On August 2, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, thus criminalising the cannabis plant. Although cannabis’s reputation as a recreational drug was to blame, the cultivation of the non-intoxicating hemp was also outlawed.
Both criminalised and stigmatised, the entire cannabis species was legally deemed a recreational substance for over 80 years.
In December 2018 the U.S government passed the hemp farm bill, which removed the plant from the scheduled 1 controlled substances list. But why the U-turn?
Facts About Hemp
One of the most common misconceptions of the cannabis plant is the description of hemp. You can often see statements such as “What is the difference between hemp and cannabis”: however, there is only one criterion that deems the species as hemp – its levels of THC*.
Exactly why cannabis was ever outlawed is puzzling, to say the least. The evidence of the plants’ presence throughout history as alternative medicine, industrial fiber, and food source is ubiquitous. Conspiracy theorists suggest that its universal offerings and ability to crumble blue-chip industries are the exact reason.
Let’s take a look at hemp’s impact on our existence:
*Below 0.3% in the United States and less than 0.2% in the European Union.
Hemp Before Cannabis Prohibition
- The use of hemp in construction archaeologically dates back to the Neolithic age in China, which began 12,000 years ago.
- In 1535, King Henry VIII decreed that landowners allocated a percentage of land for the cultivation of hemp.
- The British Empire later went on to distribute hemp seeds to its global colonies, and later returning a proportion back to British shores.
- Shortly after, the new-found United States later adopted the mandated requests to landowners. In fact, hemp’s industrial flexibility was so notable, it was distributed freely during the American Civil war.
- The first evidence of hemp paper dates back to China, around 2,000 years ago.
- In Saint Petersburg, Russia, during the 19th century, a paper-mill used hemp as its main input component. As a result, most of the nation’s banknotes and stamps were predominantly made from hemp.
- The Ancient Egyptians used the cannabis plant as suppositories to ease the symptoms of hemorrhoids.
- Ancient Romans were averse to cannabis as a recreational substance. However, they viewed hemp as viable medicine and material for textiles.
- Magu (Ma: “cannabis” and Gu: “Aunt”) is the Goddess of longevity, in ancient China. She is still worshiped today and is dubbed, the Hemp Goddess.
- By the dawn of cannabis prohibition, hemp earned the title “the billion-dollar crop”.
Hemp During Cannabis Prohibition Years
- In 1941 Henry Ford made a bio-plastic car, and hemp was the majority component.
- Later, in 1942, the U.S government made a short film, titled “Hemp for Victory”. The “Marijuana Tax Act” was rescinded to supply the Navy with extra fiber materiel. Unfortunately, the ban was reinstated after the war.
- During the same decade, an American Chemist, Dr. Roger Adams, discovered CBD. He was also the first to successfully isolate the molecule
- After the Chernobyl disaster, hemp was planted to help cleanse the soil. It had proven to be so effective that it removed some of the cesium and radioactive strontium.
- Canada lifted restrictions in 1998 by issuing 277 licenses to grow hemp, albeit with a strict policy.
Hemp’s Industrial Diversity
- The vast majority of the cannabis plant is the inner core. This is turned into “hempcrete” and is used in housing construction.
- Cannabis is also a source of food. In the 1990s, industry pioneer, Richard Rose, switched from soy to hemp-based ingredients and launched a multi-million dollar business – Hempnut inc. His innovative foods were vegan, all-natural, and organic.
- With such impressive flexibility, hemp’s fiber is used for rope, carpet, sacking, nets, webbing, and textiles.
- In addition, hemp’s fiber is so superior, it is now competing with the lumber industry to be the number one wood fiber.
- Fuel can also be a by-product of hemp cultivation. One fuel being biodiesel, because of the oils in the seeds and stalk of the hemp, another would be biofuel from the fibrous stalks.
How Hemp Can Save the Planet
- Hemp can produce a biodegradable alternative to plastic. The toymaker giants, Lego, intend to switch to all-hemp produce by 2030. Hopefully, this trend will continue, especially as there are over six tonnes of plastic lying around the globe.
- As previously mentioned, hemp can also replace wood. Moreover, what hemp can produce per acre would take trees a total of four acres. Additionally, hemp takes around 110 days to grow and can be replanted every year.
- Because hemp is an excellent alternative to timber, it has the ability to completely eradicate deforestation.
- Not only can hemp save the rain-forests, but it can also work with trees by reducing CO2 as it absorbs 1.63 tonnes of carbon dioxide per tonne planted.
- Hemp’s biofuel can literally replace the oil industry as it produces two types of fuels: Biodiesel and ethanol. Not only is hemp a solution that is more economical; it’s also more affordable and sustainable than traditional fuel.
- The plant also has robust bioremediation properties and can reverse much of the damage that we have caused to our planet over the past century.
- Another impressive trait of hemp is its resistance to pests. In other words, the plant does not require harmful pesticides in order to flourish.
- It’s a known fact that soil sustains life. Hemp absorbs toxic metals, meaning that it can cleanse the man-made toxic soil.
- Hemp is a natural fabric. But how can that benefit the planet? Well, when we produce synthetic fabrics, the manufacturing process releases toxic emissions into the air – further polluting the environment.
- Year by year, the global hunger crisis worsens. Hemp is a nutritious food source. And if we take into consideration hemp’s short crop cycle and durability, the plant could have a considerable impact on the problem.
It’s clear to see that the decision to criminalise cannabis was bureaucratic. The diverse plant has been with us since the dawn of humanity, but as society and politics evolved, the entire cannabis species was a threat to global corporations.
The plant that has the power to replace the oil industry and lumber trade, and cripple the profits of the pharmaceutical industry, is making a comeback.
Now that you know about the facts of hemp, is it safe to say that the plant is our planet’s most useful ally?
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