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Hemp History Week
May 6, 2011 11:39 AM   Subscribe

This week is Hemp History Week. Hemp has been considered to be one of the most versatile plants known to man, and is a rapidly growing source of biomass, which produces strong fibers.

The US is one of the few countries in the world that does not distinguish between hemp and marjiuana. The Hemp History Week organization are trying to change this, and discuss how it used to be a part of US farming.

Hemp is usually grown for the valuable oil from the seeds used in the beauty industry, or for its strong fibers. Some of the curious things that have used, or use hemp, are Henry Ford's car, Dr. Bronner's soap, bamboo framed bicycles joined using hemp bindings, and houses! The natural building movement in the UK that has done a lot of work developing guidelines and testing hemp/lime for construction, using hemp hurds, which are byproducts from the hemp industry.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth (17 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Aww, but if you spread information about hempen cloth, I can't make jokes about wearing clothes I can smoke/are made of weeeeeeeeeeed/are a misdemeanor all by themselves.
posted by LD Feral at 11:43 AM on May 6, 2011


I was thinking about taking the unhelpful/unwise action of posting a link to one of my favorite moments in Mr Show, where David is listing all the stuff you can make with hemp, including mayonnaise, so I went to YT...and found real videos of people making hemp into mayonnaise.
posted by DU at 11:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's great all these people are so interested in Hemp... "for its strong fibers", duuuuuuuuuuuuuude.
posted by orthogonality at 12:12 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obviously, we need to get some stoner jokes up in this thread. As hemp is exactly the same as marijuana and you can get a very strong contact high just from sharing a bathroom with a hippie who washes with Dr. Bronners.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:18 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The jokes are great, but real talk for a moment:

I have a coat, of which the outer shell is made of a combination of hemp and flax. That shit would stop a bullet.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 12:32 PM on May 6, 2011


Also, as we know from seminal experiments conducted in the Biodome, hemp is an excellent source of photosyninthesis.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:49 PM on May 6, 2011


Would anybody really care if this stuff were not almost the same as dope? If businessmen who were serious about the product for its value rather than its mystique or the government's silly restrictions they would form a lobby and apply some pressure. If ADM decided that hemp was worth the effort the laws would change rapidly.
posted by caddis at 1:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would anybody really care if this stuff were not almost the same as dope?

Seems to me that you're asking this question of the wrong side of the argument...
posted by vorfeed at 1:13 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a coat, of which the outer shell is made of a combination of hemp and flax.

I am interested in this coat. Link? <-Not a drug joke. For reals.
posted by DU at 2:09 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this about removing wax from some special...oregano...again? Because that was like one of the best AskMes ever!
posted by Cobalt at 2:52 PM on May 6, 2011


Fascinating. I just spent a few minutes digging around on the internet for hemp-related life cycle assessment (LCA) studies. LCA is my area of graduate research, thus making this slight diversion from work somewhat justified… or at least that's what I'm telling myself!

(In a nutshell, LCA studies take a particular product or process and investigate the inputs and outputs of each life cycle stage – resource extraction, processing, manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal or recycling – which are then translated to impact categories such as carbon footprint, energy demand, water use, or toxic emissions.)

A cursory look at the hemp LCA literature seems to indicate that hemp production has relatively low environmental impacts when compared to other field crops, with additional benefits possible through optimized production techniques. The development of hemp-based natural fiber composites [PPT] could prove to be a viable substitute for glass fibers in e.g. automotive applications: natural fibers are lighter than their equally-performing glass counterparts, resulting in lighter vehicles, increased fuel efficiency, and fewer emissions. They are also cheaper and can be burned at the end-of-life stage to recover energy and displace what would have otherwise been generated, whereas glass fibers (the majority of which are not recycled) just sit in landfills, taking up space and being of no use to anybody. You said you were going to look for a job this afternoon! Lazy bum. I bet you haven't even showered today. Disgusting.

