The Most Revolutionary Act

Diverse Ramblings of an American Refugee

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
New Plymouth, New Zealand
December 02
Retired psychiatrist, activist and author of 2 young adult novels - Battle for Tomorrow and A Rebel Comes of Age - and a free ebook 21st Century Revolution. My 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led me to leave the US in 2002. More information about my books (and me) at

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 5:59PM

The Politics of Hemp

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How to distinguish industrial hemp (the first plant)

How to distinguish industrial hemp (the first plant)

(This is the first of three posts about the Industrial Hemp Farming Act Bill sponsored by Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.)

For nearly four decades, industrial hemp advocates have extolled the virtues of hemp (cannabis sativa, variety sativa), a plant whose cultivation is still banned in the US, thanks to its scandalous distant cousin, cannabis sativa, variety indica. The latter is the source of the illicit drug marijuana. The former produces good quality fiber and has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) concentration of 1% or less. The latter produces negligible usable fiber and has a THC concentration of 4-20%.

Hemp happens to be one of the most versatile plants known to man. Hemp fiber is used in the production of paper, textiles, rope, sails, clothing, plastics, insulation, dry wall, fiber board and other construction materials; while hempseed oil is used as a lubricant and base for paints and varnishes, as well as in cooking and beauty products. The hemp plant, a “bioaccumulator,” is also used in phytoremediation. This is a process that uses living plants to remove nuclear contaminants and toxic chemicals from soil. Massive hemp fields were planted in the Ukraine following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, to soak up radionucleotides (

I recently became interested in the importance of hemp in green technology following the relocation from Ashville North Carolina to New Plymouth (New Zealand) of Hemp Technologies (, a construction company that produces low cost, energy efficient hemp homes and construction materials. Up until the 1990s, interest in industrial hemp was limited to the movement seeking to legalize marijuana. However growing public concern about the need to urgently reduce fossil fuel use (both to reduce carbon emissions and to conserve dwindling reserves) has given industrial hemp a major shot in the arm. Because hemp cultivation is still illegal in the US (except for the Pine Ridge Reservation and small “research” plots), the US is the world’s largest importer of hemp ( Ironically they import most of it from the their main economic rival, China, which is also the world’s largest producer. This is yet another example of how communities, small businesses and states are leaving behind a short sighted, corporate controlled federal government and forging ahead to save their communities and the planet from economic and ecological collapse.

The Fiber Modern Synthetics Replaced

The use of hemp dates back to 10,000 BC in Taiwan ( In fact hemp-based paper, textiles, rope, construction materials and even plastics are the tried and true low tech alternative to modern synthetics that consume large quantities of fossil fuel during manufacture. Prior to the industrial revolution, the vast majority of textiles, clothing, canvas (the Dutch word for cannabis), rope and paper was made of hemp. It was only with the industrial revolution and the proliferation of machinery run on cheap fossil fuels that more sophisticated alternatives, such as cotton, wood-based paper, and eventually petroleum based plastics became cheaper alternatives. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin in the 1820s, 80% of the world’s textiles, fabrics, and clothing were made of hemp. By 1883, hemp was still the primary source of 75% of the world’s paper. Prior to the crippling hemp tax the US government passed in 1937, most bank notes and archival papers were made of hemp (owing to its greater durability) and most paints and varnishes were made from hempseed oil.

Hemp has always been such a vital community resource that a long series of laws, dating back to Henry VIII (1535) required farmers to grow hemp or be fined. In 1619 Jamestown Virginia enacted a law requiring residents to plant hemp. Massachusetts and Connecticut passed similar laws in 1631 and 1632. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp. The Declaration and Independence and Emancipation Proclamation are printed on it.

