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The Contempt For Hemp

Hemp Does not get you high!

One misconception that still occurs these days is the association of Hemp with Marijuana. But they are 2 different plants. Hemp is a natural resource that has been misunderstood for a long period of time.  Much like saturated fats in the mid 60’s, or the generalization of the effects of dietary salts, hemp seems to have been unjustly demonized either by major company agendas or government agendas, often skewing our perception of products like hemp, and causing confirmation bias. As you will see, hemp once was,  and has once again become a universal product with many uses and benefits. To me, it’s quite apparent that hemp is one of the most valuable resources this planet can produce!  Its benefits span past just a dietary staple, being utilized in farming, clothing, in the military and even construction.

Historical factoids of hemp in society
  • Hemp fibres have been found in former Chinese archeological sites possibly dated back around 4000 BC, and in Egypt around 3000 BC (1)
  • It is documented that hemp was grown in places such as West Russia, Transylvania and Bulgaria during the Middle Ages and in many developed countries through the Industrial Age in the 20th century (1)
  • Henry VIII was the first English monarch to utilize hemp cultivation to make rope fibre (1)
  • It was common to use hemp in the 17th Century for cold tea in England (1)
  • It is documented that Canada decided in 1709 to change its opinion on hemp cultivation.  Shortly before this, the country wanted to focus solely on fur trading with other countries, not including hemp in those exchanges. However, once this focus was shifted back to hemp production, Canada started clearing land to accommodate hemp farming, for they felt it would be profitable for trade with European countries. (1)
  • It is documented that as early as 1600, Quebec City was among the most enthusiastic hemp producers, and supplied the French Navy with fibres for rope. (1)
  • Various copies of the Declaration of Independence, collectively produced by Presidents Thomas Jefferson & Benjamin Franklin, were printed on hemp paper, possibly due to Jefferson’s and Franklin’s utilization of the cultivated hemp that they each farmed on their properties at the time. (1)
  • In 1994, Canada grant’s permission to Joel Stroebel and his partner Geof Kime to cultivate industrial hemp.  This historic allowance sparked a dozen other farmers to get permission for hemp farming by the following year. This period may have helped open the door for the government to be less stringent in their licensing and legal allowances for farmers to this day.
Prohemp bition

Within the history of hemp utilization throughout the world though, the Prohibition of hemp production in the U.S. put a complete halt on the use of hemp products in numerous extents. After years of successful cultivations and utilization of the hemp plant universally around the world, hemp was being touted as the new billion dollar crop in 1935.

That status only lasted about 2 years though, for the production of hemp was then banned by the U.S. government in 1937, known as the Marijuana Tax Act. Along side the succession of hemp cultivation was the growing of the Marijuana cannabis plant, which at the time, would have been difficult to distinguish the 2 cousin plants  However, due to speculation of hemp’s connection to the narcotic properties known to exist in the marijuana flower, the government, along with the FBI,  lumped hemp with marijuana as an illegal substance.  Hence the start of the Prohibition of Hemp.

Around 1994, a push for re-legalization of hemp cultivation began in North America. This began a shift towards the 2018 Hemp Farming Act, which was incorporated into the United States Farm Bill in the same year.  This act removed the hemp plant from the Schedule 1 controlled substance list, and became, officially, an agricultural commodity in the U.S. However, this bill seems to be linked to a fair amount of restrictions, much like what most cultivation and farming seems to experience.  So I guess that’s SOME kind of progress!

Hemp vs Marijuana

So what are the differences between the hemp and Marijuana plants?  They are both part of the same species of Cannabis Sativa Plant;  and much like twin siblings, each plant looks quite similar. The main characteristic of both Cannabis plants that confuses most people are the leaves, which has become a symbol identifiable and linked to marijuana enthusiasts, a percentage of the population that are termed as ‘stoners’.

The Primary difference between the two are the levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.  Marijuana plants can contain as much as 35% THC, whereas hemp contains approx. 0.3%. Fibre levels differ between the two plants as well, as 35% fibre content exists in hemp stalk, while marijuana consists of only about 15% fibre. CBD (Cannabidiol), a medicinal component of the cannabis plant, exist at much lower levels in the hemp plant, at only about 4% potency, while in marijuana CBD is almost 100 x more potent.  Because of the low CBD potency and lacking in terpenes and flavonoids, hemp has very little medicinal value, unlike medicinal marijuana. However, hemp has much more nutritional value than the marijuana plant.

