Schaffer Online Library of Drug Policy Sign the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy


Contents | Feedback | Search | DRCNet Home Page | Join DRCNet

DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | Hemp (Marijuana)

Speech before the Colorado legislature

This is a rough draft of a speech for the 1995 Agricultural committee of the Colorado congress, which will be deciding on a bill to re-classify industrial cannabis as legal. (below 1.3% THC)

From DMartinCO@aol.comWed Feb 1 12:54:34 1995

Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 17:24:51 -0500

Draft Testimony--1/26/94


Hemp is an annual herbaceous plant that can grow to heights of 5-20 ft. during a 3-4 month growing cycle. It grows without herbicides, and if grown in proper rotation, without pesticides. Due to its fast rate of growth, hemp has very high initial fertilizer requirements. However, up to 70% of the nutrients are returned to the soil by falling leaves. Therefore, hemp is overall less demanding on the soil than corn or wheat.

According to representatives from the CSU Ag. Dept, Colorado's soil conditions match those preferred by hemp. Rainfall will be a problem, especially during the first six weeks of growth, and so it will be necessary to grow hemp under irrigation. However, Colorado's highest yielding, most profitable crops are also grown under irrigation, and hemp requires about the same amount of water as corn (1-1.5 acre inches/week).

Hemp can be planted using current seeding equipment, and harvested using standard hay mowing and baling equipment. In the future, the development of specialized harvesting equipment will be one of the many industries created by a new hemp industry.

After harvesting, the crop must be retted, the process by which the glue that holds the fibers and hurds together, called pectin, is broken down. In the near future, this can be done using a process called dew retting. Hemp is simply left laying in the field for 4-5 weeks while mother nature naturally decomposes the pectin. In the future, retting facilities will be developed to take advantage of various water retting methods that produce better quality, more uniform fibers in less time.

Hemp yields approximately 3-7 tons of dry stem matter per acre, and approximately 300-1000 lbs of seed per acre.

Hemp offers several benefits to the Colorado farmer. First, it is an alternative cash crop that can earn around $400-1,200 per acre. Hemp's natural weed suppression and resistance to pests mean that farmers will not have to buy costly and harmful pesticides and herbicides, a savings of $50-60/acre compared to corn. Besides this, hemp leaves the field weed free and high in nutrients for the next crop, further reducing costs INSERT CHART.

Finally, hemp would serve as an ideal weed barrier for organic farming. Industrial hemp plants are planted approximately 1-3 inches apart, which gives a plant density of around 150-650 plants/sq. yard. This close spacing

prevents branching, which means the plants grow a straight stem about the size of a finger, with only a small canopy of leaves at the top. To maximize fiber quality, the plants are harvested when the male plants begin to pollinate All this means that industrial hemp is unsuitable as a cover crop for marijuana. Marijuana is planted with wide spacing to encourage branching.

The narrow spacing of industrial hemp means it is impossible to enter a field without leaving a noticeable trail. Industrial hemp is cut before flowering, while marijuana is harvested for the flowers. Any marijuana plants growing in the hemp field would be cut before they were worth anything. Male plants are eliminated for marijuana cultivation, so pollen from male hemp plants would destroy any nearby marijuana crop. As most police agencies will tell you, corn is the preferred cover crop.

Plant Description

Industrial hemp produces three main raw materials: bast fiber, which makes up approximately 20-25% of the stalk; hurds, the woody core that makes up 75-80% of the stalk; and seeds. SHOW CANADIAN STALKS


It has been estimated that hemp could be used to produce 25-50,000 products.

SHOW PRODUCTS CHART. Here are a few:

Textiles: Hemp fiber is one of the strongest natural fibers on earth. These fibers can be used to make a wide range of textile products, from fine linens to coarse canvas. In fact, the word canvas is derived from cannabis.

In addition, hemp fiber is a perfect raw material for making rope, twine and other types of cordage.

According to Pulp and Paper magazine, cotton is grown on approximately 3% of the world's agricultural land, but accounts for 11-15% of agricultural chemical use. In the US, it accounts for 25-50% of chemical use. Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent and more mildew-resistant than cotton fibers. A lightweight, more uniform hemp yarn is currently being developed, which would allow production of hemp T-shirts. At the same time, research is being conducted in Europe on hemp "cottonization," an organic process that converts hemp fibers so they can be used in existing spinning and weaving equipment.

Industrial applications of hemp textiles show special promise. Hemp fibers remain unchanged at extreme cold and warm temperatures. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, fabrics with at least 50% hemp block UV rays better than other fabrics.

Several companies in the US currently produce textile products, such as shirts, jeans, shorts, backpacks, wallets, etc. from imported hemp fabric. Walt Disney Co. carries hemp products for its Indiana Jones line. Esprit will soon begin offering hemp clothes as part of its Ecollection. Deja Shoe, a company that produces footwear made from recycled and earth-friendly materials, will soon be offering hemp shoes, and 100% hemp Converse All Stars are already available.

Currently, there is a shortage of wood fiber on the world market. Prices for wood chips have more than doubled in the past few years, and paper prices have increased significantly. At the same time, demand for paper is also on the rise. These trends will put increasing pressure on world forests. Many woods products producers are beginning to search for alternative fiber sources. Hemp hurds are an excellent wood substitute.

