Stephen Gaskin (born February 16, 1935) is a counterculture hippie icon
best known for his presence in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco
in the 1960s and for co-founding "The Farm", a famous spiritual intentional
community in Summertown, Tennessee.
He was a Green Party presidential primary candidate in 2000 on a platform which included campaign finance reform, universal health care, and decriminalization of marijuana.
He is the author of over a dozen books, a father, a grandfather, a teacher, a musician (drummer), a semantic rapper, a public speaker, a political activist, a philanthropic organizer, and a self-proclaimed professional hippie.
In 1970, Gaskin was part of a caravan of 60 vehicles that crossed the United States to settle 96 kilometers southwest of Nashville, Tennessee, forming a community called "The Farm".
This community was "a platform from which to launch efforts to improve the lot of poor and indigenous peoples, whales, and old growth trees."
Gaskin was recipient of the first Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) in 1980 and an inductee into the Counterculture Hall of Fame in 2004.
Gaskin works as an international activist and speaker, and he continues to write. His topics range from advice on all aspects of communal life and farming to CB radio, the counter-culture, spirituality, drug law reform, and social and spiritual issues.
Under our drug laws, even the growing of cannabis hemp -- the nonspyschoactive variety of the plant--is outlawed in order to enforce the marijuana laws.
Hemp has many economic uses. It contains the longest fiber in the plant kingdom and is one of the strongest and most durable. It can be used for commercial and industrial applications, including insulation, textiles, clothing, and rope. The fiber and pulp can be used to manufacture nondeteriorating paper using a relatively pollution-free process.
The plant can also be used for biomass applications. Its seeds yield oil similar to linseed, which can be used in many commercial and industrial applications. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the seeds have been used for human consumption.
"Hemp. It's marijuana's nonspyschoactive sister," writes Ed Rosenthal. "You couldn't get a buzz if you smoked a bale of hemp, but it's still illegal to grow it in the United States."
Industrial hemp is legally grown in over thirty countries. For thousands of years, people grew hemp and prospered. It flourishes without pesticides.
Thomas Jefferson considered hemp so vital to America that he risked his life to smuggle hemp seeds out of France. George Washington grew hemp and instructed his caretaker at Mount Vernon: "Make the most of the hemp seed. Sow it everywhere."
Industrial hemp was first grown in Kentucky 250 years ago. It is currently grown in other countries across the globe, including France, England, Canada, Australia, China, Hungary and the Ukraine. Industrial hemp has virtually no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It cannot be used as a drug. None of the countries that allow industrial hemp production have experienced any drug problems relating to the crop.
Using modern processing techniques, hemp can be used in place of petrochemicals. Instead of synthetic plastics made from oil, we can use natural fiber and processed bioplastic derivatives. Plastics and polyester rely on foreign oil, while cotton consumes enormous amounts of water, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides.
Industrial hemp is very clean, easy to grow and is one of the most environmentally sound sources of industrial fiber in the world. Environmentally friendly detergents, plastics, paints, varnishes, cosmetics, and textiles are already being made from it in Europe. Industrial hemp can meet our fiber needs while also revitalizing our struggling rural economies.
Hemp is already being used in place of trees for pressboard, particleboard, and core concrete construction molds. Paper made from hemp is acid-free, stronger and lasts far longer than paper made from trees. Hemp fabrics are far stronger and more resistant to mold than any other natural fiber. Builders in France and Germany use hemp for construction material, replacing drywall and plywood.
Hemp can be used to manufacture plastic plumbing pipe, replacing such toxic materials as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Hemp fiber is already being used in place of glass fiber in surfboards and snowboards. Hemp could also provide the resin itself.
Hemp requires no herbicides or pesticides and needs much less water than cotton. It is an extremely vigorous annual and high yielder, producing up to five tons of usable material per acre. Hemp seed oil is a nonpolluting drying oil that can be used for paints and varnishes. Some of the world's greatest oil paintings were made with hemp-based paints. Hemp oil is valuable as a lubricant.
New research shows that hemp oil is also a premier oil for human consumption as a source of essential fatty acids missing in most other oils. While activists and patients battle with the government over medical marijuana, an even bigger health issue may be at stake. Scientists have discovered that hemp oil, the nonpsychoactive oil from marijuana seeds, may hold the key to fighting many common diseases. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-trained doctor, regularly prescribes hemp oil for his patients. Here's the reason:
"It has a remarkable fatty acid profile, being high in the desirable omega-3s and also delivering some GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) that is absent from the fats we normally eat. Nutritionally oriented doctors believe all of these compounds to be beneficial to health. Hemp oil contains 57 percent linoleic (LA) and 19 percent linolenic (LNA) acids, in the three-to-one ratio that matches our nutritional needs. These are the essential fatty acids (EFAs)--so called because the body cannot make them and must get them from external sources."
Weil reports his patients show marked improvement after using hemp oil, noting that their general health and energy improve, as does their appearance.
For ideological reasons, the federal government refuses to allow farmers to grow hemp despite the fact that industrial hemp is currently grown legally worldwide.
The George W. Bush administration took anti-hemp policy to a new extreme, attempting unsuccessfully to ban the import of hemp foods and cosmetics.
Erwin "Bud" Sholts, director of the Wisconsin Agriculture Department's marketing division, said hemp "is the most value-added, prolific fiber crop man can grow." Sholts acknowledged that hemp is an emotional issue, but points out that "other nations with drug laws as tough or tougher than ours have overcome this hurdle."
The U.S. is the only major industrialized nation that prohibits the growing of industrial hemp; anti-drug hysteria should not blind the public to the commercial and industrial applications of hemp.
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