All About Hemp
We use hemp because it's a great alternative to plastic and it is a fabulous eco textile.
(Check out the video at the bottom if you don't want to read.)
I. Hemp Basics
Production of hemp originated in Central Asia thousands of years ago. Hemp has a long history of being used as a food grain, and as a source of fiber, such as clothing, rope and netting as well as for spiritual, medical, nutritional and industrial purposes.
Hemp is one of the oldest and most versatile crops in the world. For thousands of years hemp seeds, stalks and flowers have been used for nutritious, medical, spiritual and industrial purposes. The seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids (including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient, also found in mother's milk) and vitamin E.
The fibers from the stalks boast an unusually high tensile strength, leading to incredibly high-quality, durable and wearable clothing items. Hemp fiber is one of the softest and most durable fibers produced by any natural product and it perfect for surfboard bags and surf accessories.
Hemp was first cultivated by the Chinese in the 2nd century B.C. At that time, the fibers where used for paper and textile and the seeds for food and in medicines. The Chinese played a significant role improving the growth, harvesting and processing techniques of hemp. Besides its propagation in China, the cultivation and use of hemp has, since the beginnings of recorded history, also been documented by many other great civilizations, including: India, Sumeria, Babylonia, Persia, Egypt, and other nations of the Near East; and the Aztec and Mayan civilizations of South America; as well as by native cultures in North America and Europe. Indeed, it might be said that over these thousands of years, hemp has always followed humankind throughout the world.
In the 15th century hemp was introduced in the American colonies. After that time much of the paper and clothing in colonial America was made from hemp, with the textiles being recycled into “rag paper”, known to this day as one of the strongest and most long-lasting papers in the world. During colonial hemp shortages it was a punishable offense for landowners (sometimes by death) for refusing to grow hemp.
Most of the seagoing nations would never have been as successful without the strong fibers with which to craft 90% of sails, plus ropes, rigging, and even the ‘oakum’ that sealed cracks in the boats watertight. In basic terms, if it was not made of wood on a ship, it was made of hemp. Hemp rope and sails were incredibly strong and resisted the salt water damage and mold that were among the common wear and tear experienced in the nautical industry.
Even flags, uniforms and fishing nets were fashioned from the fiber, and all these were above decks. Below, ships’ logs, maps, charts and bibles were printed on hemp paper as it was up to 100 times stronger than traditional papyrus preparations, and many of the lamps that lighted the dark evenings were dependent on hemp oil fuel. In fact, prior to 1883 between 75% and 90% of everything made of or printed on paper was from hemp, and before petrochemical companies most paints, oils, varnishes, and even glues and adhesives were manufactured from hemp.
Use hemp and not plastic.
Hemp is a wonderful alternative to plastic because of these following reasons:
• Hemp grows naturally without pesticides
• Hemp is mold resistant
• Hemp is strong and durable
• Hemp is biodegradable
• Hemp reduces heat and remains cool
• Hemp protects against the sun's harmful rays
• Hemp is straight up COOL
But most importantly, at the end of its life-cycle hemp would go back into the earth and decompose, it wouldn’t rot in some landfill for the next thousand years like plastic.
II. Digging Deeper Into Hemp
The main uses of European hemp is in France for cigarette papers. In the ‘new’ hemp producing countries such as the UK, Germany and Netherlands, the main markets are insulation (about 40%) and bio-composites (40%). The main use of bio-composites are for the automotive industries. Other niche applications including the garden markets for non-woven mats. Most seed production happens in Canada. A new (European) decortication* machine located in Alberta is about to begin so they will be making fibers as well.
United States Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic. The federal government subsidized hemp during the Second World War and U.S. farmers grew about a million acres of hemp as part of that program.
Hemp seed is nutritious and contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is a good source of dietary fiber.
Hemp seed is not psychoactive and cannot be used as a drug.
The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers, which are among the Earth's longest natural soft fibers and are also rich in cellulose. The cellulose and hemi-cellulose in its inner woody core are called hurds. Hemp stalk is not psychoactive.
Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber.
According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of bio-fuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Hemp can be grown organically. Only eight, out of about one hundred known pests, cause problems, and hemp is most often grown without herbicides, fungicides or pesticides.
Hemp is also a natural weed suppressor due to fast growth of the canopy.
Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp's low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and its creamy color lends itself to environmentally-friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical by-products.
Hemp fiber paper resists decomposition, and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found. Hemp paper can also be recycled more times than wood-based paper.
Hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard. No additional resins are required due to naturally-occurring lignins.
Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name a very few examples. Over two million cars on the road today have hemp composite parts for door panels, dashboards, luggage racks, and lots of Wave Tribe surf gear.
III. Hemp Fun Facts
"Alice in Wonderland" was originally printed on hemp paper. It's author, Lewis Carroll, was a frequent marijuana smoker.
The paintings of Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt were regularly painted on hemp canvases.
In 1935 116 million pounds (58,000 tons) of hemp seed was used to make paints and varnishes.
Until 1883, 75-90% of all paper in the U.S. was made with hemp.
Hemp seed was the # 1-selling bird feed; 4 million pounds were sold in the U.S. in 1937.
In the mid-to-late 1800's the 2nd & 3rd most commonly used medications were concentrated cannabis extracts and resins (a.k.a. hashish).
A bridge in the south of France dated at 500-700 A.D. was built with a mixture of hemp.
In 1941 Henry Ford built a car with a plastic made from hemp and wheat straw.
Until 1937 70-90% of all rope and twine was made with hemp.
Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their plantations.
In 1850 the U.S. Census reported 8,327 hemp plantation of at least 2000 acres in size. Not counted were thousands of smaller crops.
The original Levi Strauss jeans were made from hemp.
In 1942 the U.S. government strongly encouraged hemp cultivation to help with the war effort, going so far as to produce a film entitled "Hemp For Victory".
The version of the Declaration of Independence released on July 4, 1776 was written on hemp.
There are over 25,000 known uses for hemp.
The heating and compressing of hemp fibers can create building materials superior to wood in strength, quality and cost.
Hemp is heat, mildew, pest, light, and rot resistant.
Hemp fabric is softer, warmer, more water resistant and more durable than cotton. Hemp fabric also uses less chemicals to produce.
Industrial uses of hemp in China date as far back as 10,000 years.
Hemp can be blended with diesel fuel in any ratio or used alone.
Biodiesel fuel is the only alternative fuel that can be used as-is, in any un-modified diesel engine.
The increased use of biodiesel fuels would reduce dependence on foreign sources while increasing national agricultural jobs and revenues.
The flashpoint of petroleum fuel is 125 degrees Fahrenheit while the flashpoint of biodiesel fuels is 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Biodiesel fuels have been used successfully in Europe for over 20 years.
Hemp is cold hardy, able to withstand even NH winters.
Hemp is pest resistant ( except from the 2-legged kind)
Hemp is draught resistant
It is estimated that if 6% of the continental U.S. planted with hemp would provide for all national energy needs.
Hemp has a production rate of up to 10 tons per acre, every 4 months.
1 acre of usable hemp fiber is equal to the usable fiber of 4 acres of trees or 2 acres of cotton.
Trees mature in 50-100 years; hemp matures in as little as 100 days.
The University of Missouri estimates that an average-size metropolitan area production of 100 million gallons of biodiesel fuel could generate $8.34million in personal income and 6000 temporary and permanent jobs. (Ref: National Biodiesel Board)
In 1776 a hemp shirt cost .50 cents to $1.00; a cotton shirt cost $100-$200
Biodiesel fuels emit 80% less carbon dioxide & nearly 100% less sulfur dioxide.
Hemp paper can be recycled up to seven (7) times; wood pulp paper can be recycled four (4) times.
Hemp fuels do not destroy the ozone layer or contribute to global warming.
Hemp fuels burn clean; they do not cause acid rain.
Hemp fuel is 10 times less toxic than salt, and as biodegradable as sugar.
Hemp oil is the highest source of essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which, among other things, help control cholesterol, arterial blockage and the immune system.
Commonly-known medicinal uses of hemp include: nausea & vomiting; multiple sclerosis/muscle spasm disorders; spinal cord injuries; Chron's disease; Alzheimer's disease; Tourette's syndrome; digestive disorders; glaucoma; asthma; neurodegenerative disorders;
At one time American companies Eli Lily, Squibb and Park Davis produced cannabis extract medicines.
In 1619 Jamestown Colony, Virginia enacted laws ordering farmers to grow hemp. Similar laws were enacted in Massachusetts in 1631, Connecticut in 1632 and the Chesapeake Colonies in the mid-1700's.