Using Hemp to Control and Reduce CO2

A hemp crop takes approximately four months to reach maturity. This contrasts with twenty years for the fastest growing trees. Hemp absorbs four times as much carbon dioxide and produces four times as much raw fiber (per unit weight) as trees ( In addition to its low carbon footprint, hemp has a number of other advantages over the synthetic and highly processed products that have replaced it. Paper manufactured from hemp is finer, stronger and lasts longer ( Likewise hemp-based products used in home construction are unparalleled thermal insulators, as well as being non-toxic, waterproof, fireproof and insect and mold resistant (

Prior to visiting the Hemp Technologies website (, I was under the mistaken impression that hemp was mainly used for home insulation. I was very surprised to learn that hemp (in the form of HemPcrete) can be used in the construction of the outer walls, as well as a non-toxic replacement for dry wall (Magnum Board). In addition Hempboard (100% hemp) is an inexpensive, non-toxic replacement for fiberboard in interior paneling, countertops, shelving, sheathing and furniture.

To be continued.

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I beg you - stay away from this issue. The weed crowd will flock, and they do not care about the actual uses of hemp. They will extoll the virtues of industrial hemp, but they want to get high. This is simply a legitimate argument they are able to make against the other side.

This is a sink hole issue that will consume you if you become embroiled in it. Run away while you are still able (or, become an advocate for the decriminalization of all drugs, since that is the only non-hypocritical stance that one can take, should they choose to take a stance at all...then, watch everything you ever write become about drugs, drugs, drugs...).

All that, and help cloth is about as attractive as burlap. I'm not super vain, but patchouli stinks and hemp clothing looks like shit. Also, dreadlocks are indicative of disgusting, unwashed hair. I'm sure all help in the green effort, but some things are worth the carbon they use up.
Also, marijuana is a made up name for cannabis that was concocted by the US Federal Government. It means (literally) Mary Jane in Spanish. It's racist and shouldn't be used if it can be helped.
I share all of your concerns, Malcolm. I happen to be more concerned about using hemp as a carbon sink and replacement for wood, paper and plastics. I honestly don't see any way to solve the CO2 problem without it.

There is a lot more (bipartisan) support for industrial hemp than you think. As I outline in Part 2 and Part 3.
As a psychiatrist and medical professional, I also happen to support the Cato Institute's position on decriminalizing all drugs:
I'm actually disappointed that Paul is using this issue...but, I'm sure it will get him through the funding mess he's in. It just won't get him a single vote because none of the stoners who care about this ever thought about declaring themselves as a member of the GOP. Even the so-called conservative ones.

Ugh...The US and these stupid plants...this all goes back to railroads and corporations and all the non-white workers and trying to oppress them in any way possible. Stupid on both sides is all you get with this crap.
I know why you care about this. All I'm saying is that as an intelligent advocate for the useful (more useful...I think the drug is useful as well, even's just not my cup of tea, as it were) side of cannabis, you risk becoming known for it, because the burners will rally behind you. know what you're doing, I'm sure. I have just seen people end up way more involved in this than they ever intended because the support comes fast and furious, even though the supporters care very little for the same things you do.
Dr SJ: I share your passionate opinion that legal restrictions against hemp is the stupidest thing this country is doing.
I just point to Portugal if anyone asks me how I feel about decriminalization. Even their most conservative politicians won't touch the issue because it has been the most beneficial tool in reducing the serial use of drugs, curbing the spread of disease and reducing crime that the country has ever seen.
Interesting post.

I have a question: why is industrial hemp still outlawed? If other countries can manage to distinguish between the industrial product and the drug, why can't we? Is there some kind of organized opposition to industrial hemp?

I don't know anything about the cultivation of industrial hemp, but I know a lot about growing marijuana. For several years I've grown a few plants of medical marijuana for a lady who is a chronic pain patient. Marijuana growing is very labor-intensive if you do it right, and marijuana plants seem to attract every bug and blight within 100 miles. Even growing a few plants takes a lot of time. I'm sure that industrial hemp cultivation must be very different.
because industrial hemp still contains (up to 25%) of the THC content of its more illicit brethren, and 100% of the canaboids. i.e. it will get you high.

