Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Reefer Madness, indeed

'This is so well known to every good housewife in the country, that I shall not need to write any description of it.'

So wrote Nicholas Culpepper in his famous encyclopaedia of English herbs, published in 1653, going on to list some of the many medicinal uses of cannabis sativa, commonly known as hemp, arguably the most useful plant known to man. This gift from God can be used to make paper, textiles, fuel, provides medicine, is a great source of protein, and on top of all that, you can smoke it and get high!

It can produce four times as much paper from the same amount of land than can be produced from wood. You want to save the forests? Grow hemp.

The hemp fabric is far stronger than cotton and requires nothing like the amount of pesticides that cotton needs. You want to stop poisoning the ground water? Grow hemp.

Hemp can be converted into ethanol fuel, having a high cellulose content. You want to reduce pollution and reliance on the oil industry? Grow hemp.

At this point, one may begin to wonder why on earth such a manifestly beneficient plant was not more widely cultivated. The answer is of course, as with so much in this world, the evil in men's hearts. Some may believe that hemp was the unintended victim of the criminalisation of marihuana in the USA in 1937. In fact, conversely, marihuana (a Mexican term for hemp) was demonised and then banned IN ORDER TO DESTROY THE HEMP INDUSTRY, to the great benefit of William Randolf Hearst's business interests and those of the du Pont chemical company.

Once the USA had entered WWII, the ban became prohibitively counter-productive, and the government launched a campaign to get farmers to grow hemp for the war effort, hence the film 'Hemp for Victory.'

Once the war was over the plant was again quietly banned, to the relief of a small band of greedy plutocrats, and the great detriment of mankind.

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