What if there were a powerful crop with thousands of uses… required less fertilizer and chemicals than wheat and corn… and could actually improve the quality of the soil?

Such a plant really exists. Hint: It’s been grown for thousands of years, the Founding Fathers praised this plant, and it’s grown freely in Europe and Asia.

What is this almost too-good-to-be-true crop? Industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp is not the same as its plant cousin, marijuana. Industrial hemp has little to no THC (the chemical that provides the high), so it has no use as a recreational drug.

The hemp plant has a multitude of uses, including paper and ultra-durable clothing — which pose a threat to the lumber and heavily subsidized cotton industries. It takes decades from the time a tree is planted until it’s harvested and ready to be converted into paper. Hemp, on the other hand, grows to maturity in only 120 days.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both raised hemp, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper… and many Bibles were printed on hemp.

Unfortunately, industrial hemp was declared illegal during the Great Depression with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Harry Anslinger spearheaded a PR campaign to smear hemp because it posed a threat to the lumber and paper empire of William Randolph Hearst.

The ban on hemp was temporarily lifted during World War II to produce needed materials to assist with the war effort. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture produced a video in 1942 titled “Hemp For Victory.”

Industrial hemp can improve the quality of the soil and detoxify it from heavy metals and radiation. The quality of soil near the Chernobyl nuclear site in Russia showed significant improvement when industrial hemp was planted in 1998.

Here’s an excerpt from a March 2011 article at Examiner.com:

“In 1998, Consolidated Growers and Processors (CGP), PHYTOTECH, and the Ukraine’s Institute of Bast Crops began what may be one of the most important projects in history – the planting of industrial hemp for the removal of contaminants in the soil near Chernobyl.

Phytoremediation can be used to remove radioactive elements from soil and water at former weapons producing facilities.

It can also be used to clean up metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, crude oil, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and toxins leaching from landfills.

Plants break down or degrade organic pollutants and stabilize metal contaminants by acting as filters or traps. PHYTOTECH is conducting field trials to improve the phytoextraction of lead, uranium, cesium-137, and strontium-90 from soils and also from water.

“Hemp is proving to be one of the best phyto-remediative plants we have been able to find,” said Slavik Dushenkov, a research scientist with PHYTOTECH. Test results have been promising and CGP, PHYOTECH and the Bast Institute plan full scale trials in the Chernobyl region in the spring of 1999.”

Currently nine states have legalized the production of industrial hemp and over 15 other states are considering this legislation. It’s grown in over two dozen countries around the world. Which one is the largest grower and exporter of hemp? China.

Here’s the question that should be asked: If hemp is good enough for the Chinese, why isn’t it good enough for Americans?

Part of the reason is the threat it could pose to a number of industries. Industrial hemp requires less fertilizer than traditional crops such as wheat or corn, produces more durable paper than lumber… and sturdier clothing than cotton.

Industrial hemp could be a great “shot in the arm” for a sluggish American economy. Let’s hope that free-market common sense prevails and lets agricultural and economic freedom ring.