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Hemp is the term for the plant Cannabis sativa which lacks sufficient quantities of tetrahydrocannabinol to make somebody high. While the plant does appear to have many potential industrial uses, there are certain killjoys who object to its existence on the basis that it could be used to make marijuana.

Like this is the legal stuff, man...,
...,and like this is like the good stuff, man. Where I'm from, it's also like totally legal, dude.


Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated plants. It is known for its strong and coarse fibers and has traditionally been used in the production of textiles and paper. Ropes have traditionally been woven from hemp, and the term "canvas" actually derives from cannabis.[1] In the United States, it became illegal to grow hemp because its cousin Mary Jane is effectively a different strain of the same plant.

Possible uses[edit]

Hemp is a very versatile plant and is attractive for commercial use for a variety of reasons. Proposed uses include as a biofuel,[2] a source for plastics,[3] as a wearable fabric (beyond use in denim),[4] as building materials,[5] and even in foods and food supplements.

The woo[edit]

The plant appears to have many possible commercial and industrial uses; however, many of its boosters tend to promote the plant almost as a cure-all, possibly beyond what would be reasonably expected. That is because they largely have a different agenda, namely marijuana legalization. Their hope is to use hemp as a sort of back door to show that their favorite plant has more uses than to get people high. Many of these claims stem from the book The Emperor Wears No Clothes, by Jack Herer. In it, Herer promotes a conspiracy theory that claims that William Randolph Hearst, financier (and former Secretary of the Treasury) Andrew Mellon, the DuPont Corporation, and Bureau of Narcotics regulator Harry Anslinger conspired to destroy the hemp industry because Hearst believed that it would destroy his vast timber holdings (for use as newsprint) and that DuPont's new product, nylon, would not succeed. Meanwhile, Hearst would use his newspapers to scare people about marijuana to ensure corporate profits. The conspiracy, while plausible, does not hold water. In 1937, hemp accounted for less than 2,000 acres (8.09 square kilometers)[6] and nylon's main use in the 1930s was for women's stockings. In short, anti-Mexican racism was the real reason for marijuana prohibition in the United States.[7]

There's a common misconception that the master copy of the US Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. While some drafts have likely been written on Dutch hemp, given it was a common paper stock at the time, the final Declaration was written on animal parchment.[8]

In 2004, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) attempted to make the importation of hemp oil and seeds illegal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against the DEA on 6 February 2004.[note 1][9]

Bottom line[edit]

Hemp may in fact have several commercial industrial uses that could be worth pursuing in the future. However, many other commercial crops also have alternate uses, and the reasons for their successes or failure are not always because of conspiracies. Also, it's up to six times as expensive.[10]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. That would have been Bob Marley's 54th birthday, mon!