Sunday, April 29, 2012

Legalize it? Czech film examines medical use of cannabis

MPs are expected to approve use of marijuana to treat certain illnesses; questions remain over how it will work in practice
By 'guest writer'

Czech firms could be cleared to grow and process medical marijuana, says a working group preparing to allow the drug on prescription

The use of cannabis in the treatment of serious illnesses is the subject of a new Czech feature-length documentary titled “Rok Konopí” (“Year of Mari©huana”), which is premiered at Prague's Bio Oko cinema on Thursday. Legislation currently before parliament should lead to a green light for the medical use of the drug here although what form it will take is as yet unclear.
Independent producer Jan Hrnčíř decided to make the film when, soon after himself being diagnosed with a tumor in his right eye, he found inspiration at a seminar on the healing powers of hemp oil run by Rick Simpson, a Czech Republic-based Canadian marijuana advocate and electrician.
Hrnčíř signed up director Petr Slabý, who says one of the aims of the documentary is to spur a public debate on an issue that has to a certain extent been taboo.
“The film isn’t intended to be propagandistic or tendentious – it's just an effort to examine the subject, and its possibilities and limits,” Slabý told Czech Position. “We want in a way to de-demonize the drug and to show people that it isn't just something for pot heads and rastas. Its potential lies elsewhere.”
© YouTube – the official trailer, with English subtitles
Father Sun
Among the interviewees in “Year of Mari©huana” are the aforementioned Simpson; politicians including former health ministers David Rath and Tomáš Julínek; Professor Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, a pioneering Czech chemist working in the field since the late 1960s; Dušan Dvořák, a psychotherapist who has faced legal action for cultivating and distributing marijuana; “healer” Libuše “Bushka” Bryndová; and the strangely named clinical psychologist and musician Pjér la Šé'z (also one of the people behind the film), whose talk of shamen, “Mother Nature,” and “Father Sun” may grate with those of a less mystical disposition.

Professor Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, a pioneering Czech chemist working in the field since the late 1960s, testifies before a Parliamentary committee.
The documentary perhaps works best in depicting the experiences of four Czechs, two with cancer, two with multiple sclerosis, who have – at the risk of criminal prosecution – used hemp-based products to alleviate their symptoms.
One of the protagonists, Philip Polívka, was diagnosed with MS when he was in his late 20s. Despite the fact he had previously been resolutely anti-drugs, his father, himself fatally ill at the time, urged him to try cannabis as an alternative treatment.
“I use cannabis, or cannabinoids, because I feel they're helping me, somehow,” Polívka, now 40 and a father of two, told Czech Position. “In the most concrete sense it loosens up the spasticity in my legs, something I was using a different chemical for earlier on. But other chemicals have side effects that aren't always positive.” ‘In those days it would be a psychological, trippy experience. ... [Now] It’s like cold mineral water flowing through my nerves, or something.’
Polívka, a translator who grew up in Canada, was a recreational smoker of grass in his youth. “In those days it would be a psychological, trippy experience. Nowadays I don't really have that any longer, because my tolerance has got to such a level that to have an actual psychological reaction would be kind of difficult for me,” he says. “But I feel it in my body. It's like cold mineral water flowing through my nerves, or something.”
Looking to Israel
For a contrast with the situation in the Czech Republic, “Year of Mari©huana” follows Professor Hanuš to Israel, where he has in the past worked closely with Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the scientist who first identified THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant.
Philip Polívka has been using cannabis products to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis since his late twenties
The Israelis have an advanced medical marijuana program, although it is strictly limited to particular patients, such as those suffering from nausea induced by chemotherapy or in the later stages of AIDS.
“But even in Israel you could see that, though people get it officially, they’re still kind of ashamed. They’re afraid that others could regard them as junkies,” says Slabý. “That’s absurd, though, because the drugs they take otherwise, that they get from pharmacies, are genuine drugs. In comparison, hemp isn’t a drug at all – it’s a regular plant and a natural substance.”
A Czech Parliament working group headed by the chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, Miroslava Němcová, a strong supporter of legalization, has in recent months been preparing legislation that would allow for the legal use of hemp products for medical purposes.
Czech moves to join the handful of European counties and US states where medical marijuana already permitted have been boosted by input from various branches of the Czech Medical Chamber (ČLK)
However, during a lower house session in March there was disagreement over some points, such as whether such products should be produced by licensed companies here or only imported from other countries.
A reworked bill will go before deputies in a second reading during a Chamber of Deputies meeting due to begin next week. The legislation is expected to get the green light, although it may only acquire its final form during that session.
Slabý believes that legal medical hemp oil (the pill form is another possibility being discussed) will become available on prescription. But he is concerned that it will prove too expensive for the very people who need it most, such as those on disability pensions. Indeed, there have been estimates that a monthly supply could cost as much as 10,000 crowns (roughly equivalent to half an average Czech take-home paycheck).‘There’s a question mark over whether it will be covered by medical insurance.’
“There’s a question mark over whether it will be covered by medical insurance,” says the director. “I know doctors say it should be carried out carefully, with precise dosages measured, and so on. But for some illnesses, like multiple sclerosis, I think patients wouldn’t actually need to go to pharmacies – they could just grow their own in their gardens.”
It should be pointed out that the Czech Republic has relatively liberal drug laws in general, with possession of set amounts of illicit drugs for personal use permitted. The limit for marijuana is 15 grams, which is equivalent to around five plants.
— Ian Willoughby is a Prague-based freelance journalist 

Czech firms could be cleared to grow and process medical marijuana, says a working group preparing to allow the drug on prescription

Government of Canada Grants Funding to Lanaupole Fibres Inc.

Press Release
LAVALTRIE, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - April 17, 2012) - Acting on behalf of the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, Mr. Jacques Gourde, Member of Parliament for Lotbinière-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, today announced that Lanaupôle Fibres Inc. has been granted financial assistance to acquire state-of-the-art technology and carry out leasehold improvements at its experimental plant.
"By supporting Lanaupôle Fibres Inc., the Government of Canada has again demonstrated its firm commitment to promoting economic growth, with a particular focus on innovation," said Mr. Gourde.
Founded in 2007, Lanaupôle Fibres Inc.'s mission is to develop a new technology cluster in Quebec, namely, industrial applications based on fibre plants, including hemp. Its mandate is to provide manufacturing firms with technical and scientific assistance as well as process, technology and product testing services. This project will contribute to increasing the level of innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises through applied research leading to the development and commercialization of bioproducts and new materials incorporating natural fibres such as industrial hemp and flax.
This $1,110,000 in non-repayable funding has been granted under Canada Economic Development's Business and Regional Growth program.
For more on Lanaupôle Fibres Inc., visit (French only)
Keep up with the latest news from Canada Economic Development by visiting or subscribing to @CanEconDev on Twitter.

Support for hemp grows, advocates say


In Kentucky, lobbying effort for legalizing versatile plant rolls on

In this summer, 1952, photo hemp plants growing wild on a lot in downtown Louisville, Ky., are killed with chemical spray. Efforts to restore the crop that decades ago was a major industry in Kentucky appear to be growing despite the defeat of another legalization effort in the state’s 2012  General Assembly. The tall, leafy plant was outlawed because of its similarity to marijuana, but supporters argue it’s nearly impossible to get high by smoking hemp. (AP Photo/Louisville Courier-Journal) NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE, MAGS OUT / AL

In this summer, 1952, photo hemp plants growing wild on a lot in downtown Louisville, Ky., are killed with chemical spray. Efforts to restore the crop that decades ago was a major industry in Kentucky appear to be growing despite the defeat of another legalization effort in the state’s 2012 General Assembly. The tall, leafy plant was outlawed because of its similarity to marijuana, but supporters argue it’s nearly impossible to get high by smoking hemp.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Hemp isn't legal in Kentucky yet, but the eclectic mix of people at a recent seminar in Lexington was evidence that support for the versatile plant may be taking root.

One by one, elected officials stepped forward to promote the virtues of hemp production, staking out a position that once might have sown political trouble back home. They were cheered by liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives alike.
"We've come a long way," said state Sen. Joey Pendleton, who has sponsored a string of unsuccessful bills seeking to reintroduce hemp in the Bluegrass state. "The first year I had this, it was lonely."

