What might come back along with legalized pot? Only one of the strongest, most versatile plants in the world: hemp.
In his latest, self-described “comedic investigative journalist” Fine (Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution, 2012, etc.) focuses on the enormous potential applications for industrialized hemp. As the author ably explains, the plant is the government-designated name for all strains of cannabis that have negligible amounts of THC, meaning it can’t get you high. However, it can be used as a wildly strong fiber; when the U.S. government passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, suddenly the U.S. Army found itself lacking in decent ropes. It can also create incongruous benefits, like creating nutritious products based on its oil, and can even be used as a potential energy source. To prove his point, Fine chronicles his trips across North America, visiting and profiling entrepreneurs, advocates, farmers and innovators. In Denver, he took a test drive in a hemp oil–powered Mercedes-Benz; in Winnipeg, Canada, he visited a factory where enthusiasts are crafting composite materials from hemp that could potentially be used in automobiles, airplanes or industrial tools like tractors. The author also makes the point that the United States is the largest market for Canada’s thriving hemp industry, which is regulated smoothly and profitably by its government. Fine is, of course, an accidental activist, too, but it’s hard not to admire his enthusiasm. Warned by an economist not to expect a booming hemp culture from the start, he was unfazed. “Still, I sometimes think these Europeans willingly fail to figure American exuberance into their economic formulae,” he writes. “That’s our real fuel. That, hemp oil and love are pretty much all I run on.”
A short, sweet, logical and funny argument for the potential of one of the world’s most dynamic cash crops.