Hemp fires set to burn at
conference here this weekend
Hemp supporters want a repeal of a 60-year ban on hemp research
by Jonquil Wegmann, Daily Staff Writer
With more than 25,000 uses fueling the hemp fire, state legislators are proposing a bill that would allow research of industrial hemp.
Cecelia Burnett, Ames representative to the Iowa House, introduced a bill earlier this month "providing for the research regarding production and marketing of industrial hemp."
Burnett said the bill has bipartisan support because research could provide an alternative crop for the poorer soils of southern Iowa.
Hemp issues will he discussed at the Sixth Annual Midwest Regional Hemp Activists Meeting to be held in Ames this weekend. The event will be in the Gallery of the Memorial Union from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Iowa and 10 other states have legislation pending for hemp research. The quest to allow the research began just recently. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Marijuana Tax Act passed by Congress in 1937 that effectively banned marijuana. However, in 1996, politicians in Colorado, Missouri, Hawaii and Vermont introduced legislation allowing for the research of hemp as an industrial crop.
Once a major economic industry in the United States, hemp production became illegal with the prohibition of marijuana 60 years ago.
Hemp and marijuana are cousins of the same plant species -- cannabis sativa. But according to the Iowa branch of NORML, a group calling for the legalization of marijuana, the two plants have a significant difference. Marijuana plants cultivated for psychoactive properties usually contain 3 to 15 percent of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, while industrial hemp generally contains 0.1 percent or less of THC.
"This is not marijuana," Burnett said. "Hemp has a long history of use in America. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper."
Many European nations have lifted the ban on hemp. China, England, France, Holland and Hungary have growing industries in hemp production.
Germany allows the cultivation of hemp as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent THC.
Supporters say hemp is a good fiber for textiles because it is stronger than cotton, warmer than linen and more absorbent than nylon.
Last year, imported hemp products made more than $25 million in sales. Designer Ralph Lauren disclosed he secretly used hemp fabric for his clothing as early as 1984. Calvin Klein predicted hemp will become the "fiber of choice" and Georgin Armani said he is developing a line of sportswear made from hemp fabric.
The Peaceful Fool, a store on Lincoln Way, sells hemp products. Derek Perez, co-owner of the store, said he has to pay high tariffs to import hemp from Hungary and Guatemala. Perez said he supports hemp production because "it doesn't take pesticides, and it grows in 90-day cycles."
"Alternative uses often get put to the wayside by big money. The cotton industry has a big lobby against hemp production in America. If people knew the facts, they wouldn't find any reason to keep it illegal," Perez said.
Experts say hemp is a viable alternative to many agricultural products such as trees and cotton because it requires little application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It can be harvested each year and is indigenous to most parts of the world.
The long fibers of hemp can be made into high quality paper and the short fibers can be used for newsprint, tissue paper and packaging material.
Newspapers made from hemp can be recycled up to 10 times whereas traditional pulp-based paper can be recycled only three times to maintain quality. One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 10 acres of trees.
"Hemp will likely prove to be the most economical fiber source among several being investigated by International Paper, given its yield per acre and its substantially greater range of products," said Curtis Koster, technology business manager for International Paper.
Greenpeace and other environmental organizations welcome the resurgence of hemp interest and say the demand for hemp products could create thousands of jobs, save millions of trees and reduce production and use of chemicals.
"Hemp is the concerned citizen's dream of an ecologically fit fiber source," Greenpeace spokesperson said.
Iowa State Daily
Friday, March 21, 1997, Page 1
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This page last updated on 16 April 1999.