The move could see pollution drop down considerably by using Hemp biomass to create plastic.

November 24, 2009 – Up until now, scientists have always considered that the only possible way of producing plastic, one of the main materials in our civilization, is through modifying and altering fossil fuels, primarily oil. But now, a team of South Korean scientists has managed to produce the compound for the first time without using any of these polluting fuels. Rather than extracting it from chemicals, they have managed to bioengineer it, proving once and for all that changes can be made to our way of life through innovation.

The achievement does make one wonder how it is that it was not made in one of the countries where the oil companies ruled, such as the United States or Canada. In short, there is no interest in such products in these nations, where the extent of the influence that oil corporations have on governments is difficult to quantify.

The South Korean accomplishment also points at the fact that the oil industry is indeed dispensable. Previous studies, done elsewhere, also demonstrated that plastic-like compounds, even more efficient than the actual plastics, could be made of hemp as well.

“The polyesters and other polymers we use everyday are mostly derived from fossil oils made through the refinery or chemical process. The idea of producing polymers from renewable biomass has attracted much attention due to the increasing concerns of environmental problems and the limited nature of fossil resources. PLA is considered a good alternative to petroleum based plastics as it is both biodegradable and has a low toxicity to humans,” Professor Sang Yup Lee, the leader of the new study, explains. The research was done by the KAIST University and the Korean chemical company LG Chem.

Until now, the PLA compound has only been produced via an intricate fermentation and polymerization process, but, currently, the team believes that it may have discovered a cheaper, just-as-effective method of synthesizing it. Now, via the use of metabolically engineered strains of E.coli bacteria, the product can be obtained from a simple, direct fermentation process. “By developing a strategy which combines metabolic engineering and enzyme engineering, we’ve developed an efficient bio-based one-step production process for PLA and its copolymers. This means that a developed E. coli strain is now capable of efficiently producing unnatural polymers, through a one-step fermentation process,” Lee adds.

“Global warming and other environmental problems are urging us to develop sustainable processes based on renewable resources. This new strategy should be generally useful for developing other engineered organisms capable of producing various unnatural polymers by direct fermentation from renewable resources,” the expert concludes. Source.

October 21, 2009 – In New Zealand, the tiny political party Aotearoa HempLegalise Cannabis Party (ALCP) promotes a platform that it says can “reverse” damaging climate change by planting hundreds of thousands of hectares of cannabis hemp, ALCP says, at a density of around 300 plants per square meter, to replace NZ’s energy and fuel needs.

Yes, it sounds far-fetched, especially since in the US farmers have labored long and hard to get lawmakers to stop confusing non-cannabis industrial hemp grown for its myriad uses in industrial fibers and foods with its cannabis cousin.

Longtime hemp activist Jack Herer is offering $100,00 to anyone who can disprove his hypothesis that hemp is a silver bullet for climate change. Here’s Herer:

“If all fossil fuels and their derivatives, as well as trees for paper and construction, were banned in order to save the planet, reverse the Greenhouse Effect and stop deforestation, then there is only one known annually renewable natural resource that is capable of providing the overall majority of the world’s paper and textiles; meet all of the world’s transportation, industrial and home energy needs, while simultaneously reducing pollution, rebuilding the soil and cleaning the atmosphere all at the same time. That substance is the same one that has done it before: Cannabis Hemp.”

Anyone who can prove this statement wrong is entitled to $US 100,000. http://www.jackherer.com/challenge.html

Herer’s mixing of cannabis hemp with industrial hemp is a little unfortunate, for according to Hemp Global Solutions, hemp could be a good short term climate tool, because the crop is rapid-growing for carbon dioxide uptake, less vulnerable to climate variations than agro-forestry, and might be a good cash crop for farmers. HGS calculates each ton of hemp grown represents 1.63 tons of CO2 absorption.

Whether in the U.S. the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 can come to a vote during this session is uncertain. But Jack Herer isn’t the only person to espouse hemp. Dr. Bronner’s president, David Bronner, is among a small group of hemp farmers hoping to get more coverage for the bill.

