Hemp, cannabis, textiles, medicine, paper, drugs, law and politics:

What is Hemp?

The UK Government Responds on Hemp for Fuel Question: July 2004

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Hemp is one of the most versatile plants on the planet. It has been used since prehistoric times. It has been used throughout history until the first quarter of the twentieth century. It's use was then prohibited. This was at the same time that large American pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies were ready to replace hemp with synthetics ranging from diesel to nylon, plastic to drugs. This has produced huge profits for these companies at the cost of the environment and of personal freedom.

Hemp has been grown for its fibre, for its seeds and for the tops, heads, flowers and leaves.

The fibrous parts of the hemp plant are the stringy threads which come from the stalk and the woody part of the stalk itself, which is called the hurd.

The fibres can be used to produce paper, sails, rope, clothes, shoes, nets, building materials like bricks and chipboard, packing material, animal and human bedding, furniture and even lace. It can also be used to produce blocks or charcoal for burning.

The seeds can be used as a human and animal food (it is more nutritious than Soya) and for oil. The oil can be used as a salad dressing, as fuel for lamps and engines (the original Model T Ford was designed to run on hemp fuel). It can also be used to make lubricants, paint, sealant, varnish, lotions, ointments, lacquer and soap.

The tops and heads, along with some leafy material, can be used as a sacrament, a medicine and as a recreational substance.

Religions which have used these parts of the hemp plant include Coptic Christians, Essenes, Buddhists, Sadhus, Sufi's, Zoroastrians and Rastafarians.

The medicinal uses of hemp include the treatment of multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, asthma, epilepsy, pain relief, painful labour and menstruation, migraine, herpes, arthritis, rheumatism, Spasticity, depression and anti-nausea especially for cancer patients and AIDS sufferers, neuralgia, loss of appetite in wasting diseases and anorexia, insomnia and anxiety.

It is estimated that over 6 million people in the UK consume hemp for medicinal or recreational use.

It has been illegal to grow or possess hemp in the UK since 1928. Hemp was banned as a result of the Dangerous Drugs Act. Although the law was specifically directed at the flowering tops the cultivation or possession of any part of the plant except the seeds has been illegal since the mid 1970's. Offences of cultivation and supply carries sentences of up to 14 years imprisonment and unlimited fine.

The Dangerous Drugs Act was based upon the International Opium Convention of a few years earlier. In this convention hemp was mis-classified as a narcotic. Subsequent international agreements such as the 1961 UN Single Convention again mis-represented and mis-classified hemp as a substance with no therapeutic or medicinal values. British law is based on these mistakes.

Hemp is the English name for the plant cannabis, also known as marijuana. Most people think of cannabis as a drug; the law calls it a dangerous drug and has thrown cannabis and its supply into the hands of criminals often involved with hard drugs. Cannabis cannot truly be considered as a drug - it is NOT ADDICTIVE, NOT HARMFUL and does NOT LEAD TO USE OF DRUGS. Cannabis, unlike drugs, IS NOT POISONOUS - there is no fatal dose. Smoking cannabis has a different effect on the lungs and body than smoking tobacco. The effect is not like the effect of drugs or alcohol. There is no real withdrawals and no drug-like craving from abstinence, even after years of use. Any dependency a person may develop on cannabis is the same type of dependence one has on any medicine which makes one feel better.

'The smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health'............... The Lancet (Nov. 95) [British Medical Journal]

'Marijuana is one of the least toxic substance'............. Professor Lester Grinspoon, Harvard Medical School.

In 1994 over 72,000 people in Britain were convicted of cannabis offences on top of the many more who were cautioned. People are continually fined or imprisoned for growing cannabis even if their use of it is purely medicinal. Many doctors quietly advise people to continue taking cannabis although they can neither legally prescribe or supply it. Their patients become criminals and can go to prison.

The laws which ban cannabis are a social disaster. Huge amounts of public funds (recently over half a billion pounds) are spent chasing cannabis users and suppliers. The police are overworked, the courts and prisons full. Millions of subjects are alienated. Those convicted are banned from certain occupations and from entering certain countries abroad. They all receive criminal records.


If you do not know the answer please write to your MP at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, and ask.

If, like us, you believe that this unjust prohibition ought to be stopped and that cannabis ought to be legalised, please join us, the Campaign to Legalise Cannabis International Association (CLCIA) at the address below.

'Make the most of Indian Hemp seed' ....... President George Washington

'Prohibition ... goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control man's appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not even crimes' ....President Abraham Lincoln

'Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging than the use of the drug itself' ....President Jimmy Carter

'I'm impressed by what's happened to MS patients who have used it' ........ Dr. James Malone-Lee, Consultant St. Pacras Hospital, London.

Cannabis too has discomforting side effects, but these are not physical they are political' .... The Economist March 28th 1992

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