Hemp's Many Practical Uses:
Hemp (Cannabis sativa, L) is an annual herbaceous plant. It can grow to heights of 3-16 feet in a 120-day growing season. If rotated with other crops, it can be grown without pesticides or herbicides. It can be grown in all 50 states, and can be suitably grown for industrial purposes throughout a large portion of the world without irrigation.
Hemp was the first crop cultivated for textile production, and may have been the first plant ever cultivated. The first hemp industries appeared simultaneously in China and Eurasia around 8000 BC, and it was cultivated throughout history by most major civilizations as a source of rope, clothing, sails and paper. No one knows for sure when hemp first made its way to North America, but it may well have arrived with the first inhabitants. European settlers brought hemp and hemp industries to the New World.
Hemp has played an important role in American history and many colonies required citizens to grow it. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hemp farmers and advocates of hemp. Betsy Ross' flag was 100% hemp cloth; the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. In this century, Henry Ford created a car with a hemp body, which ran on hemp fuel.
In 1937 Congress, placing a prohibitive tax on hemp production that basically destroyed the industry, passed the Marijuana Tax Act. This was done mainly to protect the economic interests of those industries (timber, petrochemical) that were threatened by a potentially strong hemp industry. Hemp was briefly re- legalized during WW II, and the government even produced the movie "Hemp for Victory" to show farmers hemp's many advantages.
Today, hemp is cultivated in China, Russia and other CIS states, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Poland and other Eastern European countries. Hemp cultivation was recently permitted in Great Britain and in Canada on a trial basis.
Hemp can be used to make anything currently made of cotton, timber or petroleum. It is said to have over 50,000 commercial applications. Important uses include: Paper,Textiles,Medicine,Construction materialial,Food,Rope/twine,Plastics, and Fuel.
Hemp is among the earth's primary renewable resources: trees cut down to make paper take 50 to 500 years to grow back while hemp can be cultivated in as little as 100 days, and can yield 4 times more paper over a 20 year period.; hemp cultivation would reduce the destruction of our forests.
Hemp is also an agricultural alternative for farmers with difficult-to grow crops and/or products with declining markets, like tobacco and milk. Now, 75% of hemp grown worldwide is being turned into textiles. Hemp designers offer everything from hemp/silk evening gowns to biker jackets and sweaters. In the home, hemp goods include duvet and pillow covers, curtain panels, tablecloths and napkins. For the bath, ultramoisturizing hemp seed-oil is ideal for beauty products such as lip balm, soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotions.
Hemp can be pulped organically, and bleached without chlorine or other harmful chemicals. Hemp pulp can reduce harmful pulp mill emissions 60-80%.
It requires less energy to produce hemp paper, and is therefore cheaper to produce. Hemp paper lasts hundreds of years, while tree paper turns yellow and disintegrates in 50-70 years. Hemp paper can be recycled 7 times versus 3 times for wood pulp paper.
It is estimated that 5-7 million acres of hemp dedicated to paper production could satisfy US pulp, and one ton of hemp paper saves 12 mature trees.
Materials like plywood, medium density fiberboard, particleboard, etc., could be made from hemp, without the harmful chemicals, in existing factories with no or only minor equipment changes. Boards made from hemp are stronger, lighter, more sound absorbent, earthquake and hurricane resistant, bug resistant, flame resistant, and longer lasting than wood fiberboard. A French company is building homes out of hemp-based concrete that have all the properties listed above, at a cost comparable to conventional housing.
This only scratches the surface of hemp's many uses. The seeds are a valuable source of protein and oil. Making products such as fuel, oil and plastics from hemp instead of oil is not only more ecologically sound, but eliminates oil drilling, oil wells, super tankers and oil spills. It seems that the applications of hemp are limited only by the imagination.
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