Why Not Hemp?
Hemp has gone from being a government-required crop and a staple in US agriculture to being a non-existent, prohibited plant, yet it is currently grown worldwide and imported into the US. Its uses are literally endless, it is healthy and environmentally friendly, could be a boon for the US farmers, and even has numerous possibilities for the horse. To bring hemp farming back into the US, we need to learn more about this special plant and why it has been banned by regulation and confusion.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a member of the mulberry plant family, species Cannabis sativa, meaning “useful plant”, which has over 700 varieties and strains. Hemp is a crop that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew, and what settlers were sometimes bound by law to grow in Colonial times. There are probably places and roads near you named after hemp - Hempstead, Hempfield, Hempland, etc.
The draft of our US Constitution and our Declaration of Independence were started on hemp paper, the Gutenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper, and Old Glory (our nation's flag) was sewn with hemp fabric and thread. The westward-bound covered wagons were covered with hemp cloth. Homespun clothing made of hemp was worn by settlers as well as George Washington and his armies, Hemp seed oil was also used for lamplighting, paints, varnishes, oakum, sealants, and salves, by the common man as well as presidents such as Abraham Lincoln. Even the paints and canvas (word derived from 'cannabis') used by Van Gogh, Rembrandt and others were products of the hemp plant. Hemp could be the world's top renewable resource for fuel, paper, cloth, paint, plastics, protein, soap, oil and over 25,000 other products.
Hemp, grown commercially, is referred to as "industrial hemp" which differentiates it from the medicinal variety of Cannabis sativa commonly referred to as "marijuana". Though each is Cannabis sativa, they have distinct differences, just like donkeys are not the same as horses, and Arabians are not the same as Percherons, even though all are equine. The entire Cannabis sativa species, however, is currently prohibited in the US.
Politics and Government
The word "marijuana" was thrust into public awareness in the early 1930's when William Randolph Hearst of Hearst Publications printed many fabricated and non-factual racist news articles that produced negative images of what the American Medical Association (AMA) referred to as 'Cannabis' for medicinal and recreational practices. The era of hemp prohibition began in 1937 when Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, based on unscientific evidence and newspaper articles by Hearst Publications, and with the tax and licensing regulations of the act, hemp cultivation became difficult, especially for the small farmer growing one or two acres of hemp.
Then in the early 1940’s, because importation became difficult, the USDA produced a film entitled "Hemp for Victory" encouraging farmers to do the patriotic thing and grow hemp for the war effort. Hemp was grown commercially (with increasing governmental interference) in the US until the 1950's when the war on drugs heightened, and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) neglected to distinguish hemp from marijuana. The DEA still classifies all Cannabis sativa varieties as "marijuana", and while it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require that the field be secured by fence, razor wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive. Hawaii is going through this process right now. Also of interest, Alex White Plume, a Lakota Indian tribal member, and his family are currently embroiled in a civil suit for growing industrial hemp (which the federal government still maintains is "marijuana") for building materials, seed, and oil. Even though it is their sovereign right through treaty to grow hemp on their land in Pine Ridge, SD (often described as one of the poorest places in the nation), the last two years it was cut and confiscated by the US government just prior to harvest.
The Canadian Mounties can easily spot a marijuana
plant among hemp, just as we could easily find a donkey among horses,
and yet the US government does not acknowledge any difference. The
long tall slender hemp plant is similar to flax and jute and is
grown close together (300 plants per meter) to maximize its useful
stalk and nutritious seed. Marijuana is grown for its female flowering
leaves and resins, at two plants per meter, more like a small tree
with many branches, to maximize leaves (where its medicinal ingredient
THC is found). Hemp encompasses the low THC varieties of Cannabis
sativa (between 0.05 and 1 percent THC) versus marijuana's THC content
of up to 20 percent. Marijuana growers would not plant it near hemp
because hemp is dominant; if hemp does pollinate any nearby marijuana,
genetically, the result could only be lower-THC marijuana, not higher-THC
Cannabis use is being argued throughout the US in different venues, with the majority starting to voice their concern over the cost and misdirection of limited police funds. The arguing has unfortunately slowed down the revival of industrial hemp. Hemp is one of our planet's most important natural resources; it deserves a revival of use in the US where it could benefit us all directly and indirectly. Since 1996, eleven states have passed bills or resolutions supporting the re-introduction of industrial hemp into American agriculture (Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia).
Hemp Manufacturing in North America
In August 2000, I invited Jean Laprise, a great entrepreneur from Canada and President of Kenex, Ltd., the largest hemp processing company in North America, to be a guest speaker for a local event. I am deeply indebted to Jean for coming down and talking to our Lancaster County farmers about the reality of hemp farming. To explain the difference between hemp and “marijuana”, he uses the comparison of lemons and oranges - no matter how many oranges you squeeze you won’t produce lemonade, and vice versa, even though they are both from the citrus family.
