We were originally going to publish a review of some hemp clothing as a sort of inside joke, but it didn’t seem right to make light of what is actually a very serious issue. Regardless of your stance on cannabis, taxpayers are certainly not winning the “War on drugs”, nor are we getting much of a return on the money spent waging that battle. But rather than stand on my soap box and complain about that mess, I’m going to discuss the drug-free strain of the cannabis family, hemp.
Hemp comes from the same family of plants as America’s 2nd favorite recreational drug, (alcohol being the first) but contains little or no THC, so smoking it produces no “high”. This didn’t stop our government from creating a special tax for it in 1937, and finally outlawing cultivation completely in 1970. Yes, the same government that produced the 1942 movie Hemp for Victory, which urged farmers to grow as much hemp as possible, banned it completely. But why did we grow it in the US in the first place? What does hemp have over that other staple crop, cotton? Hemp has a rich history stretching back to at least 10,000 years ago, compared to cotton, which has been cultivated for only about 7,000 years. Despite its long history, hemp does not carry the negative connotation of slavery that cotton did in the US and elsewhere, even though they were both grown on plantations here and abroad. In India, the poorest farmers are still living in poverty, slaves to producers of genetically modified cotton seeds that carry the promise of bigger harvests, but leave many families deep in debt. Both crops produce a yield of around 650kg per hectare, but cotton requires more resources, more fertilizers and more pesticides than hemp. Hemp enriches the soil it grows in, while cotton depletes it. Hemp is even edible, while cotton is not.
We know that cotton is used mainly for clothing and textiles. What are some of the primary uses of hemp? Prior to the widespread development of refined petroleum, hemp oil was used in lamps. Things have come back around, and it’s once again being developed as an alternate fuel source – filtered hemp oil can run a diesel engine. Since it’s a biofuel, it’s renewable and produces less greenhouse gas too. Take that you dead dinosaurs! Speaking of cars, hemp composites have been used in motor vehicle construction since 2002. While every VW van from the 1960’s probably contains traces of hemp, current C-Class Mercedes Benz vehicles have up to 20kg of hemp in their body panels. (Perhaps John DeLorean could have saved his motor company by taking a different path)
Want more? Vegetarians take note: there is only one plant on the entire planet that contains all the essential amino and fatty acids the human body requires – hemp. Looking for those essential fats your body needs for optimum health, but you’re afraid of getting too much mercury from fish? You’ll find what you need in hemp. And those oils aren’t just good for your insides. More and more skin care companies are embracing that natural goodness of hemp oils over petroleum based products. Mineral oil is the primary ingredient in an abundance of skin care items, including baby oil. Would you rather put gasoline’s cousin on your skin, or something natural? Think about it.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, once said “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” And he was more right than he could ever know. But like all things, politics and special interests have gotten in the way of what is right and just. Hemp represents a major threat to the petroleum and cotton industries, both of which have a major stake in keeping it illegal. In defiance of Federal law, several states allow the cultivation and sale of medicinal marijuana, yet hemp is still verboten. Ours is the only industrialized nation that outlaws the farming of this incredible renewable resource that offers so much for so little effort. Follow us over the next few days as we demonstrate some of the uses of hemp for food, clothing, and skin care. And have a happy 20th.