NC State students are advocating for the legalization of hemp, arguing that the misunderstood dichotomy between hemp and marijuana has inhibited the U.S.A. from receiving the benefits from mass-producing hemp.
The Raleigh Hemp Society screened the award-winning documentary, “Bringing It Home,” which emphasizes the benefits that hemp can have on our society and the struggle to get it legalized in the US on Sunday in the Witherspoon Student Cinema.
About 30 students attended the screening to hear the film’s message that hemp’s benefits are being ignored by American society due to the fundamental mischaracterization that the hemp plant is the same as recreational marijuana.
“You can smoke a field of hemp, and you would die of CO2 poisoning before you got high,” said Andrew Klein, a senior in natural resources policy and administration and founder of the Raleigh Hemp Society. “Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis sativa, but the point is that they are completely different. It’s like comparing a house cat to a lion.”
The documentary presented one of the Drug Enforcement Administration’a (DEA), arguments against hemp, stating recreational marijuana can be hidden among hemp stalks because the plants look similar.
Hemp supporters, however, argue this is unlikely due to the special, climate-controlled conditions needed to produce “smoker’s” marijuana.
Hemp is widely produced in 31 other industrial countries including France, China and the U.K.
The THC content of industrial hemp is 0.3 percent or lower, which, according to the documentary, is too low a level to be psychoactive in the body. It is significantly less than the THC content found in recreational cannabis, which stands at about 40 percent.
Historically, this misconception has been a major factor in hemp’s illegal status in the U.S., dating back to 1970 when President Richard Nixon first declared it a Class I drug along with recreational marijuana and heroin, among others.
While interning for the Virginia Hemp Company this past summer, Klein said he spent a significant amount of time lobbying in Washington D.C. where he ran into the problems with this misconception frequently.
“I talked mostly with staffers, but most agriculture reps said that [the politicians they represent] are anti-marijuana,” Klein said. “This shows that, for many politicians, the fear of politically associating with marijuana keeps them from seeing the benefits of hemp.”
Before it was declared illegal, the U.S. government promoted hemp to help the U.S. win WWII with the “Hemp for Victory” propaganda campaign, which encouraged farmers to produce hemp to make rope, cloth and cordage for military use. Hemp was also the first material ever used to make cloth in 800 B.C. China, according to the documentary.
Klein and his staff members set up a table showing off some of the varied ways that hemp can not only provide a greener alternative to common products but even improve on them. The table had hemp cooking oil, which has more omega-3 than traditional oil, hemp paper, which can be produced four times more efficiently than paper from trees, the different hemp fibers used in clothing, which can be produced with less water than cotton, and raw hemp, which can be made into a concrete substitute.
The use of hemp to make concrete, or “hempcrete,” has particularly interesting prospects for the U.S. as a whole, according to the documentary.
Not only could it provide thousands of new jobs due to building renovations and new building construction, but it can improve quality of life for homeowners.
According to the documentary, hempcrete is a carbon negative material, which means that it actually absorbs CO2 in the air as well as filters out other pollutants. The construction process could also made safer by the use of hempcrete, as it does not require workers to wear masks or gloves because it is nontoxic. Power tools would also be unnecessary when using hemp, which would eliminate loud noise and wires on construction sites.
“Hempcrete wall construction is not complicated, but there is a learning curve in working with low temperatures and wet conditions,” Linda Booker said, co-producer, director and editor of “Bringing It Home.”
When Booker and her co-producer Blaire Johnson began filming in November 2010, Booker was new to the history of hemp.
In 2011, Booker and Johnson attended the Hemp Building Symposium in Granada, Spain where they were able to meet with global hemp business leaders which changed her perspective on this issue.
“I was skeptical like a lot of people,” Booker said. “I realized that we need a good film to educate people about this.”
President Barack Obama signed the Farm Bill in February, which made hemp legal for research and academic uses, which is a step towards legalization. However, hemp is still illegal to grow without a DEA issued permit.
The DEA has only issued three of these permits since 1970, according to the documentary released in 2013.
“Until we take hemp out of the substance one narcotic classification, the DEA will still have jurisdiction over seed imports for research,” Booker said.
Booker said DEA pressure forces higher prices for legal hemp products because they have to be imported.
Andrew Klein said he is working to inform people about hemp close to home.
“The future is working with businesses, farmers and political leaders to formulate policy to help legalize hemp in NC,” Klein said. “The long-term future of the hemp society is to get passionate, intelligent students jobs in the hemp markets.”