Hemp No Joke

RE: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_131.html

Frankly, this response is sophmoric, at best. Yes, many hemp
proponents are M users and might have initiated the issue BUT
serious economic & agricultural gains are available with a hemp
economy. No one thing will save the environment but hemp
ag/eco would be a HUGE contribution to positve development.
NO - I don’t smoke weed, and am very intereseted in Ind. Hemp.

  1. Industrial hemp and drug marihuana are NOT the same plant.
    IH has very low THC, & if cross polinated ruins M

  2. IH can be a revolutionary crop/product for USA
    Seed: best EFAs possible, high protein, biodeisel fuel, lubricants
    Pith: Cellulose - plastic (can replace petrochemical based), paper
    Fiber: Cloth

  3. Illegalization conspiracy - no one can ever know for certain - but do
    some research - Yes hemp was a marginal crop/product BUT a machine
    was invented in 1930s which was ready to do to Hemp what the
    Cotton Gin did to cotton, make it economically feasible to process.
    Hemp paper could have competed with highly polluting pulp paper process,
    Hemp cellulose could have displaced petrochemical alternatives for plastics.
    Hemp fuel could have challenged the PC status quo. Etc.
    This would have taken time, of course. If you don’t believe powerful
    economic interests controlled the devlopment of the economy against
    competion, well you must be tokin’! I’ve run on enough but if anyone is interested
    Google Hemp + Anslinger, DuPont, Popular Mechanics, Economy,
    http://www.ndsn.org/FEB97/HEMP.html overview of Ind Hemp

    Cecil, please re-think this: your (puffy) response on a serious issue is a
    dis-service to the education of your subscribers.

Yes, they are. Both are varieties of Cannabis sativa; hemp is selectively bred for strength and cellulose content while marijuana varieties, like Indica, are bred for THC content. To say they are not the same plant is equivalent to saying a black man is not the same type of human as a white man.

As for your other points, there are lots of sources of biodiesel and cellulose, some of which are even more productive than hemp, but we don’t use those either. It’s a question of economics. Petrochemicals are vastly cheaper than their biological analogs; as long as that continues to be true, we’ll use oil regardless of its environmental effects.

Pound for pound, trees produce cellulose which is far cheaper than that from hemp, simply because trees grow much bigger and much faster without much effort. Additionally, wood is still a major construction material, despite the increasing prevalence of steel-frame construction. Much of the raw material for paper production comes from the the waste scraps from the lumber industry; as long as there is a lumber industry, trees will continue to be the cheapest source of cellulose.

Yes, and this is why France, Canada, and other countries where growing hemp is legal are the economic powerhouses that they are. I’d like to see hemp be legal (especially if it could replace the use of wood pulp for making paper), but the overblown, histrionics of its supporters are unconvincing.

(this is a response to the OP, not Q.E.D)

Industrial hemp is a hybrid of marihuana; contains <0.3% THC

The hemp plant is not only all around useful, the economics of growing it are
amazing, nitrigen fixing, naturally drought and insect resistant.

In 1919 the US Agricultural Dept predicted hemp paper could displace trees
by 1940. Hemp is 4X more productive per acre than wood cellulose.

Let the farmers decide is my point. Remove the barriers and see what happens
in an open economy.

Making a comment on the ENTIRE economies of hemp legal nations
is not relative. Take bio-fuels for example: if one were to look at the
overall $$$ impact BFs would be negated immediately. Take a look at the

I’m not saying hemp will save the world. My argument is that Industrial Hemp
is a agricultural product that needs to be allowed to exist, and in time will
be a noted addition to the American economy. Numerous states are lobbying
hard to legalize IH. Look at it from a small business perspective; for instance
Tobacco states would love to have a substitute crop. They can get 2 harvests of
hemp per year with almost no investment of fertilizers/herbicides/insecticides.

I’m looking at a realistic perspective: the flippant marginalization of IH proponents
all being pot head dead heads is very shallow. This is serious crop/product that should
be allowed to excist and is gaining strong support from agricultual interests as the
uneducated stigma is slowly being overcome.

How many acres would have to be harvested each year to replace, say, ten percent of our gasoline usage with hemp-based biodiesel?

My point with the biofuels (most of which presently
are corn based ethanol) is that one cannot only look at the present impact
of an emerging economy on a very large economy, other factors must be
considered as well. In actuality, it would take tremendous amounts of
farm land to satisfy America’s present voracious fuel appetite.

