Hemp is a plant with many uses.
You can also check out this movie, which covers the gist of what is covered here (483KB, ~1 min on 56k).
This chapter is about Cannabis Sativa, a.k.a. hemp, marijuana, pot, weed, and such. Most people know where they stand on the issue of legalization of marijuana, but marijuana is only one of the many uses of hemp. The available facts supporting the legalization of hemp make for a very strong case.
I can no longer claim to be an unbiased source. I have already learned the facts; I believe the reality to be quite clear. I do my best to present the facts objectively. However, if you have any doubts about the validity of what I present, I urge you to find out about hemp from unbiased sources.
This chapter discusses several topics: the history of hemp and it's prohibition, the ways hemp can be used to benefit our society, as well as discussing the issues of choice and morality.
Cannabis has been used in human civilizations for at least 10,000 years. Hemp was used as a food source, and it was used to create the earliest known fabrics. The many practical and medicinal uses for hemp have been known for millennia. Hemp has always co-existed with humans; it is part of our heritage, responsible for sustaining our ancestors and contributing to the advancement of the human race.
One fact I found startling when I first studied hemp is how it has always been here, with us. I used to feel as if we needed to find a new solution to a lot of the problems we face, but the cure has always been here. The legalization of hemp has the potential to be the greatest economic engine in the history of the human race.[Hemp Revolution]
Cannabis Sativa is a plant that grows abundantly with little requirements. It can be grown in almost any environment, takes little to no fertilizer, and requires no pesticides, insecticides or herbicides. Hemp is one of the most versatile plants on the planet, able to create enough of all the food and materials required to sustain entire populations (just how big the populations can be is not yet known). If you would like to learn more, I recommend watching the documentary by Anthony Clarke called The Hemp Revolution, which covers many of the facts presented here about the possibilities for hemp and hemp products.
Food – Hemp seeds can create an abundant array of highly nutritious foods. Hemp foods are extremely high in protein, contain essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids, and contain massive amounts of trace minerals. Hemp is truly one of nature’s superfoods. Hemp can be grown in some areas other crops cannot grow, making it an available food source for remote areas.
Textiles – Industrial hemp fiber is the most durable natural fiber known to humankind. Hemp fiber is superior to cotton fiber, whose production is responsible for a large percentage of the chemical pesticides used in the world (ranging between 10-25% of the world's pesticide use).
Plastics – the majority of fossil fuel based products can be made from hemp and hemp oils. Hemp based plastics create far fewer pollutants than the petrochemical industry, and can be made into 100% biodegradable products.
Fuel – Hemp can be refined into ethanol: the cleanest of all liquid fuels. Ethanol can be produced at comparable prices to gasoline, while significantly reducing the amount of pollution of the oil and petrochemical industries. Ethanol represents a renewable source of clean burning fuel, as well as a method for countries to create their own fuel instead of relying on oil-rich nations. In one of the largest countries in the world, Brazil, about 20% of the vehicles run entirely on ethanol.[www.ethanol.org/pdfs/health_impacts.pdf]
Medicine – Cannabis has been used in medicine for thousands of years. There are millions of people who praise the positive effect ingesting marijuana has had on their lives. Medicinal users includes those who suffer from Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Aids, depression, pain, and many other conditions. If someone finds a way to make themselves feel better, and it is the best way for them to do so, it is cruel to make them stop.
Paper products – Hemp paper is believed to be the first paper ever made by humans. Hemp can be made into a paper that is stronger and of higher quality than any paper made from trees. The papermaking process for hemp fiber requires far fewer chemicals than wood fiber. Hemp can be used for any type of wrapper or packaging, and it is completely biodegradable. Hemp can be used create all the paper products our society uses.
Wood – Hemp fiber can be made into pressboard, a durable and effective wood substitute, able to replace the majority of the timber industry. On a per acre basis, an acre of hemp is up to 4 times more productive than an acre of trees, all without the need to destroy animal habitats and old growth forests. A productive hemp industry could decrease our dependence on the logging industry.
Recreation – Marijuana is ingested for the purpose of enjoyment and spiritual expansion. Pot creates a euphoric effect that lasts a few hours. Marijuana has been shown to be a relatively harmless drug, especially when compared to far more dangerous drugs like alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legal multi-billion dollar industries. New legislation could allow for the regulation, distribution and taxation of marijuana.
All hemp products come from a renewable resource; fossil fuels do not come from a renewable resource. The logging industry is argued to be renewable, but a hemp industry can be sustainable.
Since hemp requires no pesticides or insecticides, there is no denying that it can replace cotton as an easier and cleaner crop to grow. When we consider that hemp fiber is superior to cotton, logic dictates that hemp farms should be used in place of cotton farms. Industrial hemp eliminates the need for some, if not all, of the cotton industry.
