Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hemp - The crop that is maligned but shouldn't be

Until yesterday, the only person I personally know who advocates the use of hemp for many useful and ecologically sound products is my younger son, Rody. He’s an "earth steward" and earns his living installing off grid as well as residential, commercial, and agricultural power systems, harnessing the sun, wind, and water.

Yesterday I just happened to turn on the car radio while Michael Krazny’s Forum was on the air. Krazny and his guests were discussing the hemp bill, Assembly Bill 684, which could legalize the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes in California. Last year Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a nearly identical bill.

Krazny’s guests were:

Chuck Devore, Republican state assemblyman and co-author of A.B. 684

John Lubel, legal counsel for the California Narcotics Officers Association

Mark Leno, Democratic state assemblyman and co-author of A.B. 684

Patrick Goggin, California counsel for the Hemp Industries Association

Listen to the discussion here or here, and download it as a mp3 file here. I learned that hemp plants can be distinguished from marijuana crops because they are much taller, up to 12 feet, and grow closely together (unlike marijuana which ideally requires about a 4 foot space between plants. Additionally, marijuana plants can’t be hidden in hemp fields because the hemp plants “smother” the small marijuana plants, depriving them of needed sunlight. John Lubel who spoke on behalf of the California Narcotics Officers Association, stated that it opposes A.B. 684, but I didn't hear him rebut the statements that the difference between industrial hemp and marajuana plants is not that difficult to discern.

The versatility of hemp is actually staggering. So many products! So ecologically sound! For instance, it makes a lot more sense to use hemp to make substitutes for petroleum-based plastic products than to use corn, which is the current trend.

If you’re interested in industrial hemp, check out Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America. It’s a lengthy scholarly and scientific treatise, copiously footnoted, and made more interesting with numerous photos such as this one of Henry Ford swinging an axe at his 1941 car to demonstrate the toughness of the plastic trunk door made of soybean and hemp.

Finally, if you, like me, think hemp should be grown for industrial purposes, let your California legislative representatives know you support Assembly Bill 684.

(photos: hemp rope:
Henry Ford with axe: Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village)

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