Paper: In 1916, the USDA reported that hemp hurds could produce four times as much paper per acre as trees. With increased yields and improved technology, it may now be as high as ten times as much per acre. Research is currently being conducted on incorporating the whole stalk in the pulping process, which would further increase hemp's advantages over trees. Hurds contain only 10-20% lignin, the substance that binds cells together. This is much lower than the lignin content of trees. This makes hemp much easier to pulp than trees, resulting in lower energy consumption and lower or no use of harmful chemicals. It can also be pulped using hydrogen peroxide, which eliminates the use of chlorine and the resulting release of dioxin into our streams and rivers.

Since hemp paper is stronger, it can be recycled many more times that tree paper. It will last hundreds or thousands of years, while tree paper turns yellow and begins to disintegrate in as little as 20 years. In other countries, hemp is often blended into recycled paper or papers made from other plant fibers to add strength.

Currently, all hemp paper sold in the US is manufactured abroad, and must be imported, resulting in prices 2-3 times higher than tree paper. Kimberly Clarke, an American Fortune 500 company, currently manufactures hemp paper for cigarettes and Bibles in France, and much of the cigarette paper is sold to American companies. Tree Free EcoPaper of Oregon imports paper manufactured in China. They are in the process of building a mill in Oregon that would create 400 new jobs, but without a domestic hemp supply, raw materials will have to be imported, keeping prices high. Germany's largest paper manufacturer has recently converted two mills for hemp production.

Construction Materials: Current research at the Washing State Wood Composite Laboratory shows that medium density fiberboard made from hemp are twice as strong as that made from wood. Composites are the fastest growing sector of the wood-products industry. C&S Specialty Builders Supply is conducting research on using hemp not only in fiberboard, but also to make the binder for such composites. Currently, binders are made using formaldehyde.

Hemp hurds could be used, either alone or blended with wood, in existing mills with absolutely no changes to existing equipment. Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries currently manufacture composite boards from hemp and other plant materials. Gridcore International of California manufactures structural panels made from 50% recycled paper and 50% recycled cardboard. A 4' x 10' x 3/4" Gridcore panel is not only twice as strong as the same size sheet of plywood, but also weighs half as much. They believe that blending in hemp would make the panels even stronger.

Animal Bedding: Hemp hurds also make an excellent animal bedding. They are more absorbent than wood shavings, and compost faster.

Plastics: Hemp hurds are 50-77% cellulose, the basic building block of plastics. Until the 1930's, hemp based cellophane, celluloid and other products were common. Henry ford used hemp to make car doors and fenders.

Today, hemp hurds could be used to make any type of plastic, and can also be blended into recycled plastic. Cargill manufactures a line of 100% plant-based plastic silverware. Plant based plastics, such as shopping bags, are biodegradable, and could be composted at home.

Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds are 20-25% protein, and one handful provides an adult's daily minimum protein requirement. Although soybeans are higher in total protein, these proteins are complex, and are therefore difficult or impossible for some to digest. The proteins found in hemp seed digest much easier. Hemp seeds can be used to make non-dairy cheese, milk and ice cream, and can be substituted for up to 1/4 of the flour in a recipe. According to Udo Erasmus, author of Fats and Oils: The Complete Guide to Fats and Oils in Health and Nutrition, "hemp butter puts peanut butter to shame for nutritional value."

Hemp seeds are also common in birdseed. Testimony by a representative of the American Bird Seed Industry during the hearings on the MTA resulted in the exemption for sterilized seed.

Hemp seeds can be pressed for their oil, which ranges from 30-40% of the seed. Hemp oil is useful for a number of products. Nutrition: At 81%, hemp seed oil is the richest known source of cholesterol-fighting Essential Fatty Acids. hemp oil can be taken alone as a dietary supplement, or used to make salad dressing or other oil-based recipes. Flax oil, another oil sold as a dietary supplement, is currently a $6 million/year industry. Hemp oil is higher is EFA's, reportedly tastes better, and contains a third EFA not found in flax oil.

Currently, it is legal to import sterilized seeds. However, importing greatly increases production costs. Besides this, the sterilization process harms the nutritional potential of the seeds, and hastens rancidity

Personal Hygiene: Hemp oils high content of EFA also makes it ideal for making cosmetics. Today, most moisturizing products are made from saturated oils. These oils are not absorbed by the skin cells, but simply coat the surface and prevent further moisture loss. Lotions that contain high EFA's can be absorbed into the cells to help them heal. Many US companies currently offer a wide range of hemp personal hygiene products, including soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, salves and massage oils.

Paints and Varnishes: Until the 1930's, most paints were made from hemp and linseed oils. Rather than simply coating the surface, hemp oil soaks into wood to preserve it. During testimony ate the MTA hearings, a representative of Sherwin Williams reported that his company imported 135,000 pounds of hemp oil, in addition to the hemp it produced on its Texas plantation. Hemp paints could satisfy today's demand for environmentally safe paints.

Other: Seed oil can be easily combined with 15% methanol to create a substitute for diesel fuel which burns 70% cleaner than petroleum diesel. In fact, diesel fuel was originally designed as a plant-based, not petroleum based, fuel. hemp oil is also an ideal base for non-toxic printing inks. While such inks are currently made from soybeans, hemp is higher in both linoleic and linolenic acids, which means it requires less processing and is a superior drying oil. Hemp seed oil also makes a great all purpose lubricant.

Contents | Feedback | Search | DRCNet Home Page | Join DRCNet

DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | Hemp (Marijuana)