Cannabaceae / Hemp
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Lore: First cultivated in China over five hundred years ago Marijuana is illegal to grow or possess in the United States and is at least in some way regulated in many countries. At one time Hemp oil was used in most oil lamps and is considered by many today to be a viable alternative to petroleum products because it is easy to produce and burns cleaner. Fabric produced from Hemp is said to be superior to cotton and paper made from the plant is of higher quality than paper made from trees, requires less land and is made in a cleaner process. Once grown in many places in the U. S. for its fiber which was used to make rope, among many other things it became illegal in the U. S. In 1937 but During World War II American farmers were exempt from military duty if they grew marijuana. Even earlier in 1619 at the Jamestown Colonies farmers were ordered by law to grow hemp and other colonies followed suit. Place names like Hempstead and Hemphill reflect the importance of this plant. Today a great controversy rages among those who would have the plant again legalized for fiber, fuel and medical use and those who fear that its use as a recreational drug would increase. It is estimated today that as many as thirty million Americans smoke Marijuana on a regular basis. Not limited to an underclass subculture, at the time of this writing (2000) both the President and the Vice President of the United States have admitted that they have at least experimented with Marijuana.
By 1937 what had been a common crop in America became a threat to some powerful interests. A machine had been developed to cheaply separate the fiber from the Hemp plant. William Randolph Hearst owned a huge paper making industry and DuPont had just gotten a patent on a sulfuric acid process to make paper from wood pulp. We refer to this plant as Marijuana today because at that time the Hearst newspapers began to call Hemp by its Spanish name both misleading the public into thinking it was a different plant than Hemp and playing on racism against Mexicans. The Marijuana Tax Act passed in 1937 spelled doom for the Hemp industry. Since varieties of the plant can be grown for fiber that have no value as a recreational drug, due to low levels of the active components, its abuse potential was clearly not the reason it was restricted.
The brief summary of the history of this plant I have provided here is does not begin to tell the story of this interesting and controversial plant. A visit to any good library or a simple internet search will yield a wealth of information on this plant. There is little doubt that more has been written about this plant than any other. One could build a fair size library just of books on how to grow the plant. An internet search on the word marijuana yielded recently yielded 23,000,000 links.
Medical Uses: During the latter half of the nineteenth century a marijuana extract was the second most prescribed drug in the United States. The female flowers contain the highest concentration of the active chemicals the leaves less and the seeds none. The flowers can be smoked, eaten or brewed into tea. They can be used directly in the dried form or concentrated into a product know as hashish or the resin can be extracted. (Grieve) Smoking is the preferred method of ingesting as it is the fastest and the safest. When smoked the possibility of overdose is nil and the danger of contracting pathogens that may be on the plant is limited. It is possible to overdose by eating the plant but no deaths have ever been reported.
The active components are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol and cannabidiol. The effects are that of a sedative, analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-emetic and it is well know that it tends to increase appetite and dull short term memory. It is its mood elevating effect that make it popular among recreational users. Medical uses include the treatment of glaucoma, depression and to relieve the nausea associated with cancer treatments. (Foster & Duke) (Volák & Stodola)
While it remains illegal under federal law the state of California allows its use with a prescription.
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves