Cannabisis the scientific name for the plant known in common English as hemp. The Cannabis plant reproduces sexually, meaning both male and female characteristics of the plant are necessary for the process. While a single male or female plant cannot reproduce itself, there are plants with both characteristics (hermaphrodites) that can be fertile or sterile.
The word “hemp” applies not only to Cannabis, but also to other durable multi-purpose plants that have been used throughout history. The most well-known product to come from hemp is fiber, and the word can be used in reference to the twine/rope that is made from it, as well as the stalk of the plant itself.
The word “marijuana” comes from Mexican slang and refers specifically to the bud (flower) part of the female plant. The bud contains psychoactive and physiologically active chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. These compounds are consumed in various forms (often smoked) for recreational, medical, and (in some cultures) spiritual purposes. The term “marijuana” became popular in the late 1930s during the Reefer Madness Movement, a name adopted from a ridiculous propaganda piece in which a man went crazy from using marijuana and killed his whole family with an axe.
In our modern lingo, the word “hemp” is usually used in reference to Cannabis that is cultivated for uses that are not drug-related and the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” are used in reference to the plants that are cultivated for their psychoactive qualities.
Scientific classification, also known as biological classification, is a system used by biologists to classify species of organisms according to shared physical characteristics. This classification belongs to the science of biological systematics or taxonomy. According to this system, Cannabis falls into the following categories:
Species: sativa (or indica, or ruderalis)
Despite several centuries of discussion, science remains divided on whether the different strains of Cannabis constitute multiple species or a single species known as Cannabis sativa. For the purpose of this article, we will go along with the findings of botanists Richard E. Schultes and Loran Anderson, whose research supports the recognition of three species: sativa, indica, and ruderalis.
The light green sativa is a symmetrical pine-shaped plant that grows to be 5-15 feet tall. The widest branches (1 Ã?Â½ -3 feet) sit lowest on the stalk and grow opposite each other at regular intervals known as internodes. The flowers are long and thin and the leaves have a spiked appearance.
The indica is a short (under 5 feet), bushy plant that sometimes has webbing between its wide leaves. The branches are compact with short internodes. The flowers (buds) of the indica are dense and tight, sometimes forming continuous clusters along the stem. Indica plants are dark green because they have lots of chlorophyll, the photosynthetic pigment found in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. (The word comes from the Greek; chloros means green; phyllon means leaf.)
There are also hybrids (combinations) of the indica and sativa plants, but because so many plants have been crossed, creating new generations to cross-breed, it is impossible to generalize about their qualities. There are simply too many possible combinations.
Ruderalis, also known as weedy cannabis, is a short single stem plant with wide leaves. It has a short life cycle and flowering period, but does not produce the quality or yield of the sativa or indica. It has a low level of THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol- the main psychoactive chemical compound in Cannabis) but is high in CBD (cannabidiol), one of the common cannabinoids. Though this species is non-psychoactive due to mere trace levels of THC, it has many medicinal properties.
United States Law
It is illegal in the United States to possess Cannabis in the form of marijuana (flowers or leaves), but it is legal to possess Cannabis in its acceptable “hemp” form, meaning the stalk, roots, and stem of the plant. Of course, hemp cannot be grown without being in possession of marijuana, so, like many other American laws, it is a moot point.
Hemp products are available in this country through various outlets, including some stores that sell only items created from hemp. These items include all types of clothing, purses, backpack, and paper products. It is not against the law to use these things or to be in possession of them. Unfortunately, although they are less expensive to make and much more environmentally-friendly, the laws against marijuana prevent American companies from producing them on United States soil; they must be imported (and therefore expensive).
Despite all the regulations that effectively cut America out of an earth-friendly, lucrative and practical business, and despite all the money apportioned from the “War on Drugs” to fight marijuana, and despite the ridiculously high number of incarcerations for this non-violent drug offense, marijuana remains in the top numbers for cash crops in the United States. The prohibition has simply driven up the price in the black market, making the per ounce cost of marijuana higher than that of gold.
Hooray for Hemp!
Any paper product made from trees can be made from hemp, and one acre of hemp will produce the same amount of paper as three to four acres of trees. Furthermore, the quality of hemp paper is superior to paper made from trees in that it can be recycled more times, requires less toxic chemicals in manufacturing, and will last hundreds of years without degrading.
Hemp can be harvested in 120 days, in comparison to the decades involved in rising up replacement trees to feed the world’s never-ending need for paper.
Fiberboard that is lighter and stronger than wood, as well as fire retardant can be created from hemp.
With regards to cloth, one acre of hemp will produce as much fiber on an annual basis as two to three acres of cotton. Furthermore, hemp fiber will not mildew, lasts twice as long as cotton, and is softer and stronger than cotton.