Eight states (including Oregon as the most recent) have allowed industrial (non cannabis) hemp research or production, but thus far implementation has been hampered by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Bronner, whose company has used hemp oil in its products for over a decade, was arrested in Washington, DC last week for planting hemp on the DEA front lawn. He said he’d rather buy his hemp from U.S. farmers instead of importing it, and “save on both import and freight charges.”

Source.

October 11, 2009 – Within the next three weeks, State Sen. Joey Pendleton plans to take a group of Kentucky farmers to study the industrial hemp trade in Canada where the crop has been grown legally for Picture 5the past 10 years.

Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville, has introduced a bill for 2010, renewing a push to legalize industrial hemp in Kentucky as a cash crop and as a source for alternative fuels.

“The timing is right,” Pendleton said. “It would give farmers another crop to raise.” Production of hemp is already legal for research purposes in Kentucky but is untried due to federal barriers.

Margaret McCauley of Versailles holds hemp fiber used to make rope. She favors the renewal of hemp production in Kentucky.

A hemp processing plant from around 1908 still stands on land owned by Margaret McCauley’s family in Versailles. She preserves artifacts from the era when hemp was legally raised in Kentucky. 

Pendleton’s bill comes at a time when federal legislation decriminalizing hemp for industrial use has been introduced in Congress and proponents are encouraged by stances taken by the Obama Administration.

In Versailles, where the remnants of an old hemp processing plant still stand on property that Margaret McCauley’s family owns, McCauley said she hopes Pendleton is successful.

“I think industrial hemp would do a lot for the farming community,” said McCauley, who has preserved artifacts from decades ago when hemp was grown legally in Kentucky.

McCauley said she hopes lawmakers won’t confuse industrial hemp with its controversial cousin, marijuana.

Although industrial hemp comes from the same plant species as marijuana, industrial hemp does not have enough THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, to produce the “high” marijuana users feel, proponents say. Hemp and marijuana look alike. But hemp is grown for fiber found in the stalk while marijuana is grown for leaves and flower buds.

Industrial hemp is used in alternative automobile fuels and in such products as paper, cloths, cosmetics, and carpet.

Pendleton’s bill would require that individuals wanting to grow or process industrial hemp be licensed by the state Department of Agriculture. The legislation would require criminal history checks of growers and would require sheriffs to monitor and randomly test industrial hemp fields.

The bill calls for an assessment fee of $5 per acre for every acre of industrial hemp grown, with a minimum fee of $150, to be divided equally between the state and the appropriate sheriff’s department.

Phillip Garnett, a Christian County farmer, said he plans to go to Canada with Pendleton to investigate industrial hemp farming as a potential “new source of income and energy.” Pendleton said he’d pay for his portion of the trip.

Garnett who raises tobacco, corn, wheat, and soybeans, said he wants to know more about the economics before he would consider raising industrial hemp. But he said “I’m always looking for alternative crops, and it sounds like it makes sense.”

Because of current federal law, all hemp included in products sold in the United States must be imported.

Federal law includes industrial hemp in the definition of marijuana, and prohibits American farmers from growing hemp.

But the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced in Congress in April by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, would require the federal government to respect state laws allowing hemp production.

Pendleton says he sees new hope that federal barriers will be lessened, pointing to positions taken by the Obama administration.

In February, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government was going to yield medical marijuana jurisdiction to states. As a state lawmaker in Illinois, Barack Obama voted for a resolution urging Congress to allow the production of industrial hemp.

In addition to production of hemp, research on hemp has been affected. A federal permit is required for industrial hemp research, Laura E. Sweeney, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice, said Friday.

The University of Kentucky would probably grow industrial hemp for research if allowed in the future, said Scott Smith, dean of the UK School of Agriculture.

When UK applied for a federal permit to grow a research plot of industrial hemp after Kentucky passed the 2001 law allowing analysis, the federal government denied permission, Smith said.

Kentucky is one of eight states that allows hemp research or production.

The federal government has given North Dakota State University permission to grow industrial hemp for research purposes under strict security measures, but money has been an issue.

