The Green Energy of Hemp
Offers a Solution
to Our Ecological Crisis

By Dale R. Gowin

Fossil fuels burned for energy over the last half-century have created devastating pollution and the threat of serious disruption of our planets ecological balance.

Toxic smog smothers our major cities.

Acid rain eats away our forests, killing mountain lakes and rivers.

And the Greenhouse Effect threatens to trigger catastrophic changes in global climates.

Nuclear power, the most widely used alternative to fossil fuels for energy generation, places our civilization on the perpetual brink of disastrous accidents; routinely doses us with cancer-causing radiation; and litters the Earth with waste that will remain hazardous to all forms of life for thousands of years.

How did we arrive at this perilous junction, poised on the horns of this deadly dilemma offered a choice between alternatives that equally threaten the health and safety of our world for uncounted future generations?

And is there a realistically achievable option that can reverse this ecocidal trend and re-establish our civilization on a sustainable, ecologically harmonious basis?


In 1937, the American economy was on the verge of a revolutionary transition into a new, agriculturally based energy era as the result of a breakthrough in agricultural technology.

This innovation held the promise of reviving the failing national economy and propelling America and the world into a new era of prosperity.

The development that was causing all the excitement was the invention of a mechanical method of processing hemp, a domesticated fibrous plant used as a raw material in numerous branches of industry since ancient times.

Hemp is an essential human resource that has been used since at least 10,000 BC for a vast variety of essential life-support functions.

This unique plant is technically named Cannabis sativa. It was commonly called Indian hemp in the 19th century, but is usually called marijuana today.

This plant is the most efficient known source for cellulose, which makes up 77% of its mass.

Hemp is the source of the strongest and most durable of vegetable fibers.

Every part of the hemp plant root, stalk, leaf, flower, seed, pollen, resin has been used by humans since the dawn of history for industrial, medicinal, religious, and culinary purposes.

A partial list of products that have been made from hemp would include:





fuel oils

alcohol fuels





(the word canvas derives from cannabis,
the botanical name for hemp).

The shipping industry has used hemp since its earliest beginnings to make the sails, ropes, and sealants that made transportation and travel possible for the ancient world.

As in other lands, the United States depended on hemp since Colonial times.

Hemp was the single most essential American economic commodity from the time of the founding of the Jamestown colony through the early 20th century.

Early Americans used hemp for lamp oil, paints and varnishes, and hundreds of other products.

Colonists made their clothing from homespun hemp-cloth produced in community spinning bees.

Hemp sails and ropes were used by the U.S. Navy from its inception and up to World War II.

The famous U.S.S. Constitution (also known as Old Ironsides) used over 60 tons of hemp.

The canvas coverings of the Conestoga wagons,
the legendary flag stitched by Betsy Ross,
the paper used for the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,
the pamphlets of Thomas Paine,
the newspapers of Benjamin Franklin,
and the saddlebags and blankets used by Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride...
all were products made from the cannabis/hemp (marijuana) plant.

The hemp industry was in decline by the early 20th century.

A major factor was competition from cotton fibers, which were produced more cheaply than hemp fibers after the invention of the cotton gin.

Intensive human labor needed to separate the hemp fibers from the woody stalks of the 12 to 20-foot plants.

Other hemp-based products faced competition from the developing fossil fuel industry which expanded rapidly after the discovery of the Pennsylvania petroleum deposits in 1859 and the increasing exploitation of Appalachian coal deposits.

This decline ended abruptly in the mid-1930s, when mechanical hemp decortication became widely available.

The economic potential of this development was described in the February 1938 Popular Mechanics magazine, which called hemp a new billion-dollar crop.

