Ben Dronkers and Modern dutch hemp
An Industrial Fairy Tale
By Dr Alexander Sumach
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Princess Hemp arrived at the Eco-Ball after the feast had been cleared away, but
stayed to charm the captains of industry who were taken by her verdant freshness of
strength and delicacy. All admired her splendid gown and necklace of sparkling hempseeds.
All were awed by her spotless ancient heritage and bright prospects for the future, but
nobody dared be the first to ask her to dance.
??? When quizzed concerning her loyalty to the Dragon, she pointed to the
gallows in the courtyard and turned away. The industrial hopefuls backed off, complaining
of the heat as the Princess hid behind her hemp leaf fan to blush in a private defiance.
??? The curfew chimed at midnight, and the tow-haired beauty dashed past
the guards and into the night, leaving a single hemp-silk slipper behind. The handsome
bureaucrat searched throughout the kingdom for another one, but his search was in vain as
he was looking in all the wrong places for his vanished blind date. As far as we know,
he’s still looking…
In truth, Princess Hemp was rescued by Captain Ben Dronkers, the fearless leader of the
Pot Pirate fleet. Together they sailed away to Cannabis Island, where they will build a
castle, plant a garden, train the dragons as pets and live free and happily ever after.
? I face=”Arial”>n February 1994 the Dutch government released a report called “Dutch
Hemp for Paper.” It took 17 million guilders and four years of research by a galaxy
of Euroresearchers, and it fully endorsed hemp as a most suitable source for papermaking
in their vestpocket of a nation.
?? alt=”money.gif (3528 bytes)” align=”left”> The report was offered to the leading Dutch
paper industry luminaries, yet although they were curious they didn’t jump at the chance
to go hemp. After all, where was this weed of wonder? These were practical people and they
wanted to see it for themselves.
??? Trees could be counted on, albeit at great cost,
and there were still mountains of recycled paper to deal with. “Nice idea,” said
the big bad wolves, “call us when you have a lot of it at a cheap price.” A
chill moved through the hempsters’ warm dream of a quick, tree-free hempen victory.
??? Just as things looked most bleak, the good ship
Sensi Seeds appeared on the horizon, with privateer pot proponent Ben Dronkers in command.
They were sailing boldly into rough seas of industrial contention, hemp pirate flags
flapping in the breeze of opportunities, to rescue the weed of wonder from commercial
reluctance and restore it to its proper sphere of service.
??? This was Dronkers’ own money, so he could do
pretty much what he liked with it. Money may not talk, but people tend to listen to them
that has it, and Dronkers’ pirate song was simple: “hi ho, plant hemp!”
The Marijuana Museum
??? Ben Dronkers is no stranger to public
benevolence when it comes to the cannabis plant. The Marijuana/Hash Museum in downtown
Amsterdam is perhaps his most famous contribution to public education concerning the
history of this huge yet mysteriously ignored aspect of human behaviour in modern cultural
??? Here, archival displays of historic Dutch hemp
cultivation and processing inform the visitors of hemp’s heyday. Living marijuana plants
scent the air, growing free. A world class library of cannabis literature fills an entire
alcove of bookshelves. This museum dedicated to the cannabis plant and its many
personalities is a shrine for countless pot pilgrims from every corner of terra firma, who
learn that hemp and marijuana are very different aspects of the same amazing weed.
The Contraband Caravan
??? Marijuana farming is a kazillion dollar
ferret hole home industry around the world, thanks to Sensi Seeds, yet it is the vision of
hemp as a new raw material for the future that is now being gifted from the hand of its
pirate patron… thanks to the Sensi Seed fortune footing the tab.
??? Ben Dronkers makes no bones about arriving at
“Hemp Island” by route of the contraband caravan. He describes his philosophy as
“We have the potential to make the environment go in a good direction, but it will
require industry to realize it and want it. It might take 10 years or even 20, but hemp’s
time will come.” He’s a city kid who grew up in Rotterdam in post war Holland, but
was also an avid bird watcher as a youth. He adds, “If we are ever to achieve a
bonding between materials, plants, and people, hemp must be considered.”
