Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is the source of one of the longest, strongest natural fibers on earth, two to three times stronger than cotton.
It can be grown in just about any climate and soil condition, without the need for chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. It is excellent for reclaiming otherwise-unusable land. It has even been shown to clean up toxic soil.
Hemp has strong mold, bacteria, heat, and U.V. resistant qualities.
Hemp is the world's most versatile fiber. Anything that can be made from wood, cotton, or oil can be made from hemp. Important uses include:
- Rope & twine
- Construction materials
- Industrial composites
- Paints & sealants
- Plastics & polymers
- Fuel & lubricants
- Body care products
Hemp is the oldest cultivated fiber plant in the world, as old as agriculture itself.
Hemp (ma) was used in China as early as 4500 B.C. for ropes and fishing nets. Later it was also used for paper, cloth, food, and oil.
Qaneh at Exodus 30:23 referred to cannabis oil used in a holy ointment. (It is usually mistranslated as calamus.)
Hemp seed oil is said to burn the brightest of all lamp oils, and has been used since the days of Abraham. Scythians purified and cleansed themselves with hemp oil, which made their skin "shining and clean."
Hemp was used in northern Europe by 400 B.C. for rope and cloth. The English word canvas comes from cannabis.
Until the late 19th century, most paper was made from hemp fiber.
The first Gutenberg bible was printed on hemp paper.
Most sails and ropes of the 16th through 18th centuries were made from hemp. Much of the world's lamp oil was from hemp seed.
In Elizabethan England, farmers were fined for not growing hemp. In 1640, it was required that every citizen in Connecticut grow hemp.
The war between The United States and Great Britain in 1812 was partly about access to Russian hemp, as was Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia. Hemp was Russia's primary trade crop in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The first drafts of the United States' Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper.
The first American flag was made out of hemp cloth, as were the first blue jeans.
Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. In 1791, Jefferson said, "Hemp is of first necessity to the commerce and marine, in other words, to the wealth and protection of the Country." In 1794 Washington said, "Make the most of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere."
The "Marihuana Tax Act" of 1937 effectively ended hemp production in the USA, except for a brief revival for textiles and rope during World War II. (The perfection of a mechanical decorticator had in the 1920's made hemp a viable challenge to the petroleum and timber industries.)
In 1941 the Ford Motor Company produced an automobile with a plastic body made from sisal, wheat, and primarily (70%) hemp. The plastic withstood blows 10 times as great as steel could without denting. Its weight was 2/3 that of a regular car. Its engine was designed to run with hemp-oil fuel.
"Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?" --Henry Ford
"Hemp is the standard fiber of the world. It has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products ranging from rope to fine laces, and the woody 'hurds' remaining after the fibers have been removed can be used to produce more than 25,000 products." --Popular Mechanics, 1938
In 1999, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Hawaii legalized the growing of industrial hemp. Other states are urging the federal government to allow it. The USA is the world's largest importer of industrial hemp products.
("Industrial" hemp resin contains less than 1% THC, the main psychoactive compound in "medicinal" hemp.)
Hemp paper is longer lasting than wood-pulp paper, stronger, acid free, and chlorine free. (Chlorine has been estimated to cause up to 10% of all cancers.) Hemp paper can be recycled 7 times, wood pulp 4 times. Making paper from hemp uses only 1/5 to 1/7 as much polluting, sulfer-based chemicals and requires no chlorine bleach.
Hemp fabric requires fewer chemicals than cotton and is stronger and longer lasting.
Hemp particle board may be up to 2 times stronger than wood particleboard and holds nails better.
Hemp products are resistant to ultraviolet light.
One acre of hemp, in annual rotation over a twenty-year period would produce as much pulp for paper as four to five acres of trees being cut down over the same twenty-year period.
One acre of hemp can produce as much usable fiber as two acres of cotton.
5,000-10,000 cancer-related deaths are caused yearly from pesticides and herbicides. Nearly half of all of the use of such pollutants in the USA is for cotton alone. Hemp needs no pesticides or herbicides and is naturally mildew resistant.
Cotton requires extensive water subsidies. Hemp requires less water than cotton and grows in cooler climates.
Hemp is an excellent rotation crop: It crowds out weeds and its deep tap roots break up hard pan soils.
Anything made from a hydrocarbon (petroleum) can be made from a carbohydrate (plants). Hemp plastic is biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic is not.
The industrial use of fossil fuels contributes to global warming by rapidly increasing the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere; hemp-derived fuels maintain the earth's natural O2/CO2 balance.
Hemp can produce 10 times more methanol than corn, the second-best living fuel source.
The hydrocarbons in hemp can be easily processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of biofuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
The sulfur from oil burning causes acid rain; hemp burns cleanly and sulfur free.
Hemp seed is 30% oil, is more nutritious than soy bean, contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soy beans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is 35% dietary fiber. Hemp seed does not contain THC.
"I feel the industrial hemp crop could very easily be the soy bean crop of the new millennium." --Jeffrey W. Gain, USDA