Cannabis sativa L.
Hemp is the common name of the durable fiber that is cultivated from plants of the Cannabis genus, long cultivated for industrial use. Industrial hemp has been raised and harvested for use in industrial purposes including the manufacturing of paper, textiles, plastics which are biodegradable, construction, health food, and fuel, experiencing some commercial success.
In the past three years, commercial success of hemp products in food has grown considerably. Industrial Hemp, which is different than marijuana, is a cultivated plant in India and other countries. It is illegal to possess hemp in most western countries due to the similarity in appearance to Cannabis sativa. The similar appearance of the two plants is uncanny.
Hemp is one of the fastest growing sources of dry matter known, producing up to 10 tons of dry matter per acre per year, and one of the earliest domesticated plants known.
As a commercial crop, hemp is environmentally friendly as its cultivation requires few pesticides. A commercial hemp grows wild throughout the US and is similar in appearance to the cannabis plant, the source of the drug known as pot or grass.
Hemp has also been discussed as a possible input for the growing Ethanol industry.
Hemp looks much like marijuana and grows as a weed in road ditches and agricultural fields throughout the the Central United States. Hence the local nickname of "ditch weed." It is commonly and mistakenly smoked by the young and un-enlightened who spot the hemp plant growing wild. The primary side effect of smoking this mistakenly called, "evil, dangerous and illegal scourge" is typically a bad headache, a horrible taste in ones mouth and a plugged nose.
The hemp plant is commonly said to be the same as marijuana. Because of this mistaken and misguided belief, hemp has significant political and economical importance. It is of economic importance because of a few billion dollars of US tax money wasted by the Federal Government through the DEA or other agencies in the misdirected "War On Drugs." It has political importance in an election year because a politician need only raise their voice against it to pick up a predictable portion of votes from the misinformed conservative segment of the US population.
There have been more than a few innocent teenagers or misdirected city folks arrested after perpetrating a clandestine raid on a farmers weed patch.
Marijuana is safely smoked in a fashion similar to opium in Eastern countries, but is smoked illegally in the West. It is proven to ease muscle spasms caused by MS and other neurological disorders. The fresh root of cannabis, and possibly that of hemp is also considered good for burns if mixed with a little oil and butter. Some believed that, if boiled in milk, it could help cure a hot or dry cough. An emulsion made from the hemp seed was considered good for jaundice.
Hemp or marijuana is not to be confused with water hemp or bastard hemp, also known as Agrimony. Agrimony was believed to strengthen the liver. It is still considered a valuable herb for treating fevers, urinary tract problems and renal and respiratory diseases because it contains natural antiseptics. It is taken as an infusion.