By

Neal Smith

Microfibers. Small pieces of plastic fiber, usually smaller than the head of a straight pin, are being found along coastlines and riverbanks throughout the world, mostly from home washing machines. That means by washing synthetic, petroleum-based polymer clothing, we’re polluting our oceans.

Consider that if the oceans get screwed up, weather patterns will change drastically. An important source of food from the oceans will turn from healthy to poisonous, as some already have. According to a recent study done by University of Dublin researcher Mark Browne, the problem is likely to get worse. “…a large proportion of microplastic fibers found in the marine environment may be derived from sewage as a consequence of washing of clothes. As the human population grows and people use more synthetic textiles, contamination of habitats and animals by microplastic is likely to increase.” You can find this information at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es201811s

It was, in part, the efforts of the DuPont Corporation in the 1930’s that made Hemp defacto illegal with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. DuPont, a chemical and gunpowder producing company, had tied in with the petroleum industry to produce synthetic fibers. Rayon was first, followed by nylon. Meanwhile, with funding and lobbying by DuPont, the Rockefeller family, former Treasury Secretary and big banker Andrew Mellon, William Randolph Hearst and other major business people, Hemp, the plant the world depended on for several millennia, was essentially made illegal.

What would make a whole world suddenly stop using something they had used since before recorded history? A single word, a Sonoran, Mexican slang term for what we called “Sweet Hemp:” Marihuana (sic). The corporatists of the day linked this word with Hemp, as the two varieties of Cannabis are related, but not the same plant. They, particularly Hearst who purloined the word “Marihuana” (sic), started what we now know as “Reefer madness.” They played on America’s racism against, notably, African Americans and Mexicans, saying Marijuana made people lazy, and making Black men lust after White women. They claimed smoking Marijuana would drive you insane and cause you to commit heinous crimes. It wasn’t until hearings started on the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that even the medical community, which favored Hemp as a medicine, realized the ruse.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 became law. It didn’t make Hemp or Marihuana illegal per se, rather imposing a tax on the end products. But the United States Department of Agriculture, who was charged in conjunction with the IRS, was supposed to issue the tax stamps. Very few were given out. Essentially, the Tax Act made Hemp and Marijuana illegal on a federal level. Most states had by then made Marihuana illegal, but rarely enforced their laws.

World War II changed the picture. America needed Hemp for the war effort, and the same USDA that refused to issue tax stamps, now encouraged U.S. farmers to grow 400,000 acres of Hemp. By the end of the war, most of the canvas, belts, packs, bags and even uniforms were being made from Hemp. The synthetic fibers were not quite ready to take on the wear and tear of combat. After the war, Hemp was again demonized and denied.  The Boggs Act of 1951 made Hemp and Marihuana illegal per se.

Meanwhile, the synthetics market boomed. Plastics became commonplace, as did the idea of using something then throwing it in the trash. Most petroleum based plastics, whether used for bottles, or auto parts or TV’s and computers, or in our clothing, don’t biodegrade for thousands of years.

Now we’re seeing micro plastic fibers, those tiny little pieces of hardened petroleum oil, complete with full contingents of chemicals that are harmful to marine life. We eat those animals, then we become contaminated. Have you happened to notice the increase in cancer rates and other diseases, some of which don’t even have names yet, just numbers. Where do you think these diseases come from?

There is technology being developed to filter the fibers out of the water supply, but it’s apparently not on the horizon yet. So, what do we do? Keep on making or buying plastic clothing that will eventually contribute to poisoning the planet further, or go back to a good, natural, non-polluting fiber like Hemp?

There is no doubt we’re running out of usable petroleum. Hydro carbon pollution, sulfur pollution, spills, and other maladies surround our addiction to petroleum. Anything oil can do, Hemp can do better…and cleaner. And think of the economic boon to farmers and processers. We would be creating whole new industries and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs nationwide. Many of the current jobs would be saved as, generally, the only things that would change in production would be the raw material.

Hemp is the best choice for a sustainable future.