A representative of HempOil Canada discusses the processing of hemp and materials made of hemp used in a myriad of products mainly destined for the United States:
Health & Beauty
November 22, 2009
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November 12, 2009
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November 12, 2009 – Hemp Oil has long been recognized as one of the most versatile and beneficial substances known to man. Derived from hemp seeds (a member of the achene family of fruits) it has been regarded as a superfood due to its high essential fatty acid content and the unique ratio of omega3 to omega6 and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) – 2:5:1.
It is this ratio that is believed to be optimal in terms of improving skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. It has been reported that those using hemp oil as a supplement begin to experience noticeably softer skin, stronger nails and thicker, smoother hair after only a few weeks.
The oil is approximately 57% linoleic (LA) and 19% linolenic (LNA) acids, the EFAs known as omega6 and omega3 respectively. EFAs are the building blocks of the fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are of course associated with the health benefits as noted above, alongside their benefits to almost every cell in the body and are widely accepted as beneficial in warding off and treating degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Hemp oil is also the only food oil that contains not only omega3, omega6, but also GLA. This GLA content means that hemp is a rival to Evening Primrose Oil as well as flax seed oil, as GLA is the chief EFA that is believed to relieve symptoms of pre-menstrual tension (PMT).
Hemp oil is also ideal for those who are concerned about taking fish supplements due to the reported contamination of fish with mercury and other toxins. This is particularly prevalent for pregnant women and nursing mothers who are looking to reduce their fish intake but still maintain a desired level of EFAs.
EFAs can also be obtained from eating hemp seeds. These seeds also pack a significant protein punch, which rivals that of soy. Hemp seeds contain many essential amino acids, have high fibre content and are also high in Vitamin E, Vitamin C and chlorophyll.
The added benefit of hemp seeds is that there has been no known genetic modification of hemp plants, unlike with other sources of protein and antioxidants. Hemp also grows in such a way that no pesticides or chemicals are needed to grow the crops. The growing of hemp plants creates almost zero waste and the byproducts of these crops are also useful in other commercial applications.
Hemp Oil Preparation
As with all essential fatty acids, hemp oil must not be heated or fried and it is very susceptible to heat and light. The oil is extracted from the seed by a slowly rotating press. The pressure from this press squeezes the oil from the seed and leaves only the remaining ‘seed-cake’. This is always done in an oxygen-free environment, as exposure to oxygen can rapidly depreciate the value of the oil.
Always ensure that your oils are prepared in such a way (i.e. without excessive heat, light and oxygen) and always store hemp oil in the refrigerator, use quickly, and never heat.
Is it Illegal?
In short, no. The Latin name Cannabis sativa actually translates as ‘useful hemp’!
The confusion and concern frequently arises due to the fact that hemp seed/oil is derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, which is often incorrectly linked to the psychoactive substance, marijuana. The psychoactive ingredient of marijuana is the chemical THC, however the quantities of THC in hemp oil are so small that they are regarded as insignificant. In fact, for commercial hemp oil products to comply with Government regulations, they must contain less than 10ppm THC, which is very, very little. However, in the majority of products absolutely none can be detected. It would be almost impossible for this level of THC intake to measure even close to illegal levels during a drug urine test.
Although the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced a worldwide ban on the sale of all hemp based foods and oils in 2001, this decision was condemned as illegal in 2004 following a successful appeal to the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
November 11, 2009
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November 11, 2009 – Many people would dismiss arthritis as a simple and natural process of aging when in fact it is not. It is a crippling disease; slow yet decapitating. Arthritis has many forms and accompanying painful symptoms. Somehow, in the advent of modern-day technology and medical breakthroughs, we look for an organic alternative way of battling arthritis knowing that it is safer and economical yet effective.
Arthritis simply means inflammation of the joints. We have a variety of joints in our body and this condition pertains to the swelling and pain that occurs in the affected area of someone inflicted with it.
What happens to the affected area is coined as “cartilage and bone gravel.” Due to the overstretching of muscles which cause damage to the joints, what is left of the bones as well as the cartilage, would forcefully rub against each other which causes throbbing pain as well as worsening the damage of the affected joints. This continues to happen over and over again; it becomes a painful cycle and it gets worse over time.
Although it seems to be a dead end, there are lots of alternative natural treatment options available and there is one that will suit your criteria perfectly.
In this context, we would like to recommend hemp seed oil capsule, which is said to be “nature’s most perfectly balanced oil” and “the most nutritionally complete food source there is in the world”. Its liquid formulation can be taken with a spoon and really tastes good. This is recommended for long-term use. It has advantage over its other counterparts because it has a perfectly balanced fatty acid profile.
Moreover, this also contains essential fatty acids (EFA’s) and gamma linoleic acid (GLA), both of which are very vital to achieve overall optimum health.
