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COP26: Could hemp help tackle climate change?

As world leaders gather to discuss climate change, we ask if hemp could be part of the green solution

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Climate change: Cop26

As the world watches the events of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021, in Glasgow, we examine if hemp could play a part in the reduction of carbon emissions.

Earlier this year, the IPCC report on climate change revealed the shocking state of the environment with a code red warning.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report didn’t hold back on the damage done to the planet by greenhouse gasses. The assessment found that the 1.5C warming target will be breached without ‘immediate, rapid and large scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The landmark United Nations review predicts the earth will see more heatwaves, flooding and drought over the next twenty years as we move towards the target. It states the rate of warming over the last 2000 years has been ‘unprecedented’ and it is ‘unequivocal’ that human influence has played a part in making the world hotter.

So what can we do? While there are smaller changes we can make, it comes down to potentially changing our industries. We examine how hemp could play a part in contributing to reducing our emissions and environmental damage.

Climate change: hemp can lock in carbon

Climate change and….. bioaccumulation

Hemp has the potential to absorb carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change. The greenhouse effect is caused by gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide trapping heat. Humans contribute to these gases by burning fossil fuels like coal. This creates more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which will in turn trap more heat causing the earth to heat up.

A hemp field could absorb up to 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare and it converts quickly. It absorbs more carbon dioxide than any other crop or commercial forestry. Hemp consumes four times more CO2 than trees but grows much faster in just 12 to 14 weeks.

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Climate change and food: a bowl of hemp seeds on a wooden board next to a small bottle of yellow oil.

Climate change and….human and animal foods

The food industry can put huge strains on the environment. Soy in particular has caused widespread damage to areas like the Amazon rainforest. It’s not just the growing popularity of soy milk but soybeans are grown in large quantities to feed cattle for meat and dairy production. Large areas of the Amazon forest have been cleared to plant more soybeans.

Hemp can provide an alternative feed for animals after the waste material such as the hemp seed meal which is left after oil is extracted. It can also be made into silage. Hemp leaves can make excellent absorbent bedding for animals. Hemp seeds are commonly used as birdseed mixes.

But it’s not just the animals that can benefit from eating hemp. It’s a great source of nutrients and vegan-friendly protein with essential amino acids. It is made into flour, milk, oil, cooking pastes, seeds and protein powders for human consumption.

Climate change: A selection of hemp alternative items on a beige background. There is a knife and fork on the plate along with cups, balls of string, cannabis leaves and a comb

Climate change and…… plastic production

Plastic pollution is a huge problem, especially in our oceans. As it is not biodegradable, the small parts, bottles or Microparticles sit in our seas growing in size to the point where we could have more plastic than fish if we continue. A report from 2016 estimated the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish.

Not only that but the smaller particles can be eaten by fish or animals which then ends up on our plates. Unhealthy chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or bisphenol-A have also been linked to hormone disruption and cancer. Even in landfills, over time the hazardous waste can leak into the soil causing further damage.

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Hemp can be made into a variety of different objects as a plastic alternative that is biodegradable. Once the fibres have been removed from hemp stems then what remains is 77 percent cellulose. It’s a light source that could replace dangerous petrochemical plastics. Hemp plants can also lock in carbon helping to clean air and soil. This is why hemp plants were planted after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

CLIMATE CHANGE: A silver car with a hemp leaf on its fuel lid

Learn: What is the difference between hemp seed oil and CBD?

Climate change and…..Fossil fuels

Surprisingly, hemp can also be made into an alternative for coal, oil and gas. The plant contains cellulose and fibre that can be used to create fuel or energy.

Burning fossil fuels or oils can produce thick black smoke that flows downward as well as rising into the atmosphere impacting air quality. Oily residues in water can also contribute to environmental damage.

Using hemp biomass fuel could be a more environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels that releases less CO2 into the atmosphere. The first step to producing hemp fuel is to shred the harvested plants before heating with chemicals so that cellulose is released. Enzymes then break down the cellulose into sugars. Adding microbes help the sugar to ferment into ethanol. This ethanol is then purified and distilled to leave the biofuel.