Face it - this could be considered a Status Quo vs New Engineering dabate.
Modern deisels with incredible mileage Audi A2 78mpg VW Golf 40mpg VW Lupo 100+ mpg, while the VW 1 liter Concept 220+ mpg. Considering a phase in of
intellegent interan combustion vehicles (both low mpg AND emissions) would change the math considerably and allow plant based fuels to be a viable option for our
needs. Also the trucking industry would need to phased greatly into intermodal
transport. So, I yeild to your point: presently it is impractical to consider biofuels
as a substantial replacement for petrochemical fuels.

The hemp issue is much larger than fuel actucally. The other applications
are presently far more realistic, i.e. food, fiber, cellulose.

As noted IH is a very attractive agricultual product. Yield is quite high with little
investment. The primary issue is creating an economy which would support the
farmers’ product.

My basic premise is this: IH should be legalized in the US. It’s ridiculous it isn’t.
The marihuana issue is silly. IH does not contain enough THC, it ruins real
marihuana, the growth patters (wide bushy vs. tight high) is totally different.

One of the big problems— which wasn’t mentioned in the article, but which been mentioned on the boards before— is that it’s next to impossible to tell the difference from the air. Making hemp legal would, theoretically, make it too easy for drug producers to grow high THC content plants next to so-called industrial plants without the DEA catching on.

A couple of extremely minor points:

  1. Industrial hemp is not a “hybrid” of C. sativa (with anything) – it’s the only species in genus Cannabis, and the only member of either its family or subfamily, depending on which botanical taxonomist you talk to. (Hops [Humulus humulis] is either a closely related family or a different subfamily in Cannabaceae.) Rather, it’s a strain developed for high strand strength (and coincidentally with minimal THC content) as QED noted.

  2. While industrial hemp does have some valuable uses, I am certain Cecil is right on target in saying that claims are generally overblown and that at least part of the industrial-hemp promotion is an effort at backdoor legalization of marijuana. (Which would make a fine Great Debate, but is not relevant here.)

  1. Industrial hemp grown in close proximity to Marihuana would ruin the
    Marihuana by Cross fertilization. Serious M growers would never put their
    crop near IH.
  2. IH is a high stalky plant, grown in tight patterns as oposed to M
  3. The risks to farmers are extreme. To get the IH seeds they would have to
    register with the DEA, thus are a known entity.
  4. The growing would be monitored by DEA. This is another of the anti-IH

Aside from the technical discussions, I do believe it comes down to individual belief.
I do not use marihuana, I know people that do that have healthy happy lives.
So I guess you could say I’m not anti-marihuana. It seems that strong anti-M
peolple generally think the Industrial Hemp issue is a smokescreen at worst
and a nuisance at best. My views are libertarian, I do not believe the US government
has the right to resrtict its citizens from participating in the cultivation of a
potentially profitable crop.

I agree with you, I’m certain certain payers in the IH movement would love to see
marihuana legalized/decriminalized. (see response above)

If you follow the progression of the IH issue many of the newer proponents are
agricultural interests in states that are dominated by sigle crop agriculture and are
highly attracted to hemps characteristics, i.e. nitrogen fixing, deep root, no need for
chemicals (ver cost attractive), and short crop maturity (85-120 days).

I think Cecil’s commentary was shallow and flippant. There are many very serious
professional people lobbying for rights to grow industrial hemp. I believe in the American spirit of entrepreneurship, and see the present laws as restricitve.


Hemp is basically crap for biodiesel anyway. Here is a table of some hard figures in terms of gallons of raw oil produced per acre of crop. As you can see, while hemp is better than corn, which is actually at the bottom of the list, it’s blown away by the majority of oilseed crops. Even the lowly peanut produces nearly three times as much oil per acre as hemp.

You’ve mentioned this several times. However, it is false; hemp is not a nitrogen fixing plant and should not be grown as a monoculture crop for too many successive seasons, because it eventually depletes the soil nitrogen levels. Cite:

And that’s from a pro-hemp site, in case you’re concerned about unfavorable bias against your position.

My mistake, thank you for the correction. I mistook mineral gathering for nitrigen fixing. Hemp has extensive root systems which tend to bring minerals to the surface,
especially in depleted soils, as well as mechanically preparing soil.

