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THE AMAZING HEMP PLANT

THE AMAZING HEMP PLANT
by MARLA SANTOS

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The important thing is not to stop questioning.”  — Albert Einstein

The hemp plant is truly an amazing plant, yet illegal to grow in the United States. It will happily grow in all fifty states. It requires only moderate amounts of water, no herbicides or pesticides, and is frost-tolerant. In addition, one acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as 2-3 acres of cotton, or as much paper as 2-4 acres of trees. Hemp has no known insect enemies and is highly disease-resistant. There are over 25,000 known uses for hemp. Hemp fabric is three times stronger, warmer, and more absorbent than cotton fabric. It is the strongest natural fiber known, and is used for many clothing and accessory items, from hats to jewelry. Hemp can be used to produce fiberboard that is stronger than wood, lighter than wood, and fire retardant. It can be used to produce durable building materials, PVC pipe, paint, insulation, carpets, and even diapers. Beside the traditional uses for hemp, there are lesser-known uses that might surprise you. Hemp’s omega-3 oils and vitamin E content make it a natural for use in lip balms, lotions, shampoos and soaps. Cosmetics manufacturers, such as Revlon, include hemp oil in makeup, lotion and shampoo. Hemp plastic, a mixture of fiberglass and hemp fiber, has been used in cars, including Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Lotus, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Saturn, Volkswagen and Volvo. The Mercedes C-Class has up to 20 kg of hemp in each car. Hemp is also used to take impurities out of wastewater, such as sewage, and is used to clean toxins from soil, water and air. Hemp is being used at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site to help clean up the contaminants. Farmers can use hemp to avoid herbicides, and combine with organic fertilizers, so crop protection measures are unnecessary.

While hemp has many practical uses such as paper, rope, fabric, plastics, building material, wallpaper, acoustic baffling and barn bedding for farm animals, hemp also has many other uses and has many health benefits that many don’t know about. As a source of healthy protein and oils, you can’t beat hemp. Hemp seeds are a complete source of protein, and pack a powerful nutritional punch. A handful of seeds provides the minimum daily requirement for adults, and are digested easier than other forms of protein. For example, hemp milk, made from hemp seeds, is far more digestible than soymilk. Two tablespoons of the shelled hemp seeds also provide 2 grams of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, higher even than walnuts. The seeds can be eaten raw, sprouted, ground into a meal, prepared as tea and used in baking. Hemp seeds have a very light, nutty flavor, similar to sunflower seeds. It makes them a perfect ingredient for cereals, waf- fles, breads, and protein powders, and hemp seeds are also gluten-free. The fresh leaves are tasty and can be consumed in salads. Hemp oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is one of the most versatile and benefi- cial substances known to man. The oil also contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient found in mother’s milk.

Why then, you may ask, is this amazing plant illegal to grow in the U.S.? We have no problem importing it, so the question is: Why not just grow it here? Well you see, hemp is one of the Cannabaceae family of plants, the same as marijuana. This tends to make hemp guilty by association, but there are significant differences between these two plants. Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which gives it its psychoactive kick. Hemp is very low in THC, and trying to get a buzz from hemp is like trying to get a buzz from your sesame seed bagel. If someone tried to get high from ingesting hemp, it would be like taking several doses of a high-fiber laxative, and the unpleasant side effects would quickly dissuade the user. Hemp is high in cannabidiol CBD, which is antipsychoactive. The CBD actually blocks the marijuana high and could be labeled “antimarijuana”. In the medical community, the benefits of medical marijuana have been known to help cancer and AIDS patients, giving them pain relief.

New studies suggest that CBD from hemp reduces breast cancer cells from invading so aggressively. Another study found both THC and CBD showed promise in shrinking brain tumors. CBD acts as an anti-psychotic and could help in treating patients with schizophrenia or ones that endure extreme anxiety.

So while it is illegal to grow hemp in the United States, and it is being imported from many countries around the world, North Dakota, Oregon, Montana, California, Vermont, Maine, Maryland, Kentucky and Hawaii have passed laws enabling cultivation, but are awaiting permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Hemp was banned in the U.S. in the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. In 1942, the government lifted the ban for the “Hemp for Victory”, to help with the war effort, but the ban was put back in effect in 1957, and continues today. Hemp is considered to be a controlled substance, under Federal law because of its relation to marijuana.

The Hemp Industries Association estimates that hemp products exceeded $419 million in 2010. With the increasing popularity of hemp products, and if the medical studies keep showing greater possibilities, it might be time for the United States to take a long, hard look at hemp. Why should we import it when states here are already in place to cultivate it? The practical purposes of hemp, along with its medical and nutritional uses, make it only reasonable that we legalize growing it here in the U.S.

AMAZING HEMP FACTS

Hemp dates back more than 10,000 years, making its cultivation one of the oldest industries.

Hemp has been grown in the U.S. since the settlers arrived in the early 1600’s.

The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper in 1776.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp.

Betsy Ross sewed the first American Flag with hemp cloth in 1977.

In 1797, the U.S.S. Constitution warship carried more than 60 tons of hemp rigging.

Hemp was like any other crop during the 1800’s. Towns like Hempfield and Hempstead were named because of their crops.

Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” on a hemp envelope in 1814.

1840 Abraham Lincoln lit his reading lamps with hemp oil.

“Alice in Wonderland” was originally printed on hemp paper.

Paintings by Van Gogh and Rembrandt were painted on hemp canvases.

The original Levi Strauss jeans were made from hemp. All schoolbooks were made from hemp or flax paper until the 1880’s.

Until 1883, 75-90% of all paper in the U.S. was made with hemp.

In 1937, 4 million lbs. of bird feed from hemp seed was sold in the U.S.

In 1941, Henry Ford’s first Model-T was built to run on hemp gasoline and the car itself was constructed from hemp! He called it the car ‘grown from the soil.’ The plastic hemp panels had an impact strength of 10 times the strength of steel.

U.S. farmers who grew hemp during WWII were exempt from military duty.

150,000 plus acres of hemp were grown in the U.S. for “Hemp for Victory” during WWII.

The parachute hemp rigging saved George Bush Sr. when his plane caught fire.

The U.S. Navy prefers hemp rope to secure its ships because it doesn’t stretch.

In 1957 in the U.S., the last hemp crop was harvested. Lipton Tea has been using hemp in their tea bags forever.

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