Climate change: A line of blue denim jeans rolled tightly into balls

Climate change and…..fast fashion

Fast fashion can be incredibly destructive to the environment. The impacts of the industry are the production of 92 million tonnes of waste each year. It also uses 1.5 trillion litres of water alongside the use of dangerous chemicals and high CO2 emissions. The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year.

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Not only that but polyester, acrylic and nylon make up about 60 percent of our clothes. These synthetic fabrics are plastic and when they are washed, they create microplastics that enter the ocean.

When it comes to denim, a huge amount of water is used in the production of and entire rivers in China have been destroyed by the dyes. The pearl river on the banks of the Chinese town of Xintang in Guangzhou which is referred to as the blue jean capital of the world due to its factories now runs dark blue.

Companies are turning to slow fashion to help counteract the damage. They use hemp to make materials such as hemp fabric, denim and fur. They offer a biodegradable yet durable alternative that is often incredibly breathable. As hemp has anti-microbial properties, it can help to prevent odour causing bacteria in fabric.

Even big brands are listening. Levi’s has created an entire line of hemp denim. The Levi’s Wellthread Collection was created with a waterless dyeing technology, that uses up to 70 percent less water compared with conventional dyeing. The hemp that was sourced from a rain-fed hemp crop, reduced the water used in fibre cultivation by roughly 30 percent.

Read more: Could medical cannabis help with the symptoms of a migraine?

Advocacy

US Congresswoman speaks out about how cannabis helped her depression

Nancy Mace spoke out about using cannabis to help her depression after experiencing a traumatic event as a teenager

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Image credit: Nancy Mace/Instagram

A Republican congresswoman who has proposed a federal bill to legalise cannabis has spoken out about her experience using cannabis to combat depression.

Nancy Mace, a republican politician from South Carolina appeared on Fox Business’s ‘Kennedy’ show to talk about the bill which would legalise cannabis but would also focus on veteran access.

It also includes expungement for non-violent cannabis crimes and imposes a revenue tax that would support reinvestment into communities hurt by the war on drugs.

Bill: A banner for always pure organics

The bill titled the States Reform Act would federally legalise and tax cannabis has been proposed ahead of competing Democrat proposed bills. While the bill was originally proposed in July, Mace shared her story after officially filing the State Reform Act in November.

At the end of the discussion, host, Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery asked the congresswoman if she smoked cannabis.

Nancy replied: “When I was 16, I was raped. I was given prescription medication that made the feelings I had of depression worsen, and I stopped taking those prescription drugs and I turned to cannabis for a brief period of time in my life.”

She added that she believed her experience with cannabis made her more sympathetic to veterans who may use cannabis for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Bill protection for veterans

The congresswoman explained that the new bill is “particularity protective of veterans, ensuring they are protected, not discriminated against and that the US Department of Veteran Affairs can utilise cannabis for their PTSD.”

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She added: “When I talk to vets and I see that pain, it hurts because I felt that pain before in my life. Veteran suicide, we see every single day.”

One other provision in the bill is that cannabis would be under the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) instead of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA would have some involvement similar to its current control over the alcohol industry.

Bill history

Mace has already won an exception for rape and incest victims in a fatal fetal heartbeat bill. She mentioned her history when it came to proposing that bill in 2019.

She said: “I’ve had family that have overdosed from hardcore opiates and prescription drugs. And I’ve mentioned part of this in 2019, at the time I got the exception for rape and incest in the fetal-heartbeat bill I told my story about being raped when I was 16, but I’ve never said this part publicly before: I was prescribed antidepressants afterwards, and it made my feelings a lot worse. And so I started using cannabis for a brief moment, for a time in my life. It helped me. It cut down on my anxiety and helped me get through some dark periods.”

