Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hemp Makes Wonderful Fiber

As a break from war news and related misery, I'm re-publishihing some stuff I wrote about hemp in response to the California bill on hemp growing which just passed and is awaiting the governor's signature. I'll have more about the bill later.

From July 2001.


Hemp the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana makes wonderful fiber and has been cultivated for its fiber for at least 5,000 years.

It is well known for its use in rope and in canvas ( the word itself is derived from cannabis ) sails for the sailing ships that dominated the seas for many thousands of years. Hemp was so precious in America that early Colonists were required to grow it for its cordage and cloth uses. Hemp was required to maintain the lifeline between the early colonies and Britain.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to have grown hemp. As far as can be definitely determined they were only interested in fiber.

Modern uses for the fiber still include hemp twine for use in fine quality shoes and boots. New uses being researched include fiberboard for walls and laminated structural beams for building construction. The very long hemp fibers make these products especially strong compared to their wood counterparts.

Surprisingly hemp may find its way into your automobile body. In fact there is a chance it may already be in the car you drive. The use of hemp as a replacement for fiberglass is just beginning. Hemp composites are easier to recycle than fiberglass composites and due to their long fibers they may be stronger. Using hemp fibers can reduce the weight of car by as much as 40 percent and reduce the energy requirements for car manufacture as well. Hemp is sixty-five cents a pound cheaper than fiberglass and a new crop can be grown every year.

Two percent of automobile fiberglass matts, seat backs and other plastic composites had organic fiber reinforcement last year . Hemp is the dominant organic fiber in this field.

The number one problem in this field is that the DEA unlike its Canadian counterparts cannot tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. In America you need DEA approval, a fenced garden with razor wire to top the fences and 24 hour monitoring. In Canada all you need is a license. Admittedly the Canadians had a little problem with pot poachers the first year they grew a hemp crop. But soon enough the word got out that all you got from smoking hemp was a headache and the poaching all but ceased.

The Illinois legislature has twice passed bills for the study of hemp in Illinois in the hopes of getting a bill that the DEA would approve of and the Governor would sign. So far the Governor has not acted favorably on the latest hemp bill HB 3377. ( HB stands for House Bill not Hemp Bill ) The vote in the House was 72 to 43 in favor.

The Governor needs a little nudging on the hemp issue. He can be reached at: [217] 782-6830 or e-mail the Illinois Governor or you can get the full street address and other phone numbers from: State of Illinois. Click on "State Government" on the upper right. Then State Telephone Directory.


That was what was going on in 2001. What about 2006? Governor Blagojevich has an ambitious plan for organic liquid fuels. Illinois Energy Independence Plan. There is no mention of hemp oil which can be converted into bio-diesel or the conversion of the celulose in the stalks to alcohol. Perhaps he needs to be informed.

Now is this hemp for fuel idea economical? We have no idea. Moderate scale trials (thousands of acres for a few years) will be required in order to find the answer. So far such trials are illegal in America.

Update: 29 Aug '06 2012z

The politics of hemp.

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