In praise of hemp

Not so long ago, this headline would have bordered on the illegal. No longer, but the fight still rages on. Some say hemp is a godsend, others claim it’s Satan’s revenge because most people believe in others, not her (or him? your choice).

And still, not so long ago hemp was THE farming product and those who wouldn’t grow it would be in trouble.

And then as if by somebody’s waving of a magic wand, hemp became a substance that could land you behind bars or worse.

These are famous names but, some historians say, they should be infamous.

William Randolph Hearst Sr.’s name was synonymous with 19th century America’s newspaper ownership. His company also owned huge forests and paper (including newsprint) production.

Hemp-made paper could cost him a fortune.

The richest man in the world at the time? Why, John Davison Rockefeller Sr.

The root of his riches? Oil. Biological fuel, hemp oil, could cost him a fortune.

DuPont Company’s main shareholder Andrew William Mellon owned a patent for the production of plastics from crude oil products.

Hemp-made plastics could cost him a fortune.

U.S. President Herbert Hoover would make Mellon his Secretary of the Treasury, and Mellon would keep this post into Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Presidency.

While nobody has discovered any minutes or other records of those three men’s chats, several historians point to them as those who had introduced this major change: hemp, the media started publicising, are the basic for a toxic drug named marijuana, and it is dangerous to humans in and of itself, as well.

Hemp-based medications were removed from pharmacy shelves, to be replaced by all kinds of chemical substances.

While forests do require occasional cleansing, and logging, followed by reforestation are necessary, the extent of logging caused by the use of newsprint exceeds natural needs of the forests by a country mile.

Add the use of other chemicals, such as pesticides, to the equation, and you have the reason for the enormous increase of cancers right then and there.

And yet, and yet …

A document has been making rounds on the worldwide web, listing why hemp deserves to be treated with respect.

Herewith it is, with all of its warning signs.

Industrial hemp serves more objectives than most agricultural plants, the file says. In fact, it adds, hemp can serve as an antidote to oil and dollars.

How? Here’s how:

  • A single acre of hemp produces as much oxygen as 25 acres of trees.
  • You can produce as much paper from a single acre of hemp as you would from four acres of trees.
  • Hemp-based paper can be recycled into new paper eight times, while paper made from wood can be recycled into new paper only thrice.
  • It lasts only four months to get a new growth of hemp, unlike the 20 to 50 years in trees.
  • Hemps arrests radiation.
  • You can grow hemp anywhere in the world, it doesn’t require much water. Hemp can defend itself against insects, thus needing no pesticides.
  • If you make more textiles from hemp, you can wave the pesticide industry good-bye: this claim seems somewhat extravagant since there exist other plants that need defending from insects. It seems that hemp enthusiasts have gone too far with their enthusiasm, but you get the point.
  • The first sets of jeans were made from textiles grown of hemp. In fact, even the word, canvas, is linked to this plant. Besides, hemp can be the source of materials used for the production of ropes, strings, bags shoes and hats.
  • While most chemotherapy is no longer in use, hemp still does reduce its impact, as well as that of radiation, when treating such killers like AIDS or cancer. Hemp supporters add that their beloved plant can be used to treat at least 250 complaints, from rheumatism, to heart conditions, epilepsy, asthma, stomach, insomnia, spinal diseases and psychological disorders.
  • The protein value in hemp seed is very high and, hemp enthusiasts say, the two meat acids found in hemp can’t be found anywhere else.
  • Hemp is cheaper than soya.
  • Animals fed hemp do not need hormonal supplements.
  • All plastic products can be made from hemp, and returning such plastics back to nature can hardly be easier.
  • A body of any vehicle made from hemp is ten times more resilient than that same body made of steel.
  • Hemp can be used to weather-proof buildings: it’s resilient, inexpensive, and flexible.
  • Soap and cosmetics made from hemp neither contaminate nor pollute water. A real ecologist’s dream.

Well, ask hemp enthusiasts, did we make our point?

Yes, to a huge degree, a number of scientists agree.

So why do we continue polluting our world when we know ways how to avoid it?

To answer that question, we would have to go full circle back to the names mentioned above (adding a number of other culprits along the way).

A version of this story has been making rounds in all kinds of e-mail chains. This is as close to MY take as it can get.

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