Book Review: Industrial Hemp

Edited by John W. Roulac and Staff 1995 Hemptech
P.O. Box 820, Ojai, CA 93024-0820 USA. US$ 4.95, 48 pps.

        Have you ever wished for a handy pocket reference on hemp?  Then this small guide is your answer.  With an attractive cover and a well organized, generously illustrated and clearly written content, it is a concise synopsis of the historical, technical and current international aspects of an emerging industry.  This booklet is something that any high-school student (or teacher!) might appreciate as an introduction to the subject.
        However, editor John Rolac and his talented staff at Hemptech might consider a number a changes for the next edition.  First, as a pocket book, this work only barely fits in the back pocket of my standard-issue bluejeans.  Making its size just a bit smaller should correct the problem.
        As far as its information content is concerned, the suggested revisions are few, but include the following specifics.  Under the heading of 'Foodstuffs', the second full paragraph on page 27 (concerning the nutritional importance of hemp seed oil) needs to be rewritten.  It mistakenly implies that GLA is an essential fatty acid and perhaps that polyunsaturates in general were, as well.   No mention was made of the actual essential fatty acids themselves, linolenic and linoleic acids.  It is here that a brief, but important caveat should be rendered concerning the chemical instability of this oil, a characteristic that suits its additional utility in paints, inks and varnishes.  This potentially serious rancidity problem is only touched upon in the next paragraph on seed sterilization.   Incidentally, many countries in which it is illegal to grow hemp, do not require sterilization of the seed.  In regards to a major potential use for this oil, the term 'cosmetics' is misused throughout this treatise, and should be corrected to "body-care products".  Finally, the section on pharmaceuticals should be expanded to include at least a brief mention of present-day uses made by patients suffering such diseases as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS.  I would challenge use of the word 'hemp' in the context of this section, since it contains little cannabinoid.  The terms 'medical marijuana' or at least 'Cannabis' are much more appropriate.
        The editorial decision to include considerable mention of kenaf, even going so far as to list it under 'Hemp Information Resources', seems, anomalous.  If any competing fiber source is to be mentioned, it should be flax, long considered as hemp's agronomic 'twin'.  (This section might also recommend Dr. Etienne de Meijer's new book, 'Diversity in Cannabis'.)  I would also question the wisdom of including specific future scenarios as Chapter 6, pure speculation that quickly proves dated.
        In any case, this little treasure of hemp information will need to be revised annually, to keep pace with the explosive growth of the phenomenon it is attempting to chronicle.  For the moment, it is the best quick read you can find on the subject and is a 'must' for hemp retailers and for those yet to be introduced to this remarkable plant.  I would suggest distributing them by the kilogram and asking for a large quantity discount from their rather 'pricey' US$ 4.95 (plus $ 3.50 shipping!) retail cost.

D.W. Pate