??? Short haired, clean shaven, and partial to
nattily tailored suits, Ben Dronkers is as openly fond of his ever-present spliff as
Castro is of his cigar. And why not? Both are fine domestic products of their respective
realms. Dronkers has not assumed a posture of feigned compliance to the beige creed of
straightdom in order to cut some bold deals with the briefcase crowd. Such cowardly
duplicity is not the way of a noble pirate profiteer.
??? The Dronkers family have openly operated the
Sensi Seed Bank in downtown Rotterdam for about a decade. Sensi Seeds are the Cadillacs of
marijuana cultivators worldwide and command the highest prices. New varieties appearing
under the Sensi Seed label assume classic status within months of introduction to the
??? The Sensi Seed staff conduct meticulous seed
breeding programs under the direction of skilled breeders, and offer shrewd marketing
strategies to bring these creations of Dronkers psychodelicatessen to a casual world
market that is worth untold millions of dollars annually. Their full colour catalogue of
choice potent pot varieties is offered in separate editions for Dutch, German, French,
Spanish, and English speaking cannabis connoisseurs. Nothing is ever on sale and it’s
strictly cash or plastic.
??? Sensi Seeds is a just-short-of-Royal commercial
goldmine that pumps a lot of money back into the Dutch national economy. How much is
handed over the the authorities is a matter for Interpirate Affairs, but enough spills
over to leave Ben Dronkers a very rich man. He freely admits that he has “made
millions, millions from selling marijuana seeds” and he is willing and able to divert
a good chunk of his marijuana windfall into midwifing the rebirth of industrial hemp in
The Cannabis Cow
??? Dronkers and his people are furiously milking
their cannabis cow for every drop they possibly can before pressure from France shuts them
down. He fears, and rightly so, that a ruling from the European Community will override
individual rights within Dutch domestic policy regarding all things cannabis ? pot and
hemp both. The clout of Eurowill may steadily diminish and greatly narrow tolerant
accommodation of this leisure industry to the point of strangulation.
??? “Seeds might be legal right now,” says
Ben, adding that “We grow only legal seeds… but all our beautiful varieties, this
they want to stop. It may soon be forbidden to grow seeds but we will be able to sell
seeds.” He smirks as he notes “We have about 2 or 3 years worth of seeds we will
be permitted to sell, but we won’t be allowed to grow new seeds anymore soon.”
Smoke Across the Border
??? News that America has obtained a two fingered
grip onto legal medical marijuana will have no influence whatsoever on the fate of the
seed source industries. By the year 2000, at the rate things are moving, Sensi Seeds and
all the other Dutch cannabis-for-smoking seed companies may just disappear from the
commercial directories of the world. Get them while you can – seeds are living things and
if properly stored, will last 5 years in your refrigerator.
??? Even two years ago it looked like the whole
cannabis leisure industry was picking up their chits to go legal, right down to the
shoeshine. Then the French government released a hornet’s nest of protest against
cannabis. What surprised Dronkers and other observers was the sheer nastiness of the
pressure to stop all that marijuana plant foolishness immediately.
??? France claims that second hand smoke from Dutch
tolerance policies was wafting over to their space and blighting French traditions. They
have whistled for the Eurodogs to come running, as is their privilege to do so under the
New Europe guidelines. Remember these are the same folks who charged Michka with cannabis
libel, convicted her, and fined her one franc.
The Grapemen of France
??? The grape is sacred to the French and they
have built it into a mighty industry that is the blood and song of their nation. They will
not have anyone screwing around with their liquid heritage.
??? Although they retain their legions of admirers,
French vintners are no longer the only jewel box libation offered on the chalkboards of
Bacchus anymore. Fine or even finer wine from vineyards in Ontario, California, Australia,
and post-apartheid South Africa are thumping it out with French wines across dinner tables
from Hong Kong to Paris.
??? The arrival of high end marijuana, smoking up big
money otherwise spent on wine, women and song, is just one more headache for the grapemen
of France. But marijuana is perhaps the only fledgling competition they have any legal
prayer of killing in its nest. As one might guess, money is at the bottom of this struggle
for world leisure dollars and France is battling on deadly ground.
