Cannabis for industrial uses is valuable in tens of thousands of commercial products, especially as fibre ranging from paper, cordage, construction material and textiles in general, to clothing. Hemp is stronger and longer-lasting than cotton. It also is a useful source of foodstuffs (hemp milk, hemp seed, hemp oil) and biofuels. Hemp has been used by many civilizations, from China to Europe (and later North America) during the last 12,000 years. In modern times novel applications and improvements have been explored with modest commercial success.
To this point, CBD oil has existed in a kind of liminal space— at once an illegal drug, a legal medication, and some kind of “dietary” supplement. It’s possible this could change in the coming years, however. GW Pharmaceuticals, a U.K.-based firm, has developed a “pure CBD” medication called Epidiolex that has shown promising test results. It is currently on a fast-track to receive FDA clearance. For some patients, Epidiolex could be a miracle cure. This summer, in Wired magazine, writer Fred Vogelstein chronicled his family’s own struggles to find an effective treatment for his son’s epilepsy—including experiments with hemp oil— and the immense hurdles they overcame to gain access to Epidiolex prior to its FDA approval. The drug could be for sale on pharmacy shelves in the near future, though exactly how near is hard to say.
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But recent activity in Washington has legislators in every aisle waving banners for hemp. So far, 20 states have stepped up to encourage industrial hemp production.5 On February 7, 2014, the 2013 Farm Bill6 was signed into law, legitimizing industrial hemp as distinct, and authorizing university and State departments of agriculture (where it’s legal) for research or pilot programs. On January 8, 2015, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, S. 134, was introduced in the U.S. Senate.
Taking CBD oil is like drinking milk and calling it calcium, Hernandez said: There’s some in there, but at very low concentrations dispersed among a host of other ingredients. And what those other ingredients are is anyone’s guess. “The thing to know is that CBD hasn’t gone through the safety controls, the efficacy controls that we usually use, the clinical trials,” Hernandez said. “The jury is still out regarding how safe this drug is.”
My Wife had Polio at age 5 and the lingering damage to the L leg and muscle drove her crazy. At age 21 she was using heavy doses of muscle relaxers and pain meds. Needed to bomb herself at night to get some sleep. A Post polio group in West Palm Beach told her about Marijuana and she got some from the Jamaican health aide that was her constant helper. After 5 months she quit all meds. All of them. Slowly came out of the drugged state the meds had caused from 15 years of use. We separated good friends and I know she has gone back to school and getting a degree. All from the help of a plant from Jamaica. I never understood the statement this plant has no viable medical value. Something smells in the politics of this prohibition. Shame.
A chief argument that has been advanced in favor of developing hemp as a paper and pulp source has been that as a non-wood or tree-free fiber source, it can reduce harvesting of primary forests and the threat to associated biodiversity. It has been claimed that hemp produces three to four times as much useable fiber per hectare per annum as forests. However, Wong (1998) notes evidence that in the southern US hemp would produce only twice as much pulp as does a pine plantation (but see discussion below on suitability of hemp as a potential lumber substitute in areas lacking trees).
Cannabis plants produce a unique family of terpeno-phenolic compounds called cannabinoids, some of which produce the "high" which may be experienced from consuming marijuana. There are 483 identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in the cannabis plant, and at least 85 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the plant. The two cannabinoids usually produced in greatest abundance are cannabidiol (CBD) and/or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but only THC is psychoactive. Since the early 1970s, Cannabis plants have been categorized by their chemical phenotype or "chemotype", based on the overall amount of THC produced, and on the ratio of THC to CBD. Although overall cannabinoid production is influenced by environmental factors, the THC/CBD ratio is genetically determined and remains fixed throughout the life of a plant. Non-drug plants produce relatively low levels of THC and high levels of CBD, while drug plants produce high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. When plants of these two chemotypes cross-pollinate, the plants in the first filial (F1) generation have an intermediate chemotype and produce intermedite amounts of CBD and THC. Female plants of this chemotype may produce enough THC to be utilized for drug production.
Hemp seeds have an attractive nutty taste, and are now incorporated into many food preparations (Fig. 34), often mimicking familiar foods. Those sold in North America include nutritional (granola-type) or snack bars, “nut butters” and other spreads, bread, pretzels, cookies, yogurts, pancakes, porridge, fruit crumble, frozen dessert (“ice cream”), pasta, burgers, pizza, salt substitute, salad dressings, mayonnaise, “cheese,” and beverages (“milk,” “lemonade,” “beer,” “wine,” “coffee nog”). Hemp seed is often found canned or vacuum-packed (Fig. 35). Alcoholic beverages made with hemp utilize hempseed as a flavorant. Hemp food products currently have a niche market, based particularly on natural food and specialty food outlets.
Harvesting tall varieties for grain is difficult. In France, the principal grower of dual-purpose varieties, the grain is taken off the field first, leaving most of the stalks for later harvest (Fig. 49). Putting tall whole plants through a conventional combine results in the straw winding around moving parts, and the fibers working into bearings, causing breakdown, fires, high maintenance, and frustration. Following the French example of raising the cutting blade to harvest the grain is advisable. Growing short varieties dedicated to grain production eliminates many of the above problems, and since the profitability of hemp straw is limited at present, seems preferable. Grain growers should be aware that flocks of voracious birds are a considerable source of damage to hempseed, particularly in small plantations.
With respect to fiber, a “composite” is often defined as a material consisting of 30%–70% fiber and 70%–30% matrix (Bolton 1995). However, in North America particleboards and fiberboards, which generally contain less than 10% adhesive or matrix, are sometimes referred to as composites. This section addresses plastic-type composites. In plastics, fibers are introduced to improve physical properties such as stiffness, impact resistance, bending and tensile strength. Man-made fibers of glass, kevlar and carbon are most commonly used today, but plant fibers offer considerable cost savings along with comparable strength properties.
Jungmann and Thomas aren’t the only ones relying on China for their hemp supply. Today, Patagonia carries about two dozen products in hemp. Most are mixed with other materials, namely organic cotton. Jill Dumain, director of environmental strategy at Patagonia, developed the first hemp supply chain for the outdoor brand in the 1990s. She recalls trying to find suppliers of hemp fabrics in the US and getting frustrated because most of these suppliers were more interested in legalizing marijuana, rather than industrial hemp for fashion. When she requested cost estimates for fabric, she would get price sheets for puny quantities: five to 10 yards.
The following sketch of hemp cultivation is insufficient to address all of the practical problems that are encountered by hemp growers. Bócsa and Karus (1998) is the best overall presentation of hemp growing available in English. The reader is warned that this book, as well as almost all of the literature on hemp, is very much more concerned with fiber production than oilseed production. McPartland et al. (2000) is the best presentation available on diseases and pests, which fortunately under most circumstances do limited damage. The resource list presented below should be consulted by those wishing to learn about hemp production. Provincial agronomists in Canada now have experience with hemp, and can make local recommendations. Particularly good web documents are: for Ontario (OMAFRA Hemp Series, several documents): www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/crops/hort/hemp.html); for Manitoba (several documents): www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/hemp/bko01s00.html; for British Columbia: (BC Ministry of Agriculture and Foods Fact Sheet on Industrial Hemp, prepared by A. Oliver and H. Joynt): www.agf.gov.bc.ca/croplive/plant/horticult/specialty/specialty.htm