Hemp in Mexico: The importance of semantics

Can you imagine how your life would be if you had the same surname of a famous drug lord? For example, every time you would request an administrative procedure, your parent’s name would come to the fore and things would unnecessarily get complicated. It wouldn’t matter if you are a productive citizen, that you hire employees and pay your taxes. No, both would be judged and lumped together. –But we are different persons!- you’d exclaim. Ah, sorry. Both of you have the same surname: cannabis sativa.

 These days in Mexico, the Congress has been discussing a bill of law that will regulate the recreational use of cannabis. Everything indicated that finally, after so many years, this April 30 it would be approved, but for the fourth consecutive time it was postponed once more. Cannabis is certainly a complicated matter with many angles and conflicts of interest with lots of money involved. It is a theme with a heavy emotional load, both positive and negative, replete with taboos, fake news, misunderstandings and damaging public relations.

It is understandable that lawmakers don’t want to risk dealing with such a brave bull, much less so in electoral times in a country where a large percentage of the population is conservative, and as no other, has suffered for decades the ravages of an international war on drugs.

Unfortunately, in the bills regarding cannabis the lawmakers also included discussions about what to do with the “nice cousin”. I am refering to industrial hemp, a true marvel of nature that does not contain THC, the psychoactive substance for which the other member of the family is famous: marijuana.

It would require an encyclopedia to ennumerate all the benefits that cultivation and industrialization of hemp would bring, also known as cáñamo. The plant is tall, slender and produces the best fiber that exists in nature and from which thousands of different products can be obtained.

For example, from its seeds you can obtain an edible oil rich in omega 3 acids and the residue is a nutritious protein meal for chicken. Furthermore, that oil is a green biofuel that can be transformed into polymers used to manufacture biodegradable plastics that won’t pollute the oceans.

The strong fiber from the four meter long stem can be woven to make very resistant textiles and cordage. In fact, in the past its usefulness to humanity was so important that open ocean seafaring would not have been possible without sails made from hemp fiber.

This article is too short to ennumerate all the benefits the plant provides, which, by the way, is harvested in only three or four months instead of ten years. It would be unncessary to cut down trees because you can manufacture hemp composites that substitute wood. The production of hemp paper does not require the use of sulphuric acid and toxic bleaches to eliminate the lignin in the wood, an enourmous industrial and ecological advantage.

Furthermore, hemp permeates not only industrial areas, but also collaborates in combating climate change, which nowadays is a rallying flag for most of the world’s countries. The plant absorbs enourmous amounts of atmospheric CO2 and improves the quality of agricultural soils because its deep roots break, decontaminate and oxygenate the ground.

With regards to the medicinal and wellness sector, have you heard about CBD? Guess from where it comes. In Mexico we have to smuggle or import it with an injunction order because it is still not permitted to cultivate industrial hemp also known as cáñamo. We are one of the very few countries that still prohibit this activity and it is all due because hemp has an inconvenient and very uncomfortable “cousin.

Finally, there is no doubt that it would be extraordinarily positive for the economy of the whole country that Congress should reconsider and separate from the complicated dicussion regarding the recreational use of marijuana from the industrial use of hemp. It is clear that they are two very different things that should not be treated and lumped together in the same law. This plant that grows in such a priviledged manner in our priviledged country could detonate an agroindustrial revolution of the first order by spawning a whole new industry. Thousands of agricultural, industrial and commercial jobs would be created, especially in poor rural areas while at the same time improving many aspects that today are shaking the country and the world.