Industrial Hemp Does Nearly Everything But Get You High

January 6, 2009 – When people hear hemp they immediately think hippies and bongsindusthemp and the apocalypse. Well, some people think that–mostly the uninformed. Fortunately, U.S. states are starting to abandon antiquated assumptions about hemp, and instead, are starting to realize it as a legitimate and budding industry with great potential to not just create jobs, but lessen the load on the environment by saving trees. Oregon and Vermont have both taken the plunge into legalizing the plant, and in these times when new industries are needed, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to start placing bets on the next state to see hemp as more than the thing hippies weave into necklaces.

Hemp, the non-euphoria inducing strain of the Cannabis plant, is a useful resource that despite being a growing industry in over 30 countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia is still illegal to produce in the United States–it instead must be imported at a cost that is certainly higher than the cost of growing it in America.
Hemp can make high-quality paper, rope, and clothing in addition to nutritional supplements and fuel–hemp-based biofuel is one of the few biofuels that can be used in unmodified diesel engines. The American flag Betsy Ross stitched was made of hemp canvas. The Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights were drafted on hemp paper. Hemp was considered a miracle plant by the United States’ founding fathers, a majority of whom cultivated it.

Given the current economic situation in the U.S., as well as the prevalence of industrial hemp in other nations, the benefits of legalizing hemp for cultivation are immense. A common argument against hemp is that there isn’t enough farmland to handle the amount needed for it to be effective. However, if we look at the situation in regards to corn being grown for biofuel in addition to alternative farming practices such as vertical farming, it is easy to see the claim is invalid.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “If every one of the 70 million acres on which corn was grown in 2006 was used for ethanol, the amount produced would displace only 12 percent of the U.S. gasoline market.” Since corn is a major resource in regards to food supply, it makes little sense to increase the demand on corn while diminishing the supply.

Hemp offers a means to relieve the burden while lowering food costs in the process. Roughly 6% of United States land area is needed to grow the amount of hemp that can meet the current demand for oil and gas without adding any net carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Furthermore, hemp used for biofuel requires the least specialized processing and growing compared to other biofuels.

Additionally, using hemp as an alternative to timber in regards to paper products will help preserve forests, which are easy to cut down but take hundreds of years to replace. Hemp is a plant that has a quick turnaround and can be grown nearly anywhere, producing more pulp per acre than timber. By preserving forest areas through the use of hemp, combating global warming will become easier as there are more trees to filter excess carbon dioxide.

Many health products utilize hemp seed oil as it has the highest concentration of essential fatty acids and is second to soybeans in regards to protein; it is a solid source for dietary fiber and is high in B-vitamins. Since it is not illegal to import products that contain hemp, hempseed-based products are available in the United States, but, due to the cost of importing, are more expensive than if they were domestically produced.

One of the main reasons the cultivation of hemp remains illegal is because of an illogical fear based on its relation to the Cannabis plant, which also produces the mild psychoactive drug, marijuana. When looking at the history of how marijuana and hemp became illegal it is hard to deny that the fear of bankruptcy and racism were the driving forces behind it. Hemp’s prominence and nylon’s invention, as well as concerns from the timber industry, led to a propaganda campaign, which succeeded in demonizing the plant and leading to its illegalization. In hindsight of history, it becomes apparent that the claims made against the drug during the 1930s were grossly exaggerated.

Given the possibilities of hemp it would be incredibly ignorant to continue the opposition towards industrial hemp, especially in these dire economic times. There’s an old cliché saying that if we don’t learn from history we are bound to repeat it. In the case of hemp, history is the greatest argument for changing our policy regarding hemp as well as the cultural views surrounding it.


“ Why Hemp?”

HIA: Resources: Politics & Activism: Legislation

Industrial Hemp Information and Advocacy

Corn Can’t Solve Our Problem

More Information on Hemp:

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
Why can’t we grow hemp in America?

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