Parts of The Hemp Plant

There are 4 main parts of the hemp plant that is utilized for manufacturing numerous products we use or consume every day.  The hemp seeds, stalk, leaves and even the roots are all utilized to make nutritious, durable and long lasting products.  The seeds and the stalks are the most abundant hemp plant parts for creating products.

The hemp seed, technically a fruit, is very nutritious for both humans and animals. Hemp seeds are a great source of Essential Fatty Acids, which are fats that the body requires, but can’t produce itself. The proteins it provides are high quality, and easily digestible by the body. Seeds can be consumed in numerous ways, including raw hemp hearts put in smoothies, salads, or I like to add to almond butter as a spread to give it crunch.  They can be pressed into milk, made into tea, or ground into flour for baking.

Hemp seeds can also be pressed into oil, and is best consumed as a raw food such as a salad dressing or an ingredient in sauces or dips. Hemp oil is more optimal as a lotion, sunscreen or skin care product, mainly for its optimal source of Essential Fatty Acids, which are retained from the hemp seeds.  This abundance of specific EFA’s are balanced in a ratio (Omega-6) 1:3 (Omega 3) which is identical to the ratios that are required by the skin to stay healthy, which is what makes their presence in cosmetics and skin products so effective. This specific ratio of EFA’s can enhance growth and regulate the immune system.  The Gamma Linolenic Acid rarely available in other plants are beneficial for healthy hair, skin and nails. This makes hemp oil such an effective skin product, whether its soap, shampoo or sunscreen. 

The hemp stalk also has numerous uses. Within the stalk, there are 3 components: the hurd, the stalk and the bast fibre. The hemp bast exists on the outside of the hemp stalk, providing strength and stability to the plant, and is very durable. This part of the hemp plant has been used for hundreds of years to make fabrics, textiles and particularly in the early 20th century for clothing, biofuel, cardboard and rope products for the military.  Other uses include animal bedding, mulch, insulation and even used in creating concrete. Hempworks, a Canadian company, creates an array of building equipment for healthy and sustainable building supplies.  These days, you could build almost an entire house made of hemp!

The lesser utilized parts of the hemp plant, the leaves and the roots, are mostly used for composting and in animal bedding.  The hemp root is also known for use in remedies for arthritis, fibromyalgia and even eczema.

Manufacturing Process

Today, Canada is one of 32 + countries that can legally manufacture Industrial hemp.  For the most part, modern farming machinery is based on one of the original models of industrial hemp processing called the Decorticator, originally invented in 1861, but then modified in 1917 by George Schlichten, which really opened the door for major industrial hemp production thereafter, until the previously mention prohibition that is. There were versions created before this, but Schlichten’s model is what todays machinery are marginally based on. You can find more information on this history here on Wikipedia.

Nowadays, Canadian hemp farmers are experiencing many economical benefits from their harvests. Firstly, hemp is a fantastic rotation crop, not requiring any pesticides, and is an excellent aerator of the soil.  Hemp nets much greater income per harvest than most typical grains, wheat or corn crops.  Hemp, because it is a weed after all, produces approximately a 90 day harvest period, allowing farmers to produce 40 x more paper products per acre than typically used redwood trees.

The decorticator prototype makes manufacturing in large quantities possible, as it separates all the elements of the hemp plant quickly and efficiently.

I think the stigma that was falsely put in place by the U.S. government has mostly been washed away by 2021.  More people are aware of the vast benefits of hemp, and more than anything else, understand the difference between Hemp and the marijuana plant. It may be more common knowledge these days of the medicinal properties that can exist in controlled medical marijuana doses for adults, but hemp has a much more broad reach in the consumer world, and has a wider variety of uses in our everyday lives, and shouldn’t have to go through another unnecessary prohibition any time soon. 

Some of the information in this blog was referenced in the following book, an interesting read on the history of hemp in North America.  

(1) “Hemp- A short history of the most misunderstood plant and its uses & abuses” by Mark Bourrie

The following is a list of legally considered medicinal plants in North America.  Keep in mind, this list includes food as ‘medicinal’ that can benefit one’s health, which I think is why hemp is on the list.

Check out these body products that are hemp-based and made under a Canadian company: 

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