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Hemp History Week, a look back at America's hemp heritage

Sunday, May 23, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: hemp, history, health news

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(NaturalNews) Let U.S. farmers grow hemp! This is the battle cry of those who recognize the value and history of hemp and lament the fact that domestic farmers have been unable to legally grow it for over 50 years. In an effort to change this, Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association have announced May 17-23, 2010, as Hemp History Week, a time when patriotic Americans are encouraged to anchor and organize events in their hometown as part of a national grassroots, media and public education campaign about hemp.

Contrary to popular belief, hemp is not marijuana. At least not Cannabis sativa L., the kind that has been grown worldwide for food and industrial purposes for thousands of years. A look back at American history reveals that hemp was also widely grown and used by early Americans.

To set the record straight, cannabis sativa L. has no drug value. Its seed contains no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana. Cannabis sativa L. will not cause a person who consumes it to test positive on a drug test. It is a completely different plant than the marijuana plant.

As far as functionality, there are literally thousands of uses for hemp. Its seed and oil are powerful superfoods and its fiber is useful in a host of various textile applications. For example, hemp is used to make clothing and paper, and is also used in composite door paneling, fiberboard and concrete foundations.

For food, hemp seeds are a rich source of highly-digestible essential fatty acids (EFAs), or omega-3s. In fact, they contain a perfectly balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 1:3, which many believe is perfect for the human body. Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor similar to that of pine nuts, and they can be used in all sorts of food applications.

Hemp oil is delicious and nutritious as well. Unlike flax and fish oil, hemp oil is rich in Super Omega-3 Stearidonic Acid (SDA) and Super Omega-6 Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) which together help to reduce inflammation and improve mental functionality. These also assist in improving the metabolization of necessary fatty acids.

As opposed to cotton, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of the world's pesticide use in order to grow it, hemp requires no pesticides or agricultural chemicals in order to thrive. It is an entirely non-toxic, renewable resource that actually helps to suppress weeds and regenerate soil naturally. It is a favorite among farmers who use it as a rotation crop.

Back in the early days of America's founding, hemp was a commonly grown and used resource. America's hemp heritage includes the following little-known facts:

-Early laws in some American colonies actually required farmers to grow hemp.
-Many of our earliest presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, all grew hemp.
-The American Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper.
-Abraham Lincoln used hemp seed oil to fuel the lamps in his home.
-The U.S.S. Constitution was rigged with 60 tons of hemp sails and rigging.
-In 1942, Henry Ford built an experimental car body out of hemp fiber, which is ten times stronger than steel.

Other interesting discoveries about hemp include a USDA bulletin published in 1916 that found that hemp produces four times more paper per acre than trees do. In 1938, Popular Mechanics published a piece about hemp called the "New Billion Dollar Crop" that explained how hemp could be used to manufacture over 25,000 different products, "from cellophane to dynamite".

Unfortunately, domestic hemp growing ceased in the 1950s due to misinformation and confusion about hemp's relation to marijuana. Around the same time, government incentives were launched that propped up the fossil-fuel plastics industry at the expense of the hemp industry. As a result, all the key hemp producers went bankrupt and hemp quickly became an industry of the past.

In recent years, however, the truth about hemp has been resurfacing. Following a 2004 Ninth Circuit Court decision that permanently protects the sale of hemp foods and body care products in the U.S., there have been major initiatives to once again allow hemp to be grown domestically. As it stands, nearly all of the hemp sold and used in the U.S. is imported from places like Canada, but many hope that will change.

In 2007, two North Dakota farmers were given licenses to grow hemp. This is the first time in over 50 years that hemp has been grown in the U.S., and it represents a shift back towards this valuable and environmentally-friendly crop. Hemp has the potential to revolutionize our economy and bring real prosperity back to America.

Most American farmers today raise subsidized crops like corn and soy, which generate less than $50 per acre in net profits. The average net profits for Canadian farmers who grow hemp in some cases is upwards of $500 per acre. If American farmers are once again permitted to grow hemp, and American industries are able to effectively use hemp for industrial purposes, the American landscape would change dramatically for the better. The possibilities are endless.

Please visit www.votehemp.com to learn more about hemp. Also, be sure to take a look at the information there about Hemp History Week and do your part to bring this nutritious, sustainable and versatile crop back to America.

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