???? As a member of the Euroneighbourhood,
Holland listens to the popping of angry corks and the tender concerns of her sister France
very carefully. Nobody wants a showdown but everybody wants their own way. But which way?
In the meantime the Dutch will continue in their policy of tolerance to cannabis use, and
point to their success in bargaining in the best interests of their own people concerning
the reality of cannabis use in modern life.
The Good Ones src=”/wine.gif” width=”60″ height=”93″ alt=”wine.gif (4355 bytes)” align=”right”>
???? The mayor of Amsterdam has stated
“We got a lot of coffeeshops. Some of them we will have to close down but we will
keep the good ones.” There was ample evidence that this is already well under way. In
November this correspondent covering the war on drugs noticed that some of the skuzzier
smoke holes have indeed disappeared. Other borderline smoke-a-terias have added more
bathrooms and fire exits to their places of business. These “good ones” will
probably just carry on for the time being, fire regulations permitting. Marijuana tourism
is just too important for the city of Amsterdam to dismiss at one go.
???? “I drink French wine” says Ben,
“I think it is very good stuff.” He pauses to light a pungent Nederspliff and
adds “There is wine, there is marijuana, both of them are good things to enjoy. Why
won’t they let me smoke a joint?” He exhales a question mark that lingers in the air.
??? But quick as a flash the Bart Simpson within
merges with the spirit of Richie Rich to carry on with the cartoon adventures of
SuperWeed. The celebrated Mr Dronkers grins with impish delight as he describes his plan
of putting time, money, and energy into building a viable Dutch Industrial Hemp enterprise
from the ground up. He has feet firmly planted in both cannabis camps, and knows full well
he is in the position to shape the destinies of these promising twin industries that are
taking the country by storm.
Faith over Thought
??? Dronkers and his people formed HempFlax
corporation on the heels of the Dutch Hemp for Paper Report, in a serious bid to wrestle
hemp into service of his fellow Homo Sapiens and the world we share with the plants and
animals around us. They have begun by purchasing a farm in the heart of the traditional
Dutch flax growing district for very cheap.
??? It’s situated on poor agricultural soil and its
remoteness made it an ideal testing ground for their pioneer hemp trials. They also bought
a mothballed cardboard box factory which Dronkers maintains “was the bargain of a
lifetime!” Arrangements were made with Dutch authorities in OudePekela and permission
was granted from the Nederfeds to sow 345 acres of certified low THC cannabis. HempFlax
was now an active verb, no longer a dream.
??? They went into the whole idea with their eyes
open and their mouths closed. Nothing like this had been done before. Nobody had worked
hemp within living memory. No standards existed and there wasn’t even a buyer for the
finished product, but in it went. Faith presided over rational thinking. They had friends
just as crazy as themselves to help out, and a reasonably compliant government to nod
approval at their voyage of discovery. HempFlax prepared to launch modern industrial hemp
??? HempFlax planned to carry on with flax even if
they lost money doing it. Calculated as a loss, it could even be written off for tax
purposes. “How could we lose? We could operate the flax factory and introduce hemp
into the field.” This way of doing things is in sharp contrast to how Canada went
about their own hempen foray. Our farmers not only had to pay their own way, but had to
tangle with the Feds as if they were testing out machine guns in a schoolyard at recess.
Hemp Friendly Machines
??? Puzzled by the abrupt changes in their
traditional way of doing things, the flax people dropped out. HempFlax didn’t have flax
anymore, but they still had their hemp. More importantly, they had the knowledge of hemp
that had worked in their first experiment. “The way to do it now,” says a weary
Ben, “the way we should grow and process hemp, is by machines. No question about
??? Encouraged by the initial success of their custom
built hemp machines, his staff are preparing to go beyond the confines of tradition by
developing sophisticated harvesting and processing machinery that is fit to perform the
Herculean task of working up the mountains of golden hemp cellulose. “We developed a
hemp friendly machine from ideas collected from the flax people and what we could learn
from some of the very few old Dutch hempsters we could find.”
