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What is hemp?

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See also: About / Contact info / Mailing lists / CD ROM
See also: Hemp in religion, for fibre, food and fuel, as a "drug", as medicine

A hemp shot from the 'High Times' gallery
Cannabis sativa L.
Hemp (jap. asa or taima) is the common English (Japanese) name for the plant that is botanically known as cannabis sativa L. Cannabis is one of the first plants cultivated by man and one of the most versatile. It can supply us with fibre for clothes and paper from its stem, oil for food and fuel from its seeds and medicine from its flowers. It provides us with one of the safest medicinal, recreational and spiritual drugs known to man, arguably less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes or many over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Yet despite these facts cultivation, possession and use of hemp can lead to criminal penalties that are harsher than those for many violent crimes.

Some strains of the cannabis plant contain between 2 and 20% of a substance called THC which has euphoriant and medicinal properties. THC-rich cannabis hemp is also known as Indian hemp and is used in two primary forms: As dried leaves and flowers ("marijuana") or as compressed resin and other plant material ("hashish"). It is either inhaled or eaten. In China and Egypt cannabis has been used as a medicine for at least 5000 years and it is probably one of the most thorougly researched drugs in the world. There has never been even one death from a cannabis overdose or from an allergic reaction to the drug. Drug abuse experts rate it about as addictive as coffee.

A famous hemp farmer 
as he appears on $1 bills: 
George Washington
One hemp grower
Hemp is also one of oldest and one the most important fibre and oilseed plants. Until the Industrial Revolution it provided most of the textiles worn in Europe, America and Japan, as well as most of the paper. Hemp seed oil burnt in lamps before petroleum came in use. The world's finest paintings are painted on hemp linen with hemp oil.

Industrial hemp is legal to grow in 29 countries worldwide (including all G7 nations except the USA) and is explicitly exempt from international drug treaties, under which it need not be subject to stricter regulations than spinach or tomatoes. Growing hemp for horticultural purposes is also exempt. Usually varieties of cannabis grown for fibre and seed are low in THC (< 1% THC) but high in CBD which counteracts the effects of THC, making these plants completely unusable as a recreational drug, even if their THC content was as high as 1%.

We believe that as a valuable renewable resource hemp should be re-introduced into agriculture and industry. We also think that spiritual, medical and recreational use of cannabis should not be punished as a crime. Cannabis drugs for non-medical use should be subject to regulations and taxes similar to those for alcohol and tobacco.

See also: The "Hemp in Japan" Library
See also: Japanese websites about cannabis
See also: International cannabis and drug reform websites
See also: International government publications about cannabis
See also: Websites by private individuals

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