FEATURE HEMP CLOTHES
While delinquent dOpeheads continue to light up, it may come as a surprise to learn that there’s more to cannabis than getting saucer—eyed. Gill Roth and Jonathan Trew report on the remarkable hemp plant and suggest some ways of wearing the weed.
irst off let’s debunk some myths:
cannabis and hemp are the same plant
but it is possible to grow strains of the
cannabis plant that contain little or
none of the active narcotic ingredient
tetrahydrocannabinol. or THC for short. which gets you high. Without the THC you could smoke fields of the weed with no more effect than making you a bit green around the gills.
Since cultivating cannabis plants is illegal under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. hemp growers must apply to the Home Office for a licence to grow the drug-free strain of the crop. The Home Office vets the applicants ~ anyone with previous convictions for cannabis possession or supply is weeded out. which suggests the government still believes one thing could lead to another . . .
growers must use
\ approved \ s e e d s
a strain of the cannabis plant that contains negligible amounts of THC — it‘s useless for illicit purposes. But to prevent unsuspecting hash-heads believing they‘re hallucinating when they go for a drive in the countryside. hemp fields must be situated well away from public roads. It‘s ironic that while the EC is busy encouraging liuropean farmers to grow hemp. with substantial subsidies. the UK government
appears to be suffering from a lingering dose of
the ‘reefer madness‘ paranoia which stunted the American hemp-growing industry in the 30s. Why else would it regulate the production of a
‘0 The List l5-29 June I995
crop with no narcotic value'.’
Hemp growers who manage to overcome the red tape have in their possession an incredibly versatile plant which can be used to make medicines. cosmetics. essential oils. cooking oils. building materials. bioplastics. paper and clothing. Hemp is a hardy plant that requires few pesticides and chemical fertilisers. so it‘s reckoned by green campaigners to have distinct environmental advantages over other renewable resources such as cotton. According to a recent Friends of the liarth paper called ()n! oft/1c ll’nmls. hemp takes few nutrients out of the soil and in paper production uses less energy than
‘Our customers buy the clothes for different reasons. Young people like the naughty aspect but we also cater for middle-aged, middle-class greens who want a more eco-triendly textile.’
that required for wood pulping. '\\'e strongly
believe that we over-use wood pulp in the l‘K
and that we could reduce this consumption by
using more hemp.‘ says l’oli senior research officer Tim Rice.
/ llemcore is a small company that has farmers growing the hemp plant
under contract. This is the third year of
full scale production which the company expects will yield around \\ 8000 tonnes of industrial hemp. At the moment its entire output goes towards paper. textile and horse-bedding production but plans are in the pipeline to use hemp as a wood—substitute building material. Ian Low of llemcore sees many more uses for home-grown hemp in the future but believes some of the eco-advantagcs of using this renewable resource are already being. reaped. "l‘herc are environmental reasons but we can show good financial benefits as well.’ he says. ‘We try and avoid the cannabis link although inevitably everybody makes it. We want to try and promote the good. positive things about the hemp crop.‘
Philip Hudson. a spokesman for the National Farmers lfnion. sees hemp production as ‘a young. burgeoning‘ industry that needs time to grow. ‘lt‘s a chicken and egg situation ~ farmers won‘t grow the crops unless there is a market for them.‘ he says. ‘At the same time farmers are seeing opportunities in growing non food use crops and this is linked to a growing interest among the public in natural fibres.‘ The NH‘ is advising increasing numbers of farmers on how to go about securing the li(' subsidies which are
h e m p growing economically viable.
One company that has picked up on the eco-friendly. non-corporate zeitgeist and provided an outlet for hemp products is Hemp linion. the first UK company in 50 years to manufacture hemp clothing. Levi's blue jeans were originally made from hemp because the material is so durable; though hemp is not as soft as cotton. its three times stronger. Hemp Union imports over two thirds of the raw material from abroad with the remainder grown under licence in the UK.
Despite wide-ranging suspicion of anything that has the whiff of narcotics about it. Hemp l'nion‘s ‘cannabis clothing' hit the shops last summer after a successful London launch. The summer collection is a functional but funky variation on the baggy theme with cut—off trousers and loose shirts aimed at the roller- blading. surf—riding. club-going. urban youth market. Stoned .lackcts. Spliff Shirts and full- length (iear Dresses arejust a few ofthe items in the collection. The perfect dope-head accessory is a pair of hemp bootlaces wrapped like a huge spliff. While promoting their products from an environmental stance llemp l’nion are not above using the allure of the illicit to attract buyers. Our customers buy the clothes for different reasons.‘ says Hemp l3nion marketing director Dick Bye. ‘Young people like the naughty aspect but we also cater for middle- agcd. middle-class greens who want a more eco-
fricndly textile.‘ ()h. and just in case anyone is daft enough to
spend £50 on a llemp l'nion jacket and roll it
into a extra—large si/e reefer. be warned that all
you‘ll get is a bad stomach ache and an
expensive pile of ash. .1
Hemp Union HUI/('M in
()sn'l's‘, 0/4/ 33") 3’03};
Open Your .‘i/lt'nd, 0/4] 553 0957.
H/(lii'gUH'f/r’.‘ Diva. 0/250 873360
l’crI/z: :l/nrnz/unt [ins/(ct, 0/738 639854.
For! ll’il/nnn.‘ J. A" K. Nests, 0/397
703/)5/ Bun/f} Third World Gallery.
0/26/ 8/5046 and can be seen (n the
(WM/It's .S/Imi‘ Sent/(1nd. /7-— 20 June.
.b‘l'.‘(‘(‘. U/(M'grml \ \ 9/»
lllustrations: McLARIiN & M()Fl5.»'\T