Hemp is a vital crop

Hemp is a vital crop

By Allen Penticoff

Hemp is a vital crop

Governor Ryan—take off your idiot hat and free farmers to grow hemp. Spare us the wasted two years and cost “rediscovering” the multitude of uses for one of nature’s greatest gifts to us. It is estimated that there could be 25,000 to 50,000 products that could be made from or augmented by hemp.

Hemp has been a vital agri-product for millennia. Our government encouraged farmers to grow hemp in the 1940s to help the war effort. Only when the lunacy of the drug prohibitionists began to go into full effect did this plant become untouchable as a cash crop.

The similarity between industrial hemp and marijuana is about the same as the relationship sailboats have to powerboats. Hemp is grown in very dense plots with emphasis on thick stalks and lots of seeds with few leaves. Marijuana is grown widely spaced with the emphasis on branches and leaves, and only the female plants are good for the drug qualities. A hemp crop growing near a marijuana crop will ruin it. Smoking hemp leaves for the tiny, less than 1.3 percent, THC is not a savory experience. You would get more out of smoking a cardboard tube. When marijuana growers want to hide a crop, they plant in cornfields.

Hemp has hundreds of proven uses already; no tax-funded research is needed to find markets for the fiber, wood and seeds of this hardy plant. Hemp can do anything wood, cotton, oil and plastic can do—and do it better, while growing in a density that yields very high tonnage per acre. As it is a natural product, it gives back nearly all of what it takes from nature, no matter what you do with it. Hemp is extraordinary in being enviro-friendly, making it not only safe, but cost effective in the reduced need for pollution technology to use it.

This plant can be used as a fuel for heating and generating electricity, burning with near sulfur-free exhaust. Ethanol and methanol can be derived from its biomass and combined with the seed oil to produce a clean-burning diesel fuel. When the diesel engine was invented, Rudolph Diesel expected the engines to be operated on hemp seed oil, as it was the most common fuel of its kind available.

Wood product substitutes as composite boards, plywood and paper are well within hemp’s abilities to produce a superior, cheaper product. The seeds and their oil have tremendous nutritional value, and many cosmetics as well as dairy-free milk, cheese and ice cream can be made. There is not sufficient space for all the known products to be listed; they would fill a small book. But we are presently IMPORTING hemp and hemp products instead of selling them.

Earnings to farmers as revealed in a 1995 Colorado report indicate $400 to $1,200 per acre could be expected from this easy-care crop, which grows readily in poor soil and returns many nutrients to the earth. Its pest- and weed-free nature eliminate the need for harmful and expensive chemicals and labor to apply them. Harvesting can be done with existing haymaking equipment.

Industrial growers can be registered here as they are in France. There is no incentive for the honest farmer to mix marijuana in the fields, so any marijuana fields found would be easily prosecuted, as they would not be registered.

Illinois farmers could and should be at the forefront of this multi-billion-dollar industry of the future. Other states may lead the way by throwing back the barriers to this business first, but Illinois has what it takes to be the best and dominate these new industries. New enterprises will erupt in Illinois as they build their facilities in the heartland of the supply.

Allen Penticoff is an aircraft insurance adjuster living in the Rockford area. He is a member of the Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform.

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