According to Britannica (Encyclopedia Britannica) at the website britannica.com, the cultivation of hemp (Cannabis sativa) for fiber (industrial hemp) was recorded as early as 2800 BCE in China, it was cultivated in Chile in the 1500s, and a century later it was grown in North America.
The website states that, among other things, the fiber has been used to make burlap sacks, twine, rope, and a fabric similar to linen, and the plant’s protein, fiber, and magnesium-rich seeds, which contain 30% oil, may be eaten raw, sprinkled on salads, and blended with fruit smoothies, or used to produce an alternative to dairy milk, as well as make soaps, varnishes, and paints.
The website ideassonline.org says hemp fiber can be made into paper, and the fiber of this incredible plant can also be “utilized as a wood substitute in the production of insulating panels and planks or as the main component of compact bricks for outdoor and indoor walls and roofs, replacing conventional bricks.” The literature says the houses made from this material are waterproof and long-lasting.
In “The Forgotten History of Hemp Cultivation in America”, a story by Oscar H. Will III published in the newsletter, Farm Collector (website farmcollector.com), Will III says that in the 1600s the crop was an important part of the economy of some states in the USA, and that “Britain’s colonies were compelled by law” to grow it.
Will III says industrial hemp was taxed after the US passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, even though the tax was aimed at regulating narcotic varieties. The tax, he says, didn’t seriously affect producers of industrial hemp, but in 1950 cheap synthetic fibers came along, and 1958 saw the last significant production of hemp in the US.
Frank Goad, in the 2014 story, “Can industrial hemp make a comeback?”, published in The Lane Report, says Canada legalized the production of industrial hemp in 1998, and its production is expected to surpass $1 billion annually. Goad reported that Canadian hemp growers were making profits about five times greater than what they were making off soybean cultivation.
Goad says hemp’s potential is “muddled and complicated by the growing attention being given to medical marijuana.” Cannabis sativa (hemp) has less than 1% THC, the psychoactive compound in the plant that makes users high, while Cannabis sativa (marijuana) has more than 3%, with new marijuana strains having upwards of 10%, even up to 30%.
THC is one of the compounds that gives Cannabis sativa its medicinal properties. Another compound found in Cannabis sativa is CBD, which has been found to effectively quell seizures in epileptic children, treat tumors, and stimulate the appetite of persons undergoing treatment for cancer.
Goad says proponents of industrial hemp debunk the belief of those who condemn marijuana, that hemp growers would hide marijuana in their fields, because the biology of marijuana and hemp allows them to cross-pollinate, and that doesn’t benefit either plant. Hemp growers, he says, don’t see the market for marijuana as being anywhere near comparable to that of industrial hemp.
In 1998 the PUP promised to build 10,000 houses, but that noble and essential initiative was a major drain on our economy because of the high cost of building materials from abroad. Buying the cement clinker from Guatemala to manufacture cement locally isn’t likely to result in a significant lowering of the cost of the product on the local market, and we did so little replanting after harvesting trees from the forest, that prime-grade lumber is now both expensive and hard to find.
The cost of local and imported lumber is high, the price of cement is high, and our people desperately need housing. The literature says that building materials made from industrial hemp are not as strong as concrete or as beautiful as wood, but they are a worthy substitute in many instances. We should be going full speed ahead with the production and processing of industrial hemp to provide cheaper building materials.
We need to step a lot more carefully with marijuana, especially as it pertains to recreational use of the product. Attempts by the new government to improve on the four-year-old law that allows marijuana smokers to have 10 grams of the product in their possession, are noble, but federal law in the US still categorizes marijuana as an illegal drug, so it might not be opportune to be looking at recreational use of the product as a great money-earner, at this time.
The primary aim at this time must be to ease the pressure on Belizean distributors who have tried their best to carry on the trade without violence, and have used the proceeds to provide for the basic needs of the innocent – pay for the food and schooling of our children. At best, the illegal trade of marijuana is no wholesome environment to be in, but people do have to eat.
It might be wise for the government to grow the marijuana, until we have sorted out all the kinks. To supervise the production of the crop, the government should create a body comprised of our social partners, including those churches whose leaders understand that the present law is intolerable and unjust. The Americans should also be invited to help in the supervision of the crop.
No sober country encourages its people to drink strong alcoholic beverages and smoke weed, but only an incredibly naïve one will promote laws to stop adults from engaging in drinking and smoking in private places. Distributors of these products should, by law, spend more on educating people about the negatives associated with drinking and smoking, than they do on encouraging people to use them.
The drug should be sold to known dealers who will sell under strict guidelines. Some time ago, Commissioner Chester Williams said that he (his department) knows every detail about illegal activities in our country, and their intelligence would be woeful indeed if they didn’t. The police know the persons who are dispensing weed from holes under doorsteps and other hiding places.
The exploration of marijuana for its medicinal potential cannot be ignored, but what we need most for the product at this time is for smokers to have their small quantities to enjoy in private spaces and smoke-houses, and for the law to stop chasing distributors, so that the violence associated with the distribution of the product, because it is illegal, comes to an end.