Cowbow talk for rope; in verb form to hang (someone). Hemp fever was a morbidly jocular term for a hanging. Hemp party (also string party) meant the same. A hemp committee was a group of vigilantes or a lynch mob (depending on your point of view) and a hemp necktie was the rope they did the deed with.

Cool Western Slang

Hemp has a bad reputation because of the cotton industry. You see, hemp is an extremely useful product, you can make fabric, just like cotton, oils, lotions, the list goes on and on. The cotton industry knew this, and hemp was a very real threat to their businesses. As everyone knows, you cant get stoned on cotton. The cotton industry lobbyists did a lot of work in Washington, D.C. to have laws passed making marijuana illegal. Hell, all they had to do was portray hemp and the most dangerous drug in the world (much worse than the nice drug, alcohol) and Congress would do the rest. As hemp/marijuana/pot was declared illegal, the cotton industry had won its battle. There was no more threat to their business from pot and they have prospered ever since.

Some interesting facts about the good plant:

  • Hemp produces twice as much fiber per acre as cotton, and four times as much as a tree plantation.
  • It can be grown in almost any climate.
  • Hemp fiberboard is much stronger than similar wood products, and it can replace almost every item used in building a house (with the exception of electrical wiring and glass windows).
  • It's one of the world's most nutritious plants, second only to the soybean.
  • Hemp fiber when wet, swells and forms a natural water barrier.
  • Hemp needs no pesticides because it is unpalatable to insects.

info from:

Hemp is probably the world's most-bought bagpipe-related commodity.

It is used to seal the joints of the bagpipes, and comes in three forms: plain, black waxed and beeswaxed.

Plain hemp is the old standby, the cheapest and for some reason is always dyed bright yellow.
Black waxed hemp has only existed in the last couple years. It used to be that you would have to take a scrap of leather, wrap it around a gob of black cobbler's wax and then rub it up and down plain hemp (vigorously) until it was completely coated.
Beeswaxed hemp is also fairly new. The process to create it before the pre-waxed stuff was invented was very similar to that for black waxed hemp.

Both types of waxed hemp have the advantage of being much less slippery than the plain hemp. They also keep moisture out better, so the hemp is less likely to expand and crack your bagpipes.

Cannabis sativa is an annual herb in the family Cannabaceae which grows 3-10 feet tall and has hairy leaves divided into 5 to 7 serrated leaflets; the leaves are often sticky with resin. The plants are distinctly male or female (male and female flowers are produced by separate plants) and they flower from June to October.

Hemp is one of the oldest and one of the most all-round useful economic plants. Its fibers have been used to make high-quality paper, rope, twine, and cloth (the original Levi's jeans were made from hemp); its seeds have been eaten as a high-protein grain, turned into a tofu-like nondairy cheese substitute, and pressed to make oil for paints and varnishes; its leaves and flowers have been eaten or smoked as a medicine or intoxicant.

It was originally native to the Caucasus region of far eastern Europe, northern India, and Persia (Iran) but it is now cultivated in warm-to-temperate regions all over the world. Archaeologists have found 10,000-year-old pot shards imprinted with hemp fibers. The Chinese documented its medicinal values over 4,000 years ago; they used the seeds to treat pain, fever, ulcers, nausea, and many other ills. The Arabs started using the plant at least by the mid-1200s, and they in turn introduced it into Africa in the 1500s and 1600s. Pollen records from lakebed sampling indicate that hemp was grown in England as early as 800 A.D. and in Scotland as early as 1000 A.D. Hemp production in the British Isles waxed and waned as other crops fell in and out of favor, but evidence indicates it was an important crop there throughout the Middle Ages up into the 19th Century. Continental Europe discovered hemp incrementally, and hemp production got a big boost after Marco Polo's return from his journey to the East in 1297; later, Crusaders brought back stories and seeds from the Middle East. It was introduced to South America in 1545 by the Spaniards, and the British started growing hemp in Jamaica and the New England colonies in the early 1800s.

It was legal in the U.S. until the 1920s and 1930s, when several factors led to its criminalization: legitimate concern over addiction, an anti-marijuana crusade begun to justify the existence of the new federal Narcotics Bureau, and racism (Cannabis smoking was a popular theme in African-American and Latino jazz music of the era). As a result, under the Controlled Substances Act, hemp/marijuana was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and was totally banned in the U.S., regardless of its narcotic content. However, before the ban it was widely grown, and and in many places in rural areas of the U.S. hemp grows as a common weed.

