What’s in a name

Bo Gemmell

It would be difficult to share a name with an infamous person. I feel for the people stuck with the name Adolf during and after Hitler’s horrific reign. Surely several decent men were named Adolf in the first part of the 20th century and then automatically associated with Hitler.

The famous lovers Romeo and Juliet explored the influence of names as well. “What’s in a name?” Juliet asked. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

There’s a strong connection between the name and use of another plant as well, but this connection is negative. In fact, the most unfortunate case of guilt by nominal association goes to Cannabis sativa.

Cannabis sativa is the scientific name given to the plant that produces marijuana, a relatively harmless, illegal psychoactive drug.

Cannabis sativa also refers to hemp, the same plant but with insignificant levels of THC, the psychoactive compound responsible for intoxication.

According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, more than 25,000 products can be made from hemp. These products include paper, cloth, fuel, construction materials and nutritional products. The NAIHC states that humans have used Cannabis sativa for at least 12,000 years as a source of fiber and food.

Popular Mechanics called hemp a “new billion dollar crop” in 1938. If “billion” sounds big now, imagine how it must have sounded 70 years ago. And, to top it off, the stuff can’t even get you high!

People call Cannabis “weed” for a reason: It grows vigorously and profusely. Like a weed, it can grow virtually anywhere. The NAIHC states that Cannabis is naturally resistant to pests, so it doesn’t require pesticides. Hemp farmers grow the plants close together so it out-competes weeds, thus reducing the need for herbicides.

We clear-cut forests for paper and pollute the land with chemicals for cotton, but the hemp plant could be used much more safely. The NAIHC argues that hemp could displace wood fiber for paper, which would reduce destruction to our forests.

Despite its several uses, the non-intoxicating variant of Cannabis sativa is outlawed in the United States. Industrial hemp shares the same illegal status as its seemingly evil twin.

No matter how harshly and unfairly critics bash marijuana, there is no excuse for the United States to continue suppressing industrial hemp from its citizens.

When Obama took office, Cannabis proponents hoped for change, but their hope changed to despair. Despite his likeable persona, Obama has no concern for industrial hemp. He laughed off the idea of Cannabis law reform in his online town hall meeting last month.

Unfortunately, the best bet for Americans who want to enjoy the benefits of hemp is to continue spending millions per year importing it from Canada and China.

So what’s in a name? If we call industrial hemp by any other name, it would still be as useful as a rose is sweet.

Bo Gemmell is a junior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].