??? The arrival of modern hemp unfortunately
coincides with the passing on of these old time hemp people to their heavenly rewards.
This loss of practical insight about the nature and feel of hemp is sorely missed by this
new breed of hemp agronauts. Any self respecting Neolithic tribe could call upon a vast
pool of collected hempen wisdom without so much hassle.
??? HempFlax was able to source and obtain a fibre
breaking machine strong enough for the tough bast fibres of hemp. A few modifications and
a million and a half guilders later they had a completely mechanical process to handle all
their hemp. “It took 4 tons of raw product into the front and spit out 1.5 tons at
the end.” say Ben, “and it worked! Except that it was small. It didn’t deliver
on the scale that we required, but it worked! It produced beautiful hemp fibres and the
hemp “wood” was very nice as well.
??? “But instead of receiving 1.5 tons of fibre
all we really ended up with was 1.3 tons. We never counted on such loss from our
??? The key words here are “beautiful hemp
fibres” and “nice wood.” Loss can be remedied by eliminating problems, but
quality must be a part of any successful manufacturing process, even if you’re only making
a tray of cookies.
??? Further tinkering will no doubt improve the
output ratios and begin to suggest a profit wedge toehold for HempFlax to ascend the
mountain of hemp potential. It will be a long, steep climb before anyone at HempFlax can
rest and admire the view, but there are vistas there to be surveyed.
Deeper into the Heart of Hemp
??? HempFlax panged deeply from growing pains and
it began to look like the whole experiment would never break even. Dronkers himself toyed
with the downside of innovation with a classic zonker-zen response. “If you can’t
make it, you can’t make it.” They had to work harder to find solutions or go under,
??? Everyone involved saw the necessity of a full
re-evaluation of the entire hemp operation, and to look at ways to make it work better if
they were to stay in the business of hemp at all.
??? Now, a Canadian would typically cut back the size
of the operation and then fret as they watched it dry up and die. Enough bitching would
qualify it as firewood for the government enquiry industry and maybe the CBC would
continue to ignore it in favour of other cathode crybabies.
??? But this was Holland, this was the mighty Ben
Dronkers and this is how they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps after their boots
had worn through and their socks had gone slack. Even at low tide, the Dutch character
does not turn crabby. “Some of the farmers would come in from the field with ideas
and we would all work on them together. We would have brainstorming at night ? they with
their beers and me with my joints. We came up with solutions.”
??? As a result of careful calculations HempFlax
decided to go for broke, to push the pedal to the metal and drive even deeper into the
heart of hemp. The matter of scale arose as it was so often to do again and again. They
decided to gamble on building an even bigger machine that would handle twice the volume ?
8 tons in the mouth and try for 3 tons out the backshutes. What did come out of the bigger
machine was of better quality and was cheaper to produce. HempFlax is very encouraged with
the results of their wager and looks to even better results in the future.
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??? Hemp for paper is a great idea. Everybody
wants it, it’s just too bad nobody is buying a lot of it yet. Hemp Flax looked into the
enormous world marketplace of fine paper very early in the game, with an eye on bringing
home the hemp to this lucrative market. The reality of it all has inoculated them from the
rabid enthusiasm of other armchair eco-industrialists who would see hemp skating up to the
net and firing goal after goal upon the wicked tree molesters, who make our paper in their
evil kettles of filth.
??? “You can’t make hemp into paper right
away,” says the ever cool Dronkers, noting that “There is so much paper in the
world already.” He admits that “It will take time to change,” and adds with
a smile “but we will change also, and we will be there when it happens.”
??? “If someone comes to you and wants to do
something with hemp, you have to do it big, because you will have to be producing next
year and the year after that” sings the unshakable Mr Dronkers, who eyes scale of
production as the only way to fly. This is a piece of de facto hemplore that must be
considered by anyone else seeking eco-financing for a similar hempen enterprise that hopes
to go commercial.
