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"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

Abraham Lincoln - Former U.S. President

Industrial Hemp

Paper from Hemp

004 Hmp

Until the close of the 19th century, all the world's paper was made by recycling worn-out cloth such as sails, sheets, clothes and rags. These were mainly made from hemp (but also flax) so that hemp activist Jack Herer (in his bestselling book "The Emporer has No Clothes") claims that 75-90 % of paper was made from hemp. With the Industrial Revolution the demand for paper exceeded the availiable rag supply, and inventors began to develop new processes to make paper from natural resources. Unfortunately the largest profits were made by exploiting the worlds forests. A hundred years later we have cleared almost all the primary forest in Europe and North America. Now we must use a sustainable resource for our paper, either managed forests or an annual plant.

Hemp produces paper of a far higher quality than trees. Throughout the 20th century speciality papers were made from hemp. These include most cigarette papers, scientific filter papers, coffee filter papers, tea bags, art papers etc. Currently only 0.05% of the world's paper is made from hemp.

According to Herer, 3-4 times more paper can be produced from hemp than from trees. Pulp made from trees must be bleached, using environmentally destructive processes, such as chlorine-bleaching. Hemp pulp can be bleached with relatively harmless hydrogen peroxide.

Paper can be made from hemp hurds, thus if hemp is grown for fibre or seeds, famers will have an extra product they can sell. However if paper is to made from hemp, it will require massive investments in new technology to process the hemp. Paper-making industries will need to be relocated close to hemp growing areas to minimise transport costs.

The feasibility of paper-production from hemp was recently assessed in a comprehensive three-year Dutch research program involving scientists from 12 institutes and costing Dfl 17 million (£7 million). The Dutch are searching for new crops which can be grown in rotation with their standard crops. They believe that rotating crops will control potato parasites, without needing dangerous pesticides! The researchers found that hemp would be economically viable and developed a detailed business plan.

They recommended that 1000 arable farmers from the north-east of the Netherlands should set up a co-operative, which would own shares in a new pulp factory. Additional funding would be needed from government subsidies and loans. The initial cost would be Dfl 57 million (£22 million) and after 5 years production capacity would be increased making a total investment of Dfl 127 million (£51 million).

However when the plan was put to a committee of farmers, government officials and paper-makers, they decided that some of the assumptions of the business plan were uncertain and that further research, and a pilot plant were needed. This would take a further 2 years and cost Dfl 8-10 million (£4 million).