In Kentucky, a similar bill filed in the 2009 General Assembly by Pendleton was not given a hearing.

But for 2010, state State Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, the chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee, said he is interested in seeing new economic studies.

The most prominent studies on the profitability of industrialized hemp in Kentucky are a decade old. They reached conflicting conclusions.

A study released in 1998 included work by researchers at UK’s Center for Business and Economic Research. It showed that had hemp production been legalized at that time, Kentucky would have benefited, with farmers making profits of between $220 and $605 an acre.

The returns would have fallen somewhere between tobacco and other crops that were already grown in Kentucky, the research showed.

However, a study released in 1997 by the UK College of Agriculture did not find much of a market for Kentucky hemp.

Smith, who served on an industrial hemp study commission convened by then Gov. Brereton Jones in the 1990s, remains skeptical of the potential profits from hemp.

Givens said he is also interested in hearing from law enforcement officials, who have expressed misgivings in the past.

Christian County Sheriff Livy Leavell Jr. said additional revenue for sheriff’s departments “would be a plus” and that he hoped members of the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association would take a close look at the legislation.
Source. By Mark Cornelison.

September 23, 2009 – Anyone who believes that the hemp industry is best left to the half-baked stoners of the world should spend a few hours talking textiles with Ken Barker. Five minutes intorhds20-100 the conversation it becomes clear that this guy is onto something big, and he knows exactly what he is doing.

Barker recently served as head of apparel at Adidas North America in Portland. Before that he held executive positions with Adidas and Levi Strauss in Canada. He knows how hard it is for apparel companies to meet the rising demand for clothing from earth-friendly sources. When he was with Adidas he entertained proposals to make fabric from soy, bamboo, even seaweed. None of them made as much sense as hemp, the plant that once served as the backbone of U.S. industry before it was banned in the 1930s.

Barker and another former Adidas executive, David Howitt (a brain behind the success of Oregon Chai), run an investment firm in Northwest Portland called the Meriwether Group. They have two hemp companies in their portfolio. Living Harvest, which makes hemp milk, is one of the fastest growing companies in Oregon. Naturally Advanced Technologies, the company Barker has run since 2006, recently raised more than $900,000 and plans to get its product to market within six months.

You know you’re talking to an entrepreneur when you ask how close they got to running out of money and you get a grin and a nod. “We took it down to under $200,000 just 30 days ago,” says Barker. “But once we were able to announce that we had some global players signed on as partners, we went out and raised a quick million dollars. That’s enough to take it to commercial production.”

NAT’s partnerships with the decidedly non-hippy powerhouses Hanes and Georgia Pacific offer hints about the company’s plans. The goal is the no-nonsense, low-cost, mass production of industrial hemp, initially for the apparel and pulp industries and eventually for natural plastics and biofuels. The company has trademarked a fiber technology called Crailar that Barker hopes to build into the next big apparel ingredient in the tradition of Lycra and Gore-Tex, but plant-based and organic.

The idea isn’t to replace the mountains of petroleum-based polyester used by Nike and Adidas, or the fields of pesticide-covered cotton gobbled up by Hanes and Levi Strauss, but rather to introduce Crailar into the existing system of textile manufacturing, as an option for manufacturers interested in going green. Thus the partnership with Hanes and textile researchers at North Carolina State.

The same general principle applies to the pulp industry, which is in deep trouble these days and could use some fresh ideas. Think paper towels and napkins without the stumps. The fact that Georgia Pacific has signed on suggests that the potential is there.

Barker calls hemp a “super-crop.” There is no disputing that hemp is a proven performer that grows like a weed without pesticides. It is also illegal, at the federal level, although Oregon recently became the seventh state to vote to legalize it at the statewide level. Barker argues that harvesting hemp locally would make sense, but in the meantime he says it is easy to import from Canada.

The potential for hemp has been there for decades — make that centuries. What has been missing in modern times (in addition to intelligent federal policy) is a team with the experience and expertise to take hemp production to the next competitive level. Barker and his partners could end up doing just that. If his plans come to fruition, they could breathe new life into the nation’s suffering pulp and textiles industries and offer a new option in the search for viable biofuels. All of which would build nicely on Oregon’s strengths in the apparel industry and in the business of going green. By Ben Jacklet. Source.

