Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Fabric of Our Times

Captain's Quarters asks: "Is It Time to Legalize Hemp? And Perhaps Marijuana?". The Governator is going to have to make a decision on that question in the next few days. The Santa Cruz Sentinal says:

Farmers aren't sowing their fields with hemp seeds just yet, but a few Pajaro Valley growers, along with the county Farm Bureau, are hoping Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a bill that would permit farmers to grow hemp legally.

Translation: A year from now the fiber in that cool hemp sweater that you buy could come from a field in California — as opposed to Canada, China or Europe.

The bill, known as AB 1147 or the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, is headed for the governor's desk, where it will be vetoed or signed by late September, the governor's press office said Thursday.
The Governator appears to be in no hurry to make a decision.

So why all the fuss about hemp? After all Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew it. It was essential to the American Navy until well into the age of steam. Pretty simple really. Hemp is a cousin to that dreaded drug, marijuana. But is it the same as marijuana? Why no. The difference? The hemp crop is very low in THC and the fiber has practically none at all.

The Guardian quotes a Republican:
"Hemp bears no more resemblance to marijuana than a poodle bears to a wolf," said Tom McClintock, a Republican state senator who backed legislation that would reverse one key section of a 1937 law banning the growth of all types of the plant. "You'd die from smoke inhalation before you'd get high."
Is Tom some fringe Republican? Not at all.Tom McClintock has this to say about Tom:
During 19 years in the state legislature, and most recently as a candidate for governor in California’s historic recall election, State Senator Tom McClintock has become one of the most recognizable political leaders in California. According to every major public opinion poll during 2003 campaign, Californians consistently rated McClintock as the best-qualified and most capable candidate in the field. McClintock ended the election with higher favorable ratings than any other politician in California.
Tom is running for Lt. Governor of California this year (2006). Not fringe at all. It will be interesting to see if Arnold bucks or backs Tom.

From a review of the Guardian article at Hemp for Victory we learn about:
...the oft repeated argument that hemp fields would be an ideal place to hide pot plants, which is thrown out as a stumbling block to progress. The truth is that fibre hemp plants grow thin and tall and the bushy, short varieties of Cannabis sativa that epitomise pot would stick out immediately. Further, as hemp fields would be subject to spot testing, no pot dealer in their right mind would want the visits from law enforcement. Better to plant them in a field of herbs growing the same height and not attract attention.
Also the low THC hemp would cross polinate with the high THC marijuana lowering the quality of the marijuana.

The North American Industrial Hemp Council discusses some marijuana vs hemp myths. Here is one of many myths busted.
Myth: Feral hemp must be eradicated because it can be sold as marijuana.

Reality: Feral hemp, or ditchweed, is a remnant of the hemp once grown on more than 400,000 acres by U.S. farmers. It contains extremely low levels of THC, as low as .05 percent. It has no drug value, but does offer important environmental benefits as a nesting habitat for birds. About 99 percent of the "marijuana" being eradicated by the federal government-at great public expense-is this harmless ditchweed. Might it be that the drug enforcement agencies want to convince us that ditchweed is hemp in order to protect their large eradication budgets?
Speaking of ditch weed, it is a remnant of another government program, a war time program (1942) that was considered essential at the time: Hemp in Illinois.

The Guardian article also notes that hemp has other uses besides fiber.
California has a thriving industry in the manufacture of products made from hemp, which also includes luggage, toys, sports equipment, jewellery and rope. Energy bars are particularly popular because hemp is high in essential fatty acids, protein, Vitamin B and fibre. Until now, however, raw materials have had to be imported from Canada, where hemp cultivation was legalised in 1998.
Imagine that. Hemp in Canada. I hear that the Mounties are still busting marijuana plantations and grow ops. The Mounties must be a lot smarter than the police in America. They can tell the difference between marijuana and hemp. I expect with a little education our police could be brought up to Canadian standards in the matter.

I have looked at in more detail some of the medical uses and some of the industrial uses of hemp. If you are interested in one of the medical uses of marijuana (which is not hemp) see: PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System. The plant in all its forms is truly amazing. It would be nice to bring it back. To America.

I'd like to do my part. Coyote Organics sent me a very nice hemp and cotton jacket to try out. Except I haven't used it as a jacket so far. I have used it as a shirt and a wonderful shirt it is. It feels good against bare skin. No rough edges or loose threads and the label is soft and will not abrade your neck. Lots of pockets. Lots of pockets. Five pockets all together. I'm an engineer by trade and love pockets. The main pockets are generously sized. The pocket on left breast has plenty of room for pens and a velcro closure for those who are not pen fanatics. The two smaller pockets on either side of the jacket (behind the hand warming pockets) also have velcro closures. The jacket has a number of features which I have not mentioned (like loose sleeves, good ventilation, and a nice hood). You can find out about those features and see some nice pictures (look for the camel) at Coyote Organics. Keep in mind that there is also an organic cotton version available which is a little cooler. Here in the midwest with cooler nights the hemp and cotton is a bit warmer, thus better suited.

I have enjoyed the jacket immensely. However, there is one small problem which Coyote Organics is in the process of fixing. Size. I'm 6' 1 1/2" and the large jacket fits nicely. My first mate who is 5' 6" fills the large size nicely (ever so nicely). For my #1 son who is 6' 4" (don't you just hate looking up to your kids?) the large is not quite big enough.

The designer of the Coyote jackets has this to say about his dreams:
Since I want to make fabric choices that I believe are healthy, both for the customers wearing the clothes and for the people making them, I work with a very limited palette of options. This forces me to be creative, which is good, but I still want more. I want more fabrics, more blends and more options. Hemp is a crucial fabric for me because it blends with cotton well and provides a meaningful difference in feel and function.

The prospect of sourcing my hemp fabrics here in the US is exciting to me, not so much for the logistical improvements it can bring to my business, which are there, but because it will finally help to normalize the choices I want to make. More apparel companies in the US market using hemp will lead to more and better fabric choices for me, and finally to more design freedom.
I like that. It is the essence of engineering or any other kind of creativity. Making what you want from what you can get. As to normalization, I think with a major California Republican backing the change in the status of hemp, nomalization is here.

Now to the best part, Coyote Organics is offering a 10 percent discount from their already reasonable prices to readers of Power and Control.

1 comment:

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

08 29 06

Excellent article M. Simon. If we use our brains as a country and accept some things as propaganda, we can evolve exponentially. I think it might be coming to that. My sister in law just got back from nine years in Kentucky tobacco country. She said a lot of farmers were being bought out and told not to grow tobacco anymore by the government. They have no other skills, so the suggestion is that they grow hemp or MJ. Some have started to do so and it has began to positively affect their local economies. Again, once we listen to scientific evidence and use that as a basis for policy, we will be better off.

Speaking of MJ, did you see this rant of a post I did? Apparently MJ can aid in our fight against Alzheimers disease. Our government is ridiculous not to consider this further!
Thanks so much for always blogging about these things:)