The primary agricultural benefits stated are accurate; low cost of production and good yield in a wide variety of climates and soils with a short growing cycle.

In response to the comment about fuel application: I realize biofuels are not high on the list of applications. The primary use of the oil is a food product. Hemp oil possesses an almost perfect ratio of EFAs (Omega 3:6:9) for a human being.
Hemp oil is the closest to fish oil of any vegetable oil.
Interesting Oil Fact:
All good paints and varnisheds were made from Cannabis seed oil until 1937. (Sherwin Williams Paint Company testimony before Congress against the 1937 Hemp Tax Transfer Law). One hundred sixteen million pounds (58 thousand tons) of Cannabis seed were used in the United States for paint manufacture in 1935. The Cannabis oil business displaced when Cannabis production became illegal went to Du Pont petrochemicals.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture itself had in 1916 invented a hemp pulp paper process which it proclaimed would, as soon as the technology became available, make paper both superior and cheaper than wood pulp paper. This technology becomes available in the 30’s. The paper process has excellent upside compared to pulp process.

The hemp seed, is the second most complete protein source known, after soybeans. Hemp seed contains a higher percentage of enzymes and amino acids than any other food, including soybeans, and can be produced cheaper.

My basic premise is that industrial hemp is an excellent agricultural product with
numerous unique applications that is being inappropiately restricted due to the
marihuana controversy. Historically, one can debate the issues and circumstances
leading to the Marihuna Tax ACt of 1937, but I believe a strong case can be made
that the instigators of this bill did not reasonably consider the testimony from
industry, agricultural experts, and medical experts. A strong recomendation to explore
known varieties of hemp with negligible actice ingredients was totally ignored. This
act set the policy which still exists today.

I hate to say this but Hemp is basicly second best at everything. Even if it were legal (and it is in many countries, the US is not the world) it doesn’t really do much more than act as a specialty cash crop:

Paper: Our industry is geared towards tree farms for making paper. Tree farms and harvesting may make some folks wince at the thought of knocking down trees for simple paper, but the industry has cut down its pollution with years of technology devleopment. Switching to hemp would throw that technology back to square one.

Tree farms alse make efficient use of space that otherwise cannot be used for crops. Its comparitively easy to grow and harvest trees on a hillside. Hemp can also grow on a hillside but you would not be able to harvest it. Hemp was always considered the worst of all papers back in the days when it was used for paper. Read the old editions of Pulp and Paper where they still discuss handmaking techniques and you’ll see there wasn’t much to say about hemp.

Germany has had legal hemp for ages now, and they are the leaders in papermaking technology. Hemp has not excited them. Other fiber crops would actually do better service if we had to switch.

Hemp Oil: I’m sorry, but other crops still have more energy per acre than hemp, and making that into biodeisel is not exactly saving the earth.

Plastics: Ugh. Bioplastics still hasn’t exactly taken off (the present technology iswell entrenched) and again, if the world needed to switch to a new source hemp woul dbe later in the list of candidates. Plastic application is somehow linked to Dupont being part of the 'Ban hemp conspiracy since Nylon was released a few years later. The Hempheads would claim that it had something to do with Naval ship mooring ropes, which were then hemp but were later replaced with Nylon (much later). The idea that Dupont would pour all this effort into banning Hemp for a few Battleship ropes when they were making money hand over fist making Nylon Stockings is laughable. I doubt anyone will be wearing hemp plastic stocking anytime soon.

Cloth: Strong, sure. This is one of Hemp’s high water marks. But hemp cloth is prone to rot. Hemp cloth never impressed our ancestors, they used it for sailcloth mostly. This country is covered with textile musuems showing quilts and other items made by our pioneering ancestors. I’ve visited a few and have yet to see Hemp in the fiber mix.

Seeds: Some nutritional value, but nothing incredible. It might help some hardcore vegans with needed amino acids. The truth is the best beneficiary of legal hemp would be the makers of birdseed (which uses a lot of hempo seed, or at least used to).

Harvesting Don’t buy into that ‘The cotton gin for hemp’ arguement. That stems from a Popular Mechanics article and they’ve promoted some things that have turned out to be dogs (Rolamite, anyone?). A few articles is not going to make Hearst sweat since the technology was still aimed at tree pulp and hemp paper sucks.
The biggest problem for hemp harvesting is the actual harvesting, which is, was an always shall be a royal bitch. Even modern harvesting machinery gets worn down quickly by hemp. Canadian agriculture specifically warned potential hemp farmers that their machinery would suffer from harvesting hemp.

