Happy October! It’s spooky season, and what better way to kick off this season than by talking about some myths in the hemp industry?!
Have you heard the one about the U.S. Constitution and hemp? Or the legend where Henry Ford built a car out of hemp? There are a lot of myths and legends out there on the hemp industry. Here we’ll do our best to sort fact from fiction.
Myth: The U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights were drafted on hemp paper.
Reality: This tricky. The official documents live in the National Archives in Washington D.C. and are written on parchment paper. But, usconstitution.net affirms that drafts of the documents were likely written on hemp paper. Ben Franklin owned a paper mill that pressed hemp into parchment and George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams all grow hemp in their homesteads.
Myth: Hemp was banned in the 1930s like alcohol was during prohibition.
Reality: In 1937, hemp was grouped with other kinds of cannabis and strictly regulated by the Marijuana Tax Act. The result was hemp could only be grown by farmers who got unique government-issued stamps. Only farmers with the tax stamp could grow, possess, sell, or transfer hemp. For everyone else, hemp was illegal.
Myth: Henry Ford built a car out of hemp fiber.
Reality: This sounds like a fun urban legend, but it’s got some truth to it! In 1941, Henry Ford unveiled an experimental car with panels made from organic fibers, including hemp. The idea did not catch on at the time, but modern car makers are giving hemp another try. In 2017, comedian Jay Leno test drove a carbon-neutral vehicle made from woven hemp. The car-maker, Bruce Dietzen, says his hemp-based car is 10X stronger than steel. Dietzen has a point. Hemp is a seriously strong substance. It can replace steel and can be used to make a lighter weight concrete-like material that you could use to build a house.
Myth: Hemp was used to help clean up the soil after the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.
Reality: This one sounds sci-fi, but it’s true! A member of the Chernobyl clean-up team coined the term “phytoremediation.” Hemp was used to soak up the heavy metals from soil contaminants around the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Researchers in Germany and Italy are both experimenting with hemp to clean up areas contaminated with sewage sludge and polluted fields.
Myth: Industrial hemp is the same as marijuana.
Reality: While industrial hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis family, they are technically different plants. Dust off your high school science and remember how plants are named by genus and species. Industrial hemp is cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa, and marijuana (and medical cannabis) is sativa subsp. indica. The plants look different, grow differently, and have different uses. Hemp can be grown with undetectable amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. If you tried to smoke industrial hemp, you might get a headache, but it will not get you high.