cannabis in fear that it would replace opiate addiction. Other states followed, and in California a legislative error added it to a list of substances made available only by a doctor. As the Tolerance Movement and alcohol prohibition gained traction marijuana found its way into speakeasies, thereby darkening its reputation. Harry Anslinger was appointed assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Prohibition in 1929, and during his investigations he encountered marijuana almost as frequently as alcohol.

When Anslinger was appointed commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics, he took his conceptions about marijuana with him in front of Congress. He brought attention to several reports that depicted marijuana as a drug that: crazed black men with lust for white women, and vice versa; made Mexicans lazy, angry and violent; and persuaded its users to engage in crime and other dangerous behavior. Anslinger's anti-marijuana message was empowered by the DuPont family, Andrew Mellon and William Randolph Hearst, each of whom stood to make a substantial fortune by outlawing cannabis (in the petrochemical, fiber, and timber industries, respectively). Hearst provided Anslinger a chance to editorialize marijuana in Hearst-owned newspapers, and when marijuana was voted on by Congress in 1937, several less-powerful dissidents had been silenced (mainly by lies and coercion), including the American Medical Association and New York City Mayor LaGuardia. At this time there was not a known scientific difference between marijuana and hemp, so it was altogether outlawed.

From a personal and political standpoint, I have no interest in legalizing marijuana. I feel as though each American state can best determine what is valuable to its constituents. My home state has determined there is no merit to medical marijuana, and if public support changes then I expect my representatives to change their support too.

However, from a sustainable and economic standpoint, I am definitively behind the legalization of hemp. What many of our American politicians refuse to acknowledge is that hemp, the products which are devisable from the processing of the cannabis plant, can be completely separated from the culture that arises from smoking marijuana. Tetrahydrocannibol can be removed from the marijuana plant to produce a renewable natural resource with no psychoactive influence; instead the plant can be harvested to supply about a dozen industries and is explicitly known as industrial hemp. So far a handful of states have licensed the cultivation of hemp, but only three (Colo., N.D., Vt.,) have begun growing the plant because hemp remains illegal according to federal law and there could be top-level backlash.

A small look at the industries and applications which hemp can serve:

  • Food:Hemp contains all 21 amino acids, including the 9 essential ones which must be ingested. Hemp can be eaten raw, ground into meal, sprouted, processed into milk or tea, and used in baking.
  • Fiber: Hemp can be spun into rope, fabrics and industrial materials. Hemp was a common source of sail canvas, and the word canvas has etymological origins from cannabis
  • Building materials: Hempcrete is a mixture of hemp and lime cement that is used as insulation forconstruction in temperate climates. It eliminates the needs for expansion joints, and also respires CO2.
  • Bioplastics: As a blend, fiberglass, hemp fiber, kenaf and flax have been used to make plastic components of automobiles. Manufacturers include Audi, BMW, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Merecedes, Porsche, and VW.
  • Paper: Paper can be made from the leftover pieces of hemp stems and stalks. While not as robust as wood pulp paper, the manufacturing requires less chemical treatment leading to a higher degree of sustainability.
  • Jewelry: Using hemp twine in macramé, hippies make necklaces, bracelets, anklets, etc.
  • Environmental maintenance: Hemp is a so-called 'mop crop' which absorbs contaminants in its immediate vicinity. This includes sewage and phosphorus, and the Russian government is using hemp to reduce radiation levels in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
  • Weed control: Hemp's dense foliage can be utilized to reduce a shorter plant's access to sunlight, and has been used in agriculture to minimize herbicides.
  • Fuel: Hempoline is a biofuel made from the oils of hemp seeds and stalks, or by fermenting the entire plant.

The value of hemp goes way beyond tokin' it. Environmental conservation and resource preservation is at the forefront of our current social, political and corporate discussions, so it's hard to imagine how something as harmless as hemp was misconstrued in the name of big business and idiotic government policies. Thomas Jefferson once said, "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country." As I mentioned, the social conversation about marijuana as a whole is changing, so a future where hemp is a major commodity may not be that far off, and it seems like it was never meant to be restricted at all.


Wikipedia - Hemp; Legal history of cannabis in the U.S.; Harry J. Anslinger

NBC News - A History of Pot...

North American Industrial Hemp Council


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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/14/2013 12:39 PM

Hemp, nuclear energy and hydrogen have all been victims of sensationalism in the press....Hopefully we are entering an age of enlightenment with regards to fear and proper perspective....Everything is dangerous if handled foolishly and without prudence, including information in the media...

