Fabric, Food Now Made of Hemp

Fabric, Food Now Made of Hemp
Posted by CN Staff on May 24, 2003 at 20:02:10 PT
By Victor R. Martinez
Source: El Paso Times 
Cannabis hemp has been around since the beginning of time. It was the world's largest cash crop at one time, used to make fabric, lighting oil, paper, incense, medicines and food. In 1619, Virginia farmers were ordered -- by law -- to grow Indian hemp, and from 1631 to the early 1800s cannabis hemp was considered legal tender in colonial America. As late as 1942, the U.S. government distributed 400,000 pounds of cannabis hemp seed to farmers from Wisconsin to Kentucky. 
Within four years, American farmers produced 42,000 tons of hemp fiber to help with the World War II effort. Cannabis, which has been grown and used to make paper, incense, clothing, rope and oil, and has been used in rituals since the first pyramids were being built, has made its legal way to El Paso. "You are looked at as some kind of freak, pothead if you wear anything with a (hemp) leaf on it," said Ray Terrones, a 21-year-old Eastsider. "But honestly, I don't smoke and it upsets me when people automatically assume that I do just because of the clothes I wear." If you wanted, you could dress yourself from head to toe in hemp products. There are hemp hats, shirts, shorts, pants, shoes, ankle bracelets, handbags, sunglass holders and checkbook covers and hemp-seed necklaces. You could even have hemp coffee, gum, pretzels, chocolate candy and soda and hemp-seed peanut brittle. "When I think of hemp, I think of food, fiber and fuel," said Steve White, the owner of Cool Arrows Spiritual Directions, which sells hemp products. "There is a major difference between industrial hemp and just cannabis. They are all of the same gene pool, but one is grown to bud and flower, and one is grown for the stock value alone just for its fiber." The Cool Arrows at 1226 McRae is one of four Cool Arrows stores in El Paso. The McRae store, which is one of the few places in El Paso that sell hemp clothing, has been open for a year and a half. White prefers the comfort and durability of hemp over cotton. "It is way longer-lasting because it is a stronger fiber," he said while Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" blared in the shop. "You have to use a lot of chemicals on cotton just to keep the bugs off it. It is not that way with hemp. Hemp is a weed; it just grows." The manufacturing of hemp is illegal in the United States, so retailers such as White must look to Canada, Switzerland and China for hemp products. There has been a movement for many years to legalize the growing of industrial hemp for use in clothing and food. Actor Woody Harrelson has been a leading activist in trying to draw a legal line between industrial hemp and its intoxicating cousin, marijuana. The actor planted four hemp seeds at his Kentucky home in 1996, knowing he would be arrested on a misdemeanor charge so he could challenge the law outlawing possession of any part of the cannabis plant. In 2000, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled there is no difference and said Harrelson had to go back to Lee County to be tried for possession of marijuana. "I used to buy hemp lip balm and shampoo from Sun Harvest, but they stopped selling them a few years ago," said Sandra Green, a 33-year-old Northeast resident. "I have to go online to buy those things, so I'm glad there is a place in El Paso that is progressive enough to carry hemp products." Most state laws do not make a distinction between marijuana and industrial hemp. While one gets users high, the other promises to strengthen the economic base for many rural families. Advocates say hemp paper will preserve forests from loggers and hemp clothing will spare soil the petrochemical supplements demanded by other fiber crops. The difference between marijuana and industrial hemp is in the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces the high. Street marijuana contains 3 percent to 15 percent THC. Industrial hemp, which is bred differently, has only 0.3 percent. "I haven't had anybody who has been mad at me for what I am selling," White said. "They might be scared because they are digesting something they may not be familiar with. You can't do anything without a drug screen, and some people confuse it with drugs when it's not." All the hemp products at Cool Arrows are THC-free. "It is a little weird," White said. "It's sort of risque, but it is brought forth in a different light. This is something that has been sold since biblical times. The novelty of hemp and it being illegal gives it a little bit of a flair." Sidebar: Go shoppingWhat: Cool Arrows Spiritual Directions. The year-and-half-old shop offers hemp products such as caps, shirts, shorts, pants, shoes, ankle bracelets, handbags and hemp-seed necklaces. You could even have hemp coffee, hemp candy or a hemp soda. Where: 1226 McRaeHours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Information: 590-2200 Source: El Paso Times (TX)Author: Victor R. MartinezPublished: Saturday, May 24, 2003Copyright: 2003 El Paso TimesContact: opinion elpasotimes.comWebsite: News Hemp Links Hemp Archives
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