Don’t get me wrong. Hemp should be legal. But spare me the song and dance.

Kevin, you don’t need to hit return at the end of every line. The software of this message board will automatically take care of that. By hitting return you are producing cramped and almost illegible posts. Only hit return when you want to start a new paragraph
Now, from the beginning some of the more obvious flaws:

No, it wouldn’t. Hemp would be at best a minor contributor.

Yes, they are. Just as a Grosse Lisse and a Roma tomato are the same plant. They are simply two cultivars of the same species and descend from the same original stock.

Not really. Almost any legume, or nut has higher protein levels and produce far greater yeild product per hectare.

This is true of any plant product. Doesn’t matter whether it’s hemp or cotton or catnip. The question is whether it is economical to use them for those ends, and it is not economical to use hemp. That is why even in those countries where hemp production is unregulated it is a very, very minor and specialized crop.

Reference please? What was this machine, and if it was equivalent to the cotton gin why wasn’t it rapidly and universally adopted in other hemp producing nations as the cotton gin was?

Possibly, but the hemp paper production process produces far more pollutant than wood paper production.

No, it couldn’t. To suggest that the world or just the US could grow enough hemp replace or even significantly displace or petrochemical polymers is laughable.

No, it couldn’t. Even if every inch of potentially available land for hemp could have been sown it would have been equivalent to less than 5% of the PC status quo.

No, it isn’t. It’s a single species cultivar.

Hemp is not capable of nitrogen fixation. That is a trait of some members of the Fabaceae and a few oddities such as the Casuarinas only. Not found in hemp.

Hemp is not in any sense drought resistant. It is a plant of the wet tropics and needs constant irrigation. Sisel is a good drought resistant fibre plant. Trees are a good drought resistant paper pulp plant. Hemp is not.

Hemp is not especially insect resistant when it is grown in commercial stands.

Can we please see references for these extraordinary claims. And I don’t mean pro-marijuana websites. I mean independent and ideally USDA references.

We know what happens because hemp cultivation is legal in a great many countries and people still grow cotton and flax for fibre.

Yes, you are,

You have said it will displace petrochemicals polymers and petrochemical fuels and is capable of entirely replacing trees as a source of paper pulp, increases soil fertility and reduces the need for irrigation and makes ahuge contribution to environmentally sustainability. You have essentially said it will save the world

Nonetheless you just said that hemp could displace petrochemicals and make a huge contribution to saving the environment. Which is it? Is hemp going to make a huge contribution and displace petrochemicals as an energy source, or is it going to require tremendous amounts of farmland to displace petrochemical fuels? What figures did you use to arrive at those claims about “huge contributions and displacement of petrochemical fuels?

I’m sorry Kevin, but at this stage you are coming off as someone who is simply making claims up based on stuff lifted off pro marijuana websites. The fact that so many of your claims are just plain wrong doesn’t give me any confidence in your other claims that seem extraordinary.

No, they aren’t. Hemp as a food source is pathetic compared to established food crops such as cereals or tree nuts. It just doesn’t rate.

In terms of fibre hemp processing is very polluting and produces vast amounts of waste water which is very expensive to treat and can not be released back into the environment.

As for cellulose hemp must be treated as a monocultural cultivation crop. In contrast trees can and are produced in areas of some ecological diversity, require far less maintenance and can be and largely are grown in areas unsuitable for other agriculture.

In fact exactly the opposite is true. Hemp has much poorer yields than cotton for high quality fibre, poorer yields than sisal or flax for low quality fibre, requires more water than trees or sisal for fibre, requires more water than sorghum or many tree nuts for food, requires far more management than trees or sisal and so forth. Hemp is a bad compromise between a lot of other agricultural crops and only excels in a very limited ecological and economic niche. These are the reasons hemp was a marginal crop when outlawed in the US, and the reasons it remains a marginal crop in the many countries where production is legal.

That doesn’t even make any sense, and of course isn’t true. It is primarily leaves, the shoot apices and flowers that are harvested in drug cannibis. Neither of those structures can be affected by cross pollination. Cross pollination can only possibly affect those parts of the plant derived from the pollen itself: the sees. There are some minor cases where it can affect the fruit, but since neither fruit nor seeds are significant parts of drug cannibis production it makes no difference.

