Hemp hasn't always been on the wrong side of the authorities. The Puritans brought hemp with them to New England in 1645 and Europeans were growing it even earlier in Chile. George Washington planted hemp as one of several crops at his Mount Vernon estate. However, hemp's popularity waned in America as other plants used for textiles such as cotton and jute became more widely available. The U.S. Navy briefly campaigned for more hemp farming during World War II to supply ropes for ships. But the federal government continued restrictions on hemp after the war.
Jews living in Palestine in the 2nd century were familiar with the cultivation of hemp, as witnessed by a reference to it in the Mishna (Kil'ayim 2:5) as a variety of plant, along with Arum, that sometimes takes as many as three years to grow from a seedling. In late medieval Germany and Italy, hemp was employed in cooked dishes, as filling in pies and tortes, or boiled in a soup. Hemp in later Europe was mainly cultivated for its fibers, and was used for ropes on many ships, including those of Christopher Columbus. The use of hemp as a cloth was centered largely in the countryside, with higher quality textiles being available in the towns.
In a new short film produced by Patagonia, Harvesting Liberty, Michael Lewis, a veteran and hemp grower in Kentucky, shares his encounter with the DEA. In 2014, after the passage of the Farm Bill, Lewis was keen to plant hemp in Kentucky. “[But] the DEA didn’t agree that we had a right to plant the crop. They said they would arrest us,” he says in the film. The matter ended up in the Louisville court, where a judge sided with the farmers. “[We] took our seeds up, got them registered and certified, and threw them into the ground before anyone could change their mind,” Lewis says.
Hemp is used in a variety of products we carry. The industrial hemp seed that is used in the products we carry today is not marijuana, although the two are from the same species (Cannabis Sativa). Hemp seeds are sterilized, removing any traces of THC – the mind-altering compound found in the drug. Industrial hemp can be grown with relatively little fertilizer and without the pesticides that have been known to pollute ground water and river systems.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Soviet Union was the world's largest producer of hemp (3,000 km2 in 1970). The main production areas were in Ukraine, the Kursk and Orel regions of Russia, and near the Polish border. Since its inception in 1931, the Hemp Breeding Department at the Institute of Bast Crops in Hlukhiv (Glukhov), Ukraine, has been one of the world's largest centers for developing new hemp varieties, focusing on improving fiber quality, per-hectare yields, and low THC content.
The use of Cannabis for seed oil (Fig. 36) began at least 3 millennia ago. Hempseed oil is a drying oil, formerly used in paints and varnishes and in the manufacture of soap. Present cultivation of oilseed hemp is not competitive with linseed for production of oil for manufacturing, or to sunflower and canola for edible vegetable oil. However, as noted below, there are remarkable dietary advantages to hempseed oil, which accordingly has good potential for penetrating the salad oil market, and for use in a very wide variety of food products. There is also good potential for hemp oil in cosmetics and skin-care products.
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%.
CBD has also been demonstrated to exert a chemopreventive effect in a mouse model of colon cancer. In this experimental system, azoxymethane increased premalignant and malignant lesions in the mouse colon. Animals treated with azoxymethane and CBD concurrently were protected from developing premalignant and malignant lesions. In in vitro experiments involving colorectal cancer cell lines, the investigators found that CBD protected DNA from oxidative damage, increased endocannabinoid levels, and reduced cell proliferation. In a subsequent study, the investigators found that the antiproliferative effect of CBD was counteracted by selective CB1 but not CB2 receptor antagonists, suggesting an involvement of CB1 receptors.
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.
Cannabis Ruderalis – Thought to be a cannabis species originating in central Asia, it flowers earlier, is much smaller, and can withstand much harsher climates than either Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa. This species purportedly buds based on age rather than changes in length of daylight, known as auto-flowering. It’s used primarily for food production, such as hemp seeds and hemp seed oil.
A 2016 review of animal studies indicated that cannabidiol has potential as an anxiolytic for relief of anxiety-related disorders and fear. Reviews of preliminary research showed cannabidiol has potential for improving addictive disorders and drug dependence, although as of 2016, they indicated limited high-quality evidence for anti-addictive effects in people.
"We still don't fully understand all of the mechanisms involved in CBD's actions," says Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D, who studies CBD and its effects, primarily on PTSD. "We know some pieces but definitely not the whole story at this point. A lot of our understanding of the many potential benefits of CBD is rooted in work either on the cellular level or in preclinical models with rodents."
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