GLA (Gamma-Linolenic Acid) studies have also proven that hemp oil lowers the risk of heart attack and strengthens the immune defenses. The essential fatty acids helps lower blood cholesterol, promote good blood flow, and helps improve overall organ function.
Cannabis sativa is referred as the most important of all crops as it has provided us with useful edible seeds, oil, and medicine. Imbalances in specific fatty acids seem to be correlated to common diseases such as arthritis, eczema, acne, and a lot more. This further promotes the use of hemp oil as it is rich in essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. It is also rich in protein.
It can also be used in cooking delectable and healthy dishes. It has a distinct nutty taste to it which makes it ideal to incorporate in your side dishes with veggies, which make this a must-have for vegetarians. It could also be taken as part of a sumptuous dips and salad dressings. Better yet, it can be taken in its natural form as a dietary supplement. Source.
October 8, 2009
October 8, 2009 – If Hemp was discovered today it would be hailed a miracle for mankind as there are so many environmentally friendly products the plant and its byproducts can provide. If consumers want to contribute to a better planet, they need look no further than to choose products made with hemp. This post explores the huge potential impact of hemp – if only it were legal for farmers to grow and process in the United States.
Hunger and Starvation
The world is going through great suffering at present, with millions of people starving and millions more struggling to cope with the high cost of living. Most of these problems can be traced back to agriculture and oil. Current unnatural farming methods require large amounts of money to be spent on pesticides and herbicides, making farming practices economically and environmentally unsustainable.
At the same time, the world’s population is increasing and the global community is desperate for a solution to meet the food requirements of all countries. Fortunately, there is a solution available – Hemp. Growing the hemp plant and using it to create thousands of products ranging from food, textiles, building materials, plastics etc. is a highly sustainable way to address hunger and a myriad of economic and social issues our world currently faces. (A more comprehensive discussion of this potential can be found here: Hemp: Africa’s Solution to Hunger and Poverty )
70 Years of Propaganda
The media portrayal of marijuana and drugs is largely responsible for the negative perception of hemp, but most people fail to realize that commercial hemp is actually unfit for use as an intoxicant. THC, the active ingredient of regular cannabis responsible for producing the ‘high’ effect in drug users, is typically found in quantities of up to 20% or more. Industrial hemp on the other hand, generally contains less than 0.3% THC content, which is not enough to cause any physical or psychological effects. Smoking industrial hemp to get high is akin to trying to get drunk from non-alcoholic beer.
Hemp has a lengthy history of being a productive crop, even in the USA. Early presidents Washington and Jefferson used to grow the crop personally, and during a few different periods Americans were actually legally bound to grow hemp. The US government even produced a short movie in 1942 entitled Hemp for Victory to help encourage farmers to grow hemp.
Big Business Bans Hemp
Hemp was effectively banned with the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, but a chronic oil and material shortage during the Second World War meant the government desperately needed hemp again. It was re-legalized in 1942 and promoted with the Hemp for Victory movie. The original ban was at the request of big industry and after the shortages subsided it didn’t take long before they once again made sure that hemp wasn’t able to compete with their business interests.
The problem is that hemp is a naturally occurring solution to many of the world’s problems, and therefore can’t be patented and controlled by individuals. DuPont was one of the main companies behind the ban of hemp, which they pushed for shortly after patenting a nylon rope made from synthetic petrochemicals. In addition to the petrochemical industries, it also threatened the cotton, oil and timber industries, who formed an alliance to make sure hemp was outlawed.
Simply the Best
As well as being one of the earliest known domesticated plants, hemp is one of the fastest growing bio-masses known. The bark of the stalk contains possibly the longest natural soft fibers in the world. These two properties provide tremendous advantages over other crops in terms of practicality and uses.
Hemp is also very environmentally friendly. It grows well in a number of different soil types and climates, and is naturally resilient to weeds and pests. Some farmers even use it as a natural weed suppressor. The use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides and are widely unnecessary, with the plant rarely being attacked and strong enough to ward off the few pests which are attracted to it. They don’t call it ‘Weed’ without a reason, as it is able to grow strong like a weed without any assistance.
Wide Variety of Uses
The practical uses for hemp never seem to end, ranging from replacements for many of our current energy, clothing and building material sources to more simple uses such as fishing bait, cooking products and paints.
Hemp seeds are possibly the most easily digestible source of complete proteins; contain high levels of dietary fiber and B-vitamins, as well as containing all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids in the most appropriate ratios for human consumption. Their profile is so complete that if a human was to eat one thing for the rest of their life, they would live the longest on hemp seeds. Since they can be eaten raw, ground, sprouted or made into milk; hemp seeds can be used as a replacement for flour, butter, protein powder, milk and ice-cream. By the way, the seed is not psychoactive and will not act as a drug.
