In the US, Canada, and most of Europe, cannabis is prohibited even for
medical use. Dr. Lester Grinspoon of the Harvard Medical School in
Boston has studied the medicinal uses of cannabis for over twenty years. He
summarized the results of his research with patients. His generally
anecdotal evidence shows that cannabis effectively treats a variety of
illnesses without the severe side effects caused by pharmaceutical drugs
created for the same purpose.
The benefits of cannabis are most evident in the treatment of glaucoma and
in relieving the nausea and anorexia associated with cancer chemotherapy
and AIDS patients. Although synthetic THC in the form of Marinol can be
legally prescribed for these applications, most patients prefer to smoke
marijuana because of better dosage control and the lack of side effects.
Dr. Robert Gorter of the University of California Medical Centre in
San Francisco presented the results from his clinical studies on the
effects of the use of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids by AIDS
patients. He found that they provided appetite stimulation and mood
improvement, resulting in generally improved physical and mental condition
without significant negative side effects.
Industry in the USA
Two Americans made presentations at the Bioresource Hemp Symposium. The
first was Ken Friedman of the Hemp Industries Association, (also
president of American Hemp Mercantile) and he gave an overview of
the current status of the US hemp industry. He explained that demand for
hemp based products has grown considerably over the past decade, but that
the US hemp industry still faces several problems.
The lack of a domestic hemp supply combined with internationally high
demand drives up the cost of raw materials. At the same time, the hemp
industry is trying to overcome its “drug driven” image. The Hemp Industries
Association accordingly sees the education of the general public and public
officials as one of its main responsibilities.
The Excellent Oils of Hemp Seed
The other American speaker was Don Wirtshafter of the Ohio Hempery,
the largest hemp seed importer in the US. He talked about the nutritional
value of hemp seeds, explaining that hemp seed recipes are found in many
cultures around the world.
Packed With Protein
He also explained that hemp seeds contain up to one quarter protein, and
that this protein contains all eight essential amino acids in the correct
proportions for human needs.
Although soybeans contain a higher percentage of protein, they are complex
proteins which are harder to digest. The protein in hemp is more easily
absorbed into the human body. Because they are so easily digestible, hemp
seeds can be used in the treatment of nutrition blocking diseases and
The Essential Fatty Acids
Hemp seeds typically contain up to
oil. This may be the most unsaturated oil derived from any plant
product. Hemp oil is very high in polyunsaturates, also called Essential
Of the dozens of fatty acids that we normally consume, only two or three
have proven to be essential to human life. These are called the Essential
Fatty Acids (EFA). Some scientists blame the prevalence of degenerative
diseases in our society on a lack of Essential Fatty Acids in our diet.
Although some oils do plug up the system, others are mandatory for
sustaining life. The push for a “fat free” diet does nothing to ensure the
consumption of the oils necessary to get the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E,
EFA’s cannot be made by the human body, and yet are essential for a variety
of bodily functions. They act as the lipids in the membranes of all body
cells. They prevent the build up of arterial plaque. They are the
precursors of the prostaglandins that are needed by our immune
systems. Wirtshafter stated that there are at least two hundred articles
published about EFA’s in scientific journals each year.
An unfortunate fact is that Essential Fatty Acids are unstable and will
degrade and become rancid quite rapidly when compared to other oils. This
is why junk food is typically high in hydrogenated and saturated fats, and
also why we will never see hemp seed treats sold in cellophane
packages. Once you roast or grind the seeds, rancidity reactions begin.
In 1986, some American seed oil companies began using advanced technology
that could extract oils in the absence of heat, light and air. By keeping
oxygen away from the oil the process of rancidity cannot begin and the oil
can be kept in the bottle for up to one year.
Painted into a Corner
Hemp oil also has other uses. Aside from being an excellent base for skin
creams and massage lotions, it is also a preferred base for house paints.
During the hearings for the 1937 US Marijuana Tax Act, a representative of
the Sherwin Williams Co. testified that in 1935 his company had imported
135,000 pounds of hemp seed, in addition to what was grown on the large
company plantations in Texas.
Although paint companies switched to a flax oil base (linseed oil) soon
after marijuana prohibition, flax oil does not penetrate into the surface
of the wood as well as hemp oil. Hemp oil paint also hardens the lumber’s
surface, making it resistant to scratches and other abuse.
Hemp oil was also the base for early printing inks. Flax became the
preferred base because it dries more quickly, but hemp oil is superior and
requires less processing to make a quality ink.
A Heated Entry
The biggest difficulty with hemp seeds in the United States and Canada is
that the seeds must be heated upon entry in order to sterilize them. Being
in possession of viable hemp seeds is considered as possession of marijuana
in both countries. Unfortunately, the heat opens micro-fissures in the seed
shell which allow oxygen to penetrate into the kernels. This reduces the
seed’s shelf life considerably, and destroys a high percentage of the
delicate Essential Fatty Acids.
Certified Standards for Hemp
Don Wirtshafter also spoke about the need for certification standards in
the hemp industry. He stated that legitimate hemp producers must guard
against “the plethora of imitation hemp and cheaply made hemp goods that
are about to flood onto the market.” He gave the examples of a company
selling products as hemp, but only in reference to the colour, not the
material, and of others selling jute as “rough hemp”.
Don explained that he had been involved with the creation of the Hemp
Industries Association, a trade association formed last November by
over fifty hemp-related companies at a conference in Phoenix,
Arizona. Chris Conrad, author of Hemp, Lifeline to the Future, was
The HIA members agreed to work together to protect the name “Hemp” and
avoid confusion by preventing the word from being used to describe a colour
or texture, or a plant species other than cannabis. They also agreed upon
the minimum hemp content necessary for a product to be labeled as being
“made from hemp”.
These types of organizations already exist for wool and cotton, so as Don
explained, the HIA can learn from them and model itself after their best
The concluding sentences of Don’s paper summarize the goals for which the
Hemp Industries Association, the Bioresource Hemp expo, and perhaps all of
us as well, are aiming.
“Together we stand, divided we fall. We have the choice to spend our energy
in needless trade battles or working to fight those who really need to be
fought. History has shown us that there are many pitfalls on the way to
forming a legitimate and prosperous hemp industry. No one of us can do this
Language barriers, differing customs, and other problems will have to be
overcome. We have no choice, we have to do it. The success of this
conference proves to me it can be done…
An organization like I describe can last a millennium. I ask you each, in
the spirit of our common goals, to join us and to do what you can to get
this association underway.”
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