Kentucky once was a leading producer of industrial hemp, a tall, leafy plant with a multitude of uses that has been outlawed for decades because of its association with marijuana. Those seeking to legalize the plant argue that the change would create a new crop for farmers, replacing a hemp supply now imported from Canada and other countries.
The plant can be used to make paper, biofuels, clothing, lotions and other products.

Despite bipartisan support, the latest hemp measures failed again this year in the Kentucky General Assembly. But this time, hemp advocates think they have momentum on their side and vow to press on with their campaign to legalize the crop.

Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville, urged his fellow hemp supporters to lobby hard in preparation for another push in 2013.
"I think next year is the year," said Pendleton, whose grandfather raised hemp in western Kentucky.

Hemp bills have been introduced in 11 state legislatures this year, but so far none have passed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The bills include allowing privately funded industrial hemp research, allowing hemp production under strict licensing programs and urging the federal government to allow hemp production for industrial uses.

Hemp's reputation has undergone drastic pendulum swings in the U.S.

During World War II, the U.S. government encouraged farmers to grow hemp for the war effort because other industrial fibers, often imported from overseas, were in short supply. But the crop hasn't been grown in the U.S. since the 1950s as the federal government moved to classify hemp as a controlled substance because it's related to marijuana.
Hemp proponents argue the plant contains little of the mind-altering chemical THC.

Someone would have to "smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole," to get high from hemp, Roger Johnson, a hemp supporter and president of the National Farmers Union, said in a telephone interview.

Johnson has seen strong support for hemp in North Dakota, where he formerly served as state agriculture commissioner.

Two North Dakota farmers received the state's first licenses to grow industrial hemp in 2007, but they never received approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The farmers sued, but a federal appeals court affirmed a lower court decision dismissing the suit.

The federal Controlled Substances Act does not differentiate between marijuana and hemp, said Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman. As a result, "we would not approve applications to grow hemp because it is marijuana," she said.
Because of that, Johnson called for a grassroots push for congressional action to legalize hemp production.

Move over cotton, hello hemp

By Matthew Horne 

Cotton is an energy and fertiliser intensive crop, a shift to other natural fibre alternatives would be 
more sustainable both for agriculture and textile industires. Photograph: Phil Coale/AP

Cotton has high maintenance costs, requires pesticides to thrive, dominates agricultural systems that include it, and leaves soil depleted of nutrients, so why is such a damaging crop seen to be the only natural fibre in the textile market? Despite the negative effects, cotton continues to dominate the natural fibre market, accounting for 78%. Over the past century there has been so much research around the cotton plant that it still remains the first choice in fibre production. However, with the risk of demand outweighing supply, the cracks are beginning to show.
No other natural fibre has ever been seen as an alternative to the 'white gold' that is cotton. It is a trusted source of income and with recent increases in yields, farmers around the world continue to grow the crop.
However, new research and development is raising the awareness of alternatives that offer both sustainable and economic appeal. Among them there is a group of fibres (of particular interest to me) known as bast fibres. This is a term used to describe a number of natural fibres that can be extracted from the stem of certain plants, such as jute, flax, hemp and stinging nettle. Recent advances in technology are starting to allow bast fibres to be processed and used with other natural materials to create new economically viable fabrics.
The textile industry has seen a growing demand for natural fibres.Harrison Spinks, a UK bedmaker, runs a sheep farm and grows hemp to use for mattress fillings. A leading fabric manufacturer, Camira Fabrics, has introduced a new fabric made from hemp fibre and wool to meet the demand in the contract market for sustainable and cheaper products available in the UK.
Examples like these show that businesses are seeking cheaper alternatives as increases in the oil price and rising transport charges start to amplify the economic importance of UK sourcing. Bast fibres such as hemp can be grown in the UK. Companies like Camira and Stork Brothers are working to build and sustain a supply chain of these crops in the UK. Hopefully this will provide the opportunity to educate farmers about the benefits of growing hemp.
Although some cotton is produced according to strict consideration for the environment, the majority of the world's production has become very intensive and requires large amounts of energy, fertiliser, pesticides and water which have detrimental effects on the environment. Hemp can be grown with fewer inputs, without the use of pesticides, on smaller areas of land and can be used to create a durable, sustainable, renewable and flame retardant fabric.
These benefits may not yet shift the mainstream view of the market but as attitudes continue to change, it is clear that businesses will place greater value on products' provenance and production methods. If a product can be a sustainable alternative but still maintain the qualities of cotton, then there is no reason for it to not become a viable resource in the textile industry.
Dr Matthew Horne is a lecturer in agricultural crop production and works a fibre researcher, examining and developing the agricultural production of stinging nettles, hemp and flax in the UK for the production of fibre for the textile industry.