 

Fibromyalgia: A banner advert for cannabis health news

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First patient set to receive cannabis products on Ireland’s MCAP programme

CannEpil is the first drug available through the programme but has yet to be prescribed

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Ireland HSE offer medical cannabis
CannEpil was announced as the first drug to be made available through the programme

Earlier this year, the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) has announced that the first cannabis-based products will be available through the Medical Cannabis Access Programme from mid-October.

Despite an update from the Irish health service (HSE) and Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) that CannEpil would be prescribed by the middle of October, the first prescription has been delayed.

People before Profit TD for Dublin Mid-West Gino Kenny tweeted that the first prescription should be available from next week.

The HSE has yet to confirm that the products will be available from next week but says they would not be aware until the consultant neurologist has issued claims at the end of the month.

In a statement to Cannabis Health News, a press officer at the HSE stated: “The HSE has registered three patients under the MCAP in recent days. We would not be aware whether the consultant neurologist has proceeded with prescribing for an individual until claims were submitted from pharmacies at the end of the month.”

He also raised the issue in the Dáil earlier this month to Taoiseach, Michael Martin.

“Many families would have been very joyous during the summer when the medical cannabis access programme was to commence. But sadly, in a PQ response today, not one patient has been given access thus far. That is a huge disappointment to those families that this treatment could make life-changing benefits,” he said.

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“So what do you say to families that feel let down by the program and now they have to look at other treatments and probably getting no treatment at all?” He asked.

Michael Martin replied that a lot of patients have been facilitated by the original ‘imported license’ but he was unsure as to why patients had not availed of the MCAP. He promised to follow up with the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly of Fianna Fáil.

Gino announced changes to the Cannabis Regulation and Control bill that he is due to submit. It will now take place next year with a focus on production and consumption for personal use.

HSE committee meeting

In a joint committee meeting held in September, CannEpil was announced as the first drug to be made available through the program from mid-October.

Ireland’s Health minister Stephen Donnelly announced funding for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) in January, almost two years since the legislation was signed off in June 2019.

The programme will offer access to cannabis-based medicines to people living with one of three qualifying conditions. These include intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, severe treatment-resistant epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) where patients have failed to respond to authorised treatments.

The meeting saw officials from the Department of Health and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) outline the current state of the MCAP programme and the Ministerial License system.

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The suppliers of two products, CannEpil and Tilray are said to have confirmed their prices to the HSE, but Tilray has yet to announce its availability date.  Two more cannabis-based products have been added to the schedule but suppliers are not thought to have current plans to supply the Irish market.

Morris O’Connor, the assistant national director of primary care reimbursement, announced that two additional products were expected to be added to the schedule in the coming weeks and that the programme may be extended for longer than the initial five year pilot period.

He stated: “There are currently four cannabis products on the schedule and two more to be added to schedule one of the regulations in the coming weeks. I understand that one of the products in the schedule namely CannEpil is expected to be available in October, subsequent to the introduction of the necessary legislation.”

According to Lorraine Nolan the chief executive of HPRA, since the MCAP regulations came into force in June 2019, 34 applications have been made for cannabis-based products.

Of these four cannabis oils have been placed in schedule one of the regulations, and two dry herb products have completed the final HPRA review and are awaiting a ministerial decision. Five are currently under active review.

Nolan commented: “The first cannabis-based products are expected to be made available to Irish patients through MCAP in October 2021. Once these are accessed by Irish patients, the HPRA will receive any reports of suspected adverse events and review them for any signals of concern regarding the safety of the product.

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“The HPRA will also have a role in investigating any quality issues that may arise and coordinate any action that might be subsequently required.”

Doctors are asked to register patients who may benefit from this treatment to the HSE including the condition they are being prescribed for.

The HPRA will be monitoring patients for adverse effects over the coming weeks once the medication is available.

The MCAP programme has been criticised by patients who are still waiting for access to products despite the introduction of the scheme in 2019 under then Minister for Health, Simon Harris.

O’Conner also highlighted that 192 ministerial licenses have already been issued for 67 individuals who access medication from the Netherlands.