Kenex produces HempBed, a clean, dust-free bedding produced from the soft, highly absorbent, woody core of the hemp plant. The core is separated, milled to size and the dust is extracted. No herbicides or pesticides are used in the growing or production of HempBed. HempBed absorbs liquid and ammonia quickly, reducing its harmful effects on a horse’s respiratory system and minimizing stable odor, while providing a safe, comfortable environment for your horse. HempBed is proven to be much more absorbent than straw or wood chips. This will reduce the amount of bedding required for replacement as well as the cost for removal and disposal. HempBed also composts quickly, resulting in a smaller manure pile and producing good quality compost (see www.hempbed.com).
Along with horse bedding, Kenex produces fiber that goes into Detroit’s automobile industry. Hemp is an excellent fiberglass substitute. Daimler Chrysler uses industrial hemp fiber in composites for door panels and other interior auto parts. Hemp is strong, lightweight, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Production of hemp fiber mats uses 83 percent less energy and is 40 percent cheaper (see www.daimlerchrylser.com).
Hemp is used in the manufacture of clothing, so why not hemp for horse apparel? Saddle pads and blankets would be comfortable and durable, wicking away sweat whereas cotton retains moisture. Cotton also contains a lot of pesticides (almost half of the agricultural chemicals used on US crops are applied to cotton), while hemp requires little if any pesticides or herbicides. Hemp is also UV protectant and better insulating than cotton. Lead ropes from hemp would be durable and strong, as would tack; saddles could be padded with hemp, and perhaps saddle trees as well could be made from hemp, and bareback pads.
HEMP FACTS (reprinted from Hemp Industries Association, www.hia.org)
1) Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.
2) Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic. The federal government subsidized hemp during the Second World War and US farmers grew about a million acres of hemp as part of that program.
3) Hemp Seed is far more nutritious than even soybean, contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is 35 percent dietary fiber. Hemp Seed does not contain THC.
4) The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers which are among the Earth's longest natural soft fibers and are also rich in cellulose; the cellulose and hemi-cellulose in its inner woody core are called hurds. Hemp stalk contains no THC. Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber.
5) According to the Department of Energy and Dr. Brooks Kelly, Hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of biofuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
6) Hemp grows well without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. Almost half of the agricultural chemicals used on US crops are applied to cotton.
7) Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp's low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and its creamy color lends itself to environmentally friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical byproducts.
8) Hemp fiber paper resists decomposition, and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found. It can also be recycled more times.
9) Hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard.
10) Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name just a very few examples.
Kenex, along with other Canadian farming co-ops, grows European varieties of hemp seed for use in foods and animal feeds. Hemp, healthy and delicious, is similar to flax and soy in its nutritional profile and benefits (but much tastier), and the use of hemp seed for food is popular in other countries. Little is taught about hemp anymore in the US schools, so we must turn to the European and Asian nations to find out what we consumers in the US have been missing for the last 70 years.
Hemp’s biggest plus is the balance of EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids), nutrients the body cannot produce by itself. We can acquire these through plant oils and fish oils, but the concern with fish oil is the continual dumping of toxins into our seaways. Also, fish oils are not readily consumed nor digested by horses. People and horses are better off getting EFA’s through plant based, organic sources.
Noting from Manitoba Harvest, another Canadian producer of hemp seed, “Protein in the body serves many functions, acting as enzymes, antibodies and structural components of tissue and hormones. The building blocks of protein are amino acids and the main function of dietary protein is to supply amino acids for the growth and maintenance of the body tissue. Ten of the twenty amino acids are considered essential for life because the human body cannot manufacture them. When a food contains all ten essential amino acids, it is referred to as a complete protein.”
Hemp has edestin protein, making it more digestible than soy. Hemp’s protein is higher than beef, fish, peanuts, cheese, chicken, almond, egg, tofu and milk.
Quoting liberally from the “Nutritional and Medicinal Guide to Hemp Seed” by ethnobotanist Kenneth Jones (Copyright 1995, Kenneth Jones: Published by Rainforest Botanical Laboratory, P.O. Box 1793, Gibsons, B.C. Canada V0N 1V0):
“Use of the seeds in Europe dates back to Greek and Roman times. Dioscorides, the famous Greek physician of the first century, noted that the seed juice was an excellent remedy for earaches. Fifteen centuries, Dioscorides’ remedy for earaches persisted and was common all over Europe. Earlier in the first century, the Roman, Pliny the Elder, also referred to the seed juice being used for expelling worms and other insects that had entered the ear. The seed was also considered useful in the treatment of gout (hereditary arthritis) and illness with similar symptoms. In Rome during the second century, the seed was recommended for constipated livestock.”