Current legislation must be changed to allow the hemp industry to take part in our economic system. Hemp has the potential to provide an alternative to a lot of the resources we need. It is not likely that hemp will replace any industry entirely, but if we are to believe we live in a free capitalist system, then we are obligated to allow a hemp market to develop. The market competition that hemp can provide will benefit society by ensuring the cheapest and cleanest products are available for our consumption.
In Canada, marijuana was made illegal in 1911 with the passing of the Opium and Drug Act. It remains illegal, but Canadians are actively fighting to change the legislation. Pro-cannabis rallies are held across Canada every year. There are places in Canada, such as Vansterdam, where marijuana prohibition is loosely enforced.
Decriminalization is being considered for the whole nation. Unfortunately, Canada is highly dependent on the support of its big brother, America, whose steadfast views on prohibition reach beyond its own borders. Ironically, more than 10 U.S. states have already decriminalized marijuana.
Hemp was cultivated in America until 1937 when Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act outlawing marijuana. Although not directly aimed at hemp production, the legislation put an end to the once prominent hemp industry. Some argue that the Marihuana Tax Act was created largely as a plan of oil and petrochemical industries to eliminate the farmers from competing with corporate America. (In Hemp: Lifeline to the future by Chris Conrad)
Hemp made a comeback in 1942 when the federal government encouraged American farmers to grow it for the war effort. Thousands of farmers grew hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp for wartime needs. When WWII ended, so did the government's allowance of hemp cultivation. It did not take long until prohibitionists had reasserted a total ban on hemp production, which remains a federal ban in America today.
Funding for the war on drugs increased from a few million in the 1930’s, to over 20 billion dollars last year. There are over 1 million people arrested every year for marijuana related offenses.
In 1944, Mayor La Guardia commissioned over 30 impartial scientists to study the effects of marijuana. The study disproved every claim made by the prohibitionists. La Guardia demanded that the prohibition law be abolished, but was ignored. Since then, hundreds of studies have been done, and the vast majority of them all concur that hemp and marijuana are not dangerous, and that prohibition costs far more than it is worth. All of these studies continue to be dismissed and ignored.
Despite how science has proven marijuana to be a relatively harmless drug, when compared to both legal and illegal drugs, it remains illegal. If it costs so much to maintain the prohibition of marijuana, then why do governments and legislation continue to uphold such an unenforceable law?
The official reason that hemp was made illegal, and remains to be, is due to the mind-altering abilities it has. People who use marijuana are getting high and altering their state of consciousness. It is because of this aspect that hemp is taught to be demonized and feared.
It comes down to a question of morality, of what is believed to be right and wrong. People who believe that certain acts are immoral use the law to impose their own beliefs on the majority of the population. However, forcing someone to be sober is no different than forcing them to be high, if it is against their will.
But pot is bad… dope is bad, right? There is a definitely a stereotypical image of the pot smoker as a habitually stoned slacker. It is sometimes true. More often than not, regular hard working individuals from a wide range of cultures and occupations use marijuana.
There is a belief amongst some of the prohibitionists that legalization will turn society into a nation of chronic smokers. Yet, there are places in the world where marijuana is legalized, and they continue to function as well as any other place.
Sadly, the drug aspect of hemp plays a very small part in its prohibition. Industrial hemp can be grown with almost no mind-altering ability, like trying to get drunk from nonalcoholic beer. It is industrial hemp and its many uses that result in the continued prohibition of marijuana. Big business is responsible for the primary reason why cannabis was made illegal and is kept illegal.
Marijuana, along with the euphoric effects it brings, tends to be demotivating. This is due to a sense of satisfaction and contentment, a feeling that everything is good. Marijuana culture is full of harmony, peace and love. Marijuana users tend to be open minded and enjoy all aspects of life. Pot gives us the chance to mellow out and relax; we may work less, but we are less stressed.
Capitalism thrives when we are dissatisfied with what we already have, meaning we want more and consume more. Marijuana use, in general, slows the capitalist consumption cycle (with the possible exception of the food industry). Pot use results in improvement for people and society, but has a negative impact on businesses and the economy.
The lifestyle that goes along with marijuana culture is enough for any capitalist to fear and shun it. The mind-altering abilities of marijuana, however threatening to capitalist society, are not the only reason it remains illegal. A number of multi-billion dollar industries would be threatened if hemp were allowed to compete in the market.
Cannabis used for recreation threatens the alcohol and tobacco industries. Both alcohol and tobacco are multi-billion dollar industries, with lobbyists and influences that have shaped legislation for years. If cannabis were allowed to enter the entertainment market, it would take a considerable piece of the pie, and the owners of alcohol and tobacco companies do not want the competition.
