In Praise of Hemp
The neglect and abuse modern culture has dumped on the poor little cannabis plant is as remarkable as the lack of understanding surrounding the plant in general. Hemp has been a mainstay plant of civilization until it was put under siege. In western culture, it was the nefarious William Randoph Hearst, newspaper mogel of the early 20th Century, who almost single-handedly [if you count all his newspapers] demonized the plant. That was followed after WWII by companies like DuPont, who were pimping their new synthetic products, to further discourage any hemp production as it competed with things like nylon.
But if we look back into the annals of history, we find hemp designed imprinted in pottery 5,000 years ago. We find vapours of hemp being ingested in the Mediterrainian area around 500bc, and African hemp rituals springing up shortly thereafter.
In the Middle Ages of Europe [1200 - 1700ad], growing and processing hemp was the single biggest endeavor on the continent, with estimate that as many as 60% of population being directly involved in hemp production.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both cultivated hemp on their farms. Benjamin Franklin started the first American paper mill, which made paper exclusively from hemp, and the Declaration of Independence was drafted on paper made from hemp fibers.
Why all the attention? Hemp is remarkably versitile in what it provides, and remarkably easy to grow, with a natural resistance to pests and minimal fertilizer input. Every part of the hemp plant has use, from the strong fibers for cloth or paper, the rich oil that can be used for light, heat and lubrication, the edible seeds, and teas from the leaves. Replacing forestry products with hemp products could be a simple transition with huge beneficial results. Just migrating to hemp paper alone would save thousands and thousands of acres of Southern Pine.
See, the way it works now is not that farmers find the best plants for the best purpose. Oh contrare. It's more like this: the few monolithic agribiz giants like Cargill, Monsanto and ADM figure out how to extract the most money from their constituents, farmers and end users, and then figure out how to get the federal government to give them the most in subsidies for what they're already making a fortune on. It's corporate welfare at its finest. So of course they ensure our government has little interest in legalizing hemp production, in spite of glaring ecological benefits.
And then there's the Heathen Devil Weed Marijuana. A cousin to hemp that features the mind-altering chemical THC. This was the plant so demonized in "Reefer Madness", an account so fictional it rivals Fox News' fiction of being a news outlet.
Hearst started his campaign against weed as part of his general racism. As marijuana was particularly popular among black and hispanic cultures, he went after weed just to create more misery for these folks. Well there's a financial reason too. Even though Hemp and Marihuana are easily distinguished, by demonizing the one he demonized the other which made is forest-generated paper more competitive.
These days the main forces against legalization fall into four groups, which may overlap: officials, moralists, the alcohol corporations and the tobacco corporations. To which you may say, huh? But there they are.
Officials in law enforcement often encourage the "War on Drugs" because it provides them with a job. Job security. Not a great policy driver. These folks are often closely aligned with moralists, who determine the rightness or wrongness of anything according to their ideology. Again, not great for policy [though wildely common in our government].
The alcohol lobby isn't big on legalization because stoners tend to drink less. The Center for Disease Control suggests 40,000 deaths a year are attributable to alcohol. And to the Devil Weed? Zero. And the tobacco lobby has similar reasoning. We're less compulsive about having that next ciggie when we've got a nice buzz on.
So there we have it, a marvelous microcosm of why the world4 culture sucks. We can do better. If you haven't yet joined World5, might be a good time to consider it. Weed smoking is not required, but it is allowed. :)