??? This stoic advice would also be well hearkened by
other modern hemp producing nations (such as Canada) who are watching for a signal within
the speed limit to proceed. Tiny Holland grows hemp by the multi thousand acre pop… huge
Canada is still dabbling in hemp by the mere pillowcase measure. Hand me the Tylenol.
??? The cozy dream of a billion Smurfs growing
care-bear sized plots of hemp for a Rainbow Bright Barbie hemp collective just isn’t up to
industrial expectations for a hungry planet. Hemp thinking will have to step over the
“small is beautiful” eco-kosher opinion, treehuggers still wet behind the ears
from whale watching who oppose the idea of hemp becoming just another big business. I, for
one, do not relish the idea of hand harvesting a million acres of hemp with a machete.
Surfing the Hempen Bounty
??? The considerable creative energies that the
Sensi Seed sensibility employed to turn the hybrid marijuana marketplace upside-down is
now harnessed to nurturing this promising new crop off the placenta of easy street and
onto the breast of human kindness, where the milk to sustain this growing infant will be
??? The most remarkable achievement of HempFlax is
the design and development of an efficient hemp harvesting machine that surfs the fields
of luxurious hempen bounty like none other before it. “It cost a fortune but it runs
like a motorbike” adds Ben, puffing up a storm, high with enthusiasm about his toys
for a sustainable agro-industry of peace and plenty that promises to outlast us all.
??? One such hemp harvester alone replaces endless
days of backbreaking human and animal toil in the field when sweat equity was the sole,
and therefore traditional method of bringing in the sheaves. New machinery models are on
the drawing boards and only await their chance at mechanical karma.
??? HempFlax stays in touch with advances other
European nations have achieved in the hunt for better hemp. Innovations, technique
refinements, and cost cutting strategies are not the closely guarded industrial secrets
one would imagine. Holland gets high and chats openly with German, French, src=”happy.gif” width=”50″ height=”36″ alt=”happy.gif (1993 bytes)” align=”right”> Swiss,
British, Australian, and Canadian hemp hopefuls to share in the wealth of newly emerging
hemp technology. Nobody would dream of operating a hemp monopoly. How could they dare?
Everybody can grow it and do it up and then take it from there. Every tradition was once a
Good and Loyal Citizens
??? Eurohemp’s last incarnation was for war
production, when Vodka, Gin, and Whiskey took on Schnapps and Saki. Those hempsters grew
angry from their unhappy-hour fluid sacraments, and poured volatile juices into the
bellies of their iron warhorses and steel eagles to deny opportunities to others in the
days before global 911.
??? This new generation of relaxed and able
Eurohempsters will have none of that. They love the cannabis plant and have managed to
delegate female cannabis to the coffeeshop boudoir while planting male hemp into the
ground by the millions and millions.
??? The government is us, and we are good and loyal
citizens no matter how much we complain. How can we get at the public purse to accomplish
this great benefit for one and all? That’s a tough question. But hemp is a pretty good
natural resource to get behind these days as the chain saw teams march off to the clearcut
olympics. First prize: victory. Second prize: death.
??? HempFlax has applied for and received the
usual EEC subsidy for growing hemp, and has welcomed a certain amount of assistance from
the Dutch government. When Dronkers began HempFlax he was asked if Dutch hemp could swim
alone without subsidy. He sighed and said “It would be impossible.” Last year he
said “It might be possible.” This year he says “I’m sure it will be.”
??? Right now the raw hemp stalks costs HempFlax
about 25 Dutch cents a pound to produce. If this hemp could be sold at $.40 a pound,
cultivation and primary processing for textiles would be worthwhile. As the price for
paper pulp steadily increases, and additional breaks for tree-free pulp were at least
implied as pending on performance, then hemp will hit like a lumber truck at 4:20.
Staking Claims on Cannabis Island
??? Hemp for paper is not yet fully groomed for
presentation, but the knock at the door is expected at any moment. Making paper? out
of hemp is a big project ? super big stakes for super big benefits, a worthy prize that
continues to fascinate ? HempFlax and the hordes of hemp herders shepherding the weed
of wonder into safe pastures.