Fuel and Plastics
Biofuels such as biodiesel can be produced from the oil in hemp seeds and stalks. The fermentation of the whole plant can also produce alcohol fuel. Hemp can produce ten times more methanol than is possible from corn and seems an ideal substitute for the massive amounts corn crops around the world planted to provide fuel for vehicles. The hemp fibers are perfect for producing plastic moulded products, rather than relying on oil for their production. They are also well suited for the creation of biodegradable plastic products.
Similar to the way ancient cultures added straw to clay to reinforce bricks, hemp fibers added to concrete increase tensile strength, as well as reducing shrinkage and cracking. It can also be mixed with gypsum to produce light panels, or lime to make plaster. A combination mixture can be used for foundations, walls and ceilings, which is lighter than cement and has better sound and heat insulating properties. There has even been a ceramic tile equivalent produced. The quality of building materials is such that whole houses have been made based on hemp fiber.
The actual building structure is not the only thing that can benefit from hemp’s insulating properties. The production of thermal insulation products is one of the most important sectors of the hemp industry. Hemp hurds are perfect to use due to their high silica content, and can be mixed with lime to produce a material which can be blown into areas requiring insulation. Since it is naturally renewable, it is better for the environment and can help to reduce heating costs for existing households.
Hemp is a major competitor to the cotton industry. It produces 250% more fibers than cotton and doesn’t require the same cocktail of chemicals cotton needs to grow successfully. It is said that around half of the world’s pesticides are used on cotton crops. Hemp is also far stronger, durable, absorbent, insulative and resistant to UV light and mold than cotton. Although it is generally coarse, advancements in processing have enabled a softening of hemp fibers to a comfortable level. Apart from shoes and clothing, hemp can also be used to produce coarse textiles such as upholstery and carpets.
The United States Constitution was drafted on hemp paper. Hemp can produce more than four times the dry weight of fiber in comparison to the average forest on the same size land. Additionally, trees will take approximately twenty years to regrow, where hemp can reach maturity in around four months. Apart from being far more practical to produce paper in terms of growth times and production levels, hemp paper is of a far superior quality to tree paper. Wood pulp paper may be lucky to last 50 years, whereas hemp pulp paper has been known to last centuries or even millennia. It can also be recycled many more times than traditional paper.
Personal Care Products
Hempseed oil has a wide variety of uses, especially in the personal care product range. It is widely used in creams as a moisturizing agent and is excellent for skin care. It is also present in a number of leading brand’s lotions, moisturizers, lip balms and perfumes. Bathroom products containing hemp are also popular, with soaps, shampoos and bubble baths being sold having a hemp component.
Today, many car parts are manufactured using hemp products. Their history dates back to 1941, where Henry Ford produced a car with a plastic body which was made from approximately 70% hemp fibers. Although the idea came about partly due to a steel shortage, tremendous benefits were revealed. The car could withstand blows ten times greater than steel without denting. It was so powerful that Ford used to swing an axe at the vehicle to show it would not be damaged. Unfortunately, the Marijuana Tax Act made production unviable and although some car parts are produced today, the full potential of hemp cars has never been realized.
THE PERFECT SOLUTION
Never has a more perfect solution been available to solve so many of the world’s problems. But the sad fact is that unless we rise up as a people and demand a change, we are unlikely to ever see the full benefits of hemp around the globe. This is because there are so many well established interest groups in the many sectors of the economy where hemp can provide benefit – interest groups who do not want to see it succeed. The potential benefits to mankind though are just too large to ignore – and we must work together to see that hemp is once again returned to a revered status in our economy.
October 2, 2009
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October 2, 2009 – Michael Krahn’s life changed when he discovered the hemp plant in an Amsterdam, Holland shop in 1997.
Krahn learned that hemp, one of the world’s first cultivated fibre plants, can be used to meet just about every requirement of society. Armed with the knowledge about its versatility as a health food, clothing fabric and construction material, he settled in Gimli, Manitoba Canada and opened a hemp business in his home in 2001.
Over the years, many Gimli area residents have concluded that Krahn might be on to something. His business — Fish Lips — spread gradually from his home to three increasingly prominent downtown Gimli locations before he undertook his latest and largest expansion in September. It was the opening of Fish Lips Hemp Shop and Cafe on the northwest corner of Centre St. and Second Ave.
“I’ve wanted to add a cafe right from the beginning,” says Krahn who has designed the cafe’s menu to complement his environmentally friendly hemp products.
He believes the many uses of hemp have led to the steady growth of his enterprise.
“Hemp can feed, house, fuel and clothe you,” he said. “It can be an alternative to anything made from wood, oil and plastic. And it can also be the basis for a healthy diet.”
Krahn said the plant’s shelled seeds — called Hemp Heartz — can lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as reducing arthritic swelling. He also said hemp seeds and oil increase energy, improve digestion and ward off such diseases as diabetes.
“They have the lowest content of bad fats and the greatest content of good fats,” he said.
