Alongside the movement for cannabis legalization there also has been a movement for more local hemp cultivation. Demand for hemp and products derived from the plant have been slowly increasing over the past few years. The shift towards more sustainable and natural products is likely driving this demand. People are seeking more natural ingredients cosmetics and body products and in their food sources. America imports about $26 million in hemp seeds annually with Canada being one of the largest suppliers.
Under provisions of the Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014) many states have set up pilot programs for research and have begun to grow industrial hemp. States like Colorado and Kentucky are leading the way in production. The hemp stalk contains two different types of fibers that are both used for different purposes. The “bast” are the long, strong outer fibers that are similar to softwood fibers, they are breathable, mildew resistant and hypoallergenic. These fibers are used for textiles, rope twine and pulping into paper such as rolling papers, tea bags, and money. While the “core” or inner fibers are short and more comparable to hardwood fibers. These are the fibers that are used in building materials such as Hempcrete.
- Combats global warming due to it’s ability to absorb toxins, CO2s and radiation from the air.
- Hemp continues absorbing CO2 even after harvesting, is naturally fire resistant and insulating.
- Hemp Global Solutions calculates that for each ton of hemp grown, 1.63 tons of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere. Growing a mere 100 acres of hemp would be the equivalent of taking 196 cars off the road for a year.
- When compared to cotton, hemp fibers are much stronger, warmer and more absorbent. It only takes one acre to produce the same amount of fibers as cotton would produce in 2-3 acres and with half the water.
- Plus hemp is naturally UV resistant, antimicrobial and doesn’t require the use of pesticides in cultivation.
- Makes for a perfect cover crop keeping weeds at bay and improving and putting nitrogen back into the soil.
- Can replace environment destroying plastic since Bioplastic made from hemp is 100% biodegradable.
- Twine made from hemp fibers is fully biodregadable and often used in landscaping.
- Hemp seeds provide all 9 essential amino acids, full day supply of B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Omega 3’s and 6’s.
- Hemp biofuel is a low cost, clean-burning and energy efficient gasoline alternative that is practically carbon negative.
But I love it when I hear someone say that hemp is the new miracle product!
Hemp and the use of it as a miracle plant is as old as the hills and certainly much older than our country. Hemp has been widely used all over the globe since the 17th century. China was using hemp fibers for textiles over 6000 years ago. A piece of hemp fabric that is believed to be from ancient Mesopotamia dates back to 8000 B.C. and is the oldest relic of human history.
Our country was practically founded on hemp products.
Christopher Columbus and the pioneers that traveled to this new world wouldn’t have been able to sail here from England without the hemp based canvas that was the sails that powered their ships. Our very Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were both written on paper created from hemp fibers. Prior to 1883 all of the world’s paper came almost entirely from hemp. The word “canvas” is believed to be derived from “cannabis” and it’s namesake served as the medium for many of the most famous painters in history from Van Gogh to Rembrandt. And it was also hemp that created the very fiber that Betsy Ross used for the very first American Flag. So, there is no argument that hemp is a miracle plant, but it is definitely not new!
If hemp is such a useful and renewable plant that we as country have used for thousands of years what happened to it?
Throughout the 20th century and up until the 1930’s the plant was commonly known as cannabis, or hemp, and was also used in many medicinal applications. It only began being referred to as “marihuana” as a slang term in the 1930’s. During this time many people did not know what “marihuana” was and did not even realize it was not the same plant as hemp. Prior to the 1930’s there was increasing awareness of the use and abuse of narcotics in America (Some things never change). Marijuana use as a recreational drug was fairly new however. There really wasn’t any significant public concern for marijuana or it’s use at the time. Many states were enacting narcotics laws in accordance with the Harrison Act and blindly lumped marijuana in the group most likely due to racial prejudice since most of the use occurred in states where there was a larger influx of Mexican-Americans. Later in the mid 1930’s, Harry J. Anslinger, was the head of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), and was vehement anti-drug advocate. Through great support from President Roosevelt he was tasked with the adoption of the Uniform State Narcotics Act. The purpose of the act was to make the law uniform across the various states with respect to controlling the sale and use of narcotic drugs as well as effectively safeguard and regulate narcotic drugs throughout all of the states. Anslinger spearheaded a large propaganda campaign designed to demonize marijuana in the eyes of the people. The ads portrayed marijuana use as evil and the cause of violent actions. Even though the so-called “problems” surrounding marijuana use at the time went virtually unnoticed by the public, the Bureau was able to, through this propaganda, create a need for legislation to address this made up issue within the Congress. Because the government could not pass a law to ban the substance at the time they needed another way to indirectly discourage the sale.
The Marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937. It did not criminalize the use or possession of cannabis, marijuana or hemp, but was a law that imposed tax on the sale of cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. Members of American Medical Association (AMA) at the time, made an argument to oppose this tax to no avail, it was passed quickly despite valid arguments. Because physicians and retail pharmacists were the ones prescribing and selling cannabis, as well as medical cannabis cultivation/manufacturing they believed they would receive the brunt of the burden. The AMA also objected to the bill saying that they were not given the proper amount of time to prepare their opposition because the Bill had been prepared in secret behind closed doors. Dr. William Creighton Woodward, legislative council for the AMApointed out that because “marijuana” was a relatively unknown word they didn’t even realize that the bill meant the medical profession would be losing the use of cannabis arguing“Marijuana is not the correct term… Yet the burden of this bill is placed heavily on the doctors and pharmacists of this country”. This tax, at $100 per ounce sold if you weren’t registered, was purposely set so high that it, in effect, was a prohibitive tax. Violators of either the Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act or the Marihuana Tax Act were to have uniform penalties charged under a provision of the Uniform State Narcotics Act. This resulted in the first instance of marijuana and other narcotics being lumped together in the same category under Federal law.
This caused the decline of hemp cultivation in 1930’s.
Fast forward to 1970. Congress passes the Controlled Substances Act establishing the U.S. Federal drug policy as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. In the original listing of drugs cannabis was put under schedule 1 as a sort of placeholder or temporary position while more research was done and recommendations were made. The Act established the Shafer Commission in order to study use and abuse of marijuana and hemp. The report that the commission submitted to the public and to Congress 2 years later held the opinion that “criminal law is too harsh……favored ending marijuana prohibition and adopting other methods to discourage use.” His recommendations were ultimately ignored after meeting resistance. The Act had already been signed into law therefor cannabis and hemp sit as a schedule 1 drug to this day. For some reason, they had no interest in differentiating between the non-psychotropic form of hemp and marijuana, either in the 30’s or when they were drafting list of controlled substances. Maybe back then they didn’t have the technology to accurately and easily determine levels of THC for the purpose of regulation, but we do now.
Biomed Central conducted and published a study of the genome biology of the cannabis plants and the Hemp strain where they point out that the actual composition of the plant as well as the cannabinoid content greatly varies with each cannabis plant but generally “Those with a high-THCA/low-CBDA chemotype are termed marijuana, whereas those with a low-THCA/high-CBDA chemotype are termed hemp”
Since THC is the cannabinoid that is responsible for the psychoactive properties of marijuana and hemp only contains trace amounts it is not used as a drug and is usually cultivated for the industrial uses of its’ fibers as well as the medicinal properties of CBD. It is generally accepted that if you use the word cannabis or marijuana you are referring to the plant that is cultivated for its trichomes that carry higher levels of THC and if you use the word hemp you are referring to the strain that naturally has low THC and is cultivated for fiber.
Hemp is legal to grow in over 30 countries- countries where marijuana is still highly illegal.
The U.S. imports $11.5 million dollars worth of hemp annually and $500 million in hemp products from countries like China, Chile, Uruguay as well as Europe and Canada. Hemp seeds make up one of the largest portions of that number at $26 million. Other products include hemp seed oil that can be used in cosmetics or distilled and used for plastics or bio fuel, oil cakes which are commonly used as food additives, and hemp fabric and yarn.
GlobalMana calls hemp a “powerhouse of sustainable solutions with a track record of success globally”. It is a highly sustainable crop with over 25,000 uses but we are just now implementing “research” programs. It is legal to import hemp products but it is still technically illegal in America to grow hemp to make those products
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 20 states have passed laws creating research and pilot programs that allow them to grow and research hemp under section 7607 of the Farm Bill since President Obama signed the Bill in 2014. But Colorado, Oregon and Vermont are the only states with license for farming hemp under state law.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 was introduced in January of last year.
The Act seeks to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of “marihuana.” Meanwhile we are moving forward and realizing the potential that hemp has for our farmers and the economy.