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Published on February 17th, 2013 | by -swansong-0
Industrial Hemp Farming Act 2013: History of Hemp Manufacturing
In this article we will discuss a new bill in the US Senate titled The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013. We will also provide a brief history of hemp manufacturing in North America and the positive impacts hemp farming could have for all of us.
History of Hemp Manufacturing
George Washington did it. So did Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin Levi Strauss, Henry Ford and even Betsy Ross. The “it” of which I speak is growing or using hemp.
The first draft of the US Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper (the final draft, the one seen today, was written on parchment which is animal skin). Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag with hemp fibre and Levi Strauss made his first pair of the iconic Levi’s jeans out of hemp fibre.
The earliest known woven fabrics were made from hemp, which can be traced back to 8,000 B.C. in Central Asia. For more than a 1000 years before the time of Christ to the late 1800s hemp was the most highly cultivated crop on the planet, responsible for producing the majority of the earth’s fiber, fabric, lighting oil, paper and medicines.
I was going to impress you with my extensive knowledge of the history of hemp manufacturing, much of which I initially gleaned from a wonderful book by Jack Herer called The Emperor Wears No Clothes, the eighth printing of which I read tirelessly in the late 80s. Well wouldn’t you know it, a quick search shows me that thanks to the interwebs and Mr. Jack Herer you can read the entire book online. I highly recommend it.
One of the more striking indications to me, of the popularity and prevalence of hemp production in the United States is the number of towns and cities that incorporate “hemp” in their names.
HEMPstead, Long Island; HEMPstead County, Arkansas; HEMPstead, Texas; HEMPhill, North Carolina, HEMPfield, Pennsylvania, among others, were named after cannabis growing regions, or after family names derived from hemp growing.
It’s almost comical to see the very police forces tasked with hunting and arresting cannabis users displaying a variation of that same substance on their patches.
It wasn’t until Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin that hemp production began to fall back. The drawback to the original production of hemp was seperating the fibres from the pulp at the center of the plant. Without a machine to expedite the task the hemp was left to lay in the field and “ret”. Retting is basically allowing the plant to lay where it has been cut to allow the elements and bugs the opportunity to break down the plant to a point where the fibers can be pulled apart by hand.
It was not a very economical or efficient way to process the plant as the fibre lost some of it’s quality and the pulp (a wonder all it’s own) was completely lost.
A machine called a decorticator was eventually developed that allowed for the efficient separating of the fiber from the pulp but between the advent of the cotton gin and the pressure from men like the Duponts and Hearsts, all of whom were aware of the financial impact a machine like the decorticator would have on their own enterprises, hemp continued it’s slide.
The Duponts had recently harnessed the petroleum molecule that allowed for the production of all manner of synthetic fibers and William Hearst had untold acres of forest land for his newspaper empire that would have been put in jeopardy by a machine that could separate pulp from hemp fiber without all the polluting chemicals necessary in pulp/paper production.
One man who knew very well the incredible properties and possibilities of hemp was Henry Ford. Ford not only meant for his vehicles to run on ethanol created by hemp but even spent more than a decade developing and finally, in 1941, manufacturing a proto-type car whose main ingredient was plastic made from hemp. The plastic body panels were stated as being 10x stronger than steel and able to withstand repeated strikes with an axe without denting. You can view a demonstration from 1941 in the following video.
Henry Ford wasn’t the only one high on hemp (sorry) as a major contributor to the US economy. In 1938 Popular Mechanics Magazine announced hemp to be The New Billion Dollar Crop
Why, even after the push to outlaw hemp/cannabis was well underway the US government felt it necessary to temporarily remove restrictions on the cultivation of hemp for the Second World War effort. Not only did they remove restrictions but they actively encouraged farmers to grow hemp for the war effort, even going as far as to produce a short film titled Hemp For Victory. You can find a written transcript of the film at the preceeding link.
All of this brings me, finally, to the point of this article. The day may not be far off when hemp plants will once again sway across the American countryside.
Industrial Hemp Farming Act 2013
U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., today introduced legislation that would allow American farmers to grow and profit from industrial hemp.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. Specifically, the bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The idea that hemp is listed on the Scedule 1 controlled substances list is so absurdly preposterous that one scarcely knows where to begin in ridiculing it. Apparently the senators agree.
“Unfortunately, there are some dumb regulations that are hurting economic growth and job creation, and the ban on growing industrial hemp is certainly among them,”
Ok, so Senator Wyden didn’t quite phrase it like I did but I think we all know he wanted to.
Out of the entire press release from the Senators this part stood out to me as symptomatic of the stupidity, hypocrisy and greed rampant within so many goverments.
The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of hemp, but it remains the only major industrialized country that bans farming the product.
Should you wish you can download a copy of the 2 page bill here
This is an idea that is long overdue and is yet one more step towards restoring hemp and it’s derivatives back to their rightful place amongst the earth’s truly “green” products. I wish the senators much success as, I imagine, would these people.
“An acre of the best ground for hemp, is to be selected and sewn in hemp and be kept for a permanent hemp patch.” – Thomas Jefferson’s Garden book 1849
“Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!” -George Washington, The Writings of George Washington Volume 33, page 270 (Library of Congress), 1794
“Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” – Henry Ford
“We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.” – John Adams, U.S. President
Couldn’t have said it better myself, John.
The Colorado state house yesterday voted to approve SB13-241, a bill that would legalize the farming and production of “industrial hemp” within the state. If signed into law, the bill would effectively nullify the unconstitutional federal ban on hemp production in Colorado. The House voted unanimously on a slightly amended version of a bill already approved by the State Senate, 34-1. The legislation will now go back to the Senate, which is widely expected to send the legislation to Governor Hickenlooper for a signature.
Let us know your thoughts about the Industrial Hemp Farming Act 2013, we would love to hear your comments!