He disputes the perception that hemp is a drug that will make users high. While both hemp and marijuana belong to the Cannabis family, he says there is a big difference between his multi-use plant and marijuana which is limited to smoking.
“People will not get high from hemp,” said Krahn who advertises his premises as “ a respectable joint” to denote that everything he does is legal. “It’s like corn, potatoes and barley. They are ingredients in alcohol, but you don’t get drunk every time you eat them.”
Krahn carries more than 40 different hemp-based products in the shop adjoining his cafe. The clothing line includes shirts, pants, jeans, hoodies, jackets, socks, shoes, bags and twine. Hemp food items range from flour to milk and cereal while personal care items on the shelves are a shampoo, a conditioner, hand and body lotion, bath and massage oil, and a moisturizing cream.
The hemp entrepreneur said his sales support not only Fish Lips, but also a growing number of Manitoba hemp farmers. Two of the biggest producers of an increasingly large crop are Hemp Food Producers of Dauphin and Winnipeg and Prairie Emeralds of Arborg and Ste. Agathe.
Krahn — who spent his early years in Jasper, Alta., and later attended Gimli High School — has set hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for his shop and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the cafe. That provides an opportunity for customers to sample a hemp protein shake and organic edibles before they buy products to take home.
“We buy mostly local food products and baking,” Krahn said. “Our suppliers include Green Beans fair trade coffee of Petersfied and Integrity Foods of Riverton.”
Although he has already had four expansions, Krahn does not plan to stand pat. In future, he plans to market industrial hemp products such as environment-friendly, bio-degradable insulation, gyproc and cement.
“The products we use today affect the planet that we leave for our children,” he said. “By purchasing products made from hemp, people are directly supporting the transition to a healthier community and lake.”
September 21, 2009
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September 21, 2009 – Hemp oil is processed from the seeds of the regular cannabis plant, and before anyone giggles about any type of correlation between oil and the actual plant themselves, the processed oil contains virtually zero in the way of psychoactive cannabis chemicals.
What it does contain is up to 80 percent of essential fatty acids. Those are the fatty acids in the Omega family, and they are comparable to fish oil and olive oil for their health properties. Studies have proven that diets rich in Omega fatty acids will reduce the risk of heart attacks, and a teaspoon a day is a good way to get them into your body.
If you don’t like the teaspoon per day method, you can try using it in salads, substituting hemp oil for your regular olive oil. I do this all the time with guests, and no one can tell the difference. In fact, many have said how wonderful the salad oil tasted when combined with a little vinegar.
Much like olive oil, there are a couple of distinctions between first pressing of the seeds the second pressing of the seeds to obtain oil. First pressing gives the best nutritional food grade oil that there is, while second pressing oil should be considered for other uses. And there are many other uses. I am not going to give a categorical list of each and every use of hemp oil, but here are some of the more interesting ones that are slightly fascinating.
* Used straight from the container, it can be used as a varnish for bare woodwork. I personally am always on the lookout for natural wood finishes, and this might be the best one I have ever heard of. To that end, add a bit of hemp oil to some lemon oil and apply over finished wood. Buff it out and your finish will shine like it’s brand new.
* Since it is an oil, it can be substituted for petroleum based products in chainsaws, as bicycle chain lubrication, and really any type of application where an oil might come into contact with animals.
* Hemp oil candles are becoming popular, since they are all-natural and don’t use petroleum based paraffin as a burning medium.
* And of course bio-diesel production is another advantage of hemp oil use. Oil-to-seed ratio is high, so it would be a very efficient use of hemp seeds for bio-diesel manufacture.
There are many other uses both nutritionally as well as institutionally, where hemp oil can and should become a mainstay in the industry. And Because Action speaks louder than words, let’s all get the word out on the value and usage of hemp oil.
August 15, 2009
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August 15, 2009 – Considered one of the largest annual gatherings in the world for the decriminalization of marijuana, the Seattle Hemp Fest will take place August 15-16 in Myrtle Edwards, Olympic Sculpture and Elliott Bay Parks along the northern section of Seattle’s waterfront.
The two-day “protestival” will host seven stages presenting a compendium of music and comedy performances, as well as exhibits, displays, panel discussions and presentations on marijuana policy reform. In addition, a large collection of vendors will sell an array of hemp and other products, from food, clothing, jewelry and natural fragrances to bongs, arts and incense.
Since the birth of Hemp Fest in Seattle’s Volunteer Park 18 years ago, the event has grown from a quaint gathering of 500 local marijuana activists to more than 150,000 people, from the marginalized beatnik and avid pot-smoker to curious festival-goer and everyday family. Attendees trek from all over the country to attend the event, transforming the upscale, condominium towered neighborhood into a modern-day, Woodstock-esque celebration.
