The History of Hemp

Evil weed or the saviour of humankind? From curing cancer to fuelling cars – together with a lashing of conspiracy – a crusading Graedon Parker, comes firmly down on the side of the latter.

George Washington loved hemp.

America’s first president was so fond of the crop that he once famously wrote to his gardener, “Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere.”

But Washington’s interests didn’t lie in smoking hemp – marijuana’s less notorious sibling – but rather in a mass cultivation of the crop for a myriad of interesting and astonishingly useful purposes.

 Hemp being harvested in 1914 on a U.S. $10 bill.

Hemp being harvested in 1914 on a U.S. $10 bill.

Hemp is a strain of Cannabis sativa that contains only 0.3 per cent of the plant’s psychoactive constituent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). For those not marijuana-articulate, this means one could smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole and still not feel any degree of “highness”.

In fact, hemp is good for almost anything except getting you high: you can eat it, wear it, wash yourself with it and build your house out of it. It’s strong, nutritious, naturally pest-resistant, and will grow basically anywhere.

For thousands of years, industrial hemp was a common staple. It was part of our livelihood and was/still is held as a hugely popular resource in many ancient cultures all over the world. Then, in the early 1900’s, this plant was banned and pushed aside.

Why did this useful plant get labelled with a criminal stamp?

It just so happens that the crop was a threat to many powerful industries at the time, including corporate giant DuPont, as well as various cotton, paper and timber giants. These commercial enterprises had enormous amounts of profit pouring in, which would simply have been threatened if the more sustainable and environmentally friendly option of hemp graced the marketplace.

The negative consensus about hemp that many of us know – and loathe – today, began when a gentleman named Harry Anslinger (married to the niece of a DuPont investor and promoted to head of the Bureau of Narcotics after the end of alcohol prohibition) began looking into rumours of the Mexican population smoking the flowers of the hemp plant.

Because racism was rampant at that time, Anslinger played on that, using the Mexican slang, “marijuana”, in place of the word “hemp”. He spread rumours about blacks and Mexicans becoming violent while smoking it and also labelled it as a narcotic.

Press baron William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers (the mainstream media of the time, fuelled by the timber industry) spread the slander, propagating stories about the “evil marijuana”, including of people committing rapes and murder while “under the influence”.

A propaganda movie released to theatres entitled Reefer Madness portrayed these horrendously inaccurate events happening to young people. This, of course, had the papers selling like wildfire, but they failed to mention the everyday uses of hemp – rope, fuel, textiles, food…

After the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was passed, Anslinger ordered hemp’s prohibition, using the excuse that agents wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and marijuana, and that the farming of hemp made it too difficult to enforce the marijuana prohibition.

During WW2, recognising the beneficial uses of hemp, the United States government put its hemp prohibition act on hold to encourage farmers to grow the crop. It even produced a film entitled Hemp for Victory. This film – check it out here – explained the uses of hemp, and pushed farmers to grow as much as possible in order to aid the war efforts in producing rope, uniforms, parachutes, paper, clothing, and food.

You can eat Hemp?

Besides being good for clothing and fuel, the seeds of the Cannabis plant make it one of the most versatile and nutritionally dense foods on the planet.

The seeds can be pressed into a super food oil, or ground up to create one of the most bio-available and easy-to-digest proteins on earth. Hemp is not only sustainable, but is grown organically, with none of the environmentally adverse chemicals which can be present in animal-based protein powders, such as whey protein.

Although it can be a little sandy – as hemp dabblers may have experienced – the optimum hemp protein-to-smoothie sandiness ratio can be mastered with a little trial and error. Hemp Milk, which is also a derivative of the hemp seed, mixes well with the usual blendable foods like bananas, apples, kiwifruit, kale and spinach.

Besides being one of the best sources of protein, hemp seeds contain nature’s optimum balance of 3:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 oils. These two Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are necessary for healthy bodily function and, seeing as we can’t create these joyous substances, we must seek to incorporate them in our diet.

A fantastic way to do this is through drizzling a little hemp oil on some toast, in a smoothie, or having it massaged by a lover or two into our skin.

In concept, hemp seed oil’s exceptional concentrations of EFA’s could provide all of our EFA necessities for life, containing the ideal 3:1 ratio of EFA’s (Omega 6 to Omega 3) which are known for their role in preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, arthritis, whilst also maintaining skin, eye, hair and joint health.

This essentially means – to the delight of weed enthusiasts – that they could survive quite happily for the rest of their lives on a diet of cannabis related foods and oils.

Hemp and the Earth

Are you wearing socks? A single harvest of hemp can fully mature in 12-14 weeks, yielding between 3-8 tonnes of fibre per acre – four times the amount of an average timber forest. On top of that, an acre of hemp breathes in around 4-times the carbon dioxide of the same amount of trees.

Who said hemp wasn’t good for our lungs?

Being a “weed”, hemp can grow in just about any climate and soil condition while maintaining an entirely pest-resistant presence – which means there is no need for environmentally harmful pesticides and other chemicals, one of the biggest problems in agriculture today.

But perhaps one of hemp’s most impressive uses was evidenced in the clean-up of the radioactive mess from a devastating explosion down at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. The process, called phyto-remediation, saw hemp’s uncanny ability to remove toxic contaminants from the earth, which in turn replenished the soil with vital nutrients.

In light of the recent Japanese earthquakes, could hemp also be a viable solution to the seemingly endless amounts of radiation spewing from the damaged nuclear reactors?

Dr Masaru Emoto – prominent Japanese alternative medicine researcher and author – played his part in re-igniting the hemp movement with his comment, “Plant a lot of hemp in the land of Fukushima. Hemp’s vibration has the potentiality to purify the contaminated environment made by radiation.”

In this steadily and increasingly poisoned and environmentally ravaged world we are living in, couldn’t a little ganja lend a few helping hands right about now?

Henry Ford’s Hemp Car

Some of Henry Ford’s early cars ran entirely on hemp ethanol. In 1941 he built a car that was also constructed from hemp plastic, which was said to be 10 times stronger than steel. He had essentially “grown a car from the soil”.

After World War 2 hemp was eventually outlawed in the US because of the damaging effect it could have on the profits of many powerful industries, including oil, plastic, timber and paper giants.

The idea of hemp being used widely had been fuelled earlier by in a February 1938 article in Popular Mechanics magazine which spoke of hemp as a cash crop soon to be worth a billion dollars.

Imagine where we would be today had these power hungry tyrants not suppressed the amazing bio-technologies of hemp?

Hemp Homes

Much like Strawbale housing, Hempcrete is the cutting edge of eco-green design, providing a fantastic, sustainable and non-toxic alternative to traditional cement and wooden homes.

Hempcrete is amazingly versatile as it can be used for wall insulation, flooring, walls, roofing and more. It’s fire-proof, water-proof, and rot-proof as long as it is above ground.

The material, made from the inside stem of the hemp plant, is mixed with a lime base binder to create the building material. This mixture creates a negative carbon footprint, and is the world’s strongest natural building material, being much more versatile, easier to work with and pliable than concrete.

Earthquakes would have a hard time swaying these structures as they are three times more resistant to tremors than regular concrete.

Hemp homes are starting to pop up all over the world. “I cannot find a material, which does what hemp does,” Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud, who has used Hempcrete in many of his British projects, says.

There has even been talk of using Hempcrete to help rebuild Christchurch after the disastrous earthquake of 2011, but public awareness of the material remains minimal – this is why the information needs to be shared as much as possible.

You would think that if the government and corporations were truly concerned with climate change, and the massive effects it is predicted to have on the planet, they would begin implementing the hemp solution with urgency. But this simply just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Hemp/Cannabis is a major threat to big business (oil, fuel, food, plastics, paper, clothing, pharmaceutical medicine, and more) which is why the crop was made illegal in the first place, and also why all of this information has been kept from the public. It is only now, with the power of the internet, that this knowledge has been able to re-surface, and be spread wildly across the web.

Mary J & Cancer?

Marijuana – hemp’s more notorious sibling, contains a list of mellow psychoactive substances which are regarded as some of the most potent and healing forms of medicine on the planet. This crop was used for thousands of years before pharmaceutical companies began creating new medicines and drugs which were in turn threatened by the natural healing properties of hemp.

There has been scientific evidence that marijuana can shrink and even kill tumours since the 1970s, much of the recent public interest in this research inspired by a man named Rick Simpson. Because of his success, cannabis has recently been achieving full-on status as a cure for many types of cancers.

Simpson has been making cannabis oil and sharing it with friends and neighbours free of charge. In small doses, he says, it makes you well without getting you high.

“Well you can’t deny your own eyes can you?” he says. “Here’s someone dying of cancer and they’re not dying anymore. I don’t care if the medicine comes from a tomato plant, potato plant or a hemp plant, if the medicine is safe and helps and works, why not use it?”

One may be surprised to find that our bodies have in-built cannabinoids. Human breast milk naturally contains many of the same cannabinoids found in marijuana, which are vital for proper human development.

We even have in-built THC receptors in our brains. Because of these facts, one wouldn’t be too silly to suggest this wonderful crop exists to work in synergy with the will and health of mankind.

It could be said that the only reason Marijuana/hemp/cannabis is illegal is because of economics. There are thousands of things the crop can be used for that would put big oil, plastic, paper and profit over people pharmaceutical corporations out of business.

Hemp has the power to feed and heal the earth, provide clean-burning renewable energy sources, building materials, clothing and medicines. But most of all, hemp has the ability to empower the people – enabling us to break free from the widespread illusion of government and corporate control to help facilitate the consciousness evolution of every life-form on this planet.

“I wake up in bed in the morning on my hemp sheets, on my hemp mattress, on my hemp bed frame, and I put my hemp slippers on, and I walk across my hemp carpet. I drink my hemp smoothie, brush my teeth with hemp toothpaste, slip on my hemp clothes and drive my hemp car, which burns hemp fuel.”

Hemp could change everything.