Cannabis Sativa in USA Essay
Cannabis Sativa is the scientific name for marihuana or hemp. Hemp is probably the oldest crop used by early mankind. Its use is documented as early as 10,000 B.C. in Taiwan where a hemp relic was found. By 2700 B.C. in China the hemp plant was widely used for medicine as well as its durable fibers which provided the best source for cordage, rope, fishing nets, cloth and canvas. Its seeds were widely used for burnable oil and provided an important source of highly nutritious sustenance for early settlers. Weed could be cropped in places where other crops would fail due to infertile soil or adverse weather conditions. Through out early human history for thousands of years the cultivation of hemp became one of man's most important crops widely used and revered in China, Asia, India and Russia and later Europe. By the 8th century hemp was widely used in Japan for making paper. Hemp provided the best quality and most durable paper available, even by today’s standards.
Hemp sails and rope provided the means for Columbus to discover America in 1492, since any other fiber would have rotted in the high seas before reaching their destination. Wars were even fought because of cannabis, since in the early 1800's Napoleon declared war against Russia in order to cut off the supply of hemp to England which provided rope and canvas to the Royal Navy. By the 16th-18th century hemp crops became one of the biggest sources of not only rope and textiles, but also paper, lamp oil, paints, varnishes and building materials in Europe, Russia, India and Asia (Hemphasis). Hemp became so important to the English empire that in the early 16th century, Henry VIII made it mandatory for landowners to cultivate at least ¼ acre of land for every 60 acres of land, or be fined by the monarchy (Narconon).
Cannabis History in America
In 1606 Louis Hebert, a French Botanist, planted the first cannabis crop in North America in present day Nova Scotia (Hemptrade). The hemp crop became so highly priced to the American colonists, that by the early 17th century it became illegal for landowners in many states not to cultivate hemp in their farms. In the early days most textiles used for clothes and sails were made out of hemp as well as ropes, cordage and paper. Hemp was even used an acceptable form of legal tender during the 17th-18th centuries and it was even used to pay taxes (Hemphasis). Our founding farmers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington cultivated hemp on their plantations for their benefit. Even when cotton started to be cultivated, it was so labor intensive that its use did not become widespread until the 1800's with the invention of the cotton-gin machine. According to the 1850 United States Census there were 8,327 cannabis or hemp plantations (minimum 2,000 acre) operating in the states. Most books in those days were printed in hemp paper due to its superior quality, strength and durability. The first copy of the Declaration of Independence was written in hemp paper. The U.S. Constitution and the first American flag which were also made of hemp fibers. The widespread use of marihuana as a medicine started in America around the 1800's just like it had been used for 1000's of years in the rest of the world (Narconon).
Why is it illegal? Legalize it!
It was not until well into the 20th century that the use of cannabis and cannabis extracts became a legal issue, but due to all the wrong reasons: politics and special interests, racism, prohibition and demonization of cannabis. During the late 19th and early 20th century the use of hemp diminished greatly due to increasing labor costs and with the widespread availability of the cotton-gin. Mainly cotton and other tropical fibers became the fibers of choice. By that time hemp industrial use was largely relegated to rope, cordage, birdseed and some products such as varnish. Trouble started brewing for the hemp industry when in 1916 the U.S. Government started recognizing the finite nature of the timber industry drafted USDA Bulletin 400 which called for the widespread expansion of the hemp industry as a suitable substitute to the use of timber products. The report concluded that one acre of cannabis could produce as much usable fiber as over four acres of timberland, when planted annually over a 20 year period. Then in 1917 an American named George W. Schlichten invented a machine that separated the fiber from the woody core (“hurds”) which not only increased the fiber yield by over 600%, but furthermore reduced labor costs by over 90% (Hempology). Now with this report and new invention the competition from the hemp crop became highly threatening to their industrial economic viability and their future as an industry became highly uncertain. So with their economic and political clout, the industry giants started looking and trying to devise ways to undermine and eliminate the hemp crop as a fearsome competitor to their businesses which as a group included the wood, textiles, paper, oil, pharmaceutical and plastics industries of not only the U.S., but basically the whole industrialized world.
Consequently at the same time, a window of opportunity opened up to the industry giants. In the early 1900's racism was rampant not only against blacks, but especially against newly arrived Mexican immigrants which came to work as manual laborers in our farms. When the Mexican revolution of 1910 had spilled over the borders, an influx of thousands of poor Spanish speaking Mexican workers started to arrive in America mostly illegally. They brought their culture, habits and most importantly “Marihuana” which they had traditionally smoked as a means of relaxation after a hard days work. The average American at that time had never used cannabis as a recreational drug and most had never even heard of such a thing. When the great depression came and jobs became increasingly scarce, tensions mounted between the small farmers and large scale farmers which hired Mexican immigrants as cheap laborers. So at the time due to ignorance and racism, smoking marihuana became intermediately stigmatized and came to be associated with the unwanted Mexican immigrant population and crime. California was one of the first states to enact laws against marihuana or “loco weed” in 1915, mainly as a backlash against the Mexican immigrants in the state. Other states quickly following the lead. Between 1915-1927 Wyoming, Texas, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arkansas and Nebraska all enacted similar laws with the direct or indirect mission of targeting the Mexican immigrants (Drugwarrant).
