16 December 2011
The World’s Most Understood Crop: Industrial Hemp and its Economic Benefits When most people hear the word hemp the first thing that comes to mind is marijuana. While hemp and marijuana are of the same plant species, Cannabis Sativa, they are different plants with their own chemical makeup. Hemp has been known as one of the world’s greatest agricultural crops of all time with a wide variety of uses. Unfortunately the United States still sees hemp as drug and the manufacturing of hemp is still illegal today. The United States is outlawing one of the most economically beneficial and functional crops of all times because of its cousin marijuana. Hemp was the world’s greatest agricultural crop for more than 1000 years before Christ until 1883 AD (Herer). The manufacturing and cultivation of hemp has been used for thousands of products and many different industries including producing a majority of the world’s fabric, fiber, oil, paper, and even food. The earliest known fabric was made of hemp around 8000 BC (Herer). Ninety percent of all ships' sails from at least the fifth century BC until long after the invention of the steam engines in the mid- to late-19th century were made from hemp (Herer). Many of the ships’ logs, maps, and charts were made on hemp paper from the time of Columbus to the early 1900s (Herer). In the first century AD, the Chinese found that hemp paper lasted 50 to 100 times longer than most preparations of papyrus and that it was 100 times easier and cheaper to make (Herer). Eighty percent of all humankind's textiles and fabrics for clothes, tents, linens, rugs, drapes, quilts, bed sheets, towels and diapers were made principally from cannabis fibers in much of the world until the 20th century (Herer). Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp and Americans were even legally bound to grow during the Colonial Era and Early Republic (Hemp Facts). With all these uses for hemp, from almost the beginning of the known world, why would hemp be illegal today? Marijuana and industrial hemp come from the same species of plant, Cannabis Sativa. The species can yield two different plants, marijuana and industrial hemp. Comparing marijuana and industrial hemp is like comparing field corn and sweet corn. While they are both from the same species, the chemical makeup and final product is very different. Cannabis produces two major cannabinoids-THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) (West, Hemp and Marijuana). THC is the one responsible for the psychoactive effect that you get from smoking marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, has been found to block the effect of THC in the nervous system (West, Hemp and Marijuana). Marijuana usually contains 3 to 15 percent THC, while industrial hemp being grown normally contains less than 1 percent THC (Industrial Hemp in the United States). Many people believe that if industrial hemp was allowed to be grown that many people would still try and smoke it, but if one was to smoke industrial hemp, which is high in CBD and low in THC, it would actually counter act the THC and block the effect of a marijuana high. This shows that not only is hemp not marijuana but could possibly even be called “anti-marijuana.” Even with this scientific information and the United States continues to outlaw the manufacturing of hemp. Other countries have recognized the difference between marijuana and industrial hemp. Current hemp varieties being grown in Canada and Europe are certified to have THC levels below 0.3 percent (West, Hemp and Marijuana). The certification system was originally developed in Europe to allow for the commercialization of industrial hemp and takes into consideration the ratio of CBD to THC as well as the absolute percent THC (West, Hemp and Marijuana). The original THC threshold was 0.8 percent. When varieties with lower levels of THC were developed by French breeders, the breeders were able to persuade the European...
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