University of Iowa Environmental Coalition promotes industrialized hemp


Local industrial-hemp advocates are pushing to loosen growing regulations of the crop in Iowa because of its economic, environmental, and health benefits.

"If we could grow it [in Iowa City], it gives a lot of opportunity for small-business startups," said UI Environmental Coalition Co-President Chelsea Krist.

The UI Environmental Coalition sponsored a hemp-advocacy event Monday evening to distribute hemp products and show the movie Hempsters for National Earth Week. Hemp is used in clothing, lotions, fuel, and other products, and it can be grown without herbicides and pesticides.

The plant Cannabis varieties produces both industrial hemp and marijuana. The former is high in fiber and low in tetrahydrocannabinal (THC) — the ingredient found in high concentrations in marijuana, according to the National Hemp Industry Association.

Industrial hemp was grown in the United States, including Iowa, during World War II for U.S. Army uniforms. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 classified hemp as a drug, and it requires farmers to obtain a permit for growing industrial hemp. No Iowans have permits.

Local hemp advocate Karen Kubby, the owner of Beadology, 220 E. Washington St., said legislators should allow industrial hemp to be grown in Iowa because of its strength, fiber, and nutritional value.
"It's an incredibly durable product," said Kubby, who sells five different colors of whipped hemp. "It looks great, and it's fun to use with beads. It's a renewable resource and a crop that [could be] easily grown in Iowa."

Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said he's aware of the benefits of hemp clothing and would like to see a fair hearing to legalize the plant.

"I have several hemp shirts, silk shirts, and cotton shirts," said Johnson, the former head of the Senate Agricultural Committee. "In Iowa's hot and humid summer, there is nothing cooler or more comfortable than those hemp shirts."

According to the Vote Hemp website, a bill attempting to loosen hemp regulations in Iowa was presented to the Senate Agricultural Committee in 2003 but never made it out of committee.

Hemp is still considered the same as marijuana by federal laws, said Jeffrey Scott, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Regardless if the THC is low, that does not change the fact that all cannabis plants are illegal and are considered marijuana," he said. "The reality is someone claiming to grow hemp has to deal with the claim to grow marijuana."

The Hemp Industries Association estimates the total retail value of U.S. hemp is about $419 million.
Eric Creach, the store manager at New Pioneer Co-op, 1101 Second St., Coralville, said the store sells hemp products for the health benefits.

"We carry lots of products that have hemp-seed oil in them, hemp milk, and hemp-seed-oil pills mainly because of its omega 3s and 6s," Creach said. Those [fats] are supposed to be really beneficial these days."

Creach said most of the hemp is imported from Canada, and growing it in the United States would be worthwhile.

Krist said hemp has not been a popular topic on campus, but she hopes to change the attitude of the discussion.

"Hemp advocacy is seen as some sort of hippie movement, and that's not what its about," Krist said. "It's not a conversation people are having on campus, but I think there is going to be some changing. I think it'll be growing and maybe we'll see an advocacy group formed."