September 22, 2009 – There is no question that hemp’s illegality is a crime against humanity. The damage caused by this inane policy is unimaginable. When hemp finally becomes legal and is photo_verybig_102372utilized the way it should be, people will cry about what has been lost and curse the world governments for what they have done.

Nobody should be arrested for possessing cannabis, yet so many people are every hour. The fear that runs through someone’s heart when they are in that kind of situation should not be tolerated by anybody, yet some people believe that it is good to punish people for this. Do you believe you should be arrested, thrown in to a police car, and drained of thousands of dollars for drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette, both of which are literally infinitely more dangerous than cannabis? If not, then why should one think that lives should be ruined for this?

It is an ironic fact that cannabis is illegal because it is said to be “dangerous”, but taken in the proper quantities, it is the complete opposite. Studies show that people who smoke moderate amounts of cannabis live longer (two years longer!) and are protected from neurological and cardiovascular diseases, to some extent. Therefore, the government making cannabis illegal is taking away YOUR right to life!

One clue to the effectiveness of cannabis is the simple fact that people derive great relief from just smoking it. Isn’t it amazing that smoking something is more effective to people than actual prescription medications? And the kicker is that cannabis reaches only a small fraction of its potential when smoked; the true power lies in extracts.

The best way to use cannabis medicinally is to extract the resins and concentrate them, forming a substance known as hemp oil. An ideal and easy extraction process was developed by a man named Rick Simpson, who also used his product on hundreds of people with amazing success, even curing many cases of terminal cancer.

As if curing cancer was not good enough, the industrial applications of hemp are incredible. Hemp can be used as an alternative fuel, a perfectly balanced staple food, and a replacement for virtually all petroleum and tree products. However, because industrial hemp is illegal in the United States, none of us can enjoy these benefits.

Because we are limited by our own perspectives, nobody will ever know just how much suffering was caused by cannabis being illegal. The damage to recreational smokers is terrible but is nothing compared to those who have suffered from diseases that could have been cured or prevented through hemp oil.

Want to know what you can do to help? The best thing is to educate yourself and others about the truth of cannabis, and write to your local lawmakers about the full truth. If all the lawmakers are informed about cannabis’ true properties, they will have no choice but to take notice! By Suzaku Kururugi. Source.

Please also see:
Cannabis Cancer Treatment Successes Being Ignored. Why?
Cannabis May Help Fight Prostate Cancer says British Journal of Cancer
If Pot Prevented Cancer You Would Have Read About it, Right?
Melissa Etheridge: Medical marijuana should be legal

September 19, 2009 – As a cheap renewable green energy, the popularity of premium wood pellets is growing all over the world. Very little ash is produced from burning the pellets. Premium wood pellets also hemp-poster-750have very low moisture content. The combination of a low ash and moisture content means premium wood pellets produce more heat and less maintenance. The heat and efficiency gained from pellet stoves and boilers can be as high as 99% efficient. And the with an ash content as low as 0.5%, the ash bin only has to be emptied every couple of days at the most. Some pellet stoves and boilers can operate for week’s even months without the need to empty the ashbin. Premium wood pellets are made from both softwood and hardwood waste and by-products from the wood industry. Most if not all bark is removed from the wood to achieve the very low ash content when burnt. Premium wood pellets are no doubt the best possible fuel pellets, however there is a potential future problem.

We need to move away from fossil fuels as with our rate of consumption, current rates of supply are not sustainable. Unlike fossil fuels we can grow softwoods and hardwoods, and so we can replenish resources. However the rate of growth for hardwoods and softwood trees used for pellet production is not sufficient to sustain current demand, and definitely not enough to sustain future demand. Premium wood pellets are made from waste from the wood industry, and there is only so much waste. So once all wood waste resources are allocated, are we going to cut down hardwood and softwood trees for premium pellet production? Hopefully not, as this is a very poor use of valuable resources.

