In the 1970s, President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” and signed into law the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This law established a set of banned drugs and created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It also unintentionally outlawed one of the world’s oldest domesticated crop, hemp. This not only led to the demise of hemp, but also an increased misconception of the plant.
Ten years ago hemp cultivation was illegal in Germany, England, Canada, Australia, and other countries. Essential to overcoming governmental reluctance in each country was the presentation of an image that was business-oriented, and conservative. The merits of environmentalism have acquired some political support, but unless there is a reasonable possibility that hemp cultivation is perceived as potentially economically viable, there is limited prospect of having anti-hemp laws changed. Strong support from business and farm groups is indispensable; support from pro-marijuana interests and what are perceived of as fringe groups is generally counterproductive. It is a combination of prospective economic benefit coupled with assurance that hemp cultivation will not detrimentally affect the enforcement of marijuana legislation that has led most industrially advanced countries to reverse prohibitions against growing hemp. Should the US permit commercial hemp cultivation to resume, it will likely be for the same reasons.
Cannabis, (genus Cannabis), plant belonging to the family Cannabaceae of the nettle order (Urticales). By some classifications, the genus Cannabis comprises a single species, hemp (Cannabis sativa), a stout, aromatic, erect annual herb that originated in Central Asia and is now cultivated worldwide, including in Europe, southern Asia, the Middle East, India, Africa, and the Americas. A tall canelike variety is raised for the production of hemp fibre, while the female plant of a short branchier variety is prized as the more abundant source of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of marijuana.
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The DEA isn’t the only government agency scrutinizing CBD vendors. To fend off the FDA, hemp oil companies contend their wares are not drugs but “dietary supplements.” Despite the suggestive “meds” in the company’s name, HempMedsPx is careful to note on its web site, “Although some of our founders are medical professionals, we cannot make medical claims about the benefits of our products.” Others are not quite so nuanced in their marketing. The internet is flooded with CBD products claiming to treat everything from seizures to arthritis to skin conditions and other maladies.
Dosage is important, because CBD can have side effects—the most common are tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite and weight—so it’s best not to take more than you need. As CBD becomes more prevalent, says J. Michael Bostwick, M.D., a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, “I’m reasonably certain new kinds of side effects will emerge.”
Most pro-hemp initiatives in the United States are now focused on defining and distinguishing between industrial hemp and marijuana. Some pro-hemp supporters would like to move the control of U.S. hemp production from the DEA to the USDA. Proponents of legalizing hemp also argue that new technology to distinguish THC levels both in the field and from the air will allow for adequate production enforcement.
“Specialty pulp” is the most important component of the hemp industry of the EU, and is expected to remain its core market for the foreseeable future. The most important specialty pulp products made from hemp are cigarette paper (Fig. 16), bank notes, technical filters, and hygiene products. Other uses include art papers and tea bags. Several of these applications take advantage of hemp’s high tear and wet strength. This is considered to be a highly stable, high-priced niche market in Europe, where hemp has an 87% market share of the “specialty pulp” sector (Karus et al. 2000). In Europe, decortication/refining machines are available that can produce 10 t/hour of hemp fiber suitable for such pulp use. North American capacity for hemp pulp production and value-added processing is much more limited than that of Europe, and this industry is negligible in North America.
There are ways to strain dangerous contaminants out of raw hemp paste. And most companies stand behind their quality and safety procedures. “We continuously test all our products ... to ensure our consumers get the levels of natural constituents they expect from the quality hemp stalk oil they purchase,” HempMedsPx states on its web site. “Additionally, all our products are tested for safety, to ensure there are no solvents, heavy metals, or other potentially harmful materials in our oil. Because we take these steps, we are always confident in our products, and you can be too.”