In Europe and Asia, hemp farming has been conducted for millennia. Although most countries ceased growing hemp after the second word war, some didn’t, including France, China, Russia, and Hungary, so that essential knowledge of how to grow and process hemp was maintained. When commercial hemp cultivation resumed in Canada in 1997, many farmers undertook to grow the crop without appreciating its suitability for their situation, or for the hazards of an undeveloped market. Hemp was often grown on farms with marginal incomes in the hopes that it was a savior from a downward financial spiral. The myth that hemp is a wonder crop that can be grown on any soil led some to cultivate on soils with a history of producing poor crops; of course, a poor crop was the result.
Animal studies have suggested a synergistic analgesic effect when cannabinoids are combined with opioids. The results from one pharmacokinetic interaction study have been reported. In this study, 21 patients with chronic pain were administered vaporized Cannabis along with sustained-release morphine or oxycodone for 5 days. The patients who received vaporized Cannabis and sustained-release morphine had a statistically significant decrease in their mean pain score over the 5-day period; those who received vaporized Cannabis and oxycodone did not. These findings should be verified by further studies before recommendations favoring such an approach are warranted in general clinical practice.
By 1938, Popular Mechanics called hemp the “Billion Dollar Crop,”1 praising its potential to produce 25,000 different products, as high as $192 billion in today’s market and capable of producing four times the paper per acre than trees. Farmers from the Midwest to the East coast harvested more than 150,000 acres for the war’s Hemp for Victory Program, implemented by the USDA from 1942 through 1946, but rumblings by the competition had already started.
Cannabis , also known as marijuana, originated in Central Asia but is grown worldwide today. In the United States, it is a controlled substance and is classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with a high potential for abuse, and no currently accepted medical use). The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing psychoactive compounds called cannabinoids, in addition to other compounds found in plants, such as terpenes and flavonoids. The highest concentration of cannabinoids is found in the female flowers of the plant. Clinical trials conducted on medicinal Cannabis are limited. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of Cannabis as a treatment for any medical condition. To conduct clinical drug research with Cannabis in the United States, researchers must file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA, obtain a Schedule I license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and obtain approval from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Cannabis lowers the pressure in the eye that causes optic nerve damage leading to glaucoma. Research has shown conclusively that marijuana users experience lower internal eye pressure while the body metabolizes THC. However, the psychoactive side effects of using THC to treat glaucoma make cannabis a nonviable medication for most people with the disease.
bNumber of patients treated plus number of patient controls may not equal number of patients enrolled; number of patients enrolled equals number of patients initially recruited/considered by the researchers who conducted a study; number of patients treated equals number of enrolled patients who were given the treatment being studied AND for whom results were reported.
In Western Europe, the cultivation of hemp was not legally banned by the 1930s, but the commercial cultivation stopped by then, due to decreased demand compared to increasingly popular artificial fibers. Speculation about the potential for commercial cultivation of hemp in large quantities has been criticized due to successful competition from other fibers for many products. The world production of hemp fiber fell from over 300,000 metric tons 1961 to about 75,000 metric tons in the early 1990s and has after that been stable at that level.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, most countries have enacted laws against the cultivation, possession or transfer of cannabis. These laws have impacted adversely on cannabis cultivation for non-recreational purposes, but there are many regions where handling of cannabis is legal or licensed. Many jurisdictions have lessened the penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis so that it is punished by confiscation and sometimes a fine, rather than imprisonment, focusing more on those who traffic the drug on the black market.
Textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber summarizes the historical evidence that Cannabis sativa, "grew and was known in the Neolithic period all across the northern latitudes, from Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Ukraine) to East Asia (Tibet and China)," but, "textile use of Cannabis sativa does not surface for certain in the West until relatively late, namely the Iron Age." "I strongly suspect, however, that what catapulted hemp to sudden fame and fortune as a cultigen and caused it to spread rapidly westwards in the first millennium B.C. was the spread of the habit of pot-smoking from somewhere in south-central Asia, where the drug-bearing variety of the plant originally occurred. The linguistic evidence strongly supports this theory, both as to time and direction of spread and as to cause."
Cannabinoids are known to interact with the hepatic cytochrome P450 enzyme system.[3,4] In one study, 24 cancer patients were treated with intravenous irinotecan (600 mg, n = 12) or docetaxel (180 mg, n = 12), followed 3 weeks later by the same drugs concomitant with medicinal Cannabis taken in the form of an herbal tea for 15 consecutive days, starting 12 days before the second treatment. The administration of Cannabis did not significantly influence exposure to and clearance of irinotecan or docetaxel, although the herbal tea route of administration may not reproduce the effects of inhalation or oral ingestion of fat-soluble cannabinoids.
Fig. 6. ‘Finola,’ the first cultivar of Cannabis sativa bred exclusively for grain. (Courtesy of the breeder, J.C. Callaway, Univ. Kuopio, Finland.) Fig. 7. ‘Anka,’ the first registered North American bred cultivar of Cannabis sativa. This variety is best suited for grain production. (Courtesy of the breeder, P. Dragla, and of the Industrial Hemp Seed Development Company, Chatham, Ontario.)
