Thursday, March 5, 2009


The Legend:  By legalizing hemp cultivation we could solve many environmental problems, such as deforestation.

Status:  False

  • Growing hemp will yield more cash per acre for farmers growing other crops.
  • Hemp is easier to grow than cotton because it is very low maintenance and requires fewer pesticides.
  • Big businesses like DuPont lobby to keep hemp illegal because it threatens their synthetic fiber market.
  • Hemp is a weed that can be grown anywhere.
  • George Bush was saved by a hemp parachute.

Earlier in U.S. history, Americans cultivated hemp for its fiber content, producing hemp-based products such as rope, paper and cloth. During the 1930's an anti-hemp movement led to passage of the Marijuana Tax Act (1937) effectively ending the U.S. hemp industry.

Is hemp marijuana? Is marijuana hemp? Hemp is made from the cannabis sativa plant, the same plant that gives us smokable marijuana. There are many different varieties of this plant. The psychoactive cannabis sativa that gives us smokable marijuana is a bushy plant with THC content between 3% - 15%. Industrial cannabis sativa is a tall, spindly plant with almost no THC, less than .5%, which makes it useless as a recreational drug.

It is illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. the reasons given by the government for this is that by legalizing hemp we are one step closer to legalizing marijuana. They fear the two varieties of hemp will be grown side by side which would be undetectable by air-based enforcement. Marijuana growers say they would never plant industrial hemp near their marijuana plants because it would cross-pollinate and lower the THC content, and therefore the value of their marijuana.

Funny thing is, at the height of hemp production in the U.S. there were only a few thousand acres being cultivated. It just wasn't that profitable or desirable of a crop when legal, so what do proponents think has changed? Yes, hemp can be used to make paper and cloth, but not great paper or great cloth. Hempseed and hempseed oil are nutritious, but so are many other seeds and seed oils.

Re-legalizing hemp will not end deforestation, which is more about lumber and agricultural land, two things unrelated to hemp or hemp-based products. Hemp is also not a threat to synthetic fiber manufacturers as the two materials are used for different things.

The Canadian ban on hemp cultivation was lifted in 1998, so let's watch and see what happens there.