??? “The funny thing is, the world forgot how to
work with hemp. They just stopped… I don’t know how many years ago. Everybody just
forgot how to do it. The people doing it now are doing it Mickey Mouse… They are doing
it the same way they did it 60 years ago,” says Dronkers, anxious to see things move
along a little faster and better.
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??? It is no secret that the threads of hempen
possibilities reach right around the world, but it is HempFlax and a handful of others
brave and crazy enough to join them who are digging into their own pockets and hearts now
as this new crop is just beginning to show promise. They will hack out a beachhead and
stake their claims on a sunny strip on “Cannabis Island” for the next
millennium, and what the heck ? a few millenniums after that!
??? HempFlax project manager DeVries claims
“It will be only 2 or 3 years before we enter paper making. Small scale processes for
this are in place already. An on-site pulp mill is in the planning.” He is careful to
point out that “This is not a specialty pulp. Any paper making business will be able
to use it.” He’s talking premium tree-free pulp derived entirely from virgin hemp.
This is certainly mass for the masses and perhaps the future of planetary paper has
One Pail at a Time
??? I learned that there are more pigs than
people in Holland. The buildup of pig manure is a huge problem for them and septic manure
pile leachate is a nightmare for boggy-soggy Holland.
??? Hemp is a greedy metabolizer of water soluble
manure nitrates and this was put to great advantage at HempFlax to divert more than 60,000
cubic metres of pig manure into their hemp fields where it was lapped up by a zillion hemp
plants from the sandy soil.
??? Now that’s composting. That’s how to shut down
the circus of ruin, one pail of poop at a time. Farmers also report a 5-10% increase in
crops on land following hemp, and that alone is a bonus not to be sneezed at.
Get Serious and Go Big
??? “We need participation” says
Dronkers. At this point HempFlax is working with some of the more flexible small Dutch
natural resource industries with expertise with different distinctive green plants.
HempFlax are using more hemp hurds than fibre at present, but that is to be expected. Ben
would love to sell the fibres to the big European automobile manufacturers but notes
“They won’t show up at our presentations.”
??? He realizes that the automotive people are big
time clients and have a lot of time to watch how the material for future zipmobiles ebbs
and flows in quality and availability. In the meantime, Ben Dronkers is watching decimal
points like lesser men watch girls on television. “You have to come up with a price
and a good plan to deliver your materials over time, but it is so difficult at this
??? I sense that he is frustrated that the hemp
infrastructure is not even in place yet, and he cannot proceed until it is in place and
running. “Between the hemp farmer and the public is nobody,” he says with a
silent hiss of anxiety.
??? The gap is filling up fast with people making
things from hemp, even if a lot of them are humble “Mickey Mouse” operations
anchored in novelty rather than established as serious businesses. Hemp will soon have to
get serious and get ready to go big if this promising new material is ever to get off the
ground and into general circulation. Small sucks if there is not enough to go around.
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Voting your Dollars
??? And what are you, gentle reader, going to be
doing for the next 10 or 20 years while Ben Dronkers fires up his Star Trek hempworks in a
bid to overcome the Klingons of cellulose production? Will you just sniff the winds of
change for the stench of roadkill and follow the flies to the free lunch, or will you
follow suit and put what little money you have into what’s left of your mouth and choose
??? When you shop, you are voting with your dollars
each time you spend them. If enough consumers decide to abandon their former paper and
textile buying habits in favour of hemp, industry will indeed comply to the sincerity of
commerce and bring hemp to the stores. Then the circle of ecological responsibility will
be complete for the first time in a long time.
??? There is a part in all of this for even the
humblest shopper as well as the most powerful and wealthy producer. The division of
society by purchasing power is a fantasy we can no longer afford to subscribe to. The
distinction between the “haves” and the “have nots” refers to ones
closet space, not the validity of your passage through life in whatever political system
you happen to be slogging through. Keep breathing and the gift of life is yours.
For more info…
Contact Ben Dronkers at HempFlax
Tel : ( 31) 597-615-516
Fax : ( 31) 597-615-951
Email : [email protected]