To address this issue, different forms of biomass must be looked at for fuel pellets. This could be in the form of wood pellets made from willow and other fast growing wood species. It could include fuel pellets made from agricultural food crop waste, for example corncobs, wheat and barley straw. This way from growing food crops, you could obtain both food and fuel and the two are never in competition with each other. More foods crops would mean more food and fuel, without the competition for land for food or fuel.

Hemp is an amazing crop; it can used to produce food, clothes, plastics, oils and other resources. Again the waste from Hemp processing could be used for fuel pellets. Hemp pellets do have a huge potential, as unlike straw and grass pellets, Hemp pellets are low corrosion and low ash. Normally crops which are low ash, low corrosion take a long time to grow (softwoods/hardwoods) however Hemp is grown from seed to harvest within a 3 month period, with massive yields. Many people regard and Hemp and cannabis as one and the same, but they are different plants. Quotes have been made that you could smoke a field of hemp, and not feel any effects. Source.

September 10, 2009 – The modern day car owes much of its history to Henry Ford, who dreamed of “producing an automobile that was reasonably priced, Picture 10reliable, and efficient…” Many of Ford’s dreams have not come to fruition since Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903. It is debatable how affordable and reliable today’s autos are, and the average car’s fuel efficiency leaves much to be desired. Today’s auto industry is not what Ford envisioned, especially considering he predicted cars would be constructed of hemp and run on biofuels.

In fact, in 1941 Ford constructed a vehicle made from biodegradable cellulose fibers derived from hemp, sisal, and wheat straw. The car was even fueled by hemp ethanol. In 1925, Ford told the New York Times:

The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.

Photo by dok1Ford predicted cars would be made from hemp and powered by ethanol.

Ford predicted cars would be made from hemp and powered by ethanol.

Why has it taken us so long to return to Ford’s dreams? There are many factors involved, especially politics, as Bill Kovarik, Ph.D. writes in “Henry Ford, Charles Kettering and the ‘Fuel of the Future’“:

In this case, fuel technology developed in a direction that was a matter of policy choice and not predetermined by any clear advantage of one technology over another. For different reasons, Henry Ford and Charles Kettering both saw the fuel of the future as a blend of ethyl alcohol and gasoline leading to pure alcohol from cellulose. A dedicated agrarian, Ford thought new markets for fuel feedstocks would help create a rural renaissance. On the other hand, Kettering, as a scientist, was worried about the long term problem of the automotive industry’s need for oil, a resource with rapidly declining domestic reserves. Clearly, the shortage of domestic oil that was feared in the 1920s has occurred in the late 20th century, although it has hardly been noticed because of the abundance of foreign oil. Whether the oil substitute envisioned by the scientists and agrarians of the first half of the century would be appropriate in the latter half remains an open question.

Although the merits of ethanol are debatable, its share of the fuel market has grown from one to seven percent in recent years. In addition, Ford’s biomaterials team have invented seats made from hemp and soy. Almost 75 years later, Ford Motor Company may actually be moving in the direction its founding father predicted. by Jennifer Lance. Source.

September 7, 2009 – Henry Ford believed in using Hemp products to make cars. He was green 50 years before GREEN was cool.Picture 6

Henry Ford predicted back in 1925 that the future fuels used to power automobiles, trucks, planes, and power boat engines would come from sustainable and more eco-friendly resources than fossil fuels. He even aggressively supported the use of hemp products to create bio-degradable auto parts.

With so many changes happening in the auto industry, companies like Fisker and Tesla working on electric models, motorsports competitors participating in Formula 3 Racing looking closely at bio-fuels, big name exotics company leaders like Ferrari — who participate in Formula 1 and are planning to release hybrid exotics on the market soon as alternative power source vehicles, sportscar companies like BMW releasing Hydrogen cars, and luxury car companies like Lexus promoting hybrid model daily drivers are finally beginning to provide consumers that are making life more green while keeping owners on the go.

