Essay by WildcatUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, May 1996

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Hemp : A Help or a Hindrance?

Hemp, also known as Cannabis sativa, marijuana, grass, and by many other names, has not been a legal commercial crop in the United States for almost sixty years. As common two centuries ago as cotton is today, hemp is not seen on the market. As many groups fight for hemp to become legalized as a drug, many people are battling for the plant to become legalized for its industrial and medical uses. From Disney Indiana Jones hats to fuel for our automobiles, hemp is a hardworking, environmentally sound renewable resource. People have become so wrapped up in the 'drug' aspect of marijuana that many are forgetting its uses as an industrial material.

Hemp is an ancient drug, first mentioned in a Chinese manuscript in 2700 BC. Its uses included treating gout, malaria, gas pains, and absent-mindedness. Hemp was an integral part of early Indo-European religious ceremonies for thousands of years.

Records from Assyria in 650 BC referred to it as a drug called azulla that was used for making rope and cloth, and which was also used for experiencing euphoria. Hempen sails brought the Spanish, Dutch, and British conquerors to the new world (Charpentier 18). In North America, hemp was planted near Jamestown in 1611 for use in making rope. In order to keep a constant supply of hemp available, a law was passed in Massachusetts in 1639, requiring every household to plant hemp seed. In Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, hemp was even used as a monetary unit. Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, released by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, was written on paper made from hemp (Whole Earth Review 46). And the 49ers washed gold from California creeks in Levi's made from hemp. In 1937, the United...