Farms Finest: All in the family name
Often, siblings have personalities that are distinctly opposite from each other. When speaking about familial contrasts, nothing trumps the Cannabis family. Here, one of the good kids, Hemp, has taken a heavy hit from the wilder sister, Mary.
To understand this family, you would have to know how extremely large the Cannabaceae family is, with literally hundreds of members. The three most recognized family “relatives” are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and the less common Cannabis ruderalis.
According to the Hash Marijuana & Hemp Museum, in Amsterdam ,website, Sativa produces the largest amounts of the psychoactive THC, while the indica species has higher levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, that is known for medicinal properties. And the smaller ruderalis offers little THC, has good fiber qualities but does contain CBD. This member is known as the heartier plant of the three, which is useful for cross breeding. An even more interesting trait about the ruderalis is that its flowering is not dependent only on light. With a fast maturity and “auto flowering” capabilities, this species offers traits that are of interest to some growers.
Hemp began being called marijuana during the Mexican Revolution, according to Cannabis Now Magazine’s “The History of Marijuana in America,” published March 16, 2011. Over time both hemp and marijuana became loosely used terms for all of the Cannabis species.
Over time, countless sativa sub species have been cultivated for increasing amounts of THC and CBD concentrations and for improvements in growing traits. You could say this is where dependable, old Hemp began to get in trouble because of Mary’s wilder reputation.
If we go back into history, there was time when the hemp and marijuana differences were better understood. Both crops had been grown worldwide for more than 12,000 years. Hemp was top dog then because it provided raw materials and was a valuable agriculture crop. (See NBC’s “A History Of Pot From George Washington To Legalizing Ganja,” Dec. 6, 2012.)
George Washington grew it, and Ben Franklin had a hemp mill that produced paper. Even the Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp paper. This was a time when the U.S. government supported and understood the distinction between marijuana and hemp.
Hemp was widely grown as an agriculture crop for its oils, rope fibers, varnish/paint products, clothing and seed. Hemp was so popular in use that in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was proposed, according to David Solomon on the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy’s website. Federal taxes were placed so high it became impossible to successfully grow hemp at a profit.
Because of the demand for supplies during World War II, the federal government launched the campaign “Hemp for Victory,” according to PBS “Frontline’s” “Busted — America’s War on Drugs.”
With government incentives, farmers grew more hemp with more than 400,000 acres planted between 1943 and 1945.
Hemp mills were constructed overnight to produce rope, canvas and many other war materials. When wartime ended, hemp again nearly disappeared from the fields. Not only was taxation a cause, but there also was increasing political pressure from the cotton and timber industries.
Yet, hybridization continued creating greater levels of THC and CBD in sativa strains, and the already confusing family was getting bigger. However, the problem was not only how to identify what was what but how to maintain purity between species since they could cross breed. This muddied the waters for legal classification and the words cannabis, hemp and marijuana were loosely combined.
The lumping of these terms into one category was common by 1950, with little distinction of sub species (for full distinction, visit hempethics.weebly.com’s “The Difference Between Industrial Hemp-vs-Cannabis”). As unique from each other as night to day, hemp, the agriculture extraordinaire, had taken a backseat to THC or CBD-producing marijuana/hemp.
The Marijuana Tax Act was repealed in 1970 by the inclusion of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, according to the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy. In one swoop, President Richard Nixon’s pen inked a zero federal tolerance for all marijuana. Marijuana became illegal with no separation or distinction from industrial hemp (“Nixon’s War On Drugs Began 40 Years Ago, And It Is Still Raging,” by Ed Vulliamy). There were few farmers left to argue for industrial hemp’s cause.
To date, hemp is legally grown by 29 countries around the world (Hemp Industries Association).
“The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not recognize the value of industrial hemp and permit its production,” according to Hemp Industries Association.
In the U.S., it can be grown but requires a special permit from the DEA and other security measures for a crop that cannot get you high. On a high note, the 2014 Farm Bill included a provision that educational institutions could grow industrial hemp for research. Individual states are now passing their own legislation for legalizing agriculture production of hemp.
The market for industrial hemp products in the U.S. is growing and once again being recognized as a valuable agriculture crop. While other parts of the world produce hemp and its products, the U.S. remains slow to promote this versatile plant for American agriculture.
“The greatest contribution a person could make to his country would be to introduce a new crop,” said Thomas Jefferson, according to the article “Hemp and Marijuana — Myths & Realities,” by David West.
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