Monday, October 10, 2016

Hemp is a Resource Whose Time Has Come (Again)

By Ruth Gottstein
(Permission to post, courtesy of Rick Torgerson, Publisher / The Upcountry News, Oct 2016, Vol 15, No. 10)

“Rags, bottle-sacks…rags, bottle-sacks…”

This was a chant from my childhood in San Francisco in the 1930s, which a man in a horse-drawn cart would call out as he made the rounds of our neighborhood. He was an early day recycler…buying, as the chant indicates…rags, bottles and sacks…the latter two items almost said as one…with a cadence and an upward lilt on “sacks” … I can still hear him in my mind, today.

The burlap sacks were made of hemp. Our house on Shrader Street in the Upper Haight-Ashbury, was heated by coal. The coal was delivered in these burlap sacks, so we always had sacks to recycle. In addition to this, another application of burlap was the woven strapping that was used in fine, upholstered furniture. My father and mother owned a furniture manufacturing factory on 16th and Bryant Streets in the Mission district. In those days, sofas and chairs had a layer of cross-thatched hemp straps that supported the cushions. Funny…you don’t see much of that in today’s furniture construction. My parents and their employees made fine furniture for downtown San Francisco department stores like Gump’s and The City of Paris.

All this comes to mind because we have gotten away from using hemp as a natural resource, one that is biodegradable and has multiple use applications. Before I go any further, it is important to distinguish between hemp and marijuana…an association that many of my readers might be tempted to make. Hemp is not marijuana. One of the biggest misconceptions is believing that industrial hemp is the same thing as marijuana. The two plants are from the same species but are more like first cousins and NOT identical twins.

Our oceans have become vast dumping grounds for HUGE quantities of plastic, in fact, floating islands of this debris are well-documented and are an environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. We need to have a new and fresh look at hemp as an alternative to plastic. The interest today in hemp's usefulness should be praised to the skies--and publicized!
One small example: toilet paper consumption cuts 27,000 trees daily…DAILY!!!(Source:, whereas hemp produces four times the pulp per acre and only takes five months to grow.

The National Hemp Association has long been campaigning in an effort to make hemp fully legal at the Federal level.  Passing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, could provide American farmers with an environmentally sustainable cash crop that farmers can easily add into their rotation and serve as an economic driver for rural communities and businesses.
They claim that legalizing hemp will create thousands of jobs in the United States. If you’d like more information on what is happening legislatively, go to their website:

We need to revisit this wonderful, natural alternative to plastic and other synthetic materials. Let’s get back to nature. The sustaining of our planet’s resources should be paramount.

(My last column on the subject of childhood immunizations drew a couple controversial comments…any of which I welcome…so long as the conversation is advanced. Please feel free to contact me directly at

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