West Virginia: Time To Put Hemp To Use
By Patrick Corcoran
THE time is now to utilize the untapped, renewable resource of hemp. Food, clothing, shelter and fuel are products of this historically tried and true plant.
Until now, ignorance has lumped hemp and marijuana together as a Schedule 1 narcotic, in the same category as heroin and cocaine.
But legislation is moving through Congress in the form of H.R. 1866, the "Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009." It would exclude industrial hemp from the Schedule 1 list, making it legal for American farmers to once again grow the crop that was essential in the empowerment of our original 13 colonies and the early United States.
What is the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana? The major difference is the level of THC, the psychoactive molecule that induces the "high" associated with quality marijuana. From flowers that aren't allowed to pollinate, this substance swells into resinous buds that are used for the "marijuana effect."
Industrial hemp is allowed to pollinate, blessing humanity with one of the healthiest, handiest and tastiest oils known, hempseed oil. Therefore, hemp strains are selected for high seed production, not to get people "high."
Another major difference between hemp and marijuana is that industrial hemp (fiber) strains are grown in compact plots (four inches between stalks), so the plant reaches tall, not spreading wide, in contrast with marijuana plants. This is done to maximize vertical fiber production for many useful products - and doesn't produce THC buds.
You may ask why the United States is the only major industrial power not utilizing the vast potential of hemp. In a nutshell, even though Henry Ford envisioned a car "grown [and fueled] from the ground up" by hemp, certain interests in the 1920s and '30s thought that our nation should be powered with finite petroleum. This shortsightedness has propelled America into our modern-day energy challenge.
Fortunately, the veil of ignorance is lifting, so we, a renewed group of consciously aware West Virginia citizens, can lead the charge for hemp education and empowerment.
The year 2002 marked monumental legislation on the state level - SB 447, the "Industrial Hemp Development Act" was signed into West Virginia law. We Mountaineers are one of only eight states that have hemp farming legislation in place. We are ahead of the curve, proving that our legislators are knowledgeable on the subject and supportive of this visionary shift.
I urge dedicated citizens to pick up pens and push federal passage of H.R. 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009. This could enable our state and nation to again use what Popular Science magazine in 1938 called "the next billon-dollar crop."
Look up something on industrial hemp, either at the public library on the Internet. You will be surprised to learn it can be used for auto bodies and interiors, ethanol fuel, internal lubricants, garments as rugged as denim or smooth as silk, particle board, strong newsprint, gentle inks, insulation, paint, plastic, varnish, soap, mulch, animal feed, birdseed, granola, protein-rich flour, salad oil, and nutritional supplements - all biodegradable.
Corcoran, who holds a history degree from Glenville State College, teaches at the Mountain State School of Massage.