Although cannabis had been used for the service of mankind for thousands of years, the industry giants with their economic clout and political influence used their power to spearhead a nationwide campaign to prohibit marihuana cultivation at the federal level which would consequently eliminate hemp as competition. People in America started experimenting with weed and it became ingrained in the public's mind the relationship between Latinos, blacks and foreigners to the marihuana culture. In 1930 a new division of the Treasury department was created, The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, spearheaded by its director Harry J. Anslinger. An all out public relations war was launched in a campaign against marihuana (otherwise known as hemp, but not to the general public) in all national newspapers and radio stations. The campaign was blasted in full force, inundating the uninformed public with false claims such as marihuana being a direct stepping stone to other deadly narcotics such as opium and cocaine, other negative innuendo and outright lies concerning the effects of marihuana such as causing temporary insanity, total lack of self control, rape, suicide, promiscuity, and murder. It all concluded with the Marihuana Tax Act on 1937, effectively making marihuana and hemp one in the same illegal. In the same year DuPont patented Nylon and the chemical method to making paper from wood pulp (Hemphasis).
Why should we legalize it?
A) Timber Wood
Currently over 93% of the world’s supply of paper comes from trees. We could end deforestation virtually overnight, if we switch to the humble hemp crop, instead of trees for our paper needs. One acre of hemp crop can produce as much as four acres of timberland. Hemp can be used to make MDF and other composites that can substitute timber ecologically. Although trees are a renewable resource, the hemp crop is actually ecologically sustainable.
B) Paper and Textiles
Processing wood pulp into paper is environmentally destructive, energy intensive and inefficient. It requires tons of toxic chemicals, water and materials in order to separate the cellulose into usable feedstock for paper and other products. As we have discussed previously, hemp fiber is one of the strongest natural fibers in the world. The hemp plant is up to 85% cellulose compared with trees which are only up to 30% cellulose. The higher the cellulose content, the fewer amount of chemicals and energy inputs needed to process it (Hemphasis). Hemp fiber is naturally UV resistant, mildew resistant, rot proof, anti-bacterial and one of the strongest fibers in the world. It can be woven into any kind of textiles from weatherproof canvas to delicate silken linens. The fiber is softer than cotton, many times stronger, warmer and can last years longer than similar fabrics made of cotton (Hemphasis).
C) Oil Industry monopoly and industrial uses
We could end our dependency in foreign oil with the humble hemp plant. If we planted less than 6% of the continental U.S. with hemp we would supply all our energy needs. The hemp seed contains around 40 % highly pure and flammable oil. It can be easily processed into biodiesel, as a lubricant, or plastics when combined with fibers. Ethanol can be used to run gasoline cars using the large amount of high cellulose content biomass ideal for efficient alcohol fuel conversion (Briggs). Thousands of other products can be created from hemp.
D) The Environment and food
Hemp cultivation will bio-remediate, detoxify and replenish soil by introducing nitrogen and phosphorus and organic mass into the soil. Due to its low water requirements and outstanding growth even in nutrient depleted soil hemp grows vigorously anywhere on earth, from semi desert conditions to even the arctic. Since only the stalks are harvested and the majority of the nutrients are located in the leaves, foliage and flowers and in its deep branching root system. Within a few seasons previously sterile soil will grow other crops. Carbon negative construction materials that sequester carbon in the biomass such as hemp fiberboard or “Hempcrete” will revolutionize the construction industry. Hempcrete is an environmentally friendly, insulating stronger, lighter, more durable lime and hemp curd based alternative to concrete. Hempcrete actually gets stronger with time, slowly petrifying itself years go by eventually turning into solid rock, but with excellent thermal insulator, allows vapor breath-ability, qualities due to the hemp curds incorporated into the lime matrix. As a food, the hemp seed is one of nature’s truly complete and balanced food sources (Hempcrete).
War on Drugs and Medical Use
With 17 states in the U.S. and recently two states, Washington and Colorado, passing legislation legalizing the recreational use of marihuana as well as legalizing help cultivation its time for the federal government to stop the insane special interest driven war on drugs. This war only benefits the pockets of the law enforcement, judicial system, and private prison industrial complexes with their inmate quotas and private corporations which profit from the illegality of this most sacred and useful of all plants in the world. They have stolen or our lives, freedom, health and economic liberty through marihuana laws. Allowing medical use of marihuana with its history of helping relieve pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, spasm, M.S. as well as being scientifically proven to possess an anti-cancer, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties have been well documented in the scientific establishment, but totally are largely ignored by the establishment. We need as a society to stop ignoring the truth, the economic and human loss that these laws create into our fellow men. Let's stop funding the underground economy, criminal activity, gang wars and murder all over something that has never killed anyone and should be perfectly legal.
Work Cited Page
Briggs, J. “Hemp as Fuel / Energy Source.” 29 November 2012.
Drugwarrant.com 2012. “Why is Marijuana Illegal?” 29 November 2012.
Hempcrete.com. 2011. “Welcome to Hempcrete Australia Pty Ltd.” 28 November 2012.
Hemphasis.net. “Chronology of Hemp throughout history.> 28 November 2012.
Hemphasis.net. “Why hemp fabrics? 29 November 2012.
Hemphasis.net. “Why hemp paper? I thought wood was best. 29 November 2012.
Hemptrade.ca. 2012. “About the Hemp Trade Alliance.” 29 November 2012.
Narconon.org. 2012. “Cannabis 3,000 BC – 1500 AD.” 27 November 2012.
Hempology.org. 14 October 1916. “The Study of Hemp.” 28 November 2012.