In July a direct funding scheme was announced to remove the need for patients to pay for these prescriptions up front and then apply for reimbursement from the Government.

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Irish politicians receive cannabis in mail to mark National Legalise Cannabis day

The letters outlined the reasons why legalising cannabis in Ireland needs to be a top priority for government officials.

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Irish: A banner advert for National Legalise cannabis day

Two hundred Irish TDs received a letter outlining the reasons for cannabis legalisation and a roll-up in the post sparking an investigation

The cannabis was sent by An Póst by leading cannabis activists to mark National Legalise Cannabis Day in Ireland. The cannabis was accompanied by a letter outlining ten reasons why cannabis should be legalised and made accessible. Cannabis activists including Cannabis Activist Alliance, ReLeaf CBD Café, and Martin Condon from the podcast Martin’s World shared images of the letters online before sending them to ministers.

Two hundred letters containing cannabis roll-ups and edibles were sent to ministers including the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. A further forty were sent to members of the media and senators. Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein was even sent a tricolour roll-up.

In a statement online, those involved encouraged other cannabis consumers and activists to get involved in the action.

“To mark the 20th anniversary of this event the Martins World Podcast, The Cannabis Activist Alliance and the ReLeaf Cafe have teamed up to recreate this event. Cannabis containing joints will again be posted to every TD and Senator in Ireland. With the joint, we will include a letter about the campaign and 10 reasons why Cannabis prohibition should be ended (there are thousands to choose from). We encourage anyone who wants to get involved to do so. It will only cost you the price of a stamp and envelope.”

Some of the benefits listed in the letters included the creation of jobs, open access for patients and researchers, the end to the discrimination faced by patients and also the protection of minors with the introduction of regulation.

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Irish cannabis market

While the letter highlighted the reasons why cannabis should be legalised in Ireland, it also gave a stern warning about the dangers of buying cannabis from an unregulated market.

“As this product was sourced from an unregulated market, you as a consumer have very little protection. There is no guarantee that this joint contains any cannabis. If it does contain cannabis you as a consumer have no idea as to the potency of the cannabis. This makes dosing incredibly difficult and could put you at risk.”

The action has sparked an investigation by Irish authorities after scanners at the ministerial buildings failed to recognise the substance. It was reported that nearly all of the Green party received a letter along with members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Irish ministers response

Most of the ministers have not confirmed if they have or have not received the letters. However, Cathal Crowe, a Fianna Fáil TD for Clare posted a photo of the letter on Twitter confirming he had received one.

Irish Green party councillor, Oliver Moran also received a letter and tweeted his response. “Many thanks for including me in this action—and for the prudent warning that potency and content are unknown when drugs are purchased from an underground market.”

November 5 was declared  National Legalise Cannabis Day by Independent TD, Luke Ming Flanagan back in 2001. The letters campaign was created to mark the 20th anniversary of this.

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Ireland’s cannabis reform

The campaign comes amidst criticism that the Medical Cannabis Access Programme is still not functioning despite reassurances that Cannephil would be available from mid-October.

People before Profit TD for Dublin Mid-West, Gino Kenny raised the issue in the Dáil to Taoiseach, Michael Martin.

“Many families would have been very joyous during the summer when the medical cannabis access programme was to commence. But sadly, in a PQ response today, not one patient has been given access thus far. That is a huge disappointment to those families that this treatment could make life-changing benefits,” he said.

He added: “So what do you say to families that feel let down by the program and now they have to look at other treatments and probably getting no treatment at all?”

Michael Martin replied by saying that a lot of patients have been facilitated by the original ‘imported license’ but was unsure as to why patients had not availed of the MCAP. He promised to follow up with the Minister for Health which is currently Stephen Donnelly of Fianna Fáil.

Gino also announced changes to the Cannabis Regulation and Control bill that he is due to submit. It will now take place next year with a focus on production and consumption for personal use.

Image credit : Martin’sWorld

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Irish: A banner advertising a competition

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