The God Plant

Industrial Hemp, aka the god plant, is one of the most versatile historical plants that have ever existed.
It has been used on many aspects, varying from pharmaceutical, industrial, political, social, and agricultural…
Nevertheless, the cannabis plant has been stereotyped due to the idea revolving over its cousin, Hash, and it has been eradicated due to such.

The God Plant, is a documentary that covers the economical benefits of industrializing Hemp in Lebanon, a country that has great potential in growing the best Hemp cannabis plants in the Middle East, since certain regions in Eastern Lebanon have vast fields of Hash plants.

This short documentary does not promote illicit usage of cannabis nor drugs.

Project by: Mhamad Kleit
Cameraman: Mhamad Kleit, Monah al Achkar, Khodor Saad
Animation and Graphics: Asma el Achhab
Translation: Katrin Awada

The versatility of Hemp

The versatility of Hemp

 

Abstract:

This research aims to study the economical benefits of industrial Hemp in Lebanon while invested to manufacture products that would benefit the Lebanese society as a whole, while acting as a starter for a greater project to peacefully eradicate illicit plants like Marijuana, locally known as Hashish. The research introduces differences between the two cannabis plants as well as breaking the misconception and stereotype directed towards Hemp.

Note: The studies made in Lebanon were undertaken by UNDP, thus all information and tables that relate to Lebanese industrial Hemp are sourced to UNDP, since they were the only side that implemented a project with the Ministry of Agriculture to plant and study industrial Hemp in Lebanon during the project: Sustainable Land Management Programme for Livelihood Development in Lebanon; Industrial Hemp Project.  

 

Introduction:

Currently 32 countries such as Britain, Canada, France, and China allow farmers to group industrial hemp; also known as “God’s Plant” for being one of nature’s most versatile plants in usage. While in Lebanon, small portions of the agricultural territories have been invested in growing the Hemp seed to replace the high-in-THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) Marijuana, which is used to make hallucinogenic drugs.

The difference between the two cannabis plants is that Hemp only contains 0.3% of THC while as Marijuana contains from 1%, minimum percentage for a person to get affected, to 24%.

Nevertheless, the long run misconception on the Hemp plant is still undergoing ever since it was first illegalized by the US government in the early 1950’s, and the Lebanese government acted against Marijuana and all cannabis plants in 1992 and was placed in 1998 as a law, following the enormous growth in Bekaa and Northern regions after the civil war, although Lebanon signed an international convention in 1956 that distinguishes between industrial Hemp and Marijuana.

 

Historical Review:

Hemp was the first plant to be domestically cultivated around 8000 B.C. in Mesopotamia (present-day Turkey). Hemp was grown for fiber and food. It was recorded as being harvested in central Asia around 6500 B.C. Several centuries later, China started growing hemp as a crop and later used it in medicine.

By 2700 B.C., the Middle East, Africa, and most of Asia used hemp for fabric, rope, medicine, and food. Hemp was introduced to Europe 400 years later. The oldest surviving piece of paper, a 100% Chinese hemp parchment, was dated to A.D. 770. During this period, several well-known books, including the Bible and Alice in Wonderland, were printed on hemp paper, and several famous artists painted on hemp canvas.

The first crop in North America was planted by a French botanist in Nova Scotia in 1606. Thomas Jefferson drafted the United States Declaration of Independence on hemp paper and grew hemp himself. Some facts and usages of Hemp in the industry:

–          Columbus used hemp sails and rope in his ships going to America in 1492

–          According to the Washington and Jefferson diaries, both US presidents grew hemp plants smuggled from China to France then America. There was also a big demand on the seed and fines on who doesn’t grow it. While Benjamin Franklin owned one of the first paper mills in America and it possessed hemp; yet now America is the only industrial country that has hemp illegal.

–          According to Emperor Wear No Clothes for Jack Herer; in 1812, Napoleon wanted to cut off Russia’s export to England.

–          Canvas is Dutch for cannabis, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary.

–          Until the 1820s, hemp constituted 80% of all fabrics and clothes… then cotton replaced it.

–          Bank notes, archival paper, maps, the first Bibles, and even the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution (U.S. Government Archives) and other types of paper uses were made out of hemp in almost the whole world until 1883, since it was stronger, finer, and lasted longer than wood-based paper.

