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Green Myth-Busting: Hemp Is Marijuana

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
MYTH: The United States Government considers ALL strains of hemp as marijuana.

Facts: Partially true, although things are changing. For it’s more than 8000 years of cultivation, hemp and it’s psychoactive drug Cannabis Sativa have been inextricably linked. The name marijuana is a recent moniker. It was first called K(a)N(a)B(a) (cannibas) in early Sumeria and in is referred to as hashish in the Middle East.

We’re not going to address the marijuana culture here and around the world in this article. Our focus is about hemp and it’s use as a biodegradable, highly versatile resource.

Even if the Federal Government approved cultivation of what’s termed “industrial hemp” today, most sources say it will take 10 to15 years before full-scale cultivation and commercialization of the crop is realized. Hemp is a complicated subject, and my first inclination was to write a series of blogs on the subject, but realized all that’s necessary are the basic facts. Below you’ll find links, scholarly and otherwise, to my sources.

There are dozens of species representing some 22 genera, and Cannabis sativa has emerged as the one multi-purpose plant, used primarily for fiber in the stem, and preparations from that fiber such as paper, textiles, construction, plastics, food, medicines and oil from the seeds. Of course, the third part of the Cannabis sativa equation is the intoxicating resin, (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) or THC, secreted by epidermal glands, and that’s what gets a person high.

So, why aren’t we growing it America? Easy -- you already know the answer: the Federal Government says ALL hemp is marijuana, and that’s the myth, almost.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp, and refusing to grow the plant was against the law in the US during the 17th and 18th centuries. Its fiber was used to make sails and ropes for ships, paper for books and writing paper and clothing. The seeds have been used as food for centuries, and two 19th century famines in Australia saw hemp seed used for protein and it’s leaves for roughage.

You get the idea, this is one versatile natural resource, and our government calls it dangerous. How did all that start? I’ve researched dozens of verifiable sources and settled on some facts and, of course, some conspiracy theories.

Part of the reason apparently goes back to Mexico’s Pancho Villa, who relieved William Randolph Hearst of some 800,000 acres of prime timber he planned to use in the production of paper products. Hearst’s vilification of the Mexican people in his newspaper empire could well have come as a result of his loss.

Hearst, along with Lammont Dupont, Andrew Mellon, John D. Rockefeller and the DuPont family were apparently alarmed by hemp’s ability to provide an alternative source for paper, fiber, plastic and more, which would threaten their growing empires. DuPont developed fuel additives and a process to make paper from wood pulp that proved to be less expensive than manufacture by hemp, along with synthetic products such as plastics and nylon. The problem with hemp at that time was the man-hours it took to harvest the crop to make it usable, but a man named George W Schlichten invented a machine called a decorticator, which shortened the harvesting process to such a degree that hemp became the best and most inexpensive material for making paper and other synthetic products. Development of the decorticator was believed to make Hearst’s vast timber reserves worthless, and DuPont’s synthetic petrochemicals would become less attractive. An alleged conspiracy was hatched to derail the development of hemp and destroy the decorticator. It worked, and the developer of the decorticator, George Schlichten, died a broken man, his patents expired and the machine scrapped.

Hearst’s nationwide newspaper chain launched an intensive propaganda campaign portraying hemp, or Cannabis, as a dangerous drug, turning "normal" (meaning "white") people into psychotic killers. Yes, race was a major part of that campaign, and racial slurs were directed especially at African-Americans and Mexicans. The campaign was successful, and when the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was brought to a vote, most people didn’t know that hemp and marijuana came from the same plant. As a matter of fact, most had no idea that the law would aid in destruction of the hemp industry, which is exactly what happened.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 imposed a levy of one dollar on everyone who buys, sells, raises, imports or in any way deals in the commercial use of marijuana. The hook was the penalty provisions of the act, which called for five years’ imprisonment and fines up to $2,000 or both for anyone not buying a Treasury Department tax stamp and dealing in marijuana.

The act says “The term ‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of such plant and every compound, manufacture, salt derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant…”. Hence our laws today say hemp is marijuana and it’s illegal.

According to Biomassive.org,

Thus, the Marijuana Tax Act and other similar tax policies in the years to come not only placed petrochemical and timber industries at the center of our country's physical and technological development, but as a result even shaped our very social, economic, and spatial structures. It converted a largely rural, agricultural nation into an urban, industrial one in a matter of a few decades.

So that’s where we stand today. While America sleeps at the wheel of hemp, other countries are cultivating and producing a wide variety of hemp products. Canada, The Netherlands, France and the UK are leading the world in hemp technology.

Research is ongoing in the US, Canada and European Union to breed of low THC plants, although none have at this point created a strain 100% free of THC. It’s said that in theory, low-THC strains do not completely solve the drug abuse problem because the other principal cannabinoid, CBD can be converted to use as a starting material for manufacturing THC. Experts at Purdue University say there are easier methods of synthesizing THC than by first extracting it from the non-drug strains.

The movement to legalize cultivation of industrial hemp in America is continuing. Just recently, legislators in the State of California passed a bill legalizing cultivation of hemp in the state. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, citing federal law which states all cannabis plants regardless of variety or THC content, are simply considered to be marijuana. And that’s a federally regulated schedule one controlled substance.

So yes, it is a myth that all hemp is marijuana, with the CDB caveat stated above. Will we ever see American farmers raising hemp legally? It would open up millions of acres of ground now deemed unsuitable for cultivation. Hemp could be used for development of an environmentally correct ethanol type fuel, or biodiesel, not to mention the plethora of environmentally safe products, but the infrastructure isn’t in place, and the feds are still adamant: hemp is marijuana.

Here are my sources, enjoy…

HEMP AND MARIJUANA: Myths and Realities
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 - Full Text of the Act
DEA, Controlled Substances Act
Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America
Hemp History
Untitled Document
Hemp History
Marijuana Timeline
Schlichten Papers

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Green Options
Author: Max Lindberg
Contact: Max Lindberg | Green Options
Copyright: 2007 Green Options
Website: Green Myth-Busting: Hemp is Marijuana | Green Options
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