Hemp – The Sustainable Crop that Could Save the World
Hemp: The Miracle Plant We Always Had
Happy 4/20!! The world renowned holiday has a very different vibe this year, and it’s not just for the sake of numerology. We’ve spent a lot of the last month indoors, at home, but incredibly grateful to continue operating safely and successfully. 4/20 is a holiday with nebulous beginnings, many stated meanings, but one true purpose. While many worldwide will finally have a day to truly relish the additional time on the couch and in the kitchen, we were thinking about what in many ways is the world’s most powerful plant: Hemp.
Where did the term “Marijuana” come from?
Key Fact: some of the earliest flags and functional fabrics, such as ship sails and rope were made from hemp. The word canvas is sourced from cannabis.
The widespread adoption of the word “marijuana” as the catch all for hemp and cannabis products has dubious origins. Following conflicts with Mexico in the prior decades and the Mexican Revolutoin, a conglomerate of politicians and economic powerhouses such as The DuPont Family, Former Sec. of Treasury Andrew Mellon, and newspaper magnate William Randolph began to spread fear regarding the dangerous “locoweed” that turned men into murderous beasts. Many Mexicans had migrated to Texas and Louisiana in particular, bringing with it their customs – such as the use of cannabis as a relaxant. They unwittingly served themselves as the perfect scapegoat to create a bogeyman. Through Hearst’s enormous newspaper empire, his classic brand of sensationalized, yellow journalism whipped public sentiment against cannabis into a frenzy. The term “marijuana” was applied in order to spin the plant’s nomenclature into a foreign, exotic sounding name unfamiliar with Americans.
So Why was the “Miracle” Planned Banned in 1937?
Key Fact: The American Medical Association lobbied heavily against the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. They were shut down and the bill was passed in under 2 hours.
Like many bizarre, enduring government mandates short on logic and high on raised eyebrows, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 seems to exhibit a similar breach in logic. Both the Hearst and DuPont empires had large stakes in paper and timber. From a political standpoint, the rebranding of cannabis to “marijuana” was extremely effective, and provided the perfect vehicle to clamp down on non-native populations. Cities like El Paso borrowed from San Francisco’s policies of decades past, banning opium in part to control the waves of Chinese immigrants arriving in California. While politically expedient, it is likely industrial control that spearheaded the majority of efforts against the cultivation of cannabis. The Marihuana Tax Act was effective, officially kicking off what we now know as the “war on drugs.” The legislation was supported by several education-exploitation films, which were popular at the time. These films, most notably Reefer Madness, function as part documentary, part propaganda and served as effective visual companions to the misleading legislature. Fascinatingly enough, in the years past it seems that hemp would not have provided a viable alternative to paper maché due to it’s lack of cellulose. However, as a fabric hemp had millennia old use. 1937 just so happened to the same year DuPont patented nylon.
The First Victims of Marijuana Illegalization
The very first person to be arrested was a young Mexican migrant named Moses Baca, who had a quarter ounce seized from his apartment in Denver. He is often seen side by side with Samuel Caldwell, a man also credited among the very first arrests, convicted for selling the plant. The sentencing judge, Hon. John Foster Symes, famously stated:
“I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics, far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine. Under its influence, men become beasts. Marijuana destroys life itself. I have no sympathy with those who sell this weed.”
While comically outdated in the face of science, the Judge’s sinister admonishment of the plant and its user reflect the effectiveness of the massive campaign to demonize “marijuana” and those who kept it as a cultural practice.
So what makes it a miracle?!
While the 4/20 holiday may be geared to celebrate the more… psychoactive elements of the cannabis plant, it’s well-beyond the only application for hemp. Here are our 5 Favorite Uses for Hemp
It is what is sounds like. Hempcrete is a composite concrete-like material made primarily from hemp. While not strong enough to bear the weight of foundation, it’s a fantastic inner wall filler. It has seen extensive use and increasingly popularity in France, where it is notably flame retardant, mold resistant, and excellent for acoustic quality.
If you’ve ever made yourself familiar with Planet Protein you’d know how we feel about excess plastic. Hemp is a phenomenal way to replace much of the packaging materials we are still over-reliant upon today. It functions as adequate replacements for cloth, paper, and some plastics used in packing.
Hemp carpet?! Yup! Hemp’s use in the textile industry far surpasses the rope we fiddled with in summer camp and in niche outdoor products. Hemp can also be utilized in netting, carpeting, industrial canvasses, and cordage. With so much of these materials winding up in our oceans and thrown to waste, having a natural alternative to these universally applied textiles would save an immense amount of plastic and microfiber pollution.
Getting our future off fossil fuels and coal power is atop the agenda list of most anyone without a rooted financial interest in the status quo. While biofuel tech is still very much a work in progress, having a fuel sourced from a plant that “grows like a weed” is a promising step towards environmentally and fuel efficient transportation.
This is real. A company called Renew Sports Cars has resurrected the 1950’s and 60’s era of American muscle, flexing a little differently than before! These fiery sports cars have a body constructed from woven hemp fibers, hardened with resin and coated with paint. They also run off corn! With efficiency on the rise and demand for biofuels and renewable resources growing, it’s only a matter of time until you can buy your very own Canna-Car.
Our Final Fun Note!
What, if anything do film actor Woody Harrelson and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have in common? Not much, one would assume, except for the shared goal to re-establish hemp as a legalized staple crop in the American farmer’s repertoire. In 1996, Harrelson was arrested for planting hemp seeds, while McConnell has long advocated for the reintroduction of hemp as a crop that once thrived in his native Kentucky. Thankfully, these efforts were successful! Despite McConnell’s normally stuffy visage, he has been at the foreground of expediting CBD legislation and bringing hemp back. His sponsored Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was instrumental in bringing the plant back.
With the cuffs off the industry and so many possibilities, the potential of the plant still is seemingly infinite. For the first time in over 70 years Americans have the right to cultivate, buy, and sell hemp products. We can’t wait to see what’s next!