The oil from the hemp seed can be used to make non-toxic paints, varnishes, inks, detergents, lubricating oils, and diesel fuel.
The hemp seed itself is a valuable source of long-chain fatty acids and protein. There are no psychoactive side effects from ingesting hemp seeds. Anything made with soybean protein can be created with the more economical and nutritious hemp protein, including tofu, butter, cheese, and veggie burgers.
Why is it Illegal?
It wasn’t always illegal. In fact, for the first 162 years of the nation, hemp was a common crop and marijuana was completely legal. However, during the early 1920s and 1930s, a lot of things started happening, and happening very quickly.
At the beginning of the Great Depression, Prohibition went into effect. Alcohol was made illegal. Of course, just like marijuana today, prohibiting alcohol did nothing to decrease the demand and a black market sprouted up to provide the supply end. Of course, the prices sprouted up as well and hard liquor (just like hard drugs today) replaced the once affordable and much less destructive beer and wine. (Keep following the pattern.)
Someone needed to run this massive underground market, and those “someones” became known as organized crime. Organized crime meant a need for more law enforcement. By the time the government realized Prohibition wasn’t working and reinstated alcohol to its legal status, organized crime was rooted in neighborhoods and communities, as much a part of the U.S.A. as apple pie. And as there was no need to have a stakeout in the parking lot to catch the guy smuggling vodka, a lot of the law enforcement could be laid off. Unless, of course, a new criminal appeared on the scene (read: a new crime was created).
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money
Due to the ever-decreasing amount of tax revenues that congress had to deal with during the Depression, the Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Alcohol became a taxed commodity and government had a regular income again.
Right around this time the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (the beginning of what is now known as the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency) was reformed and its funding was reduced. The Secretary of the United States Treasury, a man by the name of Andrew Mellon, appointed his nephew by marriage to be its head, Harry J. Anslinger.
Stupid is as Stupid Says
In his testimony on behalf of the 1937 Marijuana Act, Harry J. Anslinger enters history and the dawn of a new era for law enforcement with this ignorant comment: “Marijuana is the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind. Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes.”
Of course, as the head of the FBNDD he was assumed by the equally ignorant and racist congress to be an expert. Many law enforcement officers of the Prohibition were recruited over to fight the new evil-marijuana. Headlines like “Marijuana: The assassin of youth,” and “If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with the monster marijuana, he would drop dead of fright” began appearing.
Of course, with the demonization of marijuana, the up-and-coming hemp industry was brought to a screeching halt, and so was the research being done on the many medical benefits of Cannabis. The general public didn’t realize what was happening, being as marijuana was a new term they associated with Mexicans, not hemp or Cannabis.
At that time, hemp’s paper producing qualities posed a threat to the timber industry (read: big money), and new technologies were being created with hemp that threatened the synthetic fiber and plastics industries. In fact, Popular Mechanics Magazine had already gone to press with a cover story about the bright future of hemp and the invention of a new machine called the decorticator, which would speed up the harvesting methods in use at the time.
The first paragraph of the article reads like this: “American farmers are promised a new cash crop with an annual value of several hundred million dollars, all because a machine has been invented which solves a problem more than 6,000 years old. It is hemp, a crop that will not compete with other American products. Instead it will displace imports of raw material and manufactured products produced by underpaid coolie and peasant labor and it will provide thousands of jobs for American workers throughout the land.”
Big Business as Usual
Making paper with hemp didn’t require any chemicals, and more specifically, it didn’t require the synthetic compound necessary to break down wood pulp for paper-making; the compound that Dupont held the patent for. If Dupont could get hemp outlawed, they would have the monopoly and a fat profit margin.
For a most disturbing picture of American Government at its most corrupt, consider that Andrew Mellon (remember him from a few paragraphs up?), not only sat as the Secretary of the United States Treasury, but also on the board of Dupont. Appointing his racist, anti-marijuana nephew to head the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs seems a rather fortunate coincidence for all bank accounts involved. Together with William Randolph Hearst, who owned many of the big newspapers, they created a far-reaching propaganda campaign, creating fear and racial tension with the contention that Mexicans and African-Americans were smuggling in a new killer weed that would destroy the fabric of society.
By the time the population realized that the “killer weed” was nothing more than the female part of the hemp plant, it was too late. Marijuana was illegal, the hemp industry was dead, and Dupont was rich.
On an interesting side note, Harry J. Anslinger is as famous for the quote he made on his way into his “career” as on the musing he made when it was all over. After his retirement he is quoted as saying, “the FBNDD was a place where young men were given a license to steal and rape.” What a legacy.