The article states:

American farmers are promised a new cash crop with an annual value of several hundred million dollars [equivalent to hundreds of billions in 1990s dollars - ed.] all because a machine has been invented which solves a problem more than 6,000 years old. It is hemp.... The machine which makes this possible is designed for removing the fiber-bearing cortex from the rest of the stalk, making hemp fiber available for use without a prohibitive amount of human labor. Hemp is the standard fiber of the world. It has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products, ranging from rope to fine laces; and the woody hurds remaining after the fiber has been removed contain more than 77% cellulose, and can be used to produce more than 25,000 products ranging from dynamite to Cellophane.


Hemps high cellulose content is the key to the plants potential as a replacement for fossil fuels.

In the 1930s, one of the most important of the new developments in the hemp industry was being researched by Henry Ford in his prototype biomass plant at Iron Mountain, Michigan.

The high cellulose content of hemp makes it the worlds most efficient raw material for the production of methanol fuel through the pyrolysis biomass process.

Hemp was found to be up to 50% more productive than alternative biomass crops like sugar cane and corn.

Often the fuel of choice for racetrack drivers, methanol is a clean-burning alternative to petroleum-based fuels.

Early Ford vehicles were made available with gasoline or methanol fuel options.

Research with hemp showed that it could also replace petroleum in the manufacture of plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc., as well as being a replacement for i ndustrial energy sources like coal and natural gas.

Among the products of the hemp pyrolysis biomass process are:

which can replace coal in industry and can fuel coal-burning power plants (it contains no sulfur, a primary cause of acid rain);

(creosote, pitch, ethyl acetate, etc.)
which are used to make plastics and synthetic fibers; and

and other flammable gasses,
which can be used for home heating, cooking, and industrial applications, including the generation of electricity.

Thus, the humble hemp plant has the potential to replace virtually every present-day use of fossil fuels, and it offers a safe alternative to nuclear power.

The industries that are rapidly eroding the health and safety of Planet Earth can be replaced with an environmentally friendly, ecologically sound, annually renewable agricultural product.

The primary ecological benefit of hemp-based, biomass-produced fuels is the avoidance of the disruption of Earths atmospheric carbon dioxide/oxygen balance.

Hemp, like all photosynthetic organisms, absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the atmosphere during its growth cycle.

When plant-based fuels are burned, a portion of the carbon dioxide that was absorbed is released back into the atmosphere.

Then it is re-absorbed when the next crop is grown thus maintaining the natural chemical balance of the atmosphere.

Fossil fuels are the result of photosynthesis that occurred millions of years ago.

The carbon dioxide that is released during combustion of fossil fuels is not reabsorbed;
it accumulates in the air
and gradually alters the planets atmospheric chemical balance.

This alteration is the primary cause of the Greenhouse Effect,
one of the most serious ecological threats of the industrial era.


In addition to biomass-produced methanol fuels, hemp has the potential to provide fuels from its seeds.

Hemp seed contains a high grade vegetable oil that makes up 30% of its weight.

This oil is a raw material that can be used to produce diesel fuel, kerosene, and aircraft fuels.

It is also used to make lubricating oils and lamp oils.

Hemp seed oil was the basis of the majority of commercial paints and varnishes prior to the legal prohibition of the plant in 1937.

Congressional testimony during prohibition hearings revealed that the highest quality paints made by the leading U.S. companies were hempseed-based.

In 1935, U.S. paint companies used more than 58,000 tons of hemp seed.

Hemp seed oil is also edible,
and is the most efficient known plant source of the essential fatty acids called linoleic acid (LA) and linolenic acid (LNA) , which are essential human nutrients and have been shown to boost the immune system.

Together, LA and LNA make up 80% of whole hempseed oil.

After the oil is pressed from the seeds, the resulting seed-cake is a complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids; and hempseed protein is more assimilable for human digestion than is soy protein.

It can be used to make food products like tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers, etc.

Hemp seed was one of ancient Chinas major grain crops,
and it was grown in Northern Europe as a food crop since medieval times.

It was often used as survival insurance during times of famine and drought.

The porridge referred to in folk tales was often made of boiled hemp seed, cooked alone or with other grains (also called gruel).

Another traditional use of hemp seed was for animal food, including farm animals, poultry, and domestic pets.

