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Put this idea in your pipe and smoke it

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Illustration by: Rachel Bostick | Staff Illustrator

From rolling papers to notebooks, America needs to transition to hemp.

This country has a complicated relationship with the plant we call marijuana. No matter people’s opinions on whether or not the recreational use of this plant should be legal, everyone should be united on the use of hemp.

Hemp can be used for many products like cloth and paper. In fact, the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, so let’s take heed from the founding fathers and use hemp for all of America’s paper needs.

We are all taught in elementary school that trees are used to make paper and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. These two facts combined make for a detrimental situation. On one hand we need paper—we might be moving to a digital world but paper is not going anywhere. On the other hand we are producing so much carbon dioxide that it is warming our planet. In short, we need more trees.

The problem is trees take a long time to grow to a reasonable size—hemp does not take that long. Hemp plants only take a couple of months to mature compared to the several decades trees take. This would mean a continuous, very renewable supply of material needed to make paper.

Hemp also has more cellulose fiber in it compared to trees. This fiber is the stuff needed to make paper. Trees generally consist of 30 percent usable fiber. The other 70 percent has to be removed using chemicals, which are dangerous to the environment.

Hemp has about 80 percent cellulose fiber, which means fewer chemicals. Hemp is also brighter than tree pulp, meaning far less chlorine bleach is needed.

Using trees for paper would not be as bad if we were farming them, but we are not. Most logging is done in wild areas, and even though we are moving away from clear-cutting forests, we are still involuntarily removing wild trees.

We do not use hemp to make all of our paper because of our nation’s long and complicated laws regarding marijuana. Most people, including lawmakers, do not see a difference between hemp and what Colorado recently legalized.

However, there is a big difference between the two. Hemp is a different breed of the cannabis sativa plant. It has a very low amount of THC, which is the chemical that makes marijuana illegal. This would be akin to including chihuahuas with pit bulls on a list of dangerous breeds because both are dogs.

We are cutting down large amounts of forest and there is not an end in sight. We are expected to need more paper, and no amount of digitalizing will be able to counteract this trend. This why Americans must turn to hemp for all of our paper needs.