On page 22 of his book is the Nutritional Analysis of Hemp Seed:
Protein 22.5% or higher
Calories 503 per 100g
Dietary Fiber 35.1% (3% soluble)
Carotene 7.63 International Units/gram
Vitamin E 30 milligrams/g
Vitamin C 14 mg/g
Vitamin B1 9 mg/g
Vitamin B2 11mg/g
Vitamin B3 25 mg/g
Vitamin B6 3 mg/g
Until about 1948 the main use of hemp seed in the US was as feed for dairy and beef cattle and as birdfeed. Most of the seed was imported from Manchuria and Russia. In 1958 an authority on seed oils, J.A. Kneeland, commented that one day, when trade obstacles would be removed, it would be interesting to see how new methods of processing might affect the nutritive value and digestibility of hemp seed meal. Today with the recently renewed demand for hemp fiber for paper and clothing alone, the availability of hemp seed is expected to increase, thereby facilitating a greater array of hemp seed products with something for every kind of taste. In the1940’s, the USDA Bureau of Animal Industry concluded that as much as 15 percent of the soybean component in feed for growing chickens could be replaced by ground hemp seed.
The College of Agriculture, Berkeley, California, had shown that the seed meal as 10 percent of the diet caused an average weight gain comparable to that produced by bone-free sardine meal supplement. Hemp seed meal and various solvent extracts of whole hemp seed also demonstrated an anti-erosion effect on the gizzard linings of chicks, which resulted in much smoother linings than in chicks not fed hemp seed meal. Hemp seed caused “larger, firmer and much redder” gizzard muscles. The CA Division of Animal Husbandry in 1936 conducted studies of hemp seed digestibility in sheep. Noting the results could also be applied to cattle, A.H. Folger reported that Pacific coast oil mills had recently begun crushing “large quantities of hemp seed… and the resulting meal had been sold to livestock men in steadily increasing amounts.”
An analysis of the seed cake, which is the remains left after the oil is pressed out, shows what a nutritious food hemp seed can provide for animals:
General Components of Hemp Seed Cake:
Nitrogen-free extract 40.59
Mineral Content of the Ash:
(Contents in average amounts. Adapted from "The Wealth of India", Vol. 2, 1950.)
In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, next to Hempfield Township, there are two pretzel factories that produce Hempzel Pretzels for my company. Using the shelled hemp seed and hemp flour in a hearth-baked traditional pretzel formulation, Hempzels were good enough to receive second place in "Food Distribution Magazine", an industry publication that held a blind taste test of 30 pretzel entries. Sesame Hempzel Pretzels were beat out by a chocolate covered pretzel rod produced in Ohio. A new line of soft Hempzel pretzels also uses hemp seed oil. These darker, nuttier tasting pretzels are the cornerstone of both my business and my endeavors to mainstream hemp back into the US and the American diet (for both people and animals). My goal is to contract with our local and regional farmers to supply the seed, nut and oil for Hempzels and other food products. The remaining fiber would be used in biodegradable plastics, building materials and other various applications.
Besides pretzels and representing other hemp manufacturers, I'm working with another local company for organic granolas and baking mixes. All these products should be available at your local health food store.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to overcome archaic misperceptions and negative political influence so we can re-establish this useful plant once again on US soils. I encourage readers to get involved with the Hemp Industries Association (visit www.thehia.org) along with project VoteHemp (www.votehemp.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for Industrial Hemp. With your additional input it won’t be long until the farmers in the US can grow hemp once again so we can all enjoy its benefits, and so they can also compete in the global market for hemp. We like to say, “Just say Know”, since knowledge is key to good civil government and clearing up the misunderstandings about this versatile plant, Cannabis sativa.
Feel free to email me your questions or comments
Cheers and health to you and your horses, and peace to everyone.
Shawn Patrick House,
Freedom, Prosperity, Agriculture
About the author:
Shawn House is the owner of Hempzel Pretzel Company, maker of Crunchy “Peaces” and New Soft Hempzels. He is a member of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), has spoken at educational institutions and colleges, enjoys history, and is a dedicated hemp advocate. Shawn collects any historical memorabilia on hemp as well as hemp farming and manufacturing equipment.
He can be reached at:
Lancaster Hemp Company - Educational
Lancaster Trading House - Broker
PO Box 302
Lancaster, PA 17608-0302
Phone: 717-295-1532 call first to fax
Dedicated Fax: 1-717-293-7885
For more information:
"Hemp Seed, The Royal Grain" by Chris Bennett
"Traditional Uses of Culinary Hemp Seed" by Dr. Alexander Sumach
"Centuries of Safe Consumption of Hemp Foods" by Cynthia Thielen
"Essential Fatty Acids Can Affect Your Baby's Intelligence!" by Hempola, Inc.
"Nutritional Analysis of Hempseed and Hempseed Oil" by The Ohio Hempery
"Nutritional Analysis of HempNut Hulled Hempseed" by Richard Rose
"Basic Uses of Industrial Hemp: Food, Fuel, Fiber" by Mari Kane
"The Emperor Wears No Clothes" by Jack Herer
Hemp Industries Association Convention - September 30 thru October 2, 2002, Washington, DC
Hemp Industries Association National Hemp Lobby Day - October 2, 2002, Washington, DC
We are going to Washington DC to tell our reps we want the Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to regulate industrial hemp farming, not DEA. Come join us!