Hemp seed was the primary ingredient in commercial bird seed before hemp prohibition, and the sterilized seed is still imported for this purpose.

Hemp seed provides ideal nutrition for both wild songbirds and imported exotic birds.


Cannabis was used to make paper long before trees were ever sacrificed for the purpose.

The famous Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed with movable type, was printed on hemp paper, as were the majority of maps, school books, official documents, and paper money, throughout history around the world.

Early hemp paper was made from recycled hempen fabrics (called rag bond and linen paper).

Later, early 20th century paper-making used the hurds, the woody pulp that remains when hemp fibers are separated from the stalks of the plant.

A U.S. government study (Dept. of Agriculture Bulletin #404, published October 14, 1916) states that one acre of hemp will produce more pulp for paper than four acres of trees.

Considering that hemp is annually renewable compared with the decade or more that it takes to replace an acre of trees its clear that hemp is vastly more efficient than trees as a source of pulp for paper.

Hemp paper is much more durable than wood-pulp paper; it lasts for hundreds of years without yellowing or becoming brittle, as wood-based paper does after only a few years.

Hemp paper production requires considerably less of the toxic chemicals that are used in wood-pulp paper-making, including 80% less of the sulfuric acid that is used to remove the lignin from wood pulp.

Hemp paper can be made without the use of dioxin, a deadly toxin which is used to bleach wood-pulp paper and is a major contributor to the pollution of our rivers, lakes, and groundwater.

Hemp hurds can also be pressed into fiberboard or particle-board panels, which can be used in place of wooden lumber for housing construction.

In a process called Envirocor developed by Mansion Industries of California, agricultural waste is formed into panels that are described as primary load-bearing materials.

The resulting product is described as more fire-resistant and a better insulating material than wood; it is resistant to termite infestation, mold and mildew; and it is free of chemical fumes.

The high cellulose content of hemp makes it the material of choice for this process.

Thus, annually-renewable hemp could eliminate our need to sacrifice the last of our old-growth forests, which today are being slaughtered at a rapid rate.

A revival of the hemp industry could be a major factor in reversing the deforestation which is one of the most serious global environmental threats.


The leaves, flowers, and resins of the cannabis/hemp plant have been an important source of human and veterinary medicine since ancient times.

Prior to prohibition, cannabis was listed in the U.S. pharmacopoeia with over 100 recommended uses.

It was also a popular ingredient in over-the-counter medications, marketed by existing companies including Squibb, Lilly, Parke-Davis, Smith Brothers, and many others.

For a century it was Americas leading medicinal ingredient, used without ill effects by millions, children as well as adults.

Recent research has added to our knowledge of the medicinal values of hemp.

For instance, it has been found to reduce the intra-ocular pressure that causes blindness in glaucoma victims, more safely and effectively than any other known remedy.

It provides relief from asthma, emphysema, anorexia, migraine, rheumatism, arthritis, and insomnia.

It is the most effective remedy for the nausea that accompanies cancer chemotherapy, as well as the wasting syndrome of AIDS.

It relieves stress, a primary cause of ailments ranging from ulcers to heart disease.

It has been found useful in the treatment of sexual dysfunction and in marital therapy.

Cannabis extracts have even been found to reduce the size of cancerous tumors.

Yet, despite these positive, life-giving research findings, the U.S. government has not only prohibited most additional research, but has actually suppressed and destroyed records of favorable cannabis research while promulgating false and deceptive anti-cannabis propaganda.

The government, in concert with corporate interests having hidden economic and political agendas, continues to circulate false claims:
that cannabis use causes brain damage,
that marijuana smoke contains more toxins than tobacco smoke, etc. even though there is no factual basis for any of these claims.

The flowering tops of the female hemp plant are also the source of marijuana, which is by far the least harmful of the commonly used recreational substances.

Marijuana has been respected as a spiritual sacrament since ancient times by established religions in all parts of the world.

