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Montana NORML - Industrial Hemp

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Common Questions About Industrial Hemp

A guide prepared for the Colorado General Assembly
to answer questions concerning hemp production in Colorado. 

Date of publication: December 1996.

Q: What is industrial hemp?
     Industrial hemp refers to genetic varieties of the Cannabis
sativa plant which are certified to contain less than 1.00% THC
(tetrahydrocannabinols).  THC is the psychoactive chemical found
in Cannabis sativa.  Industrial hemp is not to be confused with
marijuana.  Marijuana comes from the flowers of the Cannabis
sativa plant and contains more than 1.00% THC.  Industrial hemp
has no psychoactive properties.

Q: What countries produce industrial hemp?
     Industrial hemp is grown as a profitable fiber crop in many
countries, including Canada, England, France, Germany, Holland,
China, and Hungary. 

Q: What products can be made from hemp?

I. Hemp Stalk
     The whole hemp stalk can be chipped and used for paper and
wood products, or it can be processed to maintain the long
     Fiber:  The hemp stalk is composed of 20% bast fiber, one of
the strongest and longest natural fibers.  Hemp fiber is used for
textiles, rope, and paper.
     Hurds:  The hemp stalk is composed of 80% hurds.  The hurds
are the woody inner portion of the stalk containing 50% to 77%
cellulose.  Hurds were historically a waste product after the
bast fibers were removed.  However, many modern uses for hemp
hurds have evolved, including paper, plastics, particle board,
and animal bedding.

II. Hemp Seed
     Hemp seed contains 25% protein, making it an excellent
animal feed.
     Hemp seed also contains 30% oil.  Hemp seed oil is extremely
nutritional (high in essential fatty acids), but also has
industrial uses (lubricants, paint, varnish, diesel fuel).  (Hemp
seed oil currently sells for $60/gallon in the food and cosmetic

Q: How is hemp grown and harvested?

I. Hemp Cultivation
     Hemp is a low-maintenance annual herbaceous crop that grows
well in rotation with other crops.  Hemp grows from 6 to 16 feet
in height in a season of 4 months.  Hemp is sown in dense stands
and chokes out competing weeds.  Therefore, no herbicides are
needed.  (Hemp was used historically for weed control.)  Fifty to
seventy pounds of seed are planted per acre.

II. Water and Fertilizer Requirements
     Hemp has about the same water and fertilizer requirements as
corn.  However, hemp has been grown without irrigation in Canada. 
Research will have to be under-taken to determine hemp's
requirements in Colorado farming.  Remember, there hasn't been
any research on hemp in the U.S. in over 40 years.

III. Hemp Harvesting
     Hemp can be harvested using a conventional swather or side-
bar mower and baled with hay baling equipment.

IV. Hemp Yields
     Hemp yields from 3 to 10 tons of dry stalk per acre. 
Harvests of hemp seed are from 10 to 15 bushels per acre.  (1
bushel of hemp seed = 44 lbs.)

V. Hemp Processing
     Processed hemp is worth more than raw hemp.  The technology
currently exists to make pulp from raw hemp stalks.  Farmers in
Canada are developing regional pulping cooperatives to minimize
transportation costs.  The hemp pulp will be sold to a variety of
     Seed oil can be produced using a cold seed press.
     New or historical technologies will have to be developed to
make the most of the hemp plant.  Hemp was used historically to
make over 25,000 different products (from dynamite to plastic). 
Who knows how many modern products could be manufactured from

Q: What are the markets for hemp?
     There is a critical shortage of fiber world-wide.  Companies
like International Paper are seriously interested in hemp as an
alternative fiber source.  Currently, companies are forced
to import raw hemp to use in their research because there is no
domestic supply.
     In addition to raw fiber markets, hemp clothes and other
finished products have become extremely popular.  Adidas, Calvin
Klein, and Disney are just three of over 300 businesses in the
U.S. selling products made from imported hemp.  These businesses
generated an estimated $60 million in revenue last year.

Q: What is the value of industrial hemp?
     Industrial hemp is estimated to be worth $100 to $500 per
acre (net income) depending on its end use and any secondary
processing done by the farmer.

Q: Won't hemp be used to "cut" marijuana?
     If a marijuana grower wanted to "cut" a supply of marijuana,
it would be easier to do it with common grass or oregano, which
are easily obtainable now.

Q: Won't hemp increase marijuana use?
     None of the countries which currently grow hemp have
reported any increase in marijuana use.  Marijuana use was
similarly unaffected in the U.S. when hemp was grown a large
scale during World War II.
     Children may be at first be inclined to smoke hemp because
of its confusion with marijuana.  However, if a child were to
smoke hemp, it would achieve the same effect as smoking rope or
corn stalks.  A severe headache would result, and the child would
never do it again.

Q: How will law enforcement tell the difference between hemp and
     Industrial hemp is not a burden law enforcement in other
countries for the following reasons:
     1) Differences in Appearance
     Hemp is very tall (up to 16 feet) and thin.  The bottom two
thirds of the hemp stalk is mostly devoid of leaves.  Marijuana
is shorter (generally less than 3 feet) and much bushier.
     2) Differences in Cultivation
     Hemp is cultivated in very dense stands to stimulate stalk
production and smother weeds.  Marijuana is cultivated sparsely
to stimulate the development of its flowers and tops.
     3) Registered Farmers
     Only farmers who have registered with the state will be able
to grow hemp.  Only legitimate farmers with no felony convictions
will be able to get a state registration.  A law enforcement
officer needs only to consult his list of registered hemp growers
to see if a field of hemp is legal.
     4) Location of Hemp Fields Known
     Law enforcement officers will know the location of all
industrial hemp crops which will make aerial and ground
surveillance for illicit marijuana easier.  It would be much
safer for an illicit marijuana grower to plant marijuana in a
corn field that would not be under scrutiny.
     5) Hemp will help eliminate outdoor marijuana cultivation.
     Industrial hemp will produce pollen that will force outdoor
marijuana growers out of business.  Potent marijuana is grown
using only female plants and protecting the plants from

Q: Won't people be tempted to hide marijuana in hemp fields?
     Hemp is planted so densely that it would be impossible to
enter a hemp field without leaving a visible path through the
field.  Corn, which is planted more sparsely, would be better
suited to illicit marijuana cultivation.
     In addition, the hemp fields will be under scrutiny and will
be producing pollen.  Marijuana growers are likely to want their
marijuana production to be as far away from hemp as possible.

Q: Isn't hemp just a shallow ruse for the legalization of
     The Colorado Farm Bureau, the American Farm Bureau, and many
other conservative organizations have endorsed industrial hemp
but do not support the legalization of marijuana.
     Hemp and marijuana are two distinct varieties of plants. 
Hemp is low in THC and is cultivated for fiber and seed. 
Marijuana is high in THC and is cultivated as a medicine.  Hemp is a
crop, not a drug.
     Promotion of hemp is not a shallow ruse for the legalization
of marijuana.  It is an attempt by farmers to re-introduce a
legitimate and profitable alternative crop and an attempt by
environmentalists to promote alternative fiber and fuel sources.

Q: Why do we need hemp in Colorado?
     Colorado agriculture is in desperate need of alternative
crops.  Hemp represents not just an alternative crop, but a whole
new agricultural industry.  By developing regional processing
facilities, farmers will be able to make more profit from their
crop.  Hemp could help dramatically revitalize rural communities
and allow our children to keep the family farms.
              Presented as a Public Service by the:
                Colorado Hemp Initiative Project
                          P.O. Box 729
                       Nederland, CO 80466
                      Vmail: (303) 784-5632
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