Seattle’s Hemp Fest is, as they say, “the real deal”. The festival is and represents an enormous cultural phenomenon that has moved from the backyard to front lawn of some of Seattle’s most prestigious public real estate. Long known for its liberal urban policies and innovative social programs, Seattle has served at the vanguard of the decades-long movement to legalize marijuana, a crusade that has graduated from the smoker’s pipe dream to frontline political debate.
And, yes, what you’ve heard is true: marijuana users imbibe their favorite cannabis of choice with Seattle police on peaceful mounted patrol only a few feet away; in past years, residents of neighboring Queen Anne hill have reported a thick “cannabis cloud” blanketing festival grounds.
With former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske now the nation’s drug czar, this year’s event promises to be even more popular and relevant.
August 6, 2009
August 6, 2009 – Quick: What single plant can you use to build, insulate, and heat a house; help build and run cars; turn into the finest textiles; use to make tortillas, cheese, veggie burgers, perfumes, skin creams, and suntan lotions – and also to get stoned?
The answer is none. But if you leave out the stoned part, you’re talking about hemp, the non-smokable variety of cannabis sativa, botanical cousin of the cannabis that gets you high. It’s currently grown legally in 30 industrial nations, has a history that dates back to the earliest days of man, was touted by George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, was probably used to make the first American flag, and – if given the chance – might help bring Texas farmers out of troubled times.
Unfortunately, industrial hemp’s association with pot has made it illegal to produce here in the United States for the last seven decades, forcing U.S. manufacturers to import it from China, Eastern Europe, and Canada. For a while during the 1990s it was illegal to import it any form but finished textiles. And even that was suspect under Bill Clinton’s drug czar, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who, in trying to ban hemp importation, once famously announced to a group of high-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs officials that “kids are boiling down their hemp shirts and mixing the essence with alcohol to make marijuana.”
That would be a pretty wacky comment coming from anyone, but to have national policy hinge on such impossible wrong-headedness set back hemp’s future in this country a long way.
Nobody’s using that rhetoric now, but the unease persists in many places, including at the Texas Farm Bureau. Spokesman Gene Hall told Fort Worth Weekly that while “hemp has come up as a possible agricultural crop for Texas, it’s been a controversial subject.” Hall said that neither the Texas Farm Bureau, a nonprofit organization of farmers, ranchers, and rural families, nor the National Farm Bureau have supported industrial hemp as an ag crop “because there are concerns with the farm bureau supporting the raising of a crop that could be used for illicit drug use.”
But times are changing, even in Texas, and not everyone sees it the way Hall and the Farm Bureau do. This week, Oregon became the 16th state to pass some form of industrial hemp legislation, in hopes of making it possible for farmers to grow, own, and sell the nonsmokable but otherwise highly useful forms of hemp, the kinds with very low quantities of THC, the chemical in pot that gets you high.
State laws can’t trump the federal statute, which currently lists cannabis sativa as a controlled substance and prevent its cultivation. But U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Libertarian-leaning Republican from Lake Jackson, Texas, is trying to change that. He’s filed a bill to require the federal government to respect state laws on industrial hemp production. Paul has tried and failed at this before, and even he thinks the bill isn’t likely to pass this time either. But he’s gaining some support among his fellow House members and hoping for a friendlier attitude in the White House.
Individually, there are plenty of Texas farmers who are happy to hear about a potential new cash crop.
“If you tell me that there is a crop out there that could earn $400 an acre” – which is what Canadian farmers can earn with hemp – “well, I would have no problem growing it,” said Ralph Snyder, a farmer in North Central Texas. “Farmers would be lined up to grow it.”
Dan Brown, a North Texas leader of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), figures hemp could thrive easily in Texas. “Remember that it’s one of the fastest, most aggressive- growing biomasses in the world,” he said. “It isn’t called a weed for nothing.”
Hemp wasn’t always a banned crop. In colonial America its cultivation was mandated by British law. Back then it was used to make ropes and sails for ships, in fine art canvas, in paint and varnishes, as lamp oil, to make paper, and in some foods.
But the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that effectively outlawed smoking cannabis also essentially outlawed industrial hemp. The act was passed after publisher William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers waged a protracted and vociferous campaign against “marijuana” – a term he introduced to the American public. He ran stories that suggested that white women who smoked it couldn’t resist the lure of “negroes,” that it would bring out the devil in people and could cause otherwise normal people to become violent to the point of murder. Hollywood jumped on the campaign, releasing films such as Reefer Madness and Marijuana, Assassin of Youth, which showed previously virtuous young women jumping out of windows and becoming prostitutes after their first exposure to the evil weed.
Some saw Hearst’s campaign as a disguise for his real purpose – the elimination of industrial hemp, which was just coming into its own as a major modern crop, thanks to new machinery that allowed the hemp to be harvested and cleaned mechanically, rather than by hand. In 1933, Popular Mechanics magazine called industrial hemp “a billion-dollar crop” and suggested that with mechanization it would be used in making more than 25,000 products, including plastics, nylon, and paper.