In England, foreigners were awarded with citizenship if they grew cannabis; those who refused were fined.
From 1631 until the early 1800's, hemp was used as legal money, with which one could buy goods and pay bills.
Hawaii is the first state sine the 1950's to legally plant a hemp crop.
Hemp has been grown for at least the last 12,000 years for fiber (textiles and paper) and food. It has been effectively prohibited in the United States since the 1950s.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.
When US sources of "Manila hemp" (not true hemp) was cut off by the Japanese in WWII, the US Army and US Department of Agriculture promoted the "Hemp for Victory" campaign to grow hemp in the US.
Because of its importance for sails (the word "canvass" is rooted in "cannabis") and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies.
Henry Ford experimented with hemp to build car bodies. He wanted to build and fuel cars from farm products.
BMW is experimenting with hemp materials in automobiles as part of an effort to make cars more recyclable.
Much of the bird seed sold in the US has hemp seed (it's sterilized before importation), the hulls of which contain about 25% protein.
Hemp oil once greased machines. Most paints, resins, shellacs, and varnishes used to be made out of linseed (from flax) and hemp oils.
Rudolph Diesel designed his engine to run on hemp oil.
Kimberly Clark (on the Fortune 500) has a mill in France which produces hemp paper preferred for bibles because it lasts a very long time and doesn't yellow.
Construction products such as medium density fiber board, oriented strand board, and even beams, studs and posts could be made out of hemp. Because of hemp's long fibers, the products will be stronger and/or lighter than those made from wood.
The products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified by taxonomists as Cannabis sativa, a species with hundreds of varieties. C. sativa is a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and/or oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).
While industrial hemp and marijuana may look somewhat alike to an untrained eye, an easily trained eye can easily distinguish the difference.
Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power-smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand.
If hemp does pollinate any nearby marijuana, genetically, the result will always be lower-THC marijuana, not higher-THC hemp. If hemp is grown outdoors, marijuana will not be grown close by to avoid producing lower-grade marijuana.
Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent and more mildew-resistant than cotton.
Fabrics made of at least one-half hemp block the sun's UV rays more effectively than other fabrics.
Many of the varieties of hemp that were grown in North America have been lost. Seed banks weren't maintained. New genetic breeding will be necessary using both foreign and domestic "ditchweed," strains of hemp that went feral after cultivation ended. Various state national guard units often spend their weekends trying to eradicate this hemp, in the mistaken belief they are helping stop drug use.
A 1938 Popular Mechanics described hemp as a "New Billion Dollar Crop." That's back when a billion was real money.
Hemp can be made in to a variety of fabrics, including linen quality.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency classifies all C. sativa varieties as "marijuana." While it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require that the field be secured by fence, razor wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive.
The US State Department must certify each year that a foreign nation is cooperating in the war on drugs. The European Union subsidizes its farmers to grow industrial hemp. Those nations are not on this list, because the State Department can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.
Hemp was grown commercially (with increasing governmental interference) in the United States until the 1950s. It was doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which placed an extremely high tax on marijuana and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. While Congress expressly expected the continued production of industrial hemp, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, as it's successor the US Drug Enforcement Administration, does to this day.
Over 30 industrialized democracies do distinguish hemp from marijuana. International treaties regarding marijuana make an exception for industrial hemp.
Canada now again allows the growing of hemp.
Hemp growers can not hide marijuana plants in their fields. Marijuana is grown widely spaced to maximize leaves. Hemp is grown in tightly-spaced rows to maximize stalk and is usually harvested before it goes to seed.
Hemp can be made into fine quality paper. The long fibers in hemp allow such paper to be recycled several times more than wood-based paper.
Because of its low lignin content, hemp can be pulped using less chemicals than with wood. Its natural brightness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach, which means no extremely toxic dioxin being dumped into streams. A kinder and gentler chemistry using hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine dixoide is possible with hemp fibers.
Hemp grows well in a variety of climates and soil types. It is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. It grows tightly spaced, out-competing any weeds, so herbicides are not necessary. It also leaves a weed-free field for a following crop.
Hemp can displace cotton which is usually grown with massive amounts of chemicals harmful to people and the environment. 50% of all the world's pesticides are sprayed on cotton.
