How Cannabis can Save the World

How Cannabis can Save the World

Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 139  (April 2019)

“I don’t know if Hemp will save the world but it’s the only thing that can”
Jack Herer

I’ve been consuming cannabis now for a little over half my life and, like many a green-faced naive teenager before me, I had heard and regurgitated all of the wonderful and amazing things people had said about weed without really ever trying to separate fact from fiction.

Believing the things I liked to be gospel and quietly hoping the others that I didn’t weren’t true. But as I’ve grown and matured, so too has my thinking and my passion to discover the truth of the matter. So how many of those timeless rumors and weedy whispers of my youth have turned out to be true? Could it be that as the emperor of hemp, Jack Herer once put it “Hemp will be the future of all mankind, or there won’t be a future” I mean, could Cannabis actually save the world or is this just another pipe dream? Well, the older I’ve got and the more educated on the subject I continue to become, the more Jack’s words ring true to me.

I look around the world today and see endless problems and only one solution. The total unrestricted and ubiquitous re-legalization of cannabis as an industrial resource. The case has never been clearer and the need for change has never been dire.

It now seems like every month a new report comes out warning of the disastrous consequences of on-going climate change. In October 2018, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on climate change (IPCC) released its latest report. It stressed the urgent need for immediate action to reduce atmospheric carbon and attempt to prevent future catastrophic global events such as rising sea level, droughts, heatwaves, and floods. It calls for countries to engage in mass reforestation, the ubiquitous implication of electric transportation systems, and the improvement of carbon capture technology.

The IPCC reports that there needs to be a 45% reduction in atmospheric carbon by 2030. However, with current technology imitations and a lack of political will, it’s unlikely that this target will be met, to the detriment of all life on Earth.

Technological carbon capture is currently rather limited and only really being used by industry producers attempting to prevent the waste generated by the production of energy from polluting our airways. Utilizing cannabis means that any currently disused land could be covered in one of the fastest-growing natural forms of carbon capture. When Cannabis is grown it sequesters 125kg of carbon per ton from the atmosphere. That material could then be used to make any one of the tens of thousands of potential applications that this most versatile of plants has as an industrial and commercial resource.

The United States recently passed the Agricultural Improvement Act, also known as The Farm Bill 2018. It has a provision effectively legalizing the cultivation of Hemp for farmers in all 50 states. The bill doesn’t change the legal status of Cannabis Sativa or any of its derivable material, compounds, or chemicals. They’ll remain schedule 1. It does however remove the arguably arbitrarily distinct subspecies of Hemp from the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) Effectively legalizing it. Hemp is classified in the US as Cannabis strains with a THC content of less than 0.3%.

This means that hemp is now legal to cultivate with a license from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) across the entire country. This also seems to allow for not just the fibrous material and the seeds to be utilized in production, but also deliverable extracts and concentrates.  This potentially means that as CBD derived from hemp isn’t scheduled in the US, that CBD products derived from hemp may in fact now be legal in all 50 states. Time will tell as the minutiae of the bill is hashed out over the coming months.

Advancements in cannabis-based technologies and the rediscovery of ancient techniques bring us tantalizingly close to being able to grow our way out of the countless economic and environmental consequences caused by cannibalistic capitalism and the criminalizing of one of the most important and invaluable renewable resources in the first place.

So, what can the US do with all that hemp that farmers from Alabama to Montana are going to be cultivating by the ton? Well, Cannabis as you may know is our oldest companion species. We’ve been using and finding new ways of utilizing it tens of thousands of years. Since that time, we’ve discovered some rather amazing properties and applications for this plant. From textiles to energy storage, food to fuel, an intoxicant to a holistic healing herb, cannabis has tens of thousands of uses.

Cannabis paper for example can be recycled twice as many times as standard pulp paper. The pulp and paper industry is now the third-largest producer of pollution adding over 220 million pounds of environmentally destructive by-product to our air and water annually. The carcinogenic industrial pollutants Dioxins are often used to chlorinate white pulp/paper and are now so prevalent that it shows up in breastfeeding mothers now show traces of these chemicals in their breastmilk.

Similar to how micro-plastics have now become so ubiquitous that the average human has several different types of plastic present in their body at any given time. This is a direct consequence of allowing a corrupt cabal of elite industrialists and corrupt governments to criminalize cannabis. Instead favoring the newly discovered and subsequently highly polluting and carcinogen petroleum-based plastics over biodegradable plant-based ones.

There is estimated to be 15 trillion tons of floating partials of micro-plastic in the ocean alone. There is so much plastic food waste packaging that it is now legal in Europe to have 0.15% of recycled plastic in agricultural animal feed. No wonder we’re seeing on average 8 different types of plastic now show up in human feces.

Those Petroleum-based plastics also contain the potentially carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) which can mimic the sex hormone estrogen. These chemicals have been shown to alter the endogenous levels of growth and stress hormones in plants. However, we’re still awaiting conclusive evidence to show the extent of the damage it causes in humans.

Climate change is melting the vast majority of the world’s freshwater supply – which is stored on the poles. As it melts into the ocean it becomes salinated making it undrinkable and contaminating it with pollution, micro-plastics, and other industrial chemicals that have been pumped into our sea for decades.

