Traditionally, the government has been against the legalization of hemp due to fear that growers could use the guise of hemp’s many attributes to disguise the THC content in Hemp. This is an archaic stance and the government’s near sightedness on this issue, hinders
America from reaping the many benefit’s of industrialized hemp production. An example of industrialized hemp productions benefits is using hemp cellulose matter to replace wood products helping save our ever-shrinking national forests. Another benefit of hemp production is the environmental superiority of hemp-based clothing over traditional cotton based products. Advantages to the legalization of industrialized hemp far outweigh the government’s opposition to the proposal. Senator Cantwell, congress should move to legalize industrialized hemp production now.
Researchers have proven that using hemp cellulose matter to replace wood products could very well become a viable option in the fight to save our depleting national forests.
Construction products such as medium density fiber board, oriented strand board, and even studs and posts could be made out of hemp. Because of hemp’s long fibers, the products will be stronger and/or lighter than those made of wood (worrell). Another fact which requires serious consideration, one acre of hemp (grown in a single season) yields as much paper as up to four acres of trees (which take many more years to grow) (soiferman). Another side of the debate that should be given some reflection is the difference in the environmental effects of processing wood as opposed to hemp. Most notable of these differences is the chemical requirements of pulping both hemp and wood. For example, because of hemp’s low lignin content, it can be pulped using fewer chemicals than wood. Hemp’s natural brightness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach, which means no extremely toxic dioxin being dumped into streams. A kinder and gentler chemistry using hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine dioxide is possible with hemp fibers (worrell). One positive effect of the environmentally safer chemical processes is the fact the run off water from the processing plant could be used to irrigate future crops of the plant. This is important because any chemicals we allow to run off from our nation’s factories find their way into our water tables, and possibly into our livestock’s water supplies. By limiting the amount of water resources we are forced to use processing hemp, we can limit the environmental footprint of these facilities. By fully exploring the various ways hemp could be used to replace wood products our generation would be responsible for saving our precious forests.
Before we can take an educated stance on the differences between hemp and cotton we would first have to look at the chemical requirements of growing each crop. To begin with, cotton crops in the United States occupy 1% of the country’s farmland but use 50% of all pesticides (soiferman). Fifty percent of all pesticides used in the United States is alarming when you take into consideration just how many different crops the United States grows each year. Hemp grows well in a variety of climates and soil types opening opportunities to new farming markets. Hemp is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. It grows tightly spaced, out-competing any weeds, so herbicides are not necessary. Hemp also leaves a weed-free field for a following crop (worrell). The use of pesticides has adversely affected the very health of our planet, and it is important to mention we as a society are still discovering the true devastation our choices are having on our surroundings. The pesticides and synthetic fertilizers used on cotton routinely contaminate groundwater, surface water, and pollute the water we drink. Fish, birds and other wildlife are also affected by the movement of these chemicals through the ecosystem (lotusorganics). Between hemp’s ability to grow virtually anywhere, and the proven environmental benefits of not requiring chemicals to sustain a crop, we owe it to ourselves to give hemp the chance it deserves.
Now that the environmental differences between hemp and cotton have been described, products made from both hemp and cotton should be examined. The differences in products are very clear, hemp is four times warmer than cotton, four times more water absorbent, and has three times the tensile strength of cotton (soiferman). Hemp is also many times more durable and is naturally flame retardant (soiferman). Over the last few years hemp has begun to establish itself in the world’s clothing market with name brand manufactures taking advantage of foreign grown hemp to produce their products. Many high fashion clothing manufactures have produced clothes and footwear made with hemp, some of these manufactures include Nike, Converse, Armani, Patagonia, Polo Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta and many more (soiferman). Recently a pro cotton organization posted some disturbing facts regarding the growing and production of cotton products. A staff member at Lotus organics was quoted as saying;
The simple act of conventionally growing and harvesting the one pound of cotton fiber needed to make a T-shirt takes an enormous and devastating toll on the earth’s air, water, and soil that impacts global health. Also, policies and practices within the cotton industry from crop subsidies to garment sweatshops create poverty and misery that stretch around the world. Cotton industry trade organizations such as Cotton Incorporated spend millions and millions of dollars attempting to convince American consumers of the hoax that conventional chemical cotton is pure and friendly to the health of the wearer (lotusorganics).
It is of utmost importance that information detailing both the pros and cons of each crop be examined prior to the making of decisions regarding the crops futures.
When taking into account the advantages of any new technology it is important to understand all facts surrounding both sides of an issue to prevent misconceptions. Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, and other cannabiniods are found in food and other products made from fiber hemp seed. THC is the chemical element which gives Marijuana its analgesic effects. The government’s stance on THC is clearly defined within the controlled substances (CSA) act of 1970, and it is the job of Americas Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, to assure no products containing THC are sold for human consumption in the United States. When congress wrote the CSA in 1970, it provided anything that contains “any quantity” of a schedule 1 hallucinogenic controlled substance is, itself a Schedule 1 controlled substance, unless it is an FDA-approved drug product. Thus, the CSA prohibits human consumption of any non-FDA-approved product that contains any amount of THC. Today’s rules reiterate this long-standing aspect of federal law (usdoj). Since THC and the over 60 other cannabiniods are fat-soluble, i.e., store themselves in the fatty tissues of the brain and body, even a very small amount may be damaging, especially if ingested regularly (mcdougal).
At this time the basis of arguments for the legalization of industrialized hemp in the United States have nothing to do with promoting consumption of hemp products. First and foremost it is imperative that we not rule out the many possible attributes of this ancient plant simply because a select group of individuals want to get high. Hemp is in fact a member of the Cannabis Sativa family of plants; however, the THC content in industrialized hemp is so minute it would be virtually impossible to get high by consuming or smoking the plant. Industrialized hemp has a THC content between 0.05% and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over a matter of minutes. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas, and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to stand (worrell). Under current legislation citizens across America are being held to a grievous double standard. It is currently illegal to grow industrial hemp for food, oil, paper or fabric in the united states of America, but it is perfectly legal to export hemp to the united states and to process, consume and wear it there (soiferman). Last year, Canadian farmers planted 48,060 acres of hemp. Government statistics say Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the provinces along North Dakota’s northern border, were Canada’s biggest hemp producers (Wetzel). The United States current policy does not pass any logic test. Why is it our government thus far has been unable to move past the stereotypes, and offer the American public the same opportunities we give to the countries exporting hemp into America?
By moving past the stereotypes and giving serious consideration to the legalization of industrialized hemp, America now has an opportunity to become an active participant in the saving of forests and reducing pollution. Through the use of hemp, we as a society could again be credited with advanced thought, and ingenuity which is after all just a few of the many attributes which distinguish each of us as Americans in the first place. Listed in the body of this letter are but a few of the many contributions industrialized hemp could offer our country, and I am confident hemp could if given the chance, surprise us all with more contributions to our economy and environment. To refuse the many possibilities hemp could offer would not only be a huge step in the wrong direction, but years down the road such a decision would be likened to the stance America once held on the futile possibilities of recycling garbage.
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