Since 1990, varieties of hemp that mostly lack tetrahydrocannabinols (its medicinal/intoxicating compounds) have been legalized in Great Britain, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Canada and Australia legalized hemp production in 1998. Countries such as China, Russia, and Hungary never outlawed hemp production.

Because the U.S. imports so many hemp fiber goods (over 1.5 million pounds of the raw fiber alone in 1999), many agricultural states see hemp production as a lucrative endeavor. The governor of Kentucky established a Hemp and Related Fiber Crops Task Force in 1994. In 1999, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Virginia passed legislation to promote research into hemp as a crop; at the end of that year, the first test plots of industrial hemp in the U.S. were planted in Hawaii.

Aside from its well-known intoxicating properties, the tetrahydrocannabinols (THCs) in hemp have documented medicinal value. Its leaves and sap have been universally used as a painkiller and sedative, and its roots were used by ancient herbalists to make salves for burns and other wounds. In 1965, scientists isolated THC and later discovered that the compound can lower pressure in the eyes of glaucoma patients and has thus far been an excellent drug for glaucoma treatment. They also discovered THC dilates bronchial tubes and can therefore benefit asthma sufferers.

Later, they discovered that THC has antispasmodic properties that could possibly benefit people with epilepsy and people with multiple sclerosis who suffer from tonic spasms. People suffering from chronic pain from joint injuries have also found relief by smoking marijuana.

And finally, THC has proven to give relief to patients undergoing chemotherapy by helping to alleviate the nausea they often suffer (synthetic THC is sold as highly-controlled prescription medication under brand names such as Marinol). Many AIDS and cancer patients have found it stimulates their appetite, thus combatting the wasting associated with their illnesses.

A federal study in 1972 and a study by the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 both recommended that Cannabis use be decriminalized. The latter study found that although immediate use causes mental impairment and heavy, long-term use causes physical problems and possibly an increased risk of lung cancer (the potential carcinogenicity due to smoke inhalation rather than any compound specific to marijuana), they could determine no long-term ill effects for occasional, light users and concluded that on the whole marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.


1995 Physician's Desk Reference ©. Montvale, NJ, Medical Economics Data Production Company.

Dobelis, Inge N., ed. 1989. Magic and Medicine of Plants. Pleasantville, NY, Reader's Digest Books.

Simpson, Beryl Brintnall and Molly Conner-Ogorzaly. 1986. Economic Botany: Plants in Our World. New York, NY, McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.

The merits of hemp as an industrial crop in America are frequently argued on the internet. Advocates tend to paint hemp as a wonder-plant, capable of feeding and clothing the masses for a fraction of the cost and environmental impact of existing technologies. While hemp has its virtues, other plants with similar properties occupy most of the commercial niches it could fill, and the fiber industry in place today has infrastructure that is not cheaply compatible with hemp fiber.

The superiority of hemp fiber in both quantity and quality is often touted. Figures on the length of hemp primary fibers vary, ranging from an average of 8 to 80 inches (20-200cm) in length. Fiber length varies across strains, but figures nearer the shorter end of the spectrum predominate. Individual cellular fibers, which are bundled to form the long primary fiber, vary from 0.19 to 2.16 inches (0.5-5.5cm) in length and from 16 to 50 microns in diameter. For comparison, the similar flax primary fiber ranges from 6 to 40 inches (15-100cm), with cells from 0.43 to 1.49 inches (1-3.75cm) in length and 11 to 20 microns in diameter.

Hemp fiber bundles are longer than those of flax, but flax fiber generally contains less lignin and is therefore more flexible and makes finer fabric. The characteristics of these two fibers overlap and the best hemp can be superior to flax for fine fabric. Although botanically unrelated, flax and hemp have many characteristics in common. Without microscopic or chemical examination, their fibers can only be distinguished by the direction in which they twist upon wetting: hemp will rotate counterclockwise; flax, clockwise. The yield, strength and quality of either fiber are highly dependent on the seed variety, the conditions of growth, time of harvest and manner of retting and other post-harvest handling. Both plants produce very similar oils in their seed, oils with a high percentage of linolenic acid, used until mid-century in paints.

Hemp's primary fibers are produced in the bark, known as the bast, and makes up 25% of the dried stem of the plant. The remaining 75%, the hurd, is composed of short fibers and is unsuitable for paper production. It is however about twice as absorbent as wood shavings and can make good animal bedding.

