Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Notes on Hemp

(Cannibis satvia- industrial hemp)
I'm a huge fan of hemp-- the industrial fiber Cannabis sativa, not so much the smokin' herb-- but I do think every species of the plant should be totally legal. I wish I could grow both forms, hemp and marijuana, in my own garden; I'd gladly whip up the occasional dish of baked goods with the drug variety. Smoking the stuff is epic fail for me: I cough my lungs out and then sleep the sleep of the dead for 12 hours-- so, meh. Give me a Bloody Mary any day. And bonus, alcohol is legal.

Industrial hemp makes great yarn and fabric, beautiful paper, grows ridiculously fast, and can grow everywhere. It's beyond stupid that we have outlawed such an incredibly useful plant because of misguided prudery. But that's the American way. Thanks, Puritans! You've helped in so many ways!

I ran across these tasty bits over at Huffington Post today, though I'm sure they've been oft reposted on all the pro-hemp sites. But hemp is cool, so I want to play, too.

--The first Bibles, maps, charts, Betsy Ross's flag, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were made from hemp.

--80% of all textiles, fabrics, clothes, linen, drapes, bed sheets, etc. were made from hemp until the 1820s with the introduction of the cotton gin.

--It was legal to pay taxes with Hemp in America from 1631 until the early 1800s.

--Refusing to grow Hemp in America during the 17th and 18th Centuries was against the law. You could be jailed in Virginia for refusing to grow hemp from 1763 to 1769.

--Rembrants, Gainsboroughs, Van Goghs as well as most early canvas paintings were principally painted on hemp linen.

--In 1916, the U.S. Government Dept. of Agriculture predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees need to be cut down.

--For thousands of years, 90% of all ships' sails and rope were made from hemp. The word 'canvas' is Dutch for cannabis.

--The hemp plant produces up to four times more cellulose per acre than trees. Hemp cultivation and production do not harm the environment. The USDA Bulletin #404 concluded that Hemp produces 4 times as much pulp with at least 4 to 7 times less pollution.

--Hemp fuel is non-toxic, biodegradable and does not contribute to sulfur dioxide air poisoning.

--In Feb. 1938, Popular Mechanics called Hemp a 'Billion Dollar Crop.' It was the first time a cash crop had a business potential to exceed a billion dollars.

--The following information comes directly from the United States Department of Agriculture's 1942 14-minute film encouraging and instructing 'patriotic American farmers' to grow 350,000 acres of hemp each year for the war effort: '...(When) Grecian temples were new, hemp was already old in the service of mankind. For thousands of years, even then, this plant had been grown for cordage and cloth in China and elsewhere in the East. For centuries prior to about 1850, all the ships that sailed the western seas were rigged with hempen rope and sails. For the sailor, no less than the hangman, hemp was indispensable...

...Now with Philippine and East Indian sources of hemp in the hands of the Japanese...American hemp must meet the needs of our Army and Navy as well as of our industries...

...the Navy's rapidly dwindling reserves. When that is gone, American hemp will go on duty again; hemp for mooring ships; hemp for tow lines; hemp for tackle and gear; hemp for countless naval uses both on ship and shore. Just as in the days when Old Ironsides sailed the seas victorious with her hempen shrouds and hempen sails. Hemp for victory!'


Irma said...

I honestly think the "hemp movement" was damaged by all that hemp jewelry that was all the rage about ten years ago. It seemed like you only saw it worn by people who, umm, enjoy Mother Nature in all her forms. As such, John and Jane Average had their narrow and incorrect opinions about this wonderful and misunderstood plant reinforced.

chaiselongue said...

I agree - there shouldn't be plants you're not allowed to grow. Some of my ancestors were rope makers, using hemp. It makes beautiful fabric - Lo Jardinièr has a lovely hemp shirt, it's like linen only it doesn't crease! Another hemp fact for your list: La Canabière, one of the main streets in Marseille, is called that because it was where the hemp was sold.

ilex said...

I completely agree, Irma, the industrial hemp movement was definitely hurt by the hippie-dippies. My tolerance for crunchies is so painfully low.

Oooh! International hemp factoids! Lay 'em on me.

Condo Blues said...

I watched something on the History Channel, I can't remember the show, and they said that the paper industry shut down the industrial hemp growers because they were afraid hemp would replace paper. I'd think that by now they'd realize that we could have both.

d. moll, said...

Forget all this government subsidized corn (it's probably GMO anyway) let them grow Hemp.

ilex said...

Gosh, I wonder if the can GM hemp and ruin that crop, too. Yeah, probably.

Fancy Pants Elitist said...

It's such a shame this is illegal. Thank you Dupont, Hearst, etc for the legacy which has repercussions in so many directions it's essentially criminal. The Drug War, Environmental Degradation, soil health, oil dependency can all be blamed on the war against hemp. It's stupid. It needs to stop. Maybe we can push Obama to rationality on this.

Fancy Pants Elitist said...

You know what is ridiculous? NO one has ever died from marijuana. Sure they've died from the fact that it's illegal, but no one has ever O'D'd on hemp. I think a cow did once, but it ate a whole bale of it.

Fancy Pants Elitist said...

I've woven with Hemp, it's wonderful.

Just think how many jobs growing hemp legally in this country would create. The mind boggles.

Simone said...

Whoa! Look at all that crunchy green goodness! Can I smoke some of that? Hrmph... I mean EAT some of that?