Paranoia or productivity?

By failing to distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana, we all lose.


by Steven Farmer
iven the deteriorating state of this planet extensive air and water pollution, the worldwide decline of forests and holes in the protective ozone layer it's evident that we must find non-polluting, renewable resources to replace the ones our industrialized society come to rely on.

Fortunately, there is a plant once cultivated by our founding fathers that may provide many of the answers to our dilemma: industrial hemp. This plant has been grown and utilized for thousands of years, requires no herbicides or pesticides, matures in four months and does well in a variety of climates. As its leaves and flowers fall off, they replenish the soil with nutrients. Its tap roots are quite long and helps bind the soil, preventing soil erosion

As far back as 1938, Popular Mechanics said that industrial hemp had the potential of being a "billion dollar industry" and described over 25,000 different uses. Some of the many products that can and are being made from industrial hemp include clothing, paper, twine, fiberboard, plastic, paint and fuel.

One acre of hemp will produce the same amount of paper as four acres of trees without the use of harmful chemicals in the processing. And paper made from hemp can last hundreds of years with very little deterioration. Nutritionally, hemp seed is a complete source of vegetable protein containing 30 percent oil. The oil is one of the lowest in saturated fatty acids and is highest in total essential fatty acids (EFA's) (80 percent of total oil volume). EFA's boost the immune system and remove cholesterol from the arteries. These are fats the body needs but does not itself produce.

In spite of these remarkable properties, it remains illegal to grow industrial hemp in the United States.

The reason stems from the Marijuana Tax Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1937. By making no distinction between marijuana and other commonly known and accepted hemp products, and by demonizing marijuana in spite of a lack of rational evidence that it deserved such castigation, all cannabis hemp products were implicated by association. One of the most unfortunate outcomes of this law was that industrial, medicinal and nutritional uses of the plant were outlawed as well. This prohibition has prevented cultivation of industrial hemp and interfered with the economic advantages a U.S. hemp industry would enjoy. Canada, England, France, Germany and Australia are building strong hemp industries, while China, Thailand, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Romania, Spain, Slovania and the Netherlands already have active hemp industries. The sales of industrial hemp products worldwide (excluding China) increased from $5 million in 1993 to $75 million in 1995; projected estimates for 1997 are $200 million. Since we must currently import hemp products, money for the raw materials goes to other countries that can legally grow and process industrial hemp.

Key differences between industrial hemp and marijuana

 Industrial hemp  Marijuana·
Grown for the stalk, which contains the best fiber for rope, textiles, paper, and the "hurd" or inner pulp for animal bedding, building materials and biomass. Grown for the "buds" or flower from the female plant, which contains the higher quantities of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than any other part of the plant.
Tall (8-16 ft) and sparse of vegetation. Short (4-6 ft) and bushy (more flowers).
Stalk is harvested; leaves and flowers fall off and return nutrients to the soil. Flowers and leaves are harvested, stalk is generally considered waste.
THC content is 1% or less, typically 0.3%. THC content is usually 2-15%.
Produces no psychoactive effects if smoked or ingested. Produces psychoactive "high" when smoked or ingested.
No medicinal attributes (however, the crates that ship the medicine, the doctor's clothes, medicine bag, and paper for the prescription can all be made of hemp). Useful as medicine with a number of different applications.


With the tremendous and timely advantages industrial hemp has to offer, why does it remain illegal to grow it in the United States? The primary reason is that people in our society fail to distinguish between the "demon" marijuana and industrial hemp. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and many law enforcement agencies are entrenched in the stance that there is no distinction between the two. They maintain that efforts to legalize the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp is a thinly veiled plot to legalize marijuana. The truth is that, although industrial hemp and marijuana share some common characteristics, there are striking differences (see table, page 11).

The loss of the right to grow industrial hemp and the propaganda claiming there is no difference between marijuana and industrial hemp deprive us of an incredibly diverse resource one that can have significant impact on restoring the health of the planet.

The good news is that there is increasing momentum in the pro-hemp movement. Several states are in the process of investigating the cultivation of industrial hemp. This year, Vermont passed a bill calling for further research, and Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Hawaii are all checking into it. The Navajo Nation in Arizona is prepared to grow hemp, and has set aside several thousand acres for that purpose. They had a ceremonial planting in May, 1996, and this year expect to grow their first crop to get seed for future plantings. Although a Colorado bill was recently defeated, primarily because of misleading testimony by law enforcement personnel, interest remains strong.

The value of growing industrial hemp far surpasses the fear that this is all somehow a plot to legalize marijuana. We are seriously lagging by not supporting an active hemp industry, from cultivation to application. We can put new life into America's farms and her farmers, create more jobs, and keep money that now goes to other countries for hemp products in the United States.

What you can do

The current stand against hemp can only be changed through information and education. If you would like to help this process, here are some simple things you can do:

For further information on hemp, please contact the following organizations:

Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp (BACH), P.O. Box 71093, Los Angeles, CA, 90071-0093. (310) 288-4152

California NORML, 2215-R ST #278, San Francisco, CA, 94114. (415) 563-5858

HEMPTECH, John W. Roulac, P.O. Box 1716, Sebastopol, CA, 95473. (707) 823 2800. E-mait Web.

Institute for Hemp, P.O. Box 65130, St Paul, MN, 55165 (612) 222-2628

The following books offer more information about the history and use of hemp:

Hemp: Lifeline to the Future, by Chris Conrad

The Emperor Wears No Clothes, by Jack Herer

Hemp Today, by Ed Rosenthal, Ed.

Industrial Hemp, published by HEMPTECH

Steven Farmer, MA, is a psychotherapist, educator and author of several books, as well as the owner of Hemp in the Hollow, Orange County's first complete industrial hemp retail store. Along with Manager Cindy Biggers they provide resources for information regarding industrial hemp, as well as hemp items for sale, including clothing, shoes, hats, jewelry, bags, backpacks, and much more. Hemp in the Hollow is located at 640 S. Coast Highway, Suite 2A in Laguna Beach, (714) 494-3070, and is open daily