–          Hemp farming goes back 5000 years in China until 1883 AD, and used for several industrial manufacturing like fiberglass replacement, oil, incense, fabrics, proteins, medicines, and fuel…

–          Famous painters whom used hemp linen: Gainsboroughs, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Rembrandts, Marco Polo, Michael Angelo…

–          In 1916, the U.S. Government predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees need to be cut down. Government studies report that 1 acre of hemp equals 4.1 acres of trees. Plans were in the works to implement such programs (Department of Agriculture).

–          Hemp called ‘Billion Dollar Crop.’ It was the first time a cash crop had a business potential to exceed a billion dollars (Popular Mechanics, Feb., 1938).

–          Mechanical Engineering Magazine (Feb. 1938) published an article entitled ‘The Most Profitable and Desirable Crop that Can be Grown.’ It stated that if hemp was cultivated using 20th Century technology, it would be the single largest agricultural crop in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

–          Industrial Hemp was used to heal the soil, called phytoremediation, during the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Reactor 4 in Ukraine caused radioactive contagion in April 1986.

The following information comes directly from the United States Department of Agriculture’s 1942 14-minute film encouraging and instructing ‘patriotic American farmers’ to grow 350,000 acres of hemp each year for the war effort:

“…(When) Grecian temples were new, hemp was already old in the service of mankind. For thousands of years, even then, this plant had been grown for cordage and cloth in China and elsewhere in the East. For centuries prior to about 1850, all the ships that sailed the western seas were rigged with hempen rope and sails. For the sailor, no less than the hangman, hemp was indispensable… …Now with Philippine and East Indian sources of hemp in the hands of the Japanese…American hemp must meet the needs of our Army and Navy as well as of our industries… …the Navy’s rapidly dwindling reserves. When that is gone, American hemp will go on duty again; hemp for mooring ships; hemp for tow lines; hemp for tackle and gear; hemp for countless naval uses both on ship and shore. Just as in the days when Old Ironsides sailed the seas victorious with her hempen shrouds and hempen sails. Hemp for victory!”  

 

Hemp production lines from The Outpost

Hemp production lines from The Outpost

 

Hemp in Lebanon

The war situation, which prevailed in Lebanon for decades, has negatively affected the livelihood of local communities mainly in remote rural areas. Environmental degradation causes additional socio-economic burden on the livelihood of rural communities.

The sustainable use of natural resources is very important along with income generation and proper market linkages for the sustainable land management and livelihood development.

UNDP has conducted a project in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon to replace industrial Hemp with high THC cannabis plant in the Bekaa region from 2008 until 2011. In the research conducted by UNDP for the project, the legal review showed no conflict between Hemp growth and any legislative issue in Lebanon:

1-      National law placed in August 20, 1956

  1. a.      “Any individual may apply for a license from the Ministry of Agriculture to grow Industrial Hemp”
  2. b.      Industrial Hemp is different from marijuana by narcotic origins
  3. c.       No limitations to the amount of land or varieties planted. (source: UNDP)

2-      Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – SCND – (1961) – an international treaty that prohibits the production and supply of specific, mainly narcotic, drugs or unlicensed medications of similar effects. It is not a self-executing treaty; all parties that participated in it must place laws to abide by the treaty.

  1. a.      “This convention shall not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) or horticultural purposes.” (Article 28)
  2. b.      Adopted by the Lebanese government without reservation in 1998

According to UNDP, there’s no difference between Industrial Hemp and marijuana, locally known as Hashish, in the Lebanese law of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and precursors no. 673 on 3/16/1998.

In comparison to the previous article in SCND, there lies a contradiction, although Lebanon was one of the parties that approved the treaty; though both plants differ by several factors as mentioned at the beginning.

 

Power of Hemp:

Multiple researches and experts have assured the flexibility and diversity of the Hemp plant usage; whether on the industrial, pharmaceutical, or even the environmental basis.

Hemp was not only historical resource of medication or industrialization, but it can still have the same weight of the yesteryears with the technologies available nowadays, in accordance to several key factors:

• Hemp does not require herbicides or pesticides.

• Hemp can be grown in a wide range of latitudes and altitudes.

• Hemp replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen, making it an excellent rotational crop. •

Hemp controls erosion of the topsoil.

• Hemp converts CO2 to oxygen better than trees.

• Hemp produces more oil than any other crop, which can be used for food, fuel, lubricants, soaps, etc.

• Hemp nut is a very healthy food, being the highest protein crop (after soybean) and high in omega oils.

