THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 12th August 2012

I’ve written before about the uses of hemp fibre from Cannabis sativa, marijuana, and the problems that arise because of the paranoia inherent in current drug policy. I’m returning to the topic because I watched a segment from an Al Jazeera programme about Hempcrete, a building material made by mixing hemp fibre with lime and water.

The programme was very upbeat and made no mention of the problems with growing cannabis for its fibre that I wrote about in that earlier piece.

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

I really think that there will come a time when the merits of hemp for a variety of uses can be fully exploited without concerns about its psychoactive components. And you don’t have to look too far back in history to find a different attitude to the plant. I’m not for a moment claiming that this blog is historic but I did write about the use of hemp for clothing in April.

And, as well as the use of hemp to make canvas for painting that I wrote about in June, canvas was, of course, the material used to make the sails of the great sailing ships that drove the development of the world. Those same ships also used hemp ropes and that use produces another one of those ridiculous anecdotes about drugs that do so much to harm sensible policy towards the plants that produce psychoactive substances along with other products.

There are still people who will say that sailors on vessels with hemp ropes would chew the ropes in order to get high. This is one of those stories where a partial truth becomes a complete nonsense. Hemp ropes on sailing ships had one disadvantage; they were prone to fraying at the end. To prevent this, the ends of the ropes were dipped in tar. This tar was capable of being used as a form of chewing gum so sailors would chew off a piece of tar from the end of a rope.

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

There is another story about a use of hemp that is unverifiable but widely believed. This relates to the use of hemp fibre for paper-making.

Paper made from hemp fibre is of very high quality and especially durable. Magna Carta, in 1215, was written on hemp paper as was the American Constitution. The limitation on using hemp industrially was mostly a result of the very labour-intensive process for separating the fibre from the rest of the plant. But, in 1917, George Schlichten patented a machine for this operation that dramatically reduced costs and increased yields.

The story many people believe is that this opened the door to hemp becoming a successful competitor to timber-based paper even for uses like newspapers. William Randolph Hearst owned his own timber plantations producing the paper used for his newspapers and it is said that he used his newspapers to spread false propaganda about cannabis as well as using his influence (and ? his money) to get Henry J Anslinger, the first head of The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to take strong action against marijuana. It is suggested that Anslinger was not, initially, that concerned about cannabis but he had an epiphany, perhaps, brought on by the public lies being told by Hearst or, perhaps, as a result of corruption.

Whatever the truth, the campaign against cannabis in any form led to its cultivation being outlawed throughout the USA and, though the law was amended during World War II when the Philippines were occupied by Japan and could not meet the USA’s needs for hemp, it was re-instated after the war and remains in force today.

So, if Hempcrete is truly the environmentally friendly building material of the future that its supporters suggest, the USA will have to miss out on those economic benefits or start applying some sense in its policy.

Mind you, the UK is not entirely sensible in the way it treats psychoactive plants. Growing Papaver somniferum, opium poppy, in the UK is not illegal. That is partly a recognition that the plant is too widespread to be capable of elimination but also a recognition that the varieties that grow naturally in this country produce only low levels of opium creating only a small chance of diversion to illicit uses.

The same is true for Cannabis sativa, but the regime applied to growing the low THC versions used for fibre production does not recognise this.

Doing some fact-checking for the above, I came across Hemphasis  a website offering a lot of information about hemp today and in the past. Well worth a visit.

Submit a Comment

You can send comments via the contact page but please be sure to say what blog entry you are commenting on.

Follow @thepoisongarden on Twitter

Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016 Saturday 20th August 2016 Sunday 6th March 2016 Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015 Friday 27th November 2015 Monday 17th August 2015 Wednesday 15th July 2015 Friday 26th June 2015 Thursday 25th June 2015 Thursday 30th April 2015 Wednesday 29th April 2015 Wednesday 11th March 2015 Tuesday 3rd March 2015 Saturday 28th February 2015 Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014


Monday 24th November 2014 Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014 Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014 Saturday 16th August 2014 Tuesday 5th August 2014 Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014 Wednesday 23rd July 2014 Sunday 13th July 2014 Sunday 6th July 2014 Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014 Tuesday 24th June 2014 Sunday 22nd June 2014 Monday 9th June 2014 Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014 Sunday 18th May 2014 Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014 Saturday 5th April 2014 Thursday 3rd April 2014 Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014 Tuesday 25th March 2014 Friday 21st March 2014 Monday 17th March 2014 Sunday 16th March 2014 Tuesday 11th March 2014 Thursday 6th March 2014 Wednesday 5th March 2014 Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014 Monday 24th February 2014 Wednesday 19th February 2014 Monday 17th February 2014 Thursday 13th February 2014 Monday 4th February 2014 Monday 3rd February 2014 Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014 Thursday 23rd January 2014 Friday 17th January 2014 Wednesday 15th January 2014 Monday 13th January 2014 Thursday 9th January 2014 Tuesday 7th January 2014 Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013 Friday 20th December 2013 Tuesday 17th December 2013 Friday 14th December 2013 Thursday 12th December 2013 Sunday 8th December 2013 Wednesday 4th December 2013 Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013 Wednesday 27th November 2013 Tuesday 26th November 2013 Friday 22nd November 2013 Monday 18th November 2013 Friday 15th November 2013 Thursday 14th November 2013 Sunday 10th November 2013 Thursday 7th November 2013 Wednesday 6th November 2013 Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013 Sunday 27th October 2013 Wednesday 23rd October 2013 Monday 21st October 2013 Friday 18th October 2013 Friday 11th October 2013 Wednesday 9th October 2013 Tuesday 8th October 2013 Monday 7th October 2013 Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013 Saturday 28th September 2013 Friday 27th September 2013 Monday 23rd September 2013 Sunday 15th September 2013 Monday 9th September 2013 Sunday 8th September 2013 Tuesday 3rd September 2013 Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013 Sunday 25th August 2013 Monday 19th August 2013 Friday 16th August 2013 Tuesday 13th August 2013 Friday 9th August 2013 Friday 2nd August 2013 Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013 Sunday 21st July 2013 Wednesday 17th July 2013 Monday 15th July 2013 Saturday 13th July 2013 Friday 12th July 2013 Thursday 11th July 2013 Wednesday 10th July 2013 Tuesday 9th July 2013 Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013 Tuesday 25th June 2013 Friday 21st June 2013 Thursday 20th June 2013 Wednesday 19th June 2013 Saturday 15th June 2013 Sunday 9th June 2013 Saturday 8th June 2013 Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 blog June 2012 blog May 2012 blog April 2012 blog March 2012 blog February 2012 blog January 2012 blog December 2011 blog November 2011 blog October 2011 blog September 2011 blog August 2011 blog July 2011 blog June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.