Hemp Production

It is suggested by one source *(infotank) that hemp paper can save the forests. "One acre of cannabis hemp, in annual rotation over a twenty year period would produce as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees being cut down over the same 20 year period." Hemp is a very renewable plant. It only takes one year for a hemp plant to reach full growth and to be harvested. This source claims that making paper from hemp uses 1/5 to 1/7 as much polluting chemicals and does not use chlorine bleach, a chemical commonly used to produce paper from trees.

The infotank website also maintains that hemp, unlike oil, is a renewable fuel source. Hemp plants can produce 10 times more methanol than corn which is the second best living fuel source. Hemp fuel is good for the environment. It burns clean and free of sulphur, unlike oil which produces sulfur which in turn, causes acid rain. Hemp fuel enriches and prevents erosion and yields a balanced oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle. Oil on the other hand, releases only carbon dioxide which has the result of increasing global warming and may be a factor in the greenhouse effect.

But the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has claims of its own, some of which contradict the information presented by the infotank website. *(DEA, Manufacture...) The DEA has published information about hemp production in response to queries about hemp cultivation. Although, "numerous reports in the press and 'lay' literature indicate that hemp could be a lucrative crop in the United States," the DEA contends that "an analysis completed by the DEA indicates that it is unlikely that hemp could be a profitable crop for cultivation in the United States under current market conditions." Some of the reasons listed by the DEA are:

Hemp was cultivated in early North America with limited success in the 1600s. Although up until the Civil War hemp cultivation flourished in several states, the lack of slaves after the war significantly affected cultivation. Since hemp is a labor-intensive crop and there was no cheap labor available anymore, farmers began to stop cultivating it because it became less profitable than other farming ventures. Cheaper fibers began to be imported form the Philippines which helped worsen the situation. The U.S. government actually revitalized hemp production during World War II when fibers from the Philippines became scarce. After the war, hemp production dwindled again when cheaper fibers were once again imported.

The DEA also contends that it is very difficult to process hemp once it is harvested. And since its marketability depends on its ease of processing, this means it may not be very profitable to cultivate. They claim that it is a very complex procedure to obtain fiber from the plant. The stalks must be harvested, retted, broken and hackled. "Retting is the process of exposing the stalks to moisture and the elements to allow bacteria to digest the lignins (gummy material) that hold the fiber strands to the rest of the stalk, and is dependent upon the weather conditions." In a study undertaken in England, researchers found that the retting process used was inefficient and unreliable, taking anywhere from 20 to 50 days. Although machines have been created to help in the processing, they have generally "impacted both the quality and the yield of the fiber," making machine processing a definite trade off. Because of this, hemp processing has changed very little in the past 100 years and is still mainly processed by hand. Until the process is upgraded, it is not economically feasible to cultivate hemp. The DEA also maintains that paper products made from hemp are of lower quality and value than paper produced from trees.

Marijuana: History, Effects and Controversies

History in the United States

Physical and Psychological Effects

Religious Use

Health Use

THE GREAT DEBATE

The Case for Maintaining Prohibition v. The Case for Legalization

References