The oil and petrochemical industries would stand to lose a large amount of their power and influence to a cost-effective, renewable resource such as hemp. Hemp and its derivatives could be used to replace a substantial portion of the oil and petrochemical market. The industry leaders knew this 80 years ago when they encouraged the prohibition of marijuana, and they will actively fight any competition to the power and control they hold over the planet.
Pharmaceuticals are multi-billion dollar industries. Marijuana is a proven, safe and effective treatment and cure for a lot of diseases and afflictions. If people had the ability to grow their own medicine, it would threaten the synthetically created treatments of the pharmaceutical companies.
The list continues, with both cotton and the forestry industry. Both are multi-billion dollar industries, both would stand to lose considerably if they had to face a legal hemp industry.
It is not just big business that stands to lose. Marijuana represents billions of dollars spent every year on enforcement and incarceration. There is a policing industry, people whose sole purpose is to continue and enforce the prohibition of cannabis. There is an army: a machine created to fight the drug war, and its survival depends on the current legislation.
With billions and billions of dollars at stake, it is not just money that is at risk, power is at risk. Hemp represents a huge threat to a large number of businesses and government agencies. As long as those with power can wield their influence and maintain the current legislation, hemp will not be legalized.
We will always require resources to survive, and we will get those resources from whatever is available. We are making the wrong decision when we choose a resource that requires pollution and destruction of the planet instead of a sustainable resource such as hemp.
Pesticide and herbicide use, habitat destruction, air and water pollution… all of these can be reduced by shifting to a sustainable resource such as hemp. Hemp is a cleaner and superior way to provide the resources that we all need. Prohibition is forcing us to use inferior resources.
Marijuana has been demonized for so long that people have developed an irrational fear of it. Some people claim that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder, more serious drugs, but the reality is that the first drugs that kids usually try are tobacco and alcohol. Prohibition results in inaccurate information being spread throughout our society.
Increased drug education is a proven method to decrease all forms of drug abuse - a very effective tool for use in the "war" on drugs. Instead, we choose to invest in prohibition, resulting in the misinformation we depend on to keep children off drugs. The “Just say no!” or “This is your brain on drugs” simplistic message of current drug education is far from enough to curb youthful curiosity and rebellion.
Clearly, children should not do things that harm their developing minds and bodies, since it decreases their potential and we all want the best for our kids. But, if a kid who has been told all drugs are bad tries pot and finds out it was not as bad as they were led to believe, what is to stop them from questioning things like crack and heroin? Spending money on real education for our youth instead of enforcing prohibition would be far more effective to prevent drug abuse.
Also, if marijuana was available from regulated distributors, pot consumers would not be exposed to the criminal element the drug creates. It would be the same as going to the liquor store for a 6-pack.
This brings us to another point: when a substance that a large portion of society desires is made illegal, it creates a black market. It is similar to what happened during alcohol prohibition, where gangsters profited from the bootleg market. If a policy of complete legalization of all narcotics were to be slowly yet periodically phased in, it would eliminate a lot of the financial incentives that drive organized crime.
However, drug prohibition continues, resulting in an organized drug market. This means there has to be the law enforcement and incarceration agencies to counter the drug market. Billions of dollars are spent yearly; millions are in jail for possession and trafficking charges. Prohibition creates a war on drugs - creating both the criminals and the police to fight them.
Imagine what would happen if the money saved from enforcement was combined with the money made from a hemp tax. This surplus could be used for social services, including drug education. There would be a significant increase to the standard of living everywhere.
Lastly, we need to consider what some would call the most important cost of prohibition: the loss of freedom. We lose the moral right of every free adult - to control our own minds and bodies. Drug prohibition is not only about the negative impact of drugs on society, it is about someone deciding for us the acceptable ways of altering our consciousness.
One reason people fear and demonize marijuana and other narcotics is due to the mind-altering abilities they possess; the ability to alter ones own consciousness. However, when we consider that every instant of life is mind altering in its own way, then the distinction between a drug and something that is not seems arbitrary.
What do I mean when I say that every instant of life is mind altering? I mean that every sensation and every emotion we ever experience affects and is affected by our brain chemistry. Every thought we think, every dream we have, relies on the chemical reactions that occurs within our bodies. Proteins, hormones, endorphins… they are all chemicals that affect receptors and synapses, resulting in various thoughts and sensations. The most underlying functions of the mind, which result in everything that any human can ever feel and think, rely on brain chemistry.
Anything that alters the way we think is a mind altering substance. The obvious candidates are the things we call drugs, like alcohol or aspirin. They all have an effect on how we think and how we feel: they all affect our underlying body chemistry.
However, there is very little in life that does not have an effect on how we think and feel. Art that we find stimulating, visually appealing scenery, our favourite music... these all have an impact on how we feel. Love is a drug, whose potent mind altering abilities result in some of the greatest joys and sorrows we can experience in life.
A lot of the foods we eat daily can be considered to be mind altering substances. Dairy products contain casein, a protein that creates morphine-like effects. Meat, sugar, and chocolate all possess mind-altering, addictive qualities when consumed. This does not mean they are bad or evil; it is normal for this to happen. We are genetically programmed to seek out and consume these things.
Our bodies provide an ingrained feedback response that rewards us for doing these things, and we learn that these behaviors result in good feelings. We feel good, since our brains release chemicals – drugs made within our own bodies – that make us feel good. Everything we do that increases our chance of survival and reproduction is met with rewards... things like eating, drinking, sex, sleep, and exercise.
We are all slaves to our bodies. The conscious part of the human – the brain – can control the whole body to the point of complete self destruction, but it is our bodies that rule for the majority of the time. When we satisfy our bodily desires, we get immediate rewards. This is true for all animals, and is what drives the perpetuation of life on earth.
Unlike most animals, however, we can be aware of our state of mind and we have the ability to alter it as we see fit. We should be able to choose how we manipulate our own bodies and how we choose to use our understanding of self. As “intelligent”, sentient beings, we should be able to do whatever we want as long as we do not harm another being. If we are to consider ourselves to be free individuals, then we should have control over how we think.
Brain chemistry not only affects what we think, but more importantly, how we think. If we think of our minds as computers, the operating system (Windows or Linux) decides how we think, and the applications we run (Explorer or Firefox) is what we think. How we think is more important that what we think, since how takes precedence and affects what we think. Since it is the most important basis of human existence, it should be our most fundamental right to be able to choose how we think.
So, why then, can we not choose how and what we experience in life? For the most part, we can. There are, however, certain ways of altering conscious that are not allowed by legislation, and therefore, not allowed by society. When someone decides that we cannot alter how we think in a certain fashion, it is a matter of them (them being the law makers) thinking they know what is best for everybody.
The hypocrisy of the current legislation presents itself if we consider everything in life to be a drug of one form or another, since everything affects our brain chemistry. Drugs like booze, tobacco, and caffeine are responsible for countless medical problems and deaths every year, but they are all legal and readily available for all to consume.
Yet marijuana, which is arguably safer than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, remains prohibited while the others are not. The hypocrisy exists because someone is telling us that marijuana should be illegal, when in fact the positives that hemp brings far outweigh any negatives, especially when compared to what is already legal.
Those who enforce the prohibition of marijuana believe the implied morality that is taught and propagated by society. Society's morality comes from values, and values reflect both what is good for the society, as well as what is good for those who are in charge of society. Things like murder and rape are made immoral and illegal, for these things are detrimental to society and the people in it. Marijuana is kept illegal because it would compete with existing markets and be detrimental to those in charge.
In various religions, drug use is considered blasphemous. Well, not giving us the chance to commit a sin is not the same as us choosing not to commit a sin. When we are denied a choice, we are denied an opportunity to be good, or "evil". If someone wants to “sin”, but harms no other human, then their judgment is not ours to make.
But what about our children? Its true, children need to learn right from wrong. Our youth should be kept from harms way, and denied things that will impede their growth and development.
It is understandable to want to prevent our loved ones from doing something we do not agree with, but forcing beliefs on all of society is far from the best way to do so. We, as adults, can decide for ourselves what is best for us and our own children.
Why, then, are we treated like children by the law makers? An educated individual should be able to experience whatever they wish up to the point of having adverse effects on another.
The facts are undeniable. Hemp is a highly beneficial plant, which is only (allegedly) illegal due to its mind-altering abilities. The countless positive gains of legalization far outweigh the costs of prohibition. The prohibition of the drug Marijuana, and therefore the plant Cannabis Sativa, is one of the most egregious examples of the hypocrisy and corruption in our current legislation.
Legalization of hemp is a simple and benign solution for many of the problems faced by the world – pollution, starvation, and habitat destruction. We can use the extraordinary plant known as hemp to help us towards a better future. Legalization is not something that just should be done; it is something that has to be done.
If, while reading this, you are moved to the point of feeling anger or frustration, I implore you to encourage people you know to read about hemp. The more people that are aware of the benefits of hemp, the closer we are to ending the outdated, hypocritical legislation. Spreading accurate information about hemp will ensure the end of hemp prohibition. If we want change, we will have to tell everyone we know.