Pubdate: Sat, 29 Mar 2008
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2008 Daily Pilot
Author: James P. Gray
Note: James P. Gray is an Orange County Superior Court judge and author of
the book, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It --
A Judicial Indictment Of The War On Drugs."


"Hemp" is the name that is commonly used for the industrial (non-drug)
usage of the cannabis plant, otherwise known as marijuana. The use of
cannabis for hemp products goes back thousands of years, to the degree
that the ancient Greek word for "canvas" was the same word as "cannabis."

In addition, hemp was also found in pottery shards that were used more
than 10,000 years ago in China and Japan, and was also used in those
regions for clothes, shoes, ropes and an early form of paper.

The stalk of the cannabis or marijuana plant has no THC content
whatsoever, which is to say that it has no mind-altering properties.
In fact, you could get as much of a "high" from smoking the stalk of
the marijuana plant as you could from smoking the newspaper you now
are reading. In addition, today's agriculturalists can cross-pollinate
the entire plant to reduce its THC level virtually to zero.
Nevertheless, because it is still considered marijuana, it is still
illegal to grow hemp in our country.

But that has not always been true. During colonial times, hemp was
used for large numbers of products. For example, the sails used on the
USS Constitution (or "Old Ironsides") were made from hemp, and several
of the drafts of the Declaration of Independence were printed on
parchment made from this same natural substance. Hemp was also used
back then in the making of rope, textiles and gunny sacks, and was
even used as money from 1631 until the early 1800s.

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and numbers of other famous
planters had large numbers of acres planted in hemp, and Benjamin
Franklin was one of the most active hemp paper merchants. In fact,
hemp was so useful that the first laws in the colonies addressing
cannabis actually required the various townships to grow a certain
amount of hemp, based upon the size of their populations.

The December 1941 edition of Popular Mechanics said that Henry Ford
grew hemp on his estate, and that he had made some "plastic" cars that
were composed mostly of hemp, wheat straw and sisal. In addition, it
is believed that Rudolph Diesel invented the engine that bears his
name to run on a variety of fuels, especially those based upon
vegetable and seed oils like those found in hemp.

Today, hemp can be used in thousands of commercial products. The
fibers can be used for clothing like shirts and dresses, and for
backpacks, shoes, sandals, wallets, hats, bedspreads, thermal
insulation, animal bedding, mulch for vegetation and an almost
unlimited number of other similar products. It can also be blended
with silk, linen or cotton to make fine quality garments. Napoleon
used hemp extensively for uniforms for his foot soldiers because of
its low cost and durability, and the emperors of China frequently had
it blended with silk to make their fine garments.

Hemp fibers also have many uses in the manufacture of such things as
rope, twine, packaging material, paper products, plywood and carpets.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz use biocomposites made mostly from hemp fibers
in the manufacturing of interior panels for some of their automobiles,
and the fibers are also used today in Europe and China to strengthen

Hemp seeds themselves are a significant food source, since they are
highly nutritious and contain beneficial omega fatty acids, amino
acids and minerals. As a result, they are now commercially available
in cereals, frozen waffles, hemp tofu and nut butter. In fact, my wife
recently purchased some nutritious hemp granola for me at Trader
Joe's, and it tasted quite good! It can also be used as a non-dairy
milk product similar to soy milk, and as a non-dairy hemp "ice cream."

The oil from the hemp seed has additional uses as lip balms, soaps and
moisturizing agents for creams. In addition, since the hemp seed oil
dries when exposed to the air, it makes a fine oil-based paint that is
similar to linseed oil.

If you want to learn more, simply put the word "hemp" into an Internet
search engine, and you will be amazed at the positive things you find.
But if those uses for hemp do not convince you in themselves, try
these facts.

Hemp is one of the earth's fastest-growing plants, it requires little
or no pesticides, and it replenishes the soil with nutrients and nitrogen.

In 1916, USDA Bulletin No. 404 stated that 1 acre of hemp over time
produces the same amount of paper pulp as 4.1 acres of trees. And, of
course, it takes about 20 years to grow the trees, but it takes only
one season of 120 to 180 days to grow the hemp.

Furthermore, one can obtain about 250% more fiber per acre from hemp
than from cotton, and about 600% more than from flax. And because it
is so fast-growing, hemp produces more energy per acre for biodiesel
or alcohol fuel than corn, sugar, flax or any other crop.

So why is hemp not being manufactured and used by our merchants for
these products? Well, actually it is. But under today's federal laws,
the hemp must be imported from countries like Canada, the United
Kingdom, Romania and China. So, since even the countries of the
European Union can grow hemp under special licenses, the United States
is now the only industrialized country in which it is illegal to grow
hemp. This situation has been so profitable for Canada that it
experienced a 300% growth in hempseed products in 2007 alone.

Our government's hypocrisy in saying hemp should continue to be
prohibited is dramatically demonstrated by a 14-minute movie produced
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1942 called "Hemp for
Victory." During World War II, hemp was used extensively for military
uniforms, canvas, rope and other products. But when our supplies of
hemp and jute in the Philippines and Indonesia were cut off by the
Japanese, the United States Government appealed through this film to
all "patriotic" farmers to grow hemp.

So with pictures of our nation's flags waiving in the breeze and our
troops preparing for battle, and accompanied by the strains of songs
like "Anchors Aweigh," our farmers were instructed how and where to
plant hemp, and how best to harvest it. After all, we needed "Hemp for
light-duty fire hoses," for "thread for shoes for millions of American
soldiers," for "parachute webbing for our paratroopers," for supplying
the "34,000 feet of rope for each of our United States Navy ships,"
and for "countless uses on ship and shore." "Hemp for mooring our
ships!" "Hemp for tow lines!" "Hemp for Victory!"

But after the war, hemp again in the eyes of the government went back
to being a prohibited substance without any practical usage of any

So please help us get away from this hypocrisy and economic stupidity
by convincing our government to pass a law like the following: "Any
cannabis plant that has a THC content of 0.3% or less is legal to
cultivate, harvest, possess and sell in the United States of America."
Of course, anything with a THC content above 0.3% would continue to be
governed by whatever laws and regulations are in place for marijuana.

That new law would in itself allow these plants, seeds and fibers to
be raised, harvested and used without any more state interference than
now exists for raising any other products. And that act alone would
reclaim an enormously profitable industry for our farmers,
manufacturers, merchants and consumers.

James P. Gray is an Orange County Superior Court judge and author of
the book, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It --
A Judicial Indictment Of The War On Drugs."
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