I don't think either should be illegal, but feigning ignorance in the manner in which you just did should.
growing cannabis for drug content is like growing tobacco. it works very easily in certain geographic areas - Hawaii and Northern CA/Southern OR (the so-called Emerald Triangle, 3 county area in that region). Other than that, you have to mimic the conditions for growth to get the kind of flowering you want, at the rate and frequency that you want it, so that you can get high as often as you want.

Even that is not that difficult, if you concentrate on it. Regardless, the plant itself is a rag weed. It grows and grows, regardless of where it is planted or what it is planted with. It just doesn't do so, and flower as often, as someone who wants to get high would like...unless it is planted in the aforementioned geographic areas, in which case, it goes bananas, which is why most outdoor cannabis is grown in those 2 places.
Malcolm, I think you're preaching to the choir. All but your assertion about getting high off industrial hemp. Extracting THC from sativa sativa is an extremely complicated and expensive process. Theoretically you can get high off morning glory seeds, but it's so difficult no one bothers. It's much easier to get a nickel bag from your friendly neighborhood dealer.
Hemp needs a super PAC, its own billionaire, and an all-powerful lobby! That's all American "democracy" seems to understand!
thc alone doesn't get you high. It's also not nearly as effective medicinally, which is why people who are actually sick with the diseases (or treatment side effects) for which cannabis is medicinally effective have lobbied so hard to legalize cannabis in their states (even though it is legal in no state, thanks to the federal scheduled drug laws...simply semi-legitimate and tolerated at the moment).

Regardless, industrial hemp contains all the things it takes to get high and the minute it becomes legal is the minute there is a pill at your local health food store which mimicks the effects of getting a cannabis high (because it is not a difficult process from an industrial standpoint, and the profit makes it quite worth the trouble).

Personally, I think that is fine and dandy. Like I said, I am for all drugs to be decriminalized, but if you can't grow enough pot for personal use, it's because you're currently too high to figure it out, because I've seen some real retards who have had no issue whatsoever doing it. Also, if you pretend that industrial hemp won't be turned into a "get baked" supplement at the same places that sell "supplements" that mimic the effects of anabolic steroids (or, right now, cocaine), you're completely oblivious to what is going on in the world, or you are feigning ignorance.
Malcolm, sit back and observe if what you predict becomes true. I doubt it very much. This is a legitimate matter of industrial policy made high-profile only by one little Latin name. I believe Ron Paul is just trying to show his libertarian colors in a way that will get him some publicity. Should he become the candidate, this is likely to get him more farmer supporters than the few hundred stoners who will roll off their couches for him on Election Day. He could have chosen the GMP issue as a "right-to-plant" issue as well, except he's too smart for that.

Far more important than any red-herring "legalization" issue IMHO, is the matter of freeing the millions of prisoners who had their lives wrecked for carrying a few joints and compulsory sentencing laws. I am happy to see that Obama wants to reverse these and some jurisdictions are now ignoring them, knowing which way the wind is blowing.
um...Sean...what do you think NORML is?
Freeing non-violent drug offenders has nothing to do with the growth and use of industrial hemp (though, I am 100% for the freeing of all non-violent drug offenders and it is a big reason why I support Ron Paul currently...the other - there's no other decent candidate out there right now).
And, Obama hasn't reversed a damn thing. "Marijuana" is still a Schedule 1 narcotic, and this includes cannabis in all its forms.

"ANY AMOUNT" of ANY Schedule 1 Narcotic means a minimum of 20 years in prison. Obama is simply not focusing on the enforcement of this law, but he has not lifted a finger to reverse it.
Finally, a smart. well informed, politically active burner, is still a burner. I think what Paul knows is that upwards of 25% of the non-senior citizen voting population (who would likely favor Paul over Obama anyway) fall into this category, and though they will admit it in no poll, this is their #1 issue...just like alcohol was the #1 issue during its prohibition.

