A group of friends are sitting a dorm room on a Saturday night. They are talking and laughing, enjoying each other's company. None of them are hostile or violent. None want to cause trouble. In fact they are happy just sitting there socializing. A knock at the door breaks their routine. It's a policeman, and the reason he is there is because these friends chose to break the law - they were smoking marijuana.
These people are not alone. According to FBI statistics, a marijuana arrest occurs every 49 seconds. Of the 642,000 arrests made in 1996, approximately 85% were for simple possession. The remaining 15 percent were for sale/manufacture, a category that includes all cultivation offenses - even those where marijuana was being grown for personal , medical, or industrial use. Even executive directory of the FBI, Allen St. Pierre states this is ridiculous, "This is clearly a waste of precious law enforcement resources," he said. "Marijuana prohibition costs American taxpayers between $7.5 and $10 billion annually in enforcement alone." The attempt of this paper is to demonstrate that marijuana poses minimal threat to society, and in addition to recreation use, hemp has many good industrial uses that could benefit our society as a whole.
Why is a plant that was proclaimed by Popular Mechanics magazine to have the potential to be manufactured into more than 25,000 environmentally friendly products being systematically withheld from U.S. farmers? It is because that plant is hemp, otherwise known as Marijuana, and for the last sixty years, it has remained the United States government's public enemy #1.
Often described as marijuana's misunderstood cousin, industrial hemp is from the same plant species, Cannabis sativa, that produces marijuana. Unlike marijuana, however, industrial hemp has only minute amounts of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana it's euphoric and medicinal properties. An indispensable raw material throughout our nation's history (In 1640, the Governor of Connecticut declared that, "Every citizen must grow the plant."), industrial hemp is acknowledged as one of nature's strongest and most versatile agricultural crops. Various parts of the plant can be utilized in the making of textiles, paper, paints, clothing, plastics, cosmetics, foodstuffs, insulation, and animal feed. In France, where approximately 10,000 tons of industrial hemp are harvested annually, companies even use coated hemp hurds to restore and build houses. Besides its spectrum of commercial uses, hemp offers other advantages as well. It produces a much higher yield per acre than do common substitutes such as cotton and requires virtually no pesticides. In addition, hemp has an average growing cycle of only 100 days and leaves the soil virtually weed-free for the next planting. Currently, hemp is grown legally throughout much of Europe
and Asia and is being cultivated successfully in test plots in both Australia and Canada.
Despite America's bureaucratic moratorium on industrial hemp cultivation, overwhelming evidence in favor of hemp production continues to emerge from this growing, international industry. Domestic sales of imported hemp products raked in an estimated $25 million dollars in sales in 1994 alone and the American Farm
Bureau Federation recently called hemp "one of the most promising crops in half a century." Fashion giants Adidas, Ralph Loren, and Calvin Klein recently added hemp goods to their clothing lines and Klein also has predicted that hemp would become "the fiber of choice" for the home furnishing industry. The number of outlet stores selling hemp products has exploded in recent years and the amount of American manufacturers producing a variety of hemp-based goods ranging from socks to skin care is now estimated to stand at over 1,000. In addition, many nutritionists and health professionals are now singing the praises of the hemp seed, noting that it is second only to soy in protein and contains the highest concentration of essential amino and fatty acids found in any food. Most importantly, none of the countries that currently cultivate hemp for industrial purposes have reported experiencing rates of rising marijuana use because of their position regarding hemp.
Researchers trace hemp's history as an industrial crop back some 10,000 years when the fiber was first utilized by the Chinese to make ropes and eventually paper.
Hemp's wide array of industrial uses first rose to prominence in America during the colonial era when many of the founding fathers espoused its versatility. Both