Hemp’s Many Advantages

Hemp is the non-recreational-use relative in the herb family more commonly known as Marijuana, or Cannabis Sativa. Despite being legalized for recreational use by adults in both Washington and Colorado, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies this herb as if it was a much more dangerous “schedule one” substance like heroin or methamphetamine.

Medicinal uses of the herb such as pain relief without the use of narcotics, glaucoma relief and the reduction of nausea associated with chemotherapy are well-documented among many other medicinal benefits.

Spending in the billions from taxpayer funds and around 10,000 murders annually in Mexico may be attributed to the longstanding U.S. “war on drugs.” It is tempting to believe that the many innocent Mexicans currently being gunned down as “collateral damage” from this “war” have nothing to do with U.S. policies. However, the massive market in the U.S. for recreational drugs coupled with prohibition and heavy enforcement spending have created this modern problem. It reminds one of the early Twentieth Century U.S. gangsters whose lucrative profits from supplying alcohol to the “dry” nation multiplied and exploded their numbers as well as their ruthlessness.

Twenty-five percent of all humans imprisoned globally are incarcerated by the U.S. A nation which represents 5 percent of the global population yet locks up 25 percent of all prisoners exhibits a need for policy reforms.  Many citizens in U.S. prisons now are there for possessing small amounts of personal-use marijuana.

With its 60 to 90 day maturation cycle, the plant can be harvested four or five times per year and it grows wild in many parts of the world. The first U.S. President George Washington was a hemp farmer.

Hemp was identified in clothing worn in China 10,000 years ago and was used extensively in Europe for about a thousand years until the 1800s to produce rope, sails and clothing. The seeds produce oil which has many uses from powering diesel motors to human consumption and cosmetics. The fuel created from hemp is carbon neutral because it removes the same amount of carbon during growing that is later released during burning. Hemp seeds contain 25 to 30 percent protein, all eight amino acids, and have an attractive nutty taste.

Among hemp products now sold in North America are granola bars, “nut spreads” (similar to peanut butter), bread, pretzels, cookies, yogurts, pancakes, porridge, pasta, burgers, pizza, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and many specialty beverages.

Hemp fibers have proven to be well-suited for the production of molded plastic composites and cost less than the man-made fibers of glass, Kevlar and carbon. Henry Ford was pictured in an advertisement swinging an axe at his then-new 1941 car to demonstrate the toughness of the vehicle’s large matching plastic trunk lid made of soybean and hemp.

The durable hemp fibers are also used to create many building materials including composite lumber, thermal insulation, stucco and cement, as well as brick-strengthening additives. Clothing, canvas, livestock bedding, woven-mat erosion controls and economical livestock feed all come from this versatile herb.

Perhaps it is time to change the marijuana prohibition policies of the U.S. With feedback, comments, progressive ideas or alternative perspectives, contact Orlando Martin at: mrm61@uw.edu