Graphene nanotubes derived from cannabis could potentially be utilized in off-shore desalination plants to combat this problem. The process of transferring the saltwater to be processed into drinkable water through a network of cannabis graphene nanotubes generates electricity which could be utilized to power the plant via cannabis supercapacitors. Using cannabis-based carbon nanosheets to help filter out pollutants and micro-plastics all while generating clean drinking water and renewable energy. 

Cannabis Graphene super-capacitors not only make a viable alternative to traditional cell batteries. They’ve also been shown to out-do carbon-based graphene in energy storage tests. Further helping to reduce the need for environmentally destructive and polluting mining practices to secure traditional material to make batteries. Speaking of energy, like many other crops cannabis can be turned into a biofuel. Cannabis ethanol is roughly 5 times cheaper to produce than petrol and far less polluting.

Agricultural crop ethanol biofuels are a closed-loop carbon cycle, unlike the system we currently engage in which burns fossilized carbon from tens of millions of years ago. Greatly increasing the current carbon levels in our atmosphere. Biofuels produce far less pollution when burned and require minimal modification to existing engine technology to allow them to run much more efficiently only cannabis ethanol.

Synthetic textiles like Nylon and Polyester are derived from coal and petroleum too and cause a great deal of environmental destruction. This could also be replaced by cannabis. Which is one of the strongest and longest-lasting fabrics available. It’s carbon negative, naturally resistant to pests, mold, and UV light. Cannabis textiles could replace all cotton which currently uses 25% of all pesticides used annually. Hemp not only doesn’t need pesticides it also produces on average 250% more fiber than cotton too.

When it’s made into a building material called Hempcrete – which is shredded cannabis fiber from the sticks and stalks mixed with powdered limestone and water – it is flame retardant, mold, pest, and water-resistant and sequesters carbon for 50 years as it fully sets. Hempcrete homes are a durable, sustainable, economical, and environmentally friendly way of tackling the epidemic of homelessness.

Cannabis also desalinates, detoxifies, and removes heavy metals, chemicals, and even irradiated material from the soil it’s grown in by a process called Phyto-remediation. Its roots dig down deep into the earth helping to prevent topsoil erosion and desertification of our fragile arable lands. These complex networks of roots help to prevent flooding by simply absorbing excess water. The roots also promote healthy mycelium networks further helping to protect bee populations that are attracted to the prominent source of pollen. Planting cannabis between agricultural crop cycles helps to return vital nutrients naturally to the soil too.

Cannabis could also help prevent a zombie apocalypse…albeit it a synthetic one. Ubiquitously re-legalizing cannabis would allow safe, consistent access to clean, quality natural cannabis products negating the black markets’ desire for synthetic cannabinoids in an attempt to negate prohibition. It would also go a long way to stopping pharmaceutical companies creating increasingly dangerous analogs of cannabis components in a vain attempt to patent and profiteer from nature.

The world can arguably be as small as the life of an individual. Prolonging the life of an otherwise terminal parent is to save the entire world in the eyes of a child. Over the past several decades there has been a plethora of studies – over 20,000 of them and evermore academic research that proves the validity, safety and efficacy of Cannabis as a treatment and prophylactic for many common illnesses, conditions and diseases.

Cannabis causes meta-cognition and introspection in those that consume it. This could, in my opinion only lead to better governance of nations if its politicians were cannabis consumers. Imagine, for example, if the politicians that frequent the halls of the British Houses of Parliament –  with its 12 subsidized bars and restaurants – had the same opportunity to consume cannabis as they did to imbibe in alcohol before making important political decisions.

Ultimately, in my opinion, I do not think that we should be looking to the same people that got us into this mess to be the ones to fix it. Neoliberalism has poisoned our air, polluted our oceans, and prohibited our future. They’re not interested in saving the world, only in perpetuating the practice of profiteering and plundering the planet while the population starves and chokes on the by-products of their greed.

So yes, I do believe that cannabis can save the world but without the guiding hand of the people who have an intimate knowledge of this plant it’ll simply end up as just another heartless, soulless commodity for the corporate pirates to pillage and cash-in on. These companies will devour each other on the stock market in a fiscal feeding frenzy until there remains only a handful of people controlling the whole thing. While the culture and communities they’ve exploited to enrich themselves remain demonized, divided, and impoverished.

So, although the days of flower haired, tie-dyed hippies in sun-soaked fields proclaiming that cannabis will cure all human ailments, bring about world peace and save the entire world are over, their ideas and those same concepts nevertheless still remain.

The embers have been kept warm in the hearts and minds of those who’ve quietly spent decades infiltrating all facets of culture, industry, media, and government to proliferate their anti-prohibition beliefs. Their offspring have been raised on the ideals of inclusivity, cooperation, and camaraderie and are cultivating themselves into the vanguard of tomorrow. With unprecedented access to innumerate scientific studies, academic research, and the all-pervasive internet each generation has discovered a little more of the picture and brought us closer to the same realization that Jack had when he sat down to write The Emperor Wears No Clothes– that Cannabis is the only thing that can save the world.

By Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

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