Fuel of the Future
When Henry Ford told a New York Times reporter that ethyl alcohol was “the fuel of the future” in 1925, he was expressing an opinion that was widely shared in the automotive industry. “The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything,” he said. “There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.”

Ford recognized the utility of the hemp plant. He constructed a car of resin stiffened hemp fiber, and even ran the car on ethanol made from hemp. Ford knew that hemp could produce vast economic resources if widely cultivated.

Ford’s optimistic appraisal of cellulose and crop based ethyl alcohol fuel can be read in several ways.

First, it can be seen as an oblique jab at a competitor. General Motors had come to considerable grief that summer of 1925 over another octane boosting fuel called tetra-ethyl lead, and government officials had been quietly in touch with Ford engineers about alternatives to leaded gasoline additives.

Secondly, by 1925 the American farms that Ford loved were facing an economic crisis that would later intensify with the depression. Although the causes of the crisis were complex, one possible solution was seen in creating new markets for farm products. With Ford’s financial and political backing, the idea of opening up industrial markets for farmers would be translated into a broad movement for scientific research in agriculture that would be labelled “Farm Chemurgy.”

Why Henry’s plans were delayed for more than a half century
Ethanol has been known as a fuel for many decades. Indeed, when Henry Ford designed the Model T, it was his expectation that ethanol, made from renewable biological materials, would be a major automobile fuel. However, gasoline emerged as the dominant transportation fuel in the early twentieth century because of the ease of operation of gasoline engines with the materials then available for engine construction, a growing supply of cheaper petroleum from oil field discoveries, and intense lobbying by petroleum companies for the federal government to maintain steep alcohol taxes.

Many bills proposing a National energy program that made use of Americas vast agricultural resources (for fuel production) were killed by smear campaigns launched by vested petroleum interests. One noteworthy claim put forth by petrol companies was that the U.S. government’s plans “robbed taxpayers to make farmers rich”.

Gasoline had many disadvantages as an automotive resource. The “new” fuel had a lower octane rating than ethanol, was much more toxic (particularly when blended with tetra-ethyl lead and other compounds to enhance octane), generally more dangerous, and contained threatening air pollutants.

Petroleum was more likely to explode and burn accidentally, gum would form on storage surfaces and carbon deposits would form in combustion chambers of engines. Pipelines were needed for distribution from “area found” to “area needed”. Petroleum was much more physically and chemically diverse than ethanol, necessitating complex refining procedures to ensure the manufacture of a consistent “gasoline” product.

However, despite these environmental flaws, fuels made from petroleum have dominated automobile transportation for the past three-quarters of a century. There are two key reasons: First, cost per kilometer of travel has been virtually the sole selection criteria. Second, the large investments made by the oil and auto industries in physical capital, human skills and technology make the entry of a new cost-competitive industry difficult.

Until very recently, environmental concerns have been largely ignored. All of that is finally changing as consumers demand fuels such as ethanol, which are much better for the environment and human health. By Kae Davis. Source.

More Information on Hemp:

Why Can’t We Grow Hemp in America?
Hemp Facts
The Case for Hemp in America
The Versatility of the Incredible Hemp Plant and How It Can Help Create a More Sustainable Future

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?feat_2

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 Picture 6come 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.Picture 8

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.”Picture 9

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 Picture 10manufacturers 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.

1) Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History of the World photostates that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.

2) Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic. The federal government subsidized hemp during the Second World War and US farmers grew about a million acres of hemp as part of that program.

3) Hemp Seed is far more nutritious than even soybean, contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is 35% dietary fiber. Hemp seed is not psychoactive and cannot be used as a drug. See TestPledge.com

4) The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers which are among the Earth’s longest natural soft fibers and are also rich in cellulose; the cellulose and hemi-cellulose in its inner woody core are called hurds. Hemp stalk is not psychoactive. Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber.

5) According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of biofuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

6) Hemp grows well without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. Almost half of the agricultural chemicals used on US crops are applied to cotton.

7) Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp’s low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and it’s creamy color lends itself to environmentally friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical byproducts.

8) Hemp fiber paper resists decomposition, and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found. It can also be recycled more times.

9) Hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard.

10) Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name just a very few examples.

TODAY’S HEMP INDUSTRY

AUSTRALIA – Tasmania research trials began in 1995. Victoria commercial production since1998. New South Wales has research. In 2002 Queensland began production.

AUSTRIA has a hemp industry including production of hempseed oil, medicinals and Hanf magazine.

CANADA started to license research crops in 1994 on an experimental basis. In addition to crops for fibre, one seed crop was experimentally licensed in 1995. Many acres were planted in 1997. Licenses for commercial agriculture saw thousands of acres planted in 1998. 30,000 acres planted in 1999. In 2000, due to speculative investing,12,250 acres were sown. In 2001 ninety-two farmers grew 3,250 acres. A number of Canadian farmers are now growing organically certified hemp crops.

CHILE has grown hemp in the recent past for seed oil production.

CHINA is the largest exporter of hemp paper and textiles. The fabrics are of excellent quality. (ma)

DENMARK planted its first modern hemp trials in 1997. Committed to utilizing organic methods.

FINLAND had a resurgence of hemp in 1995 with several small test plots. A seed variety for northern climates was developed: Finola, previously know by the breeder code ‘FIN-314′. In 2003, Finola was accepted to the EU list of subsidized hemp cultivars. (hamppu)

FRANCE harvested 10,000 tons in 1994. France is the main source of low-thc producing hempseed. (chanvre)

GERMANY only banned hemp in 1982, but research began in 1992 and many technologies and products are being developed. Clothes and paper are being made from imported raw materials. Germany lifted the ban on growing hemp November, 1995. Mercedes and BMW use hemp fiber for composites. (hanf)

GREAT BRITAIN lifted hemp prohibition in 1993. Animal bedding, paper and textiles have been developed. A government grant was given to develop new markets for natural fibers. 4,000 acres were grown in 1994. Subsidies of $230 Eng. pounds per acre are given by the govt. for growing.

HUNGARY is rebuilding their hemp industry, and is one of the biggest exporters of hemp cordage, rugs and hemp fabric to the U.S. They also export hemp seed and hemp paper. Fiberboard is also made. (kender)

INDIA has large stands of naturalized Cannabis and uses it for cordage, textiles, and seed oil.

JAPAN has a religious tradition requiring the Emperor wear hemp garments, so there is a small plot maintained for the imperial family only. They have a thriving retail market selling a variety of hemp products. (asa)

NETHERLANDS is conducting a four year study to evaluate and test hemp for paper, and is developing processing equipment. Seed breeders are developing new strains of low-thc varieties. (hennep)

NEW ZEALAND started hemp trials in 2001. Various cultivars are being planted in the North and South.

POLAND currently grows hemp for fabric and cordage and manufactures hemp particle board. They have demonstrated the benefits of using hemp to cleanse soils contaminated by heavy metals. (konopij)

ROMANIA was the largest commercial producer of hemp in Europe in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Total acreage in 1993 was 40,000 acres. Some of it is exported to Hungary for processing. They also export to Western Europe and the United States. (cinepa)

RUSSIA maintains the largest hemp germ plasm collection in the world at the N.I. Vavilov Scientific Research Institute of Plant Industry (VIR) in Saint Petersburg. They are in need of funds. (konoplya)

SLOVENIA grows hemp and manufactures currency paper.

SPAIN grows and exports hemp pulp for paper and produces rope and textiles. (cañamo)

SWITZERLAND is a producer of hemp and hosts one of the largest hemp events: Cannatrade.

EGYPT, KOREA, PORTUGAL, THAILAND, and the UKRAINE also produce hemp.

USA – The United States granted the first hemp permit in over 40 years to Hawaii for an experimental quarter acre plot in 1999. The license has been renewed since. Importers and manufacturers have thrived using imported raw materials. Twenty-two states in the United States have introduced legislation. VT, HI, ND, MT, MN, IL, VA, NM, CA, AR, KY, MD, WV have passed legislation for support, research, or cultivation. The National Conference of State Legislators has endorsed industrial hemp for years.

Source.

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