June 16th, 2009 – Industrial hemp varieties of Cannabis, also referred to as industrial hemp, fiber, or non-drug hemp, should not be confused with marijuana. Industrial hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct varieties of Cannabis, much like a St. Bernard and a Chihuahua are very different breeds of dogs. Despite easily discernable and widely accepted differences between the two distinct plant varieties, serious misconceptions continue to persist.
Marijuana THC (the psychoactive ingredient) levels run between 2% and 20% while hemp only has .03%, as a general rule levels of 1% or more must be reached to be considered marijuana.
The only thing you can get from smoking Industrial hemp is a head ache, I have heard one claim you will get diarrhea too.
Another misconception about Industrial hemp is that it is illegal to grow in the United States. Not true, under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can issue licenses to grow the crop but has been unwilling to do so even for small plots for research purposes. The DEA issued a permit for an experimental plot in Hawaii in the 1990s (now
expired) and finally approved an eight-year-old application from North Dakota State University to conduct research on industrial hemp in November of 2008.
DEA officials express the concern that commercial cultivation would increase the likelihood of covert production of high-THC marijuana, significantly complicate the DEA’s surveillance and enforcement activities, and send the wrong message to the American public concerning the government’s position on drugs.
The DEA omits the fact that hemp is grown quite differently from marijuana. Moreover, cross-pollination between hemp plants and marijuana plants would significantly reduce the potency of the marijuana plant.
In order to understand the misconceptions surrounding Industrial Hemp in America it helps to know some of its history here in the US.
In 1619 Jamestown Colony Virginia, enacted legislation, ordering all farmers to grow hemp. Mandatory hemp cultivation laws were passed in Massachusetts in 1631 and in Connecticut in 1632. From 1631 to 1800 Americans could pay their taxes with hemp.
On June 19, 1812 The United States went to war with Great Britain after being cut off from 80% of its Russian hemp supply.
In 1937 The Marijuana Tax act went into law, Industrial Hemp was to be excluded from this law but due to lobbying efforts by chemical companies, petroleum companies, and the logging industry, that exclusion never took place.
In 1941 Popular Mechanics introduced Henry Ford’s plastic car, manufactured from and fueled by hemp. Hoping to free his company from the grasp of the petroleum industry, Ford illegally grew hemp for years after the federal ban.
In 1942 The Japanese invasion of the Philippines cut off the U.S. supply of Manila hemp. The U.S. government immediately distributed 400,000 pounds of hemp seeds to farmers from Wisconsin to Kentucky. The government required farmers to attend showings of the USDA educational film, Hemp for Victory.
By 1957 prohibitionists reasserted a total ban on hemp production in the United States. That federal ban remains in effect today.
Although American companies still manufacture products with hemp they must import hemp from other countries. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that prohibits hemp production and we are the largest importer of hemp and hemp products in the world.
The leading exporters of raw and processed hemp fiber to the United States are China, Romania, Hungary, Italy, Canada, and India. The leading exporters of hemp oil and seed are the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, and China.
Here in Michigan American car companies import parts made of hemp from Canada to build cars. Ford, GM, Chrysler, Saturn, BMW, Honda, and Mercedes are currently using hemp composite door panels, trunks, head liners, etc. Hemp composites are less expensive than its fiberglass and carbon counterparts.
Virtually all European car makers are switching to hemp based door panels, columns, seat backs, boot linings, floor consoles, instrument panels, and other external components because the organic hemp based products are lighter, safer in accidents, recyclable, and more durable.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Statistics Canada data show that the quantity of hemp seed exports increased 300% from 2006 to 2007. Hemp oil exports kept pace, with an 85% increase in quantity. Hemp fiber exports showed encouraging progress, with a 65% increase in quantity. According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance farmers were expected to grow 10,000 to 15,000 acres in 2008.
An update should be available soon.
Hemp is an annual plant that grows from seed, hemp can be grown on a range of soils, but tends to grow best on land that produces high yields of corn. The plant grows without the need of fungicides, herbicides or insecticides. Although it needs some nitrogen fertilizer, its deep roots can improve the soil’s structure.
The plant is harvested for its fibers, seed, seed meal, and seed oil.
Hemp seed is high in omega 3 and omega 6 Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) EFA’s are components of fat that humans need to be healthy, however, our bodies can’t produce them and therefore they must be obtained through the diet.
The long slender primary fibers on the outer portion of the stalk are considered bast fibers. Hemp fiber possesses properties similar to other bast fiber plants such as flax, kenaf, jute and ramie, and excels in fiber length, strength, durability, absorbency, antimildew and antimicrobial properties. Clothing made of hemp fiber is lightweight, absorbent and, has three times the tensile strength of cotton, strong and long-lasting.
The core fiber is derived from the sturdy, wood-like hollow stalk of the hemp plant. Sometimes referred to as “hurds”, it is up to twice as absorbent as wood shavings, making it an excellent animal bedding and garden mulch.
It can be easily blended with lime to create a concrete or plaster, bricks made from hemp are stronger than concrete and are one sixth of the weight
Hemps high cellulose content means it can be applied to the manufacturing of bio degradable plastics. Hemp paper is acid-free and takes less energy and fewer toxic chemicals to produce than wood fiber paper.
Rather then asking what can be made with hemp it might be best to ask what can’t be made with it; a low estimate is twenty five thousand different products and with emerging technologies some estimates now run as high as fifty thousand.
To date 15 States have passed pro Industrial Hemp legislation including, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Two North Dakota Farmers backed by a state law permitting industrial hemp production and a friendly state Department of Agriculture, Wayne Hauge and David Monson, the latter also a Republican state legislator, applied for licenses from the DEA to grow hemp. When the DEA failed to act on their applications, they sued in federal court.
At this time they are waiting on a decision from the 8th District Federal Court of Appeals. If successful, the decision would allow States rights to regulate the crop.
On the Federal level, HR 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 was introduced on April 5th 2009 and if enacted, the bill would permit industrial hemp production based on state law, without preemption by the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act.
Why Is This Idea Important?
As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1933 “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Fear always springs from ignorance.” That is why most elected officials and politicians are unaware of Industrial Hemp. Fear of the word cannabis and lack of knowledge on what Industrial Hemp is and is not. I believe once they are educated on this issue they will over come the fear. I know everyone one is looking for a quick fix to the economic challenge we face but there is no magic bullet that is going to do it, to recover we are going to have to think long term as well as short term. Industrial Hemp is by no means a quick fix or the one single answer to the economy but it is something we need to do for our future. Fifteen States have passed pro Industrial Hemp laws so far, We need to stand up tell the Federal Government that we ready to think outside the box and do what needs to be done.