Israel, another example, has led the way with ground-breaking research into cannabis cultivation. The country recently recognized medical marijuana as an official part of the nation’s branch of agriculture. Israel is already one of the world’s leading exporters of medical-grade cannabis. Recognizing marijuana cultivation as an official branch of the country’s agriculture will open up even more funds to support Israeli cannabis farmers.
In his office, however, Hernandez was wary of the CBD boom. He advises well-meaning parents to think twice about voyaging into the world of over-the-counter hemp oil treatments, even if their circumstances are dire. “It’s a huge gimmick that a lot of companies are using,” Hernandez said. “You don’t know what you’re getting. ... There’s a major quality problem.”
It is clear that there is a culture of idealistic believers in hemp in North America, and that there is great determination to establish the industry. As history has demonstrated, unbridled enthusiasm for largely untested new crops touted as gold mines sometimes leads to disaster. The attempt to raise silk in the US is probably the most egregious example. In 1826 a Congressional report that recommended the preparation of a practical manual on the industry resulted in a contagious desire to plant mulberries for silk production, with the eventual collapse of the industry, the loss of fortunes, and a legacy of “Mulberry Streets” in the US (Chapter 2, Bailey 1898). In the early 1980s in Minnesota, Jerusalem artichoke was touted as a fuel, a feed, a food, and a sugar crop. Unfortunately there was no market for the new “wonder crop” and hundreds of farmers lost about $20 million (Paarlberg 1990). The level of “hype” associated with industrial hemp is far more than has been observed before for other new crops (Pinfold Consulting 1998). Probably more so than any plant in living memory, hemp attracts people to attempt its cultivation without first acquiring a realistic appreciation of the possible pitfalls. American presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson encouraged the cultivation of hemp, but both lost money trying to grow it. Sadly in Canada in 1999 numerous farmers contracted to grow half of Canada’s crop area for hemp for the American-based Consolidated Growers and Processors, and with the collapse of the firm were left holding very large amounts of unmarketable grain and baled hemp straw. This has represented a most untimely setback for a fledgling industry, but at least has had a sobering effect on investing in hemp. In this section we emphasize why producers should exercise caution before getting into hemp.
Cannabidiol has been found to act as an antagonist of GPR55, a G protein-coupled receptor and putative cannabinoid receptor that is expressed in the caudate nucleus and putamen in the brain. It has also been found to act as an inverse agonist of GPR3, GPR6, and GPR12. Although currently classified as orphan receptors, these receptors are most closely related phylogeneticaly to the cannabinoid receptors. In addition to orphan receptors, CBD has been shown to act as a serotonin 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist, and this action may be involved in its antidepressant, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective effects. It is an allosteric modulator of the μ- and δ-opioid receptors as well. The pharmacological effects of CBD have additionally been attributed to PPARγ agonism and intracellular calcium release.
The above uses are based on hemp as a mechanical strengthener of materials. Hemp can also be chemically combined with materials. For example, hemp with gypsum and binding agents may produce light panels that might compete with drywall. Hemp and lime mixtures make a high quality plaster. Hemp hurds are rich in silica (which occurs naturally in sand and flint), and the hurds mixed with lime undergo mineralization, to produce a stone-like material. The technology is most advanced in France (Fig. 26). The mineralized material can be blown or poured into the cavities of walls and in attics as insulation. The foundations, walls, floors, and ceilings of houses have been made using hemp hurds mixed with natural lime and water. Sometimes plaster of Paris (pure gypsum), cement, or sand is added. The resulting material can be poured like concrete, but has a texture vaguely reminiscent of cork—much lighter than cement, and with better heat and sound-insulating properties. An experimental “ceramic tile” made of hemp has recently been produced (Fig. 27).
Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa is the variety grown for industrial use, while C. sativa subsp. indica generally has poor fiber quality and female buds from this variety are primarily used for recreational and medicinal purposes. The major differences between the two types of plants are the appearance, and the amount of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) secreted in a resinous mixture by epidermal hairs called glandular trichomes, although they can also be distinguished genetically. Oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis approved for industrial hemp production produce only minute amounts of this psychoactive drug, not enough for any physical or psychological effects. Typically, hemp contains below 0.3% THC, while cultivars of Cannabis grown for medicinal or recreational use can contain anywhere from 2% to over 20%.
The scientific debate regarding taxonomy has had little effect on the terminology in widespread use among cultivators and users of drug-type Cannabis. Cannabis aficionados recognize three distinct types based on such factors as morphology, native range, aroma, and subjective psychoactive characteristics. Sativa is the most widespread variety, which is usually tall, laxly branched, and found in warm lowland regions. Indica designates shorter, bushier plants adapted to cooler climates and highland environments. Ruderalis is the informal name for the short plants that grow wild in Europe and Central Asia.