At about the same time, Hearst had invested in millions of acres of trees for paper pulp, and Dupont, the chemical company, had just received patents for making nylon from coal and plastic from oil. Competition from hemp products might have cost both Hearst and Dupont genuine fortunes. According to Industrial Hemp Now, an organization working to legalize hemp, “As a model of deception and orchestrated media manipulation, the anti-hemp crusade constitutes one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetuated on the American people. Few public relations campaigns in history can match its success in eradicating competition while transforming citizens into unknowing pawns of big business.” Those claims have been echoed by dozens of others.
World War II changed the federal attitude temporarily. Cut off from vital natural-fiber supplies by the war, the federal government was forced to ask farmers to grow hemp to aid the war effort, even producing the film Hemp For Victory. Afterward, it was back to hemp-is-banned business as usual – except for the millions of leftover wild hemp plants that still grow along roads and highways throughout the Midwest and are the focus of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “marijuana” eradication efforts, despite the fact that none of the plants have the ability to get anyone high.
In 1970, the newly created DEA developed the Controlled Substances Schedule, which placed drugs in categories according to their medical value and propensity for being abused. Morphine and cocaine, for instance, are in Schedule 2 because they have medical value but are highly likely to be abused. Cannabis, including industrial hemp, was placed in Schedule 1, meaning it has no recognized medical value and is highly likely to be abused. It can’t, under any circumstances, be prescribed by doctors.
The DEA later made an exception for industrial hemp, but those wishing to grow it must have a DEA license. In the past 20 years they’ve given out only a small handful of permits, and the restrictions – including round-the-clock guards on trial plots, exorbitantly expensive fencing, and regular inspections at the licensee’s expense – make it impossible to actually grow anything profitably. Most farmers who have applied for a permit never even receive a response.
Some industrial hemp promoters see a glimmer of hope with the Obama administration in place. “Little birdies have told me that Obama is going to treat hemp as a state’s right, just as his administration is doing with medical marijuana,” said a hemp product manufacturer who asked not to be named. “And if that’s the case, then it’s ‘all systems go’ in a number of states.”
The Obama administration has made enforcement of laws against the medical uses of marijuana the lowest priority for the Department of Justice in states that have passed legislation allowing such use. Farmers in states with laws permitting industrial hemp production are hoping he’ll do at least that much for them. Still, until federal law is changed, farmers are going to be wary about turning over land to a crop that might get pulled out from under them.
Ron Paul, the Houston-area congressman, introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in April, which would require the federal government to respect state laws with regards to hemp production. The bill has 11 co-sponsors.
In introducing the proposal, he noted, “Federal law concedes the safety of industrial hemp by allowing it to be legally imported for use as food.” He also said that the United States is the “only industrialized nation that prohibits industrial hemp cultivation.” Stores in this country already sell hemp seeds, oil, and food products, he pointed out, as well as paper, cloth, cosmetics, and carpet containing hemp. It has been used as an alternative fuel for cars, he said, and, most recently, in the door frames of about 1.5 million cars.
Paul said Tuesday that he holds out little hope for his bill. “If we could bring it to the floor and discuss it and teach people what it is, well, I think it would be passed overwhelmingly,” he said. “But right now, unfortunately, you still have a lot of people who think it’s a drug. And as long as they’re that uninformed, they’re not going to see the real issue.”
Creating a viable hemp industry in this country would take more than legislation, of course. Public awareness of, and demand for, hemp products would have to grow considerably before enough quantities would be needed to make it a profitable crop for large numbers of farmers.
When his country began allowing the production of industrial hemp 10 years ago, said Canadian crop specialist Harry Brook, farmers initially misjudged the market and overproduced. “Our farmers began growing hemp for fiber, and unfortunately, we didn’t have the facilities in place to convert that to paper and textiles and such, and so essentially it was a bust.”
But the farmers switched to growing it for seed, used to make oil and food products. “Now that’s where they found a market,” Brook said. “And now there’s talk about reviving the fiber industry because [hemp] grows so fast and tall and produces so much fiber. But that simply won’t get off the ground until someone decides to make the investment in the factories that can utilize it.”
In ideal conditions, he said, hemp can produce about 5 tons of dried biomass per acre in 100 days – considerably more than any other crop. And with its varied uses, its potential is unlimited.
Gordon Scheifele is a retired certified plant breeder with the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture who is currently researching hemp. The stumbling block right now, he said, is that there isn’t a single commercial processor in North America that can produce the fibers in sufficient quantities to sustain various industries.
“We know we can produce it in Canada. We already are [doing so],” he said. “But the next step requires vision, will, determination, and effort. That includes the capital to make it all go.”
