David Bronner, CEO and president of Dr. Bronner’s soaps, locked himself in a cage outside Lafayette Park last month with 10 pounds of hemp plants and the necessary equipment to produce enough hemp oil to spread on his French bread. He was protesting the illegality of hemp harvesting in the United States. Unfortunately, it is illegal and he was forced from his cage and arrested. Dr. Bronner was charged with possession of marijuana and blocking a passage of the street.
Hemp is considered a Schedule 1 substance due to the fact it is nearly identical to marijuana and classified as Cannabis sativa L. Marijuana contains 3% THC or higher, whereas, hemp contains under 1%. While both are in the same category of Cannabis, hemp is a sterile plant and does not produce the high that marijuana does. In fact, it has more uses and benefits than its sister plant.
Hemp uses far outweigh the notoriety surrounding it. According to the Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods hemp seed oil has a fatty acid content of approximately 75% in omega-6s and omega-3s. These fatty acids are essential in cancer resistance and reducing both inflammation and blood clots. The study also displayed an increase in metabolism and lowering of cholesterol. Hemp seed oil is often used in skin products and has been reported to generate new cell growth and produce softer, smoother skin. The product has also been reported to reduce appetite and induce weight loss.
For the past 5,000 years, hemp has been utilized in paper, clothing, fuel, food, and textiles. Buddha even survived on the seeds after he abandoned his previous life, only to become a symbol of peace similar to Jesus Christ. In the 1910s, Henry Ford was interested in alternative fueling and began experimenting with different types of plastics, and used various agricultural products to manufacture his vehicles. He managed to make the world’s first organic car out of both soybean and hemp fibers. Ford claimed the car was ten times stronger than steel.
The industrial uses of the crop are vast and the production is cheaper than cotton. Yet, while harvesting is illegal, a wide variety of products are sold throughout the United States. Presently, refined hemp fibers must be grown and imported from other countries and this process only elicits more taxation from an already depressed economy.
Many American farmers and horticulturists are making effort to overturn the ban. The usage of hemp has been shown to be more biodegradable than plastic as it anchors and protects soil. Hemp harvesting would also improve the employment rate as processing plants would encourage more job opportunities. As of now, the American government spends over $40 billion dollars in the eradication of hemp in arrests and upholding the laws. A tax base could instead produce billions of dollars for not only farmers but also manufactures, wholesalers, and retailers alike. Hemp could instantly boost the economy.
In 2001, the Drug Enforcement Agency declared that it would clarify the legal status of particular “hemp” products. DEA Administrator, Asa Hutchinson, remarked that “many Americans do not know hemp and marijuana are part of the same plant and that hemp can’t be produced without also producing marijuana.” The strong fear of cannabis production still deters many from the benefits it can bring us. But, luckily with new legislation, hemp will soon become a present day reality for American farmers and horticulturists.