Metropolitan Police Division’s Misleading Affidavit on Capitol Hemp

By Josh Davis

Recently I read the affidavit that was submitted to the District of Columbia Superior Court by Officer Brett Cuevas, requesting a search warrant for Capitol Hemp, which is co-owned by Adam Eidinger.
Eidinger, who had a warrant out for his arrest, turned himself in recently to Metropolitan Police.
While the specifics of the case (the legality of selling water pipes in the District of Columbia) will have to be argued in court, there was a broader issue here that I would like to address.
In the affidavit Officer Brett Cuevas states, “On the main online web page ‘Capitol Hemp’ is written in a field of marijuana plants.”
This statement is incorrect and goes to the crux of a larger issue that has continued to confuse law enforcement, governing agencies like the DEA, politicians and a majority of Americans.
If you visit the Capitol Hemp website you will see the logo displayed at the top, behind it is a huge field planted with, not marijuana but industrial hemp. The picture was actually taken in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Hemp Industries Association 2007 Conference.*
Under federal law U.S. farmers are prohibited from growing industrial hemp in the United States. Because of this most people don’t know what industrial hemp is and how it is different from marijuana.
In the simplest explanation marijuana and hemp are like a chihuahua and a Great Dane — both dogs, but very different dogs.
Industrial hemp is a commodity crop that is planted like corn or wheat. It has extremely low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol — the active drug in marijuana). It is grown in over 30 industrialized countries including Canada, China, the European Union, India, Romania, Uruguay, and Australia, however it is considered a controlled substance by the DEA because of its relationship to marijuana.
The THC content (the active drug in marijuana) of industrial hemp is roughly less than 1% and typically 0.1% for industrial grade hemp grown in Canada and China from where we import the majority of hemp products. Food products made with hemp have 10ppm (parts per million) or 0.001%. Marijuana plants typically have 15-30% THC.
The joke goes you would have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole to get high from industrial hemp. Not easy to hide in your pocket.
Needless to say the THC content in hemp makes it useless as a drug.
Hemp has been referred to as a wonder crop because the entire plant can be processed and utilized. Not only does it produce a superior fibre that is three times stronger than cotton, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, UV-resistant and quick drying, but it can be converted into thermally insulated construction materials, paper, skin care products, animal bedding, plastics, composites and the seeds are high in Omega -3,6 & 9 and contain a highly digestible protein.
Still, it’s correct that it has been illegal to grow industrial hemp since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which makes no distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana.
As a result, and somewhat ironically, today the United States is the largest importer of hemp products in the world. In 2009 the U.S. imported roughly $350 million dollars worth of hemp products and in 2010 that number approached $430 million and continues to rise.
*Anndrea Herman of Hemp Oil Canada confirms that this field is in Gimili, Manatoba.
In October 2011, Capitol Hemp stores in Washington were raided by the Police.  Co-owner Adam Eidinger stated that the Police ransacked the stores and arrested three people that were found to be carrying trace amounts of marijuana.
Eidinger suspects the raids were politically motivated as they occurred after he made a public appeal to protest against the development of a proposed luxury hotel in his community.
Josh Davis is a professional actor and singer. He is an advocate for industrial hemp farming in the US as well as the senior Editor of, an informational site focused on industrial hemp.
This article was originally published in the Huffington Post,and has all the links to the Affidavit plus other supporting documentation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hemp crops leave swallows on a high

by Isabel Davies

Chris Stoate with hemp crop

A study by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust has suggested that growing the crop hemp could be beneficial for birds such as swallows and whitethroat.

The Trust has been investigating the wildlife benefits of growing hemp compared with oilseed rape and field beans.

The study revealed that all three crops were used by birds as habitats for gathering food during the nesting season, but hemp was also used as a roosting site by swallows before their southward migration at the end of the summer.

Flocks of more than a thousand swallows were seen using the hemp fields on the GWCT's research farm at Loddington, Leicestershire.

Another migratory bird that was associated with hemp was whitethroat - a warbler that breeds on farmland throughout the UK.

Researchers found that some other bird species made more use of oilseed rape and bean crops.
Dr Chris Stoate, head of research at the GWCT research farm, said: "We know that hemp has low requirement for inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides, but we needed to investigate whether there are any effects on wildlife of a crop that is relatively new to modern farming systems.

"Our research found that numbers of insects, including those used as food by birds, were broadly similar in the three different crop types. Weed cover and weed species did not differ greatly between the crops, which was surprising as hemp grows vigorously, shading out competing weeds so that herbicides are not needed."
But growing hemp has other environmental advantages as well, said Dr Stoate.

"The wider environmental benefits for growing this crop are considerable. The findings confirm that hemp benefits some wildlife species, as well as requiring minimum pesticide and fertiliser use during production," he said.

The research was carried out at the GWCT's Allerton Project research farm and was funded by Hemp Technology, a processor of hemp for the construction industry

Young cannabis confirmed: Cannabinoid content discriminates between drug and hemp forms of cannabis seedlings

By Steve Down
The major cannabinoids of cannabis plants have been measured for seedlings and plants at various stages of growth using HPLC, to establish when the plant can be confidently identified as a drug-type plant, as opposed to other chemotypes like hemp

Cannabis or hemp?