In any case, I'm not saying hemp is a magical fiber that will solve all of our problems (when used as directed), and various broad-ranging comparative studies have come up with mixed results, but the evidence does suggest an opportunity for technological improvement in at least one specific application that seems to be hindered by misguided politics and a general resistance to innovation. I've found this to be a recurring theme when it comes to sustainable technologies that interrupt the status quo (such as radically improved manufacturing processes and renewable sources of energy). Sooner or later, other forward-thinking countries will pick up the slack, developing and implementing advanced technologies and leaving the U.S. in the dust as we idly debate whether or not climate change is real and continue to blindly protect the interests of the fossil fuel fat cats.

And don't even get me started on our laughably irrational drug laws. Cannabis classified under Schedule I? Give me a break. These tightly-wound lawmakers need to chillllll ouuuut. And apparently so do I, shoot, I'm getting myself all worked up over here.

Deep breaths… relaaaax. Inhale…! hold it…!! and now exhaaaaaale…
posted by Rickalicioso at 3:52 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


hemp production has relatively low environmental impacts when compared to other field crops

Is that because dirty Birkenstock-wearing hippies will pick it for free, maaaaaaaaaan?
posted by orthogonality at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2011


orthogonality: "Is that because dirty Birkenstock-wearing hippies will pick it for free, maaaaaaaaaan?"

Haha, that is correct, though one has to expect some degree of inventory shrinkage as a result :P

In all seriousness, it's because hemp requires relatively lower inputs of things like fertilizers, pesticides, diesel, and agricultural machinery, all of which have associated environmental impacts. Here is the table showing the inputs for different crops, and here is the calculated environmental impacts for those crops.
posted by Rickalicioso at 4:40 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just chiming in as the discussion is relatively quiet.
Rickalicioso, I fully agree. It's a remarkably quick growing plant, outgrowing most weeds and it fixes nitrogen.

There are numerous conspiracy theories floating around about why the US is so against hemp; one argument that I'm fascinated by is that the cotton industry/pesticide lobby felt very threatened by advances in hemp processing, and tried hard to associate it with drug use. I saw a documentary about this when I was in college (which motivated me to do research in hemp/lime construction for my undergrad thesis), but I can't locate the documentary now.

Either way, I think hemp is really similar to bamboo, in that it is a miracle plant (strong, quick-growing and useful) and I really love how it can be used for so many diverse things. It's also remarkably tasty; I met a hemp-seed farmer once who gave me a bottle of cold-pressed hemp seed oil. It was probably the tastiest oil for salad dressing that I've ever had.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:14 PM on May 6, 2011


a womble is an active kind of sloth: "There are numerous conspiracy theories floating around about why the US is so against hemp; one argument that I'm fascinated by is that the cotton industry/pesticide lobby felt very threatened by advances in hemp processing, and tried hard to associate it with drug use."

You know, I never thought about it before, but that makes so much sense. My research focuses on energy resources (and specifically solar) so this sounds to me somewhat analogous to the coal and natural gas industries being threatened by the new girl in town. What's odd is that I would think the transition from cotton to hemp wouldn't be as difficult as it would be for, say, a power company switching from energy-dense fuels that can be consumed on demand to intermittent and dispersed (yet abundant) renewable resources. Then again, I'm the furthest thing from a farmer and I don't claim to know anything about the logistics of switching from one crop to another. Do you (or does anyone else) have better insight into the reason for this agricultural inertia?
posted by Rickalicioso at 5:44 PM on May 6, 2011


"Would anybody really care if this stuff were not almost the same as dope?"

Well, the US Government used to subsidize hemp farming across the country. It now grows wild in those rural (and not-so-rural-anymore) areas. Hemp is considered an invasive species because it's supposedly very easy to grow and spread.

It's illegal simply because it's related to marijuana (even though you can't get high off it), and most of the "weed" confiscated and destroyed by government agents are these stray hemp plants growing out of the ground.
posted by autoclavicle at 12:32 AM on May 7, 2011


hemp vs. other fabrics
posted by beisny at 5:30 AM on May 7, 2011


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