In this country, groups such as Hemp Industries of America and VoteHemp.org estimate the current annual sales of hemp products in 2008 totalled about $360 million. Designers such as Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein have produced everything from hemp-and-cotton-blend jersey knits to hemp-and-silk-blend clothing. Wal-Mart carries a line of hemp suntan lotion and skin creams; Whole Foods and Central Market carry several products from hemp bread and granola to frozen desserts. The Body Shop carries a line of skin-care products.
In San Marcos, Hemp Town Rock – The Hemp Store, has been operating since 1992. And near McKinney, DiaperCo.com sells a line of hemp diapers. But it’s all still just a drop in the bucket compared to what would happen if the crop were legalized.
“What’s being sold now and what can be sold when American farmers are given the green light to produce hemp are worlds apart,” said Oregon State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who introduced that state’s industrial hemp bill. “We’ve got a hemp food company in Portland, Living Harvest, that currently has $20 million in annual revenues, but they project that in five years they will have revenues of over $100 million annually. That’s exponential growth. And imagine what it could be if they could get their raw products closer to their production sites instead of having to import their seed and oil from Canada? If you bring your prices down, and you’ve got a good product, well, sales climb.
“We’re at a stage now where a lot of the American public recognizes that we were hoodwinked by the DEA and others into demonizing industrial hemp,” he said.
Lawrence Serbin, former national director for the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp and owner of Hemp Traders, a Los Angeles-based company, said this country is “really in a Catch-22″ regarding hemp. “The reality is that hemp won’t become more popular in the U.S. until the price goes down, and the price won’t go down until it gets more popular. And the only way to make that price go down is to have us produce our own hemp.”
Serbin’s company sells a range of hemp products, from textiles to paper, but what he’s really concentrating on is fiberboard, which he makes from the hurds, the inner woody part of the hemp stalk left after the fiber has been removed. Typically, hurds are burned or left on the ground as mulch after harvest. He has to go to China to get them.
Beginning in 1999, he said, “We came in and collected the hurds and brought them to a factory and had them make up some medium-density fiberboards with it.” It’s taken him several years to come up with the product he’s just put on the market, a hemp fiberboard bound with a product derived from eucalyptus bark.
The advantage to his fiberboard, he said, is that it’s made without wood pulp and doesn’t use formaldehyde, a standard, inexpensive binder that is carcinogenic. The disadvantage is the price: His half-inch-thick, 4′-by-8′ boards go for about $28, nearly double what similar wood composite and particle boards go for in places like the Home Depot. His primary cost, he said, is transportation. The factory in China where part of the manufacturing takes place is far away from where the hemp is grown. And both hurds and boards are bulky, increasing the transit costs.
He hopes to solve part of the problem by building a factory next to the hemp fields in China, which he said could make his fiberboards “instantly competitive with regular wood boards.” If he could get the hurds from U.S. farmers, he said, he could sell his boards far more cheaply than what’s currently on the market.
Hemp boards, he said, could have “a huge impact on the housing market here in the U.S. … The effect on our forests would be immediate; new home prices would drop, and your house wouldn’t be full of formaldehyde.” He too is hoping that the Obama administration will tell federal law enforcement agencies to “leave it [hemp enforcement] to the states and then leave the states alone.”
Dave Seber, owner of Oregon’s Fibre Alternatives, believes industrial hemp is a “critical component” in saving both the economy and the environment in the United States.
“How are we going to stop carbon accumulation if we keep taking the trees down?” he asked. “We can’t, unless we grow hemp.” Hemp products, he said, could reduce the cost of building materials by 30 to 50 percent. “And that’s what we need to get the building industry, and therefore the economy, back on its feet.” He believes hemp could be used for furniture-quality boards. And he’s seen it used in Europe as a base for concrete, as a replacement for fiberglass insulation, and for plastics for everything from countertops to car parts.
Many countries in the European Union have begun levying fines on automakers and car sellers if their vehicles are not made of recyclable materials. That led European car manufacturers to begin replacing traditional plastic parts with parts made from hemp, flax, and other natural fibers. In 2007 Lotus introduced its Hemp Eco Elise, a high-end car with a body largely made from hemp fiberglass and seats and other interior parts made largely from hemp/wool/flax materials.
“You’ve got to look at the big picture,” Seber said. “The food and textile industries, as well as paper and such, can definitely benefit from hemp products … but I think you have to look at the major industries if you really want to make the environmental and economic changes that this country and the whole world desperately need. Those are the housing industry, the biofuel industries, the plastics industries, and the automobile industries.”
Thus far, however, that potential revolution is passing Texas by.
Calls to a dozen legislators and agricultural committee members around Texas produced very little feedback and even less knowledge about hemp-based industries. A spokesman for State Rep. Charles Anderson of Waco, vice-chair of the Texas House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, said he’d never heard the issue discussed. The Texas Agricultural Policy Council didn’t respond to e-mail queries. Brian Black, assistant to the commissioner for the Texas Department of Agriculture, said, “I’ve not heard of any discussion of industrial hemp in the agriculture industry in Texas.” Calls to the office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who sits on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry – three areas that would be affected by hemp production – were not returned.