Seizures of cannabis plants are on the increase in Europe, thanks partially to the growth in indoor production under controlled conditions. It is now commonplace to read news reports announcing the discovery of cannabis farms in houses in urban areas, so widespread has the practice become.

Mature cannabis plants are easy to recognise but in some countries, where hemp cultivation is legalised, it is more difficult to determine whether seized plants are the drug-type or fibre-type (hemp) cannabis. The flowering portions of mature plants provide one means of discrimination but this may not be possible for younger plants.
In this case, it is more reliable to perform a chemical analysis of the cannabinoids present. These are the characteristic set of compounds which are unique to cannabis plants but which vary sufficiently with the particular chemotype to allow them to be distinguished.

This route has been followed by scientists in Belgium, who have employed the content of particular cannabinoids to determine the chemotype of cannabis plants of all ages, from seedling to mature plants. The authorities often have very young plants to identify in seized batches, so they must be able to carry out typing with confidence. The key question is whether or not the same rules can be applied to young plants as mature plants.

Benjamin De Backer and Corinne Charlier from the University of Liege and Kevin Maebe and Alain Verstraete from Ghent University published their findings in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Cannabinoid content

The main psychoactive component in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and it has a closely related acid, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). The total concentration of these two compounds is relatively high in the drug form, ranging typically from 2-20. A third compound, cannabinol, is formed by the oxidation of THC and is found in relatively high amounts in aged cannabis.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the major non-psychoactive cannabinoid and it is more dominant in the hemp form of cannabis. It is formed by decarboxylation of the related compound cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).

Earlier studies had established that the ratio of THC+THCA to CBD+CBDA is an accurate indicator of chemotype. The drug-type plants had ratios far greater than 1.0 and a CBD+CBDA level less than 0.5% of inflorescence dry weight. Conversely, the hemp plants had a ratio much lower than 1.0. There is also a third chemotype with an intermediate ratio in the range 0.5-2.0%.

De Backer and his team acquired three sets of plants from the Belgian Federal Police that are normally cultivated in Belgium, although they probably originated in the Netherlands. They were grown under controlled conditions mimicking those used by illegal indoor growers in western Europe.

Every week, young shoots and leaves were collected for analysis, along with the flowering sections when they had grown. The samples were dried and extracted for analysis of the cannabinoids by HPLC with diode array detection at 211 and 220 nm for the neutral and acidic compounds, respectively, using a method they developed in 2009. HPLC was preferred to GC methods due to the gentler thermal nature of the analysis.

Distinctive when young

The three sets of plants had comparable cannabinoid content. The THC+THCA content followed the same pattern although the maximum values differed, probably due to the different potencies of the varieties. The values rose gradually during the peak budding stage before maximising five or six weeks after flowering at 19, 16.5 and 22.5% dry weight before falling away with age.

The only cannabinoids found in the seedlings when they were received in the lab were THC and THCA, at a level of 0.2%. Their ages were unknown but the team estimated them to be 1-3 weeks old. One week of cultivation raised the level to 1.62%, confirming that the plants were of the drug variety.

Examining the weekly THC and THCA levels, De Backer declared that the chemotype of drug-type cannabis varieties can be established in seedlings that are as young as three weeks post-germination, corresponding to the third or fourth leaf stage. So, there is no need to wait for the inflorescence stage for identification

For two of the plant sets, the concentrations of CBD and CBDA were below the detection limit and only a small amount of CBDA was measured in the third set at the end of the reproductive stage of growth. The researchers agreed with reported conclusions that no plants grown for their high THC content will have THC+THCA/CBD+CBDA ratios typical of the hemp form of cannabis.

So, although the THC+THCA/CBD+CBDA ratio could not be measured in most cases due to the low CBD+CBDA levels, the absolute amounts of THC+THCA were sufficient for classification.

This simple method will be suitable for establishing the identity of drug-type cannabis in seized plants as young as three weeks old. Conversely, it could also be used to establish the legality of the hemp-type cannabis for growers in countries where hemp cultivation is permitted.