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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/14/2013 2:37 PM

I noticed a bottle of hemp oil in the health food section's refrigerator at a small, independent, grocery store near my house a couple of years ago. I'd never heard of Hemp oil until that sighting. I looked it up on the Internet and saw the touted, wonderful, nutritional profile and went back and bought a bottle. The taste isn't quite as pleasing to me as Flax oil is, but it's not bad. I keep both oils on hand now. The more people find out about it, the more the market will likely grow. (PN) Thanks for bringing it up. It is, obviously, legal as a food product; no legalization for that required. As the Wiki article states, there are 41 varieties of hemp that have low levels of THC, which are certified by the EU. And the other uses mentioned, do not, I think, require varieties with high THC.

The controversial nature of other varieties used for recreational (?) purposes is a bit inconsistent with our acceptance of alcohol use. Whether or not it is a gateway drug is debatable. As a society, we seem to accept the collateral damage done by mixing alcohol and driving. It might surprise some to find that prescribed pharmaceutical deaths have outpaced traffic fatalities. Since part of traffic fatality statistics are alcohol and drug related, drugs, as a generic reference, significantly impact our lives.

Recreational use may have undesired health effects. The whole drug culture that sprang up in the '60's, definitely altered society and the world at large. I don't know if anyone ever described alcohol as "mind expanding," but hallucinogens have definitely been described that way, and popularized by Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary. It took some time for their experiments to take hold with the masses, but once it did it spread like wildfire. (Bob Dylan purportedly introduced the Beatles to Marijuana. Between his popularity and theirs, the influence they wielded in exposing fans/listeners to the idea of trying hallucinogens was large. At least, IMO.)

Andrew Weil wrote a book in 1972 (anticipating the influence it would have) called, The Natural Mind, arguing that there are seeds (PN) of discovery of knowledge about consciousness via mind-altering drugs and offering the hypothesis that humans are attracted to altered states of consciousness ("...suggests that the desire to alter consciousness periodically is an innate, normal human drive...). He followed that title with Chocolate to Morphine: Understand Mind-Active Drugs in 1983.

I don't agree to the extent some do, in equating drug experiences with spiritual experiences, but in a limited way, they can introduce one to other states of consciousness, which can lead to further research and exploration of non-drug ways of achieving elevated levels of consciousness and beyond. (If one defines normal, unaltered consciousness as the ground state.)

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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/14/2013 4:03 PM

One think surprise me was hemp cloth, it was actually felt very comfortable.

I was surprised, because I pictured hemp cloth texture would be similar to a hemp rope that we had on the farm.

My girlfriend also bought dog toys that were made from hemp.

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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/15/2013 3:10 AM

It (and linen) used to make medieval bowstrings too.

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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/15/2013 3:45 AM

Is this just another good concept that will eventually go up in smoke?

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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/15/2013 5:50 AM


we use hemp oil in cooking( and have done for many years) as a substitute for Sunflower Oils, and similar products.

We did do a rational choice betwee various oils at one time but I have lost that work!

All that I can say is that it was a very useful source of cooking oil.

As someone else said, hemp is very iseful in the rope industry.


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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/15/2013 3:10 PM

"At this time there was not a known scientific difference between marijuana and hemp, so it was altogether outlawed."

Thanks for that bit of info. I've wondered why harmless hemp was lumped in with malicious marijuana.

I always have to wonder why people fall into the trap of "If the government says it's bad then it's must be bad. If the government says it's good then it must be good." And why are we so susceptible to rhetoric even when we have facts?

The only thing I have to say about hemp is I am suspicious of any claim of one solution to every problem. Hemp may have many valid applications (marijuana, too) but we will never know unless we look.

Can you enlighten us (me) a little more? Is the US the only major country with clamps on hemp? Are others doing research and proving applications?

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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/19/2013 10:11 AM

What I know is that only three U.S. states have actually begun to produce hemp, despite the legislative framework in place in a handful more. These states are waiting to see if there is a response from the federal government when marijuana becomes legal in Colorado and Washington next year, as well as what kind of businesses result from the states who have begun to cultivate hemp. To be imported into the U.S., hemp must have laboratory-verified analyses stating that THC content is negligible.

However, just about every other industrialized country has accepted hemp as a valuable raw material. China, France and Russia recognize the crop's utility, and since the 1990s the UK, Canada and Germany have licensed farms to produce hemp. The majority of these harvests go towards the food and fiber industries.

As far as the U.S. population being susceptible to rhetoric, that's not easily-answered. Some permutation of partisan group-think, individual indifference, and political deal-making goes a long way into allowing nonsense legislation in the first place. I should note that Japan is considering tougher laws on hemp production because of a rise in marijuana use, which demonstrates that such behavior isn't unique and misconceptions still exist in well-educated places.


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Re: "Hemp is the Healing of Industry"

08/15/2013 6:13 PM

I've been sleeping on hemp sheets for about 5 years, as nice as 'Egyptian' cotton. Eating raw leaf lowers my blood pressure about 30 points. I think it would be a nice addition to my herb garden. Let's hear it for common sense!

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