Whatever...I'm out. Have fun pretending to care about this beyond its implications for legal reefer (not you, doc, but pretty much everyone else). Again, I think the reefer should be legal (it's like a speeding ticket in my state, as long as you're not distributing it, which is more akin to a weed tax than anything else...that seems about right, given the federal laws that overshadow the issue), and I certainly think industrial hemp should be legal. I just find it humorous that people are so dishonest about what motivates them where this issue is concerned.
The reason why both hemp and cannabis are illegal is very simple: money for both pharmaceutical companies and campaign contributions. The argument they are using now is that allowing hemp is a slippery slope, an argument as idiotic and pathetic as the gateway drug argument on cannabis.

As MalcolmXY said if one is for the argument one must come out as for legalizing cannabis or drugs in general. OK, so first any one who denies the medical benefits of cannabis is either insane or a hypocrite. Second, and this is a question I have asked many times before and I never received an honest answer. If someone smokes cannabis only to get high, what is it to me or you? Why should I care enough to militantly fight to prevent people from getting high? Thank you Dr., a subject to my own heart. Looking forward to you next post. RRRRRRRRRRRRRR
I didn't say one necessitates the other, Thoth. I think that people who care little about the medicinal cannabis can be 100% for the industrial variety.

I simply stated that most who pretend to care about the industrial, simply care about the medicinal, and use this issue to further the cause for the issue about which they actually care - and, that hypocrisy gives me the reefer madness (reefer anger, is probably a better term for it).

KEEP SUPPORTING THE DOC, THOUGH!!! She writes about all kinds of important, non-cannabis stuff as well.
Excellent essay Dr. Bramhall. I had known of some of the uses of hemp for some time, but you've opened my eyes to many more.

I've no idea where someone has obtained hemp clothing that was so bad. There is a store nearby me, that sells hemp products, including clothing and I just wish I could afford that beautiful, satiny soft, silky looking shirt I saw there. Maybe for my birthday in June I'll get it.

I look forward to your next essay on this subject.
[r] Stuart, thanks for the enlightenment! Wow! I can't wait for the next installments.

I got a real kick out of this passage:

"Hemp has always been such a vital community resource that a long series of laws, dating back to Henry VIII (1535) required farmers to grow hemp or be fined. In 1619 Jamestown Virginia enacted a law requiring residents to plant hemp. Massachusetts and Connecticut passed similar laws in 1631 and 1632. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp. The Declaration and Independence and Emancipation Proclamation are printed on it."

The demonization of hemp -- time to bring it to an end!

So many options to bring wholesome recovery to the globe. We need a "Green" leadership to implement them it would seem. libby
@ MalcolmXY,

I did not mean to offend you and I was not disagreeing with you at all; I was simply quoting you. You are right, people who are for cannabis should come out and say they are for legalizing drugs. You are also right that this is not the post to argue for legalizing cannabis as much as I'd love to.
Thoth - this is the interwebz, you couldn't offend me with a combination of naked women, jungle animals, fecal matter, and a mastery of photoshop. Nothing anyone does on the tubiesnet offends me. It's all just pointless, baseless, usually uninformed screaming posing as real debate with people searching out opinions with which they already agree.

All I was doing was correcting your perception of what I meant in what I said. I took no offense at any of it, and my guess is that we fall on the same side of this issue for a great many of the same reasons.

Peace out, son.
So glad to have your honest opinion here on this subject. Perhaps it will bring a lot of People...

Better than a thousand hollow words,
is one word that brings peace.
Wow, two articles for the price of one. Thanks Dr. and Mal.
I've been through this before; the way they handle this is incredibly stupid like many other things they do.

The whole subject is based on false assumptions and prejudices; simple facts need not be considered.
Rated. What Zach said. In fact, what everyone said - yet another example of the complete inability of humans to examine issues on their own merits without making them part of their soap opera, agenda, survival story, what have you.
Burners of the world unite. You have nothing to lose except your paranoia. Oregonians know all about the beneficial effects of hemp and more than you mentioned. And Oregon is a funny place, because I've seen 100 lb. sacks of hemp seed at a local feed store in Eugene, all of which I'm sure was for canary feed. ;)