Hemp: An Industrially Versatile Plant – Part 1/3

Credit: Jayselthofner.com

Written by Wes Annac, The Culture of Awareness

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says the word ‘hemp’? For the uninformed, marijuana might immediately pop up, which could cause them to automatically shun the plant.

Almost any article you’ll find about hemp distinguishes it from marijuana, which is closely related to it but doesn’t actually have much to do with it. Unfortunately, the United States closely links hemp with marijuana by putting them in the same ‘Schedule 1’ drug category.

Even though industrial hemp doesn’t contain anywhere near enough THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) to produce any kind of ‘high’, the US government has utterly failed to distinguish it from its psychoactive counterpart.

Despite hemp’s numerous benefits, the Federal government’s comfortable pretending it’s the same as marijuana when, in fact, the two are very different. You can’t get high off of hemp, but it’s legally considered a dangerous drug.

Most people don’t realize that the only people who’d really be hurt by hemp’s legalization are the interests who want to maintain the grip that the cotton and timber industries (among many others) have on our society. Due its many uses, hemp’s a great alternative to things like cotton and the aforementioned industries would lose sales if it were legalized.

Here, we’ll explore some of hemp’s benefits as we plow our way through the misconceptions that have been mistakenly accepted as reality.

The intention of this article is to help break some of the socially accepted stereotypes surrounding hemp while raising awareness of its uses, and if enough awareness is raised about it, it could eventually be legalized for industrial use and finally show us what it can do.

A lot of other countries already cultivate it for its industrial riches, but the US has yet to catch up.

This world could change significantly if hemp’s many uses were understood and accepted, and in time, the widespread ignorance that surrounds this plant will be replaced with an understanding of the many benefits it can offer our society. We could definitely use something to help us out of our ongoing economic slump.

HempBenefits.org explains why hemp is such a valued plant.

“Hemp is one of the oldest agricultural crops, cultivated as early as 4000 B.C. in China. It has been mentioned in different contexts in several ancient texts:

“It was grown all over the world and valued for its medicinal benefits.

“Once its many properties were discovered, it was treated as a precious substance and even given importance in religious ceremonies.

“Hemp is one of the oldest known sources for cloth

“Composites of hemp and limestone have been discovered in ancient Roman structures.” (1)

We’re also told about how the East India Company grew industrial hemp and used it on their ships (and, I’d imagine, on plenty of other things).

“The naval prominence in the Netherlands around the 17th century brought about the Golden Age. The Dutch East India Company has established their shipping trade globally, with the financial support of the Dutch merchant empire. This naval industry relied on hemp to a very large extent.

“It was the second most important component in ship-building, after wood. It was used as rope, canvas and to waterproof the hull through caulking. Around 21 kilometers / 13 miles of rope and several hundred square meters / yards of canvas were needed for each sailing vessel. This in turn increased the cultivation of the cannabis plant.” (2)

The end of this quote mentions the cannabis plant, and I think it’s important to remember that there is a difference between the two plants (hemp and marijuana). I’m sure they’ve been grown together in times when the latter wasn’t outlawed, but it’s very possible to grow hemp without growing marijuana or producing any THC whatsoever.

Hemp Benefits also explains hemp’s role in building up the American colonies, which would eventually become the United States.

“The British colonized the region of modern-day America and set up large agricultural fields to produce the raw material, mainly in Kentucky and Missouri.

“The processed fibers were exported to England and the other colonists. Employment opportunities increased in America as the spinning and weaving industry grew, eventually leading to the War of Independence against England’s dominance.” (3)

The US thrived cultivating hemp until interests across seas who sold it for cheaper prices started to dominate the market (the US became one of their buyers). They were forced to start growing it again during World War 2, lest they wanted to miss out on its industrial benefits.

“The growth of hemp in the U.S. dwindled with the availability of cheaper imported fibers from Manila and the East India Company.

“During [World] War II, however, the Japanese took possession of the Philippines and the East India Company, and since jute supply from India was also restricted, the Americans had to produce hemp once again, for industrial purposes as well as to sustain the vast demand from the army and navy, as follows:

“Rope made from hemp was used in rigging, towing and mooring the ships

“Paratroopers needed webbing for their parachutes

“The fiber was used to make shoes for the soldiers

“It served as a fire-hose of average quality

“Thus, hemp has played a vital role in global history.” (4)

Most hemp advocates have seen the video the US government made in the 1940s entitled ‘Hemp For Victory’, and this video displays that at one time, the US government clearly knew the difference between hemp and marijuana and were willing to use hemp to help this country.

Their stance on hemp has definitely changed since the 40s, and again, this is probably because of the vested interests in other commodities who don’t want to lose out on the money hemp would save.

Hemp could easily overtake cotton, lumber and plenty of other things that are grown industrially, and if it were legalized, the corporations who make big money off of these depleting resources wouldn’t profit as greatly as they’re used to.

It seems like a small price to pay for the revolutionary things hemp offers our society, but greed always seems to trump the will do to what’s right.

Footnotes:

  1. HempBenefits.org: ‘Hemp History’ at – http://hempbenefits.org/hemp-history/
  2. Loc. cit.
  3. Loc. cit.
  4. Loc. cit.

Continued in Part 2 tomorrow. Head here to read the full article.

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