It is used as an aid to meditation and prayer in Hindu and Buddhist temples, Islamic mosques and Christian churches.

Unbiased research has supported many of the beliefs of advocates of marijuanas spiritual values:
it has been shown to heighten human awareness,
increase sense perception,
stimulate creativity and imagination,
and deepen intellectual comprehension.

A 1981 study of ten members of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, who use marijuana daily as a religious sacrament, showed that they were all superior to very superior in intelligence, with an average I.Q. of 128.4, equivalent to the top 2% to 7% of the population.

None of the allegations made by the reefer madness prohibitionist lobby have borne up under legitimate scientific scrutiny.


It is estimated that we could grow enough hemp to replace our current use of both fossil fuels and trees on a portion of the soil bank, the 90 million acres of farmland that the U.S. government pays farmers not to grow crops on.

Thus, the new hemp industry need not displace other agricultural crops.

Hemp is a remarkably hardy plant that will flourish in almost any climate, in all of the 50 states, and on many of the marginal lands that will not support other crops.

In many parts of North America, two or more crops of hemp can be harvested in one year, or a crop of hemp can be raised after another crop has been harvested.

Hemp does not deplete the soil of essential nutrients as many food crops do if grown repeatedly on the same lands.

Leaves fall to the ground during the plants entire growth cycle, fertilizing the soil.

The deep shade of the tall plants chokes out weeds, and the deep root systems connect with water sources and loosen hard-packed ground.

Thus, hemp is a perfect tool for the reclamation of damaged, depleted, or marginal farmlands.

It can be used in the restoration of drought-stricken zones and to prevent erosion in mudslide and forest fire areas.

Hemp may prove to be our most important ally in reversing the desertification of stripped rainforest areas.

An average acre of farmland can provide ten tons of hemp in four months, making it the most efficient source of biomass on the planet as well as the highest quality source of biomass for fuel and chemical applications.

Recent research has indicated that hemp is particularly resistant to ultraviolet radiation, making it the most likely crop to survive a worsening of the depletion of Earths ozone layer.

A revival of the U.S. hemp industry could reverse the failure of our family farms, a trend of the 1990s that continues to cause some of the worst poverty seen in America since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In Appalachia and throughout the Midwest, formerly prosperous segments of the population have been reduced to Third World standards of living in the wake of the collapse of American family agriculture.

In 1990 alone, an estimated 100,000 U.S. farmers were forced out of business.

The green energy of hemp could provide an alternative to poverty and homelessness for Americas family farmers, and it could usher in a new era of rural, family-based industrial progress.


Since the hemp industry has so many potential benefits for our nation and our planet, both ecological and economic isnt it strange that the entire subject of hemp has disappeared from public awareness over the last 60 years?

In fact, the history of hemp has been largely blacklisted from our history books, excised from our school curricula, and banned from our mass media.

This is no accident: it is a deliberate Orwellian manipulation of public consciousness, planned and perpetrated by a corporate cartel that successfully subverted the American political system in the dark days of the Great Depression.

The legal prohibition of cannabis was engineered by corporate interests whose monopoly profits were threatened by the newly mechanized hemp industry that was emerging in the mid-1930s.

Hemp products were in the public domain and could not be patented unlike their synthetic substitutes, which were made from petrochemicals under exclusive patents.

Thus, hemp eluded the control of the monopoly-based corporations.

In an open market a true free enterprise system hemp would have allowed family farms and small, independent businesses to compete for a share of the energy and manufacturing profits during the post-Depression expansion of the American economy. But this was not allowed.

The new hemp industry was nipped in the bud by a corporate cartel with vested interests in the fossil fuel, lumber, paper, and pharmaceutical industries.

A group of ultra-rich corporate barons with paid-for politicians in key government positions successfully manipulated the U.S. political system in a blatant power-play that made a mockery of democracy and shaped the character of corporate-monopoly capitalism for the balance of the 20th century.

Major participants in the conspiracy included:


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