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.
A cross-sectional survey of cancer patients seen at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance was conducted over a 6-week period between 2015 and 2016. In Washington State, Cannabis was legalized for medicinal use in 1998 and for recreational use in 2012. Of the 2,737 possible participants, 936 (34%) completed the anonymous questionnaire. Twenty-four percent of patients considered themselves active Cannabis users. Similar numbers of patients inhaled (70%) or used edibles (70%), with dual use (40%) being common. Non–mutually exclusive reasons for Cannabis use were physical symptoms (75%), neuropsychiatric symptoms (63%), recreational use/enjoyment (35%), and treatment of cancer (26%). The physical symptoms most commonly cited were pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. The majority of patients (74%) stated that they would prefer to obtain information about Cannabis from their cancer team, but less than 15% reported receiving information from their cancer physician or nurse.
As of November 2016, 28 states and the District of Columbia legally allow cannabis for personal medical use. Rules surrounding the use of medical cannabis (medical marijuana) vary by state. The first state in the union to legalize the medical use of marijuana was California in 1996. States that allow medical marijuana include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. It is important to recognize that these state marijuana laws do not change the fact that using marijuana continues to be an offense under Federal law.
The confusion compounds when one realizes that in today’s popular lexicon, the terms indica, sativa, and hybrid tend to indicate a set of effects, rather than the taxonomy of a particular strain. But that’s just as well. Most marijuana strains today, especially those under commercial cultivation, are genetic hybrids. Only a handful of pure, or “landrace” cannabis strains are in circulation.
During my visit, Penny showed me how she administers Harper’s CBD oils. We stood in her kitchen, where a window opened onto a vista of green grass and a wooden swing set out back. After carefully mixing and measuring Harper’s oils, Penny poured the liquid into a jumbo-sized plastic syringe. “We put this all online,” she told me, referring to the several YouTube videos she has made to help other parents administer hemp oil. Penny leaned down over her daughter to fit the tip of the syringe into her gastronomy tube, and I stood by silently. Harper looked at Penny, and Penny smiled back at her, and eased the plunger down.
Other desirable features of hemp fibers are strength and durability (particularly resistance to decay), which made hemp useful in the past for rope, nets, sail-cloth, and oakum for caulking. During the age of sailing ships, Cannabis was considered to provide the very best of canvas, and indeed this word is derived from Cannabis. Several factors combined to decrease the popularity of hemp in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Increasing limitation of cheap labor for traditional production in Europe and the New World led to the creation of some mechanical inventions, but too late to counter growing interest in competitive crops. Development of other natural fibers as well as synthetic fibers increased competition for hemp’s uses as a textile fiber and for cordage. Hemp rag had been much used for paper, but the 19th century introduction of the chemical woodpulping process considerably lowered demand for hemp. The demise of the sail diminished the market for canvas. Increasing use of the plant for drugs gave hemp a bad image. All this led to the discontinuation of hemp cultivation in the early and middle parts of the 20th century in much of the world where cheap labor was limited. In the 19th century softer fabrics took over the clothing market, and today, hemp constitutes only about 1% of the natural fiber market. At least some production of hemp for fiber still occurs in Russia, China, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Korea, Chile, and Peru. There has been renewed interest in England, Australia, and South Africa in cultivating fiber hemp. Italy has an outstanding reputation for high-quality hemp, but productivity has waned for the last several decades. In France, a market for high-quality paper, ironically largely cigarette paper, has developed (such paper is completely free of the intoxicating resin). Modern plant breeding in Europe has produced several dozen hemp strains, although by comparison with other fiber crops there are relatively few described varieties of hemp. Since World War II, breeding has been concerned most particularly with the development of monoecious varieties. Gehl (1995) reviewed fiber hemp development in Canada in the early 20th century, and concluded that the prospects for a traditional fiber industry were poor. However, as outlined below, there are now many non-traditional usages for hemp fiber which require consideration. Hemp long fiber is one of the strongest and most durable of natural fibers, with high tensile strength, wet strength, and other characteristics that make it technically suited for various industrial products (Karus and Leson 1996).
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.
To illustrate how hemp programs can wither without proper support, she pointed to California, where regulators continue struggling to keep up with rules and infrastructure for the more potent (and popular) marijuana industry, from lab tests to license approvals; the state's hemp operators, meanwhile, are still waiting for their official license application to come out.
Perhaps the most important difference between hemp and marijuana is that marijuana – no pun intended – has a high delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol content, or THC, which supplies the sought-after psychotropic effect, but it’s low in cannabidiol content, or CBD, which has medicinal properties. Hemp is just the opposite, being typically high in CBD and low in THC, meaning it’s not going to get anybody stoned. In fact, clinical studies show that CBD blocks the effect of THC in the nervous system. Both THC and CBD contain cannabinoid, but it’s the amount that needs to examined, because CBD is currently a Schedule 1 controlled substance. That means that at present, there’s currently no permissible medical protocol in the US.
Harper was diagnosed as an infant with CDKL5, a rare genetic condition doctors only discovered in 2004 and that afflicts roughly 600 people worldwide. The disorder shares its name with the minute particle of DNA it affects, a gene responsible for the production of a protein crucial for neurological development. Symptoms of CDKL5 include intellectual disability, developmental delays, breathing and vision problems, limited or absent speech, poor muscle tone, and, perhaps worst of all, frequent seizures.
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In 2017, the cultivated area for hemp in the Prairie provinces include Saskatchewan with more than 56,000 acres (23,000 ha), Alberta with 45,000 acres (18,000 ha), and Manitoba with 30,000 acres (12,000 ha). Canadian hemp is cultivated mostly for its food value as hulled hemp seeds, hemp oils and hemp protein powders, with only a small fraction devoted to production of hemp fiber used for construction and insulation.
George Washington also imported the Indian Hemp plant from Asia, which was used for fiber and, by some growers, for intoxicating resin production. In a letter to William Pearce who managed the plants for him Washington says, "What was done with the Indian Hemp plant from last summer? It ought, all of it, to be sown again; that not only a stock of seed sufficient for my own purposes might have been raised, but to have disseminated seed to others; as it is more valuable than common hemp."
Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. The bast fibers can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp, but they are commonly blended with other fibers, such as flax, cotton or silk, as well as virgin and recycled polyester, to make woven fabrics for apparel and furnishings. The inner two fibers of the plant are more woody and typically have industrial applications, such as mulch, animal bedding and litter. When oxidized (often erroneously referred to as "drying"), hemp oil from the seeds becomes solid and can be used in the manufacture of oil-based paints, in creams as a moisturizing agent, for cooking, and in plastics. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix as well. A survey in 2003 showed that more than 95% of hemp seed sold in the European Union was used in animal and bird feed.