Hemp, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a variety of the Cannabis plant. It is also one of the world’s oldest industries, going back more than 12,000 years, and was considered one of the most important textiles in China from 8000 BC. Cheaper and stronger than silk, it was the fibre of choice for clothing; the cotton of it's day.
From the 5th Century until the late 19th Century, ship sails and riggings (such as the ones that took Columbus to America,) were made from hemp because of its resistance to mildew and weathering. This is where we get the word “canvas”; derived from “cannabis.”
Hemp paper is acid-free and doesn’t become yellow and brittle with age, which means that many historical documents, such as the Magna Carta and the Guttenberg Bible, are still well preserved today. If they had been printed on paper made from wood pulp they would have disintegrated within a few hundred years. It’s called the ‘archivist’s perfect paper’ for just this reason, and Benjamin Franklin started one of the first hemp paper mills in the 18th century.
To make paper from wood pulp, a substance called ‘lignin’ has to be broken down. To do this, the pulp is soaked in powerful acids and is then whitened using chemicals which are both harmful to the environment. Hemp on the other hand, doesn’t contain lignin and whitens with much less hassle.
Hemp paper isn’t widely produced in countries where cannabis is legal due to the currently high production costs- the few hemp processing plants in the Western world are much too small and outdated to deal with large-scale production, but hopefully soon some bright spark (looking at you Elon Musk) will invest a little of their wealth into a modern industrial-scale factory with hi-tech equipment and the world’s forests will breath a sigh of relief.
Some other benefits of Hemp include:
· It can be grown in most climates.
· Seeds can be used as food and can be processed to produce natural hemp oil.
· The stalk provides fibre to produce materials such as canvas, clothing textiles, rope, paper and building products.
· Its biomass can be used to produce fuel.
· It has medicinal properties.
The main reason is down to a guy called William Randolph Hearst who owned the majority of newspapers and wood-pulp paper mills in America back in the 1930s. The growing hemp industry was having a significant impact on his wood-pulp paper business so he decided to do something about. Hearst rallied friends within the government and used cannabis as part of an attack on Mexican immigrants and Black cultural independence; this was the beginning of the ‘Reefer Madness’ propaganda.
Hearst’s newspapers introduced ‘marijuana’ into the English language, which is a Mexican slang word. He ran sensationalized newspaper articles about how black and Mexican immigrant hemp workers were using the drug to corrupt white women; telling stories about how many of these men allegedly carried large knives and would go wild at any provocation; hence the phrase ‘reefer madness’. As a result racism grew, and white people became more and more uneasy in the company of these ‘crazed’ immigrants. His fictional articles damaged the reputation of the hemp industry, which allowed Hearst’s business to thrive as news of this ‘devil weed’ became more widespread. He capitalized on the reefer campaign, which eventually led to the prohibition of marijuana in 1937.
So this cretin is the reason why cannabis is illegal today. Many people don’t actually know this story, which is why we decided to share it with you.
Can you imagine a story on the front page of the Telegraph about a gang of men with menacing looks in their eyes thrashing machetes around because they smoked some grass?! It was a fairytale to stop one man from bankrupting himself. That’s like us making friends with Peter Robinson and writing articles saying that digital artwork should be banned because starring at a computer screen all day will send you mad, so that you lot will stick to pens and paper and InkMonkey will be quids in. How ridiculous it that?!
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