Even a member of the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, who asked not to be named, laughed at the notion of hemp being grown in Texas. “We can’t even get Texas interested in organic food research, so I doubt very much you’re going to find many politicians in Texas willing to discuss hemp research. That’s just not how people think here.”
Right now, there seems to be only one real hemp store left in Texas, out of the healthy crop that flourished here in hippier-dippier times. Rose Phillips’ Hemp Town Rock is still going strong. When she opened the store in 1992, Phillips said, she sold only products made from hemp – clothing, food, paper, twines, and such.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “I’ve had to add other products over the years because hemp is just plain expensive, what with all of it having to be imported. Now if we could grow it here, that would be different. You bring the price down, and everybody would buy hemp because it’s such a nice material and so durable. But as it is, well, with the economy down, except for Christmastime I don’t put out a lot of my better hemp clothes.”
She still carries hemp purses, wallets, t-shirts, and other products but admits they aren’t enough by themselves to keep her in business.
“There’s a big market” for hemp products,” she said. “But most people would rather just order it from a web page that can sell it cheaper than I can, what with store overhead. And then every major chain store carries some hemp products, so a store like mine isn’t the only place to get those things anymore.”
One of the local online stores that sells a lot of hemp products is DiaperCo.com. Based in Anna, just north of McKinney, the cloth diaper company has nearly 50 hemp-blend products for sale. Jessica Land, a DiaperCo manager, said the products sell well. “A lot of what we sell are hemp inserts – hemp cloth that goes inside pouches in the diaper. And everybody loves them because the hemp is so absorbent.”
Her client base is interested in environmentally friendly, natural products that are reusable, she said. “And what fits that description better than hemp?”
Has she ever had any clients decide not to buy hemp because of its connection with marijuana? She laughed. “I’ve never heard anyone say that, but our client base is pretty well informed,” she said. “I imagine there would be some people who would think that, though.”
Even if federal law were changed to allow unimpeded hemp production, Scheifele said he’s not sure whether Texas would be a prime growing area.
“Hemp requires moisture. The rule of thumb is that wherever you can grow corn you can grow good hemp,” he said. (Texas now ranks 12th among U.S. states in corn production.) Hemp is drought resistant, though, and winter crops probably would work here, Scheifele said. Beyond that, if it became a legal crop, he said, researchers would develop strains adaptable to a wide variety of conditions. In Australia, he said, scientists report they have developed a more drought-tolerant variety.
Don Wirtshafter, a lawyer and pioneer in the hemp movement who spent years researching hemp varieties in southeast Asia, said he thinks he’s already got seed stock that would work well in much of Texas without irrigation. His stock, brought over from Asia some years ago, is being kept alive in Canada, waiting a change in hemp’s legal status in this country, before he can try test plots all over the state.
He pointed out that in China, hemp is relegated to poorer-quality farmland. “If you’re growing for seed, you definitely need good nutrition, good soil,” he said. “But if you’re growing for fiber you can grow it almost anywhere.”
Wirtshafter called it an “agricultural tragedy” that thousands of varieties of hemp seed were lost when laws outlawing hemp cultivation were passed in this country and copied by much of the world.
Brown, the assistant director of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of NORML, said that growing industrial hemp in Texas is a no-brainer. “Look at East Texas. There’s plenty of moisture there. It’s ideally suited for hemp cultivation. But with some irrigation you could grow hemp anywhere in the state.”
He pointed to the arid landscape of northern Mexico, home to tens of thousands of acres of low-grade marijuana. “If you can grow marijuana in those near-desert conditions, you could certainly grow hemp in southern Texas,” he said. “And with the ethanol craze going on and our focus on growing our own fuel stocks, it would be entirely possible to grow industrial hemp in quantities to replace American dependence on foreign oil. Hemp produces more than twice the biomass per acre that corn does, so it would be a natural for fuel, and we could grow a lot of it on land not currently utilized for agriculture, rather than using good soil to grow corn for ethanol.”
In fact, he said, traditionally independent Texas farmers could come to see hemp-growing as a right they’re being denied. “Texans don’t like their personal rights abridged,” he said. “And once they understand the difference between marijuana and industrial hemp, your average Texas farmer would probably demand the right to grow it.
Daniel Leshiker, who farms near Ralph Snyder in North Central Texas, agreed with Snyder that hemp sounds intriguing.
“We already need another crop, that’s for certain. I just planted 200 acres of sunflowers for their seed for the first time,” he said. “So while I don’t know much about hemp except they used to make rope with it, well, you tell me I could make money with it, and I’ll grow it. That’s what we are in the business to do.” By PETER GORMAN. Source.
May 23, 2009
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