Every so often in American history, there comes a time for protest. Here's how it usually goes: the government does something the American people don't like, the citizens organize and voice their discontents, and then the government changes the law. Easy-peasy right?
Well, not really. Unfortunately, the government doesn't work as smoothly or as quickly as we'd like to believe. In fact, the government and the people that make the laws of the land may not have your best interests at heart.
What is Hemp?
First things first, hemp is not marijuana. Hemp actually refers to the non-psychoactive varieties of Cannabis sativa L. The main different between marijuana and hemp is that hemp contains less than 1% of THC, the cannabinoid primarily responsible for making you high and hungry. Hemp is also grown, cultivated, and used for different purposes than marijuana.
Why Is Hemp Illegal in the First Place?
The legislative history of Hemp, or Industrial Hemp as it's often called, is one of extreme corruption and and misinformation. For almost one hundred years now, the production and cultivation of cannabis, in any of its forms, has been strictly illegal in the United States.
The government's original sin happened way back in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act, which criminalized the cultivation and sale of cannabis. Even though cannabis was already being used in most over-the-counter medications by the early 1900s, the government wanted to put a stop to the thousands of Mexican immigrants crossing the border (sounds familiar?). The "marihuana" that many Mexican immigrants brought with them was scary and threatening to many Americans, even though they were using the drug on a daily basis. The government then sealed the deal in 1970 with the Controlled Substance Act, defining cannabis and all it's derivatives as a Schedule I substance.
Clearly, the government has it out for the plant. If I were to guess why the government felt so strongly about this issue (besides the racist history of the legislation), I would have to guess money has something to do with it. Specifically, DuPont money.
DuPont is an American conglomerate that is now the world's fourth largest chemical company. They have their hand in a wide array of products, including GMOs, construction materials, animal nutrition, and many others. DuPont's main job, however, seems to be stopping the decriminalization of industrial hemp at all costs. They have been known to be staunch lobbyists against any hemp reform and have poured millions of dollars into the government to ensure the protection of their interests. In 2013 alone, the company poured over 10 million dollars into the US government to protect their interests.
How long can this last though? While the EU and Canada are reaping the rewards of cultivating and producing hemp for its wide array of applications, the US is watching on the sidelines, forced to import. In fact, the US actually imports over $450 million worth of hemp each year. What do the American people stand to lose by keeping this product off the market?
The Miracle of Hemp
The American people actually have a lot to lose by keeping this product off the market. Hemp has over 60,000 known uses in industries ranging from textiles, to construction. Hemp can actually replace many of the products we use in our daily lives while provided newfound benefits.
For starters, the $450 million that the US spent on hemp imports could have gone to American based companies and growers. Hemp is extremely costly and difficult to ship so allowing hemp cultivation here in the states would drastically decrease the costs of production while providing thousands of jobs to hardworking Americans.
The more we learn about hemp, the more applications it seems to have. The two main components of the plant, the seed and the stalk, each have their own unique applications and each seem as far reaching as the other.
Hemp seeds are highly nutritious and can be used in a wide variety of cooking. Everything from bread, granola, flour, and animal food can all be made by using hemp seeds. The seeds can also produce a many oils that have applications in fuel, lubricants, paints, cosmetics, and others.
Hemp stalks have even more applications, such as mulch, insulation, rope, netting, paper products, cardboard, and countless others. Many of these products would directly replace the products DuPont and others currently make.
One area industrial hemp is making great strides in is construction. "Hempcrete", a hemp-based concrete substitute, has been found to be an innovative leap in housing construction. It's been called, "the healthiest material in the world for building" because it's fire resistant, thermal regulating, mold resistant, pest-resistant, and non-toxic.
Much of the hemp craze can be traced to the environmental protection movements spreading across the globe. One acre of hemp over the course of 20 years can produce four to ten times more paper than one acre of trees in the same time span. Replacing tree-based paper with hemp would drastically reduce the deforestation epidemic. Not only that, but hemp uses less resources to grow as well.
The opportunities for hemp seem endless. Even if the government doesn't want us to know about it, hemp has countless benefits that would revolutionize the way we live and consume. It's up to us to make those benefits heard.