The plant is also known as hemp, although this term is often used to refer only to varieties of Cannabis cultivated for non-drug use. Cannabis has long been used for hemp fibre, for hemp oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some cannabis strains have been bred to produce minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent. Some strains have been selectively bred to produce a maximum of THC (a cannabinoid), the strength of which is enhanced by curing the flowers. Various compounds, including hashish and hash oil, are extracted from the plant.
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The way I see it, the marriage of China’s position as the world’s supplier of hemp -- and its burgeoning semiconductor industry -- could be the key to China’s hegemony over the microchip industry. Semiconductors are traditionally made using silicon. Graphene semiconductors, however, could one day lead to computers that are a thousand times faster, consume significantly less power and are smaller than silicon semiconductors used in computer transistors. In application, graphene’s dwindling supply and costly manufacturing issues would still exist. Putting this all together, Mitlin’s research has sparked interest in the potential for hemp to create the next-generation semiconductor.
Although hemp can be successfully grown continuously for several years on the same land, rotation with other crops is desirable. A 3- or preferably 4-year rotation may involve cereals, clover or alfalfa for green manure, maize, and hemp. In Ontario it has been recommended that hemp not follow canola, edible beans, soybeans or sunflowers. However, according to Bócsa and Karus (1998), “it matters little what crops are grown prior to hemp.”
The most valid claims to environmental friendliness of hemp are with respect to agricultural biocides (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides). Cannabis sativa is known to be exceptionally resistant to pests (Fig. 51), although, the degree of immunity to attacking organisms has been greatly exaggerated, with several insects and fungi specializing on hemp. Despite this, use of pesticides and fungicides on hemp is usually unnecessary, although introduction of hemp to regions should be expected to generate local problems. Cannabis sativa is also relatively resistant to weeds, and so usually requires relatively little herbicide. Fields intended for hemp use are still frequently normally cleared of weeds using herbicides, but so long as hemp is thickly seeded (as is always done when hemp is grown for fiber), the rapidly developing young plants normally shade out competing weeds.
In Canada, the methodology used for analyses and sample collection for THC analysis of hemp plantings is standardized (at the Health Canada/Therapeutics Program/Hemp web site at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb-dgps/therapeut/htmleng/hemp.html, see “Industrial Hemp Technical Manual” for procedures on sampling plant materials and chemical procedures for determining THC levels). The regulations require that one of the dozen independent laboratories licensed for the purpose conduct the analyses and report the results to Health Canada. Sample collection is also normally carried out by an independent authorized firm. The Canadian system of monitoring THC content has rigidly limited hemp cultivation to cultivars that consistently develop THC levels below 0.3%.
“Hemp is of high nutritional quality because it contains high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids… Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are the only two fatty acids that must be ingested and are considered essential to human health … In contrast to shorter-chain and more saturated fatty acids, these essential fatty acids do not serve as energy sources, but as raw materials for cell structure and as precursors for biosynthesis for many of the body’s regulatory biochemicals…”
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