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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... the plant hemp.


CURWOOD: Two hundred and fifteen years ago, when the Virginia State Militia was running low on cash, Governor Thomas Jefferson ordered his officers to pay for military supplies not with currency, but with hemp. For centuries, hemp was a valuable crop used to make cloth, paper, rope, and money. But it was outlawed in 1937 because it can also be a source of marijuana. This year, Vermont is considering allowing people to grow hemp again. A bill has already passed the Vermont House of Representatives. Supporters say hemp yields 4 times more fiber per acre than trees and is relatively environmentally friendly. It's naturally pest resistant, and when used as cloth repels water and doesn't mildew. Hemp paper is easily bleached with peroxide instead of chlorine. Advocates say industrial hemp contains only tiny amounts of the hallucinogen THC, the source of the marijuana high. But law enforcement officials oppose hemp legalization, saying it would create an enforcement nightmare and increase drug abuse. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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