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Hemp-The Benefits Of Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
The Forbidden Plant?
With so many benefits, both industrial and medicinal, how could such a plant be illegal in the United States? Since 1937, the legalization of hemp has been the cause of much debate. However opponents of marijuana legalization have failed to acknowledge the benefits of hemp. These benefits consist of hemp being used to make cloth, fuel, and medicine.
Hemp is commonly called cannabis sativa. There are other plants that are called hemp, but cannabis hemp is the most useful of these plants. In fact, cannabis sativa means useful (sativa) hemp (cannabis) (Stafford 157). Hemp is a durable plant that was used since pre-history for many purposes. Fiber is the most well known product, and the word `hemp’ can mean the rope or twine which is made from the hemp plant, as well as just the stalk of the plant, which produced it. Cannabis is the most durable of the hemp plants, and it produces the toughest cloth, called canvass. The cannabis plant also produces three other very important products that the other hemp plants do not (in usable form, that is): seed, pulp, and medicine. The pulp is used as fuel, and to make paper, the seed is suitable for both human and animal foods, and the oil from the seed turns into a base for paints and varnishes. The medicine is a tincture or admixture of the sticky resin in the blossoms and leaves of the hemp plant, and is used for a variety of purposes.
The hemp plant has many benefits accredited to it, such as cloth. The stalk of the hemp plant has two parts, called the bast and the hurd. The fiber (bast) of the hemp plant is woven and made into almost any kind of cloth, which is very durable. In fact, Levi’s used hemp to create their first pair of Blue Jeans (Stafford 164). Compared to all the other natural fibers available, hemp is more suitable for a large number of applications.
Textile industries also use hemp for to make fiber. Industries achieve this when a field of closely spaced hemp is grown until the leaves fall off. After that process was complete, the hemp is cut down and lies in the field for some time washed by the rain. During this time, the hurd softens up and many minerals are returned to the soil. After this process called retting, the stalks are brought to a machine that separates the bast and the hurd. We are lucky to have machines today that do all of that for us because men used to do this last part by hand with hours of backbreaking labor.
Fuel is one of the many benefits created by the hemp plant. The pulp (hurd) of the hemp plant when burned is or processed into charcoal, methanol, methane, or gasoline. The process for doing this is called destructive distillation, or pyrolysis. Fuels made out of plants like this are called biomass fuels. Biomass fuels are clean and virtually free from metals and sulfur, so they do not cause nearly as much air pollution as fossil fuels. Even more importantly, burning biomass fuels does not increase the total amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. When petroleum products get burned, carbon that has been stored underground for millions of years is added to the air; this may contribute to global warming through the `Greenhouse Effect.’ This charcoal may be burned in today’s coal-powered electric generators. Methanol makes a good automobile fuel; in fact it is used in professional automobile races such as NASCAR. Someday it may very well replace gasoline.
Another benefit caused by the hemp plant is ethanol (grain alcohol.) The United States government has developed a way to make this automobile fuel additive from cellulosic biomass. Hemp is an excellent source of high quality cellulosic biomass. One other way to utilize hemp as fuel is to extract the oil from the hemp seed — some diesel engines can run on pure pressed hemp seed oil. However, the oil is more useful for other purposes, even if we could produce and press enough hemp seed to power many millions of cars.
Marijuana has thousands of possible uses in medicine. Marijuana (actually cannabis extract) was available as a medicine legally in this country until 1937 (Stafford 164), and was sold as a nerve tonic — but mankind has made use of cannabis medicines much longer than that. Marijuana appears in almost every known book of medicine written by ancient scholars and wise men. It is usually ranked among the top medicines, called panaceas, a word that means cure-all. The list of diseases which cannabis can be used for includes: multiple sclerosis, cancer treatment, AIDS (and AIDS treatment), glaucoma, depression, epilepsy, migraine headaches, asthma, pruritis, sclerodoma, severe pain, and dystonia (Stafford 165.) This list does not even consider the other medicines that can be made out of marijuana — these are just some of the illnesses for which people smoke or eat whole marijuana today.
There are over 60 chemicals in marijuana, which may have medical uses (Stafford 165). It is relatively easy to extract these into food or beverage, or into some sort of lotion, using butter, fat, oil, or alcohol. One chemical, cannabinol, may be useful to help people who cannot sleep. Another is taken from premature buds and is called cannabidiolic acid, a powerful disinfectant. Marijuana dissolved in rubbing alcohol helps people with the skin disease herpes control their sores, and a salve like this was one of the earliest medical uses for cannabis. The leaves were once used in bandages and a relaxing non-psychoactive herbal tea is made from small cannabis stems.
The most well known use of marijuana today is to control nausea and vomiting. One of the most important things when treating cancer with chemotherapy or when treating AIDS with AZT or Foscavir, being able to eat well, makes the difference between life and death. Patients have found marijuana to be extremely effective in fighting nausea; in fact so many patients use it for this purpose even though it is illegal that they have formed `buyers clubs’ to help them find a steady supply. In California, some city governments have decided to look the other way and allow these clubs to operate openly.
Marijuana is also useful for fighting two other very serious and widespread disabilities. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, caused by uncontrollable eye pressure. Marijuana can control the eye pressure and keep glaucoma from causing blindness. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease where the body’s immune system attacks nerve cells. Spasms and many other problems result from this. Marijuana not only helps stop these spasms, but it may also keep multiple sclerosis from getting worse (Kleiman 167).
Opponents have failed to see the industrial and medicinal benefits of hemp. Because their argument fails to consider these benefits it is inconclusive. Hemp is not merely a recreational drug; it has many practical and useful purposes. Because of this hemp should be legalized.