A 1938 Popular Mechanics article erroneously stated that the woody core of hemp was 77% cellulose. Scientific and technical literature indicates that the cellulose content of hemp's core ranges from 30-40%. The difference is substantial when pulp efficiency is evaluated. This incorrect claim has been repeated and reprinted widely.

In order to be used in existing US papermaking equipment, hemp fiber, which is longer and stronger than tree fiber, must be preprocessed in special fiber shortening machines, which would be a prohibitively expensive retrofit for papermills. However, recent research indicates that non-retting processing of hemp and kenaf can provide fiber that can be processed in current paper making equipment.

Hemp advocates have pushed hemp as the solution to the American fiber shortage, a shortage which does not exist. The wood products industry recognizes that eliminating forests would be a bad business practice, and practices sustainable forestry, ensuring that their wood fiber supply will continue. Indeed, since the 1940's forest growth has exceeded harvest by an average of 33%.

Before hemp was banned in the US, it produced around 900 pounds per acre. High yield plants in Italy have produced up to 1.2 tons of paper quality fiber per acre per year. Pine plantations in the US easily produce two tons per acre per year, and some fast growing hardwoods produce up to 6 tons per acre per year.

While hemp demands much from the soil while growing, it is estimated that more than two-thirds of the nutrients are returned to the soil during dew-retting. However, hemp fields are necessarily laid bare for part of the year, resulting in erosion rates as high as 3.5 tons per year. Pine forests producing more fiber per acre loose between one quarter to one half ton per year (both figures depending on local conditions and cultivation practices).

Hemp advocates suggest that hemp fibers make superior archival quality paper. However, the quality of paper is mostly dependent on the pulping process used in its production. Wood, hemp, kenaf, cotton, flax and many other natural fibers can be used to produce high quality paper, with or without the use of chlorine bleaching agents, which have in recent years come under attach from environmental groups.

Data gathered from numerous non-hemp advocacy sites around the internet. The figures on hemp fiber length varied widely. The fiber per acre and erosion figures came mostly from large pulp producers with vested interests in tree fiber, but also in high profits. Multiple documents provided similar values for the figures.

Hemp, an annual herbaceous plant; it is a native of Western and Central Asia, but long naturalized in other countries. The Indian variety is the source of the narcotic drug variously known as hashish, bhang, or gunjah. The hemp fiber is tough and strong, and peculiarly adapted to weaving into coarse fabrics such as sail-cloth, and for twisting into ropes and cables. Immense quantities are exported from Russia. In some of the United States it is a crop of considerable importance. Hempseed is much used as food for cage-birds, and also yields an oil. Sisal hemp or (henequen) and Manila hemp are not true hemps.

The United States imports $500,000 worth of hemp yearly from Italy and Russia. The best comes from Italy. In favorable soils from 1,700 to 2,000 pounds an acre are produced. Raw hemp grown in Japan is sold in ribbons, thin as paper and glossy as satin, the frayed ends showing fibers of exceeding thinness.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Hemp (?), n. [OE. hemp, AS. henep, haenep; akin to D. hennep, OHG. hanaf, G. hanf, Icel. hampr, Dan. hamp, Sw. hampa, L. cannabis, cannabum, Gr. , ; cf. Russ. conoplia, Skr. aa; all prob. borrowed from some other language at an early time. Cf. Cannabine, Canvas.]

1. Bot.

A plant of the genus Cannabis (C. sativa), the fibrous skin or bark of which is used for making cloth and cordage. The name is also applied to various other plants yielding fiber.


The fiber of the skin or rind of the plant, prepared for spinning. The name has also been extended to various fibers resembling the true hemp.

African hemp, Bowstring hemp. See under African, and Bowstring. -- Bastard hemp, the Asiatic herb Datisca cannabina. -- Canada hemp, a species of dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), the fiber of which was used by the Indians. -- Hemp agrimony, a coarse, composite herb of Europe (Eupatorium cannabinum), much like the American boneset. -- Hemp nettle, a plant of the genus Galeopsis (G. Tetrahit), belonging to the Mint family. -- Indian hemp. See under Indian, a. -- Manila hemp, the fiber of Musa textilis. -- Sisal hemp, the fiber of Agave sisalana, of Mexico and Yucatan. -- Sunn hemp, a fiber obtained from a leguminous plant (Crotalaria juncea). -- Water hemp, an annual American weed (Acnida cannabina), related to the amaranth.


© Webster 1913.

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