Related links

  • Journal of Forensic Sciences 2012 (Article in Press): "Evolution of the content of THC and other major cannabinoids in drug-type cannabis cuttings and seedlings during growth of plants"

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hemp's future in Chinese fabrics

China's President, Hu Jintao, visits the country's first commercial hemp fibre processing mill

The key is "cottonization" to produce fine, soft textile fibres suitablefor blending with cotton, wool and synthetics

Zhang Jianchun, Director General of China's Hemp Research Centre in Beijing has a dream: to see lush green plantations of Cannabis sativa growing across 1.3 million hectares of the country's farmland. That would be sufficient, Zhang calculates, to produce up to 10 million tonnes of hemp plants a year and, with it, around two million tonnes of hemp fibre.
Expanded production of hemp, he says, offers enormous benefits for China. First, it would provide a major new source of fibre for the textile industry, reduce dependency on cotton and, in the process, free large areas of cotton-growing land for food production. In addition, hemp cultivation would generate extra income for millions of small-scale farmers in some of the country's poorest rural areas.
China currently cultivates industrial hemp over an area of around 20 000 ha. That is just a fraction of the 5.6 million ha dedicated to cotton (China is the world's biggest cotton grower, with a harvest of some 6.6 million tonnes in 2006). Among natural fibres processed for use in Chinese textiles, hemp output ranks far behind that of wool and silk and of other bast sources such as flax, jute, kenaf and ramie.
"Performance properties". The Hemp Research Centre is working to change that - and restore hemp to its once important place in Chinese agriculture and textiles. Zhang points out that China is the birthplace of industrial hemp: archaeological evidence shows that the plant was grown for fibre some 4 000 years ago, and it was not overtaken by cotton in clothing until early last century.
Today, a small quantity of pure hemp fashion fabric is produced in China for high-value niche markets. But, Zhang says, the fibre's future lies in its integration into the production of cotton, wool, cashmere and silk textiles, and blending with synthetic fibres. "The inherent and special performance properties of hemp are very important in the market because they are attractive to consumers," he says. "Compared with cotton, hemp fibre has greater heat resistance and better moisture absorption and dispersion, while its high rate of absorption of toxic gases makes it excellent for use in household textiles."
The key to hemp's future in fabrics is "cottonization": removing the lignin that binds the hemp fibres (and gives stalks their rigidity), but prevents them from being spun and finished on slightly modified cotton or wool processing equipment.
Using specially developed machines and an array of de-gumming technologies, Chinese scientists say they have successfully reduced the lignin content in hemp fibres from 8-10% to as little as 0.2%. Result: "We can now cottonize hemp fibre into quite fine, soft and workable textile fibres for cotton and wool systems and for blending with man-made fibres," says Zhang. "One kilogram of textile fibres can be produced from 2 kgs of hemp bark."

Not only fibres...

China's Hemp Research Centre says most parts of the hemp plant can be used in a variety of applications. The seed is an excellent source of edible oil also suitable for cosmetics and lotions, while the leaves and flowers are used in medicine. The Centre has also made viscose from hemp hurd (above), the fibrous core of the hemp stalk which, because of its short length and low density, is usually treated as waste. Hemp hurd was used in the wood/plastic composite outdoor flooring of the Beijing Olympic Park.
Technologies developed by the centre are now being used in China's first commercial-scale hemp processing mill, in Xishuangbana,Yunnan Province, which has the capacity to process 50 000 tonnes of hemp fibres a year, mainly for use in cotton-hemp blends.
Food security. Zhang says hemp agriculture could play an important role in guaranteeing China's food security, protecting the environment and contributing to farmers' incomes. "Hemp production is best suited to hilly areas and uplands, as well as semi-arid regions and areas with poor soils," he says.
"It can also be grown with little need for pesticides, unlike cotton. If 1.3 million ha of hemp were grown, China could reduce its cotton area by the same amount and use it for growing food crops."
The centre has identified large areas in northern and northwest China and in Yunnan Province suitable for hemp. "In these regions, hemp will not displace food crop production," says Zhang Jianchun. "In some cases, they are not major food growing areas. In others, such as the northern plains, hemp would be ideal as a rotation crop with soybean and wheat, allowing farmers to make better use of their land and generate extra income." For the large-scale soybean farms of northern China, the centre recommends its newly developed "combine harvester + decorticator" for hemp operations.