Cannabis for the Environment

Marc Deeley, a hemp industries entrepreneur and researcher who worked with Paul Wylie in an aborted attempt to grow hemp in Nicaragua, and who co-founded the procannabis organization Spirit Aid, discussed the environmental benefits of weed in an interview with Cannabis Culture.
CANNABIS CULTURE: In one of your publications, you show that cannabis is good for alleviating global warming. Could you explain?

MARC DEELEY: Cannabis, like any plant, absorbs carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas responsible for accelerated climate change. However, unlike other plants, cannabis could be used to provide industrial quantities of material to meet a large percentage of our demand for fibre and fuel – competing directly with the timber and petrochemical industries, which are of course two industries that are a direct cause of climate change.

CC: Is cannabis bad for other crops? Does it “leech” the soil?

MD: Cannabis is perhaps one of the best rotation crops humanity has knowledge of. We have been rotating hemp with other crops for millennia. The reasons why cannabis is a good rotation crop are A) cannabis out competes weeds, thus helping to naturally clear fields for less hardy cereal crops, B) cannabis sheds its leaves as it grows, thus protecting the top soil while adding organic material back into the soil, C) the root system of cannabis is also important as this also helps to bind the soil while protecting against the leaching of nutrients, which are often washed out of soil by heavy rains in other crops.

CC: What else is cannabis good for?

MD: We get a seed from hemp that has a nutritional profile of Soya, wheat and oily fish combined. From the same crop we can also get four times as much wood as trees per hectare, in the same amount of time. No other crop presents the same opportunity for environmental well being combined with the generation of revenue for the farmer, community, society and the human species! We should thank God our world has been blessed with such an amazing species of plant, rather than try to destroy it.

Multiple Uses, Extra Value

In the early 90’s, enthusiastic hempsters promoted that one day hemp might solve the world’s gasoline crisis. Their dreams were soon deflated.

The problem isn’t whether it can be done: using existing technologies, parts of the hemp plant can be converted to burnable oil or to ethanol. Cars driven only on hemp fuels have already toured the continent, proving conclusively that it is possible.

The problem is the perception that it is uneconomical. Other plants are known to produce more oil and general biomass for less money using traditional farming techniques. For example, hemp critics have pointed out that corn produces more oil. And according to UK Minister of Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy Larry Whitty, both Coppice and Miscanthus crops produce more biomass.

However, Larry Whitty has admitted that hemp’s potential may be greater than is currently thought.

“It is possible that a dual variety, grown for seed and biomass, may yet change the economics of [hemp for fuel],” he wrote in a July 2004 letter to a constituent.

Remarkably, Whitty’s letter missed other uses that would increase hemp’s commercial viability even more. Should growers plant a field of recreational pot, for example, the sales of that product alone would provide a substantial profit, and the left-over biomass would be a bonus.