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Hemp has been grown for hundreds of years

Hemp. You can eat it, feed it to cattle, and make fabric, building materials or car parts. You can use it to make Frisbees, sunglasses, Legos, Coca Cola bottles or flower pots. It’s of absolutely no use if you want to get high. Hemp is the non-mind-altering cousin of marijuana. It has everything but THC.

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, growing hemp became legal in the United States for the first time since Aug. 2, 1937. That was the day Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Law that threw out the hemp, the baby, and the bath water It was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, the only one empowered to introduce a bill to the House floor without it being debated by other committees.

In 1961 growing marijuana was banned internationally under the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

About four months ago hemp was planted in 63 of the 67 counties of Pennsylvania by 300 licensed hemp growers.

They’re in good company. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their plantations. Benjamin Franklin, chafing at the trade restrictions Britain imposed on paper pulp, turned to hemp paper for his printing business. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper from his paper mill. A hundred years later and across the continent, Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss patented their process for reinforcing twilled cloth with hemp. They sold work pants to California gold miners.

For the past month Pennsylvania’s hemp growers have been harvesting their first-time crop and the push is on. Hemp is one of the fastest growing biomasses cultivated and it can produce ten tons per acre per year. A hard cold snap will kill it, negate their labors and erase their profit margin. The National Weather Service map shows now through Oct. 10 as the probable first frost date for this area.

Simple industrial hemp is a sustainable, environment-friendly crop and is an ideal plant for organic farmers. It requires no chemical applications; no pesticide, no herbicide, no fertilizer. It grows faster than corn and has strong roots that break up and amend the soil. The shock of hemp leaves can reach eight to 12 feet tall and block sunlight from weeds. Once established, it’s drought proof.

EPA’s Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties. Enter hemp. Industrial hemp can accumulate toxins within its root system and fibers — it can provide remediation for contaminated soil.

Disposable plastic is undoubtedly convenient, but scientists have discovered it just won’t go away! It will take our ubiquitous plastic bags (containing BPA, bisphenol A) 1,000 years to completely decay. Plastic bottles are made from polymer resins, including polyethylene terephthalate or PET, are not quite as bad. They only take 450 years to disintegrate.

I’ve resolved not to use anything with ingredients that have to be shortened to initials. But I’m all in for Frisbees and flower pots.

Contact Teresa Futrick at esroyllek@hotmail.com.

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