• Hemp can be used for making plastics, including car parts.

• Hemp makes paper more efficiently and ecologically than wood, requiring no chemical glues.

• Hemp can be used to make fiberboard.

• Hemp can be used to make paint.

• Hemp can produce bio-fuel and ethanol (better than corn).

• Hemp can be grown more than once per year.

• Hemp fibers can make very strong rope and textiles.  

 

Challenges facing Hemp Production and Industrialization:

There were two important factors that prevented the growth of Hemp in Lebanon, other than the feasibility of the project, according the Ministry of Agriculture, where it preferred to support and finance other products like wheat, corn, or farm animals, etc… The factors are as follows:

–          Lack of awareness in governmental institutions and local communities on the importance and strength of the Hemp plant to improve local economy, industry, environment, and so…   the awareness also targets internal security forces that are responsible for eradication of illicit cultivation in Bekaa valley, whom do not differentiate between industrial Hemp and Hashish (processed to become smoked marijuana and other drugs).  

–  The legal importation of industrial Hemp is blocked at the costumes due to the lack of differentiation between the seed and that of the illicit drug. “There lies a lack of detailed legislations and regulations to industrial Hemp”

– UNDP report on the Industrial Hemp Project; December 2011

 

The Economical Benefits

According to UNDP’s study on the economical outcome of the Hemp industry, there would be an annual $42/dunum (1 dunum = 1000m2) without any support or processing.

While as with processing and direct sales, if the government approves it, the farmer’s income would reach between $300-$500/dunum annually and $3000-$5000 over a period of 10 years.

As for illicit planting, the Lebanese government would eradicate the crops 8 times during the 10 years period. Thus the farmer would only benefit twice from his illicit plant which is estimated to be $1990/dunum ($995/dunum annually), according to UNDP’s report.

Therefore, there lies a $1010 difference between both crops, with the balance leaning towards industrial Hemp. Moreover, if farmers depend on it, their crops won’t face the danger of eradication and would guarantee an annual profit.

 Table 1 Estimated Hemp growing profits compared to eradication loses - UNDP


Table 1 Estimated Hemp growing profits compared to eradication loses – UNDP

 

There are five business plans that were estimated to bring profit if industrial Hemp was cultivated fully by Lebanese farmers. Each business plan is directed towards a different manufactured product that would be extracted from Hemp, as shown in the table below.

 

Name of Company Description
LEHEMPRO Hemp drying, Hulling and Oil extracting
HEMP & CO. Hemp health foods and dietary supplements
HEMP TOUCH Hemp cosmetics
HECOMAT Hemp construction plaster and boards
HEMPFEED Animal bedding and feeding

Table 2 Hemp-products manufacturing companies and their description

The following table places the same business plans during process of their work in a 10 year timeline of production in both sales and profits.

Table 3 Sales and Profits in five production business plans for industrial Hemp

Table 3 Sales and Profits in five production business plans for industrial Hemp

 

Though the results are beneficial and strike sentiments of investments, but industrial Hemp cannot be an alternative by its own. Investing only $20 million or $30 million will not eliminate the cultivation of Hashish (marijuana), but industrial Hemp can be a starter and a successful part of the bigger better picture.

 

Conclusion

Hemp proved to be very adaptive in the Bekaa region, specifically north, of Lebanon and producing promising yields that resisted fungal diseases.  According to UNDP, farmers showed willingness to plant industrial Hemp instead of illicit marijuana, only if there would be an incentive of support and proper industrialization.

Moreover, from the production lines available from the Hemp plant; five of them would mark great potential in the Lebanese market as mentioned before: Oil, food, cosmetics, construction, and animal requirements. Thus, it is recommended that Lebanese officials should support the cultivation of industrial Hemp by amending the law of narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances and precursors – no. 673 issued on 16/3/1998 since it contradicts with the amended Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.


References:

http://www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Industrial-Hemp.html#b

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2011/Jul-09/Hemp-offers-cannabis-farmers-legal-alternative.ashx

http://www.hemp-technologies.com/page33/page33.html

http://www.world-mysteries.com/marijuana1.htm

UNDP (December 2011); Sustainable Land Management Programme for Livelihood Development in Lebanon (Industrial Hemp Project 0058344)

 

 

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2 Comments to “The God Plant”

  1. This is a brilliant I’dea!

Freedom to Speak, Respectfully.

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