A claim that cross pollination can have any influence at all on drug production is just plain wrong. It also demonstrates a gross ignorance of basic biology and agriculture, neither of which give me much faith in your other arguments.

Hemp doesn’t have any more extensive a root system than any comparable sized plant. Certainly it fares very badly against many tree crops which also produce far more human utilizable food as well as stock feed and are genuinely nitrogen fixing.

Can you possibly explain how a plant can “mechanically prepare” soil? And prepare it for what exactly?

And this is where it all falls down. Hemp doesn’t have a very low cost of production compared to other human food crops, It doesn’t have a very good yield when compared to other fibre crops. It doesn’t have a very wide climatic tolerance compared to something like wheat or maize. It doesn’t have a very short growing cycle when compared to cereal crops. It isn’t very drought tolerant when compared to tree nuts. And so on and so forth.

In fact hemp produces more food than most other fibre crops, more fibre than most cereals, has a shorter growing season than most tree legumes, is more drought tolerant than cotton and so forth. IOW it is a jack-of-all trades, but unfortunately a master of none. It is a good plant for third world subsistence gardens precisely because it can be used for a variety of roles. It sucks balls for modern developed world agriculture because it isn’t very good at any one role.

Based on what? And according to whom? And if we could get the same result from half the land and a quarter the water by simply eating a balanced diet, rather than a diet consisting entirely of hemp, then why shouldn’t we do that?

I have an Uncle who was a cabinetmaker in 1937 and he swore that the best varnishes were all based on jojoba and beeswax. I find it very hard to believe that no good varnishes or paints were made form beeswax or petrochemical s in 1937. Could we please have a reference to this claim?

Bollocks. Hemp is so far behind whey, eggs, beef, pork, venison, fish and so forth that it doesn’t even make the list of most complete proteins.

What does that even mean? Are you seriously suggesting that hemp seed contains a greater percentage of protein than whey or steak? And if not then what form are these amino acids found in?

Ditto for the enzyme line. Are you seriously saying that hemp contains more enzymes than liver?

I get the impression that you don’t; actually know what complete protein means, nor what an enzyme is

Cite. Please provide evidence that weight for weight hemp seed can be produced more cheaply than soy.
I too have no problem with legalizing hemp. In fact I have no problem with legalizing marijuana. But this line that hemp is some sort of wonder crop is total nonsense. Hemp does a really bad job in a number of roles. It is largely only in circumstances where every one of those roles is required and space is limited that hemp has any real place. And in the developed world in the 21st century those circumstances just done exist. As such hemp is relegated to a niche as a specialist crop for a tiny market.

If you want a high quality fibre crop, or a high yield fibre crop, or a good paper crop, or a high protein food source, or a high yield food source, or a high oil content food crop or a soil remediation crop or a drought tolerant crop or any of the other plethora of functions you have suggested that hemp could fill you wouldn’t select hemp. You would select a crop that is the best at that one purpose. The fact that hemp is a mediocre quality fibre crop with medciocre yields and so forth don’t make it more appealing. The fact that its advocates feel the need to push so many barrows demonstrates the fact that hemp is inadequate at almost anything.

I have, however, heard people with no interest in hemp, per se, say that hemp made the best rope.

One man’s pollutant is another man’s hashish.

Concur. At this point, the OP has pasted in so many pothead arguments, the bit I’m really, really most doubtful about is:

Which is, of course, why, as a rule, we don’t much cotton (heh) to people who conduct debates by cut-and-paste. If someone has an argument, they should feel free to make it. But if all they’re doing is “regurgitation by clipboard,” we have no assurance they’re actually reading (or understanding) and responding to any specific points. Debates of this nature quickly become incoherent and repetitive: “Oh yeah, well, <paste>.” - “That’s not on point, but <response>.” - “Oh, yeah, well, <paste>.” - " :rolleyes: "

(And I’m somebody who definitely agrees with the position that cannibis should be decriminalized: not because I think it’ll save the world, but simply on the basis that there’s no good reason for it to be criminalized. Call me crazy, but I don’t think something should be a law unless it actually addresses a legitimate wrong or source of harm. And I don’t see it with cannibis. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of the argument right there. Everything else is hand-waving.)