The Case For Cannabis Essay

1859 words - 7 pages

The Case for CannabisWhat if there were a plant that could produce more than four times as much paper as a tree with 60-80% less chemicals, make a fabric stronger, lighter, and more resilient than cotton, require little or no pesticides to grow, replace every fossil fuel with a cleaner burning, renewable biomass, and relieve people with serious illnesses of at least some of their maladies? What if you were told that this plant does exist, but had been outlawed for nearly 80 years? What would you think? Well, such a plant does exist, and has been outlawed since 1937.Cannabis hemp, from the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, is one of the most useful plants in the world. It is an herb with a woody stalk, reaches heights of 12-20 feet, and produces some of the strongest yet softest fibres of any plant on earth. The woody husk can be turned into pulp for paper, the fibres used for cloth or rope, and the flowers and leaves can be used for relaxation and medicines. The hemp oil acquired from the plant can be refined in much of the same way as petroleum products, and produce almost all of the same substances. The seeds can be eaten, and are have the highest amount of essential fatty acids of any other edible plant (Herer p.5-9, 45-49). Truly, every part of this plant can be used, which is a lot more than can be said for many of the other plants we use in this day and age. Furthermore, it's hardy enough to be grown from the equator all the way up to the Arctic Circle (and down to the Antarctic, as well), and is a natural repellant to pests.For these reasons, it's not hard to imagine why hemp was the number one agricultural product for more than 3,000 years, until the early 19th century (Herer p. 3). But why in the world would such a useful and ecological plant be outlawed, especially after such prolonged use? The answer isn't exactly simple, but what it seems to boil down to is greed and racism.In 1916, a USDA bulletin was put out claiming that hemp hurds, a previously unused part of the hemp stalk, could produce more than 4 times the amount of paper pulp as a regular tree, which not only used less chemicals, but also created a paper that was slightly stronger than traditional paper (USDA 404 p. 14, 25-26). This didn't pose much of a threat to the multi-billion dollar paper industry until the mid-1930s, when the machinery that seperated pulp from the stalks became available and affordable. Then the mudslinging started.DuPont, the main supplier of gunpowder throughout the first half of the 19th century, had a breakthrough in the 1930s. They developed a way to make cheap plastics from oil and coal, as well as a cheap way to make paper from wood pulp, using sulfites (Herer p. 26). This was just a bit sketchy, as Andrew Mellon, DuPont's main financial backer, was also President Herbert Hoover's Secretary of the Treasury. "Coincidentally," the Harrison Act was passed in 1937. The Harrison Act imposed extreme taxes (100% of the price it sold for at the time, 10,000% of...

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