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Hope for Hemp

By Marie Oser, Managing Editor ecomii.com
May 1, 2011
File under: Agriculture, Food Production, Sustainability

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Hemp is not marijuana and before the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, had a long and distinguished history in America. Industrial hemp is grown from non-psychoactive strains of the Cannabis plant and consuming hemp products will not get you high.

Products made from hemp fiber include paper, textiles, bioplastics, construction materials, kitty litter and fuel.

The first American flag was made from hemp, which was a staple crop in the U.S. from the 1600s to the 1850s. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Henry Ford were all engaged in commercial hemp production.

Hemp is a sustainable crop that can be grown without pesticides, herbicides or fungicides and replenishes the soil while taking very few nutrients. This diverse crop also suppresses weeds naturally because of the fast growth of its canopy.

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From non-dairy beverages, baked goods and cereals, to ice cream, waffles, and protein powder, hemp is gaining momentum in the marketplace.  Like soy, hemp is a source of high quality protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.

Hemp seeds have a rich, nutty flavor, similar to sunflower seeds. Unlike flax, hemp seeds are hulled and have a softer texture, which does not have to be ground for the body to absorb its nutrients.

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Hemp milk is made from the seeds, yielding a creamy nutty beverage that offers an alternative for soy-sensitive individuals who wish to avoid dairy. Hemp milk contains omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids in the 3 – 1 ratio considered optimal.hemp-bliss-with-seeds.jpg

I tried the Manitoba Harvest Hemp Bliss Vanilla hemp milk on my cereal this morning and it was really tasty, very light with a rich, smooth texture more like dairy than soymilk.

David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps began using hemp in his products in the late 1990′s. He says that hemp oil is a super-fat ingredient that in his soaps, smooth out the lather and impart a softer and more moisturizing after-feel.soap_family1.jpg

Bronner said, “The reason hemp oil is so great is because of the omega 3 and omega 6 triple unsaturated fatty acid content. Often recommended by doctors to be taken internally for dry flaky skin these fats can be absorbed directly into the skin sebum, when applied topically.”

Canada, where hemp was legalized in 1998 is the source of raw materials used to produce the myriad of hemp products in the U.S.

A long-term activist in the struggle to legalize industrial hemp, Bronner had this to say, “Despite our efforts, we are forced to continue purchasing the 20 tons of hemp oil we use annually from Canada.”

“This is a lost opportunity for American farmers and businesses, which becomes more absurd and outrageous with each growing season that passes.”

In 2005, Representatives Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which now has 25 bipartisan cosponsors.

Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, an organization advocating the re-legalization of industrial hemp in the U.S. says, “When I look back at the landscape in 2000 (the year Vote Hemp was founded) I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress.”

“We now have 6 states that allow hemp farming under state law (Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia) and 17 states that have passed some type of legislation or are engaged in research.”

“There is pending legislation in several other States that would allow farmers to grow hemp and Steenstra expects the bill in California to pass in the next month.”

Marie Oser is a best-selling author, writer/producer and host of VegTV, Follow Marie on Twitter

1House JD, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Nov 24;58(22):11801-7

 
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