Hemp No Joke

So, what you are saying is “Paste No Good,” eh?

I don’t know about those outfits made of hemp. If they rip to shreds as easily as kevin999’s arguments, they can’t be very good.

Nice job all, Blake especially.

I have an antique men’s kimono made from hemp and it is really nice.

IIRC, the 4X claim comes from the fact that it is a crop that is harvestable annually. The arguement made was that it takes ‘X’ years for a tree farm tree to be harvestable, wheras you can get your cellulous now (or in less than one year) with hemp. By the time the tree was grown, you had ‘X’ number of harvests, which was 4X the amount of the trees.

The arguement was deceptive on several levels.

  1. That you could go on planting Hemp in the same space over and over with no consequences to the soil.

  2. That it ignored the growth rates of the tree, tree harvesting vs. hemp had a very ‘Tortise vs. the Hare’ ending to it.

  3. That hemp was efficiently harvested per acre as trees.

and so on. Rather weak statistics, but one that was presented over and over in the pro-hemp heydays back in the 90’s.

Other deceptive arguements that were made by Hemp-heads during those days were things like:

  1. **Hemp was so great that our colonial governments required it to be grown in the early colonies. **The way this was presented made it seem like it was so good everyone had to grow the stuff. In fact, the reality of the situation was that Hemp was such a pain to grow and harvest, but still needed for sailcloth, that colonial governments had to force the colonist farmers to grow the unweildy cloth.

2)** Hemp plants were used to stabilize river banks up until the 1910’s. ** In some areas this was true, but note that they stopped doing it even before it became illegal. There was a good reason for this, as we will see in the asnwer to the next point.

  1. Hemp can grow anywhere, under any conditions This isn’t true, but there’s enough of an element of truth to it that Hemp is rather hardy. The problem is that Hemp is a very invasive crop, and chokes out native plants with ease. These are the kinds of situations real ecologist are trying to avoid. Hence the stopping of river bank planting.

4)** Empty fields can be sown with hemp for environmental goodness** Talk about not using the best tool for the job. Empty fields with little hope for furhter farm use would be much better served being allowed to revert to their natural state, going through the entire Forest development process. The environmental payoff for this takes longer, but is much, much better for the ecology.

Hemp makes good rope for specific purposes. It isn’t correct to say that it is the best rope. Hemp rope rots readily if nor stored correctly. It absorbs water and becomes heavy when wet. It absorbs chemicals, dirt and bacteria. It burns very easily. It has a very high friction value meaning that it doesn’t slip readily and is a bugger to untie. IOW it is the best rope in conditions where it can be kept dry, where it can be replaced regularly before it rots, where hygeine isn’t an issue, where there is no chance of contact with flame, where being able to rapidly untie the rope is not critical and so forth.

There certainly are uses where hemp is the best material for rope, or at least the best reasonably priced material. However for the majority of applications synthetic polymers are far better. This is the reason why people who actually depend on ropes, like climbers, heavy load haulers and so forth all use polymer ropes even though hemp rope is still readily obtainable. And for general household use polymer ropes are cheaper, easier to store and far more reliable.

Mr. Miskatonic, so that’s where the 4x more productive than trees claim comes from. Sounds about right and of course is totally bogus.

One thing I simply can’t get my head around with these people who believe that hemp is a wonder crop: why doesn’t anyone else grow it? Cultivation is only illegal in the US and a handful of other countries. If hemp is so productive and efficient why do these people think that economies and ecologies as diverse an India and Canada aren’t growing the stuff? If it is all it is cracked up to be farmers in these countries should falling over themselves to get land under hemp. Yet hemp remains a tiny niche crop everywhere in the world. It isn’t a major commercial crop. Why do these people believe this is? They seem to genuinely believe that hemp can produce vast amounts of highly valuable fuel, food, fibre and chemicals with minimal environmental impact and minimal labour and processing, yet they never ask why nobody in other countries bothers to grow this wonder crop.

Hell, if they believe that hemp produces such wonderful products with such minimal input why aren’t subsistence farmers in New Guinea or Chile growing the stuff? It seems like they should be able to feed and clothe themselves and heat their houses with just this one crop which requires no work to grow and is totally pest resistant. Yet these poor mugs continue growing potatoes for food and trees for fuel. Clearly they aren’t; as smart as the pro-hemp crowd. If only they’d listen.

What is fun is that Australia tried a bit of a trial program with hemp. The results were not impressive.

kevin999 writes:

> I think Cecil’s commentary was shallow and flippant.

Of course Cecil’s commentary was flippant. Is this the first column by him that you ever read? That’s what Cecil does. He answers questions, and most of the time he gets a little bit sarcastic in his answers. The answer wasn’t particularly shallow. The question really didn’t require a very long answer, and in any case a column of The Straight Dope has to fit within a single page in the various newspapers in which it runs.

I had forgetten about this: Many a California hippie was cursed for saying Hemp Gardening gloves were the be-all end-all of garden gloves. Those in wetter climes that California (i.e. most of the world) soon found their Exotic hemp gloves a’ rotting after a season or two.

Also, I wanted to mention two crimes of misinforation the hemp heads spread around during their little reign of eco-terror.

  1. The Constitution and the D.O.I. were written on Hemp. (Nope they are on parchment, and its unlikely early drafts were written on poor quality paper)

  2. Henry Ford made a car out of Hemp Plastic (Nope, the hempers stole this one and then had the gall to claim it was stolen from them. Ford was a certified Soy Bean nut and his car was made from Soy based plastics. Somehow in the hemp promoters land Soy became Hemp.)

Tasmania already grows opium for medical use so would be a natural place for hemp trials but hardly the part of Australia you would choose to grown it commercially, it grows just fine on the Australian mainland.

(checking the statute of limitations) I recall some cultivars from Colombia as being of high quality. Mexico, not so good. Wildwood, Illinois, despite what the song suggested, produced poor quality, er, hemp. Too moist and not sunny enough–I’m sure Australia WOULD be better than Tasmania. The best, though, came from our own DEA, according to the serial numbered metal strip in the test tube containing the, um, sample. Rated “Moderate Paranoia,” it was. A couple hits, I mean, tests, and an oncoming semi with lots of decorative lights became a UFO. Good shit, I mean, hemp.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the site of french hemp producers. Apparently, hemp is grown on only 8 00 hectares in France (If I’m not mistaken that would be roughly 20 000 acres) and represents 50% of the european production. One would expect that if hemp was a so exceptional product, much more of it would be grown where it is legal.
The total production of fibers would be 22 000 tons, used almost exclusively for the production of special papers. A small part of this production would be used for house insulation and the automobile industry (???) . The site qualifies these markets as “nascent”, and seem to hope for a bright future in plasturgy. It also states that despite some attempts, there’s no much prospects for the use of hemp in the textile industry.

Another part of the plant (I couldn’t find the translation of the french word, it seems to be the “wooden” part of the plant) is used mostly as high-end litter, essentially by horse breeders. 10% or so is used in the building trade, apparently mostly in the production of concrete (???) and bricks. Total number of building companies using it : two, apparently.

Finally, grains are sold as bird food, with a very small part being used to produce cooking oil, this last use being, according to the site, “very promising”, with also a potential market in the cosmetics industry.
No other use is mentionned, in particular not the prodution of bio-fuel.

All in all, not very impressive.

Make this ** 8 000 ** hectares.

I would note that before finding the hemp producers’ site, I had to go through various marijuana-related site, and thoses were way more enthustiatic about the possible uses of hemp than the producers themselves.

I would note also, in case some poster would think that I’m biased, that I would personnally have nothing against allowing to grow hemp in order to produce marijuana.