Hemp can displace wood fiber and save forests for watershed, wildlife habitat, recreation and oxygen production, carbon sequestration (reduces global warming), and other values.
Hemp can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre. This is four times what an average forest can yield.
If one tried to ingest enough industrial hemp to get 'a buzz', it would be the equivalent of taking 2-3 doses of a high-fiber laxative.
At a volume level of 81, hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the "good" fats). It's quite high in some essential amino acids, including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient also found in mother's milk.
While the original "gruel" was made of hemp seed meal, hemp oil and seed can be made into tasty and nutritional products.
IV. Hemp Historical Timeline
8000BC - Civilization, agriculture and hemp textile industries begin in Europe and Asia.
3727BC - Cannabis called a "superior" herb in the world's first medical text, Shen Nung's Pen Ts'ao, in China.
1500BC - Cannabis-using Scythians sweep through Europe and Asia, settle down everywhere, and invent the scythe.
500BC - Gautama Buddah survives by eating hempseed.
450BC - Herodotus records Scythians and Thracians as consuming cannabis and making fine linens of hemp.
300BC - Carthage and Rome struggle for political and commercial power over hemp and spice trade routes in Mediterranean.
100BC - Paper made from hemp and mulberry is invented in China.
100AD - Roman surgeon Dioscorides names the plant cannabis sativa and describes various medicinal uses. Pliny tells of industrial uses and writes a manual on farming hemp.
500AD - First botanical drawing of hemp in Constantinopolitanus
600AD - Germans, Franks, Vikings, etc. all use hemp fibre.
1000AD - The English word 'hempe' first listed in a dictionary.
1150AD - Moslems use hemp to start Europe's first paper mill. Most paper is made from hemp for the next 700 years.
1492AD - Hempen sails, caulking and rigging ignite age of discovery and help Columbus and his ships reach America.
1545 - Hemp agriculture crosses the continent overland to Chile.
1564 - King Phillip of Spain orders hemp grown throughout his empire, from modern-day Argentina to Oregon.
16th-17th Century Dutch achieve Golden Age through hemp commerce. Explorers find 'wilde hempe' in North America.
1619 - Virginia colony makes hemp cultivation mandatory, followed by most other colonies. Europe pays hemp bounties.
1631 - Hemp used as money throughout American colonies.
1776 - American 'Declaration of Independence' drafted on hemp paper.
1791 - President Washington sets duties on hemp to encourage domestic industry; Jefferson calls hemp "a necessity", and urges farmers to grow hemp instead of tobacco.
1801 - Certain premiums offered to encourage the cultivation of hemp in Upper and Lower Canada.
1800's - Australia survives two prolonged famines by eating virtually nothing but hemp seed for protein and hemp leaves for roughage.
1850's - Petrochemical age begins. Toxic sulfite and chlorine processes make paper from trees, steamships replace sails, tropical fibres introduced.
1930's - New machines invented to break hemp, process the fibre, and convert pulp or hurds into paper, plastics, etc. - Racist fears of Mexicans, Asians, and African Americans leads to outcry for cannabis to be outlawed.
1935 - Compressed agricultural fibreboard invented in Sweden.
1937 - Marijuana Tax Act forbids hemp farming in the US. -Dupont files patent for nylon.
1938 - Canada prohibits production of hemp under Opium And Narcotics Control Act.
1941 - Henry Ford makes car fabricated and fueled by hemp.
1943 - Hemp For Victory program urges farmers to grow hemp.
1955 - Hemp farming again banned.
1961 - The Canadian Narcotics Control Act(CNCA) allowed Cannabis to be grown, at the discretion ofthe Health Minister, for research purposes only.
1992 - Australia licences hemp farming.
1993 - England eases restriction on hemp farming. News media declare hemp clothes and cannabis leaf logo hottest new fashion.
1994 - Under the CNCA, one license was granted to a Canadian company, Hempline Inc., to grow hemp experimentally in Canada under the strict supervision of the authorities.
1996 - The Canadian federal government passed Bill C8 stating that mature hemp stalks are exemptfrom the list of controlled substances.
1998 - The Canadian government legalizes the commercial growth of industrial hemp.
2008 - Wave Tribe launches hemp surf products.
V. Resources & More Information
Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America by Ernest Small and David Marcus
Download PDF IN Wave Tribe Guide Section