Cannabis hemp is the missing piece in the puzzle of environmental and economic sustainability. This is because Cannabis hemp can replace petrochemicals (and by extension, this includes plastics); Wood and all timber products such as lumber, paper, pulp for packaging, construction and other applications; Cannabis hemp can replace cotton, which is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world and arguably the most widely used in industry. Cannabis can also replace pharmaceuticals to a certain extent. Its usefulness doesn’t end here, because the seeds of the Cannabis plant are a highly nutritious source of full cholesterol-lowering protein for humans, and the roots of the plant are an agricultural implement sine pari. In summation, if it isn’t glass, and it isn’t metal, it can be made from Cannabis.
In every case the Cannabis version of the product is superior to its environmentally devastating counterpart.
Hemp is the strongest, most robust, natural fibre known to man. Hemp is actually Cannabis used in its industrial context. Hemp is a specific configuration of the Cannabis plant for want of a better word.
Cannabis is a family of plants producing cannabinoids. Industrial hemp is grown either for the stalk or for the seed. Cultivation methods are different depending on the desired end product. Cultivation methods and reaping times are different for each. Cannabis is a dioecious species, so in order for there to be seed production, the pollen from the male must come into contact with the flower of the female. If no male pollen is present, the resulting plant will be sensimillia, which is a Spanish word meaning without seeds.
The maximum THC limit for hemp is a legal artifice that serves no other purpose than to obstruct and hinder legitimate hemp industries. It was previously 0.8% in most countries until French breeders developed seed that would consistently remain at under 0,3% in the temperate European climate, and persuaded the EU to lower the limit to 0.3% to retain the monopoly over seeds at least.
Every part of this plant is useful and every part has multiple uses.
This plant has a very deep taproot, and feeder roots can grow as long as 3 ft easily. This long, thick extensive root system is ideal for prevention of both types of soil erosion – wind & water. The roots go deep and spread throughout the soil, causing aeration which improves moisture retention, and binds the soil.
Phytoremediation is the cleaning and decontamination of soil using plants. Hemp happens to be one of the best “soil mops” available, being able to extract from the soil contaminants such as metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives and crude oil. It has been employed at the Chernobyl disaster site since 1999 to clean up radioactive contaminants from the soil. I feel certain that it could go a long way towards cleaning up the Benlate mess in St Lucia and even return our soils to organic status within a few years. Benlate was a pesticide manufactured by the DuPont company, which was used extensively in the banana industry, and was known to cause cirhossis and anopthalmia. The EPA forced DuPont to place a warning on the product in 1972. Following multiple international lawsuits, the company lost, Du Pont finally discontinued the product in 2001.
The outer stem is where we find the long thread-like bast fibres which run the entire length of the stalk which can be 10-12 feet tall, and are spun into thread, and further into rope or textiles, ranging from carpet backing and sails. The same material further processed can be made into fine linens, and with the carefully calculated application of steam, the fibres can fibrillate and become indistinguishable from silk.
Making composites out of this material is as easy as working with fibreglass and much more comfortable. Additionally, with all things being equal, the strength of a composite increases in proportion to the length of its fibres. This makes hemp one of the strongest composites on earth, with fibres several feet in length. This material can construct an electricity pole, or the body of a stealth bomber.
Ethanol is the fuel product of fermentation of the long bast fibres.
Being able to grow this plant freely in St Lucia would give the population the resources and motivation to become a manufacturing nation. Hemp can be processed in a primitive way or using the newest technology such as cottonizing of hemp so that it can be further processed using existing cotton looms and such.
Hemp can be grown without pesticides whereas cotton cannot. Hemp fabric is hypoallergenic, anti-mildew, and softens as you wash it but doesn’t weaken. It is quality you can pass on to your grandchildren.
One of the oldest relics of human industry is a shard of hemp fabric found in Mesopotamia which dates back 10,000 years to 8,000 BC. This testifies to the facts that hemp is a strong fabric and can be processed into cloth with primitive technology.
St Lucia is capable of creating a world class fashion industry designing with hemp.
The inner stem or the core is where we find the woody hurds & material for pulp. This inner core is 77% cellulose. Cellulose is the building block of modern industry, and hemp is the highest producer of cellulose with lowest lignin. This low lignin content accounts for why hemp grows so quickly (6-12 months) compared with trees (80+ years), and this is one reason hemp is so sustainable.
Coupled with the fact that trees are fairly low in cellulose and higher in lignin, acre for acre, hemp is able to produce 4 times more paper than trees, and hemp is able to do so every year, repeatedly.
Hemp paper can be produced using very few chemicals, unlike tree based paper which requires the use of sulphur based acids, dioxins, and thousands of chlorinated organic compounds in order to be made into paper.
Other advantages to hemp papers are they can be recycled many more times than tree based paper and they don’t turn yellow. Like the facric, it is resistant to mildew and insects.
I would like you to wonder why: Every year 13 million hectares of forest are cut worldwide for paper production alone…. and hold that thought.
(continued in next weekend’s STAR)
Melanie Fraites is a member of the Saint Lucia Cannabis Movement