Fabric for the Conscious

by Diane Walsh

Industrial hemp has been with human civilization since before 7000 B.C. But fast forward, for a moment, to the middle ages and the start of the Renaissance. Back in high school, a hippie history teacher may have told you about Christopher Columbus making use of hemp on his voyages.
Things noted may have been Columbus’s hempen sails and rigging, and of course the hemp paper used to record his controversial expeditions.
Suffice to say, history has shown us the benefits of industrial hemp.
Expansionism across the Atlantic led to European merchant mariners and the early settlers continuing to depend on hemp in a significant economic way. Moreover, American colonists used hemp as a trade item.
Tragically, as time went on, cotton plantations were introduced, and became the preferred economic system to “grow the land” using slave labour. It’s always been a bit of a mystery why the U.S. went with cotton instead of hemp; agriculturally, hemp matures extremely fast, and cotton takes an entire season. It would take a seasoned historian to unpack this question (and that I am not) as we know the causes are wrapped up the despicable history of American slavery. Sociologically, it’s not entirely clear why hemp production ceased. Fast forward to 2012.
Hemp’s re-emergence is with us
Today, the desire to build large-scale hemp plantations is gaining popularity. Serious economic debate is circulating the hemp movement, focusing on this fundamental question: Will a hemp textile economy ever be in British Columbia’s future? See <>
To get up-to-date on the hemp-fabric angle of things, an interview with Bill Finlley of Hemp & Company provides a basic summary of the general points informing the conversation (at least in Victoria). It’s at <>
The crux of the discussion has centered around whether the impetus to move toward development of hemp plantations could become popular enough that hemp gives Canada the economic reboot it needs.
More and more, hemp fabric supporters in B.C. find allies in wanting to grow industrial hemp commercially. Why?
Benefits of hemp fabric as a distinctive economic initiative
Hemp fabrics are a valuable and constructive resource in our society. They can be an attractive, ubiquitous and cost-effective feature in daily life.
A cohesive public message is required for things to move forward. It sounds something like this: Hemp fabric is a legitimate and stand-alone product. Build the potential for fabric manufacturing in British Columbia by spreading the needed public message. Talk about the need for innovation locally regarding industrial hemp.
Identifying the stumbling blocks
Currently, it is economically constraining for wholesalers to import hemp fabric to any large extent. Stores may only carry a few hemp fabric rolls while carrying dozens of cotton and polyester ones.
Equally for ordinary people, there are economic hurdles to purchasing wholesale hemp fabric in B.C., for the purpose of manufacture or local design work, since it basically remains a specialty item.
For a retail customer or local “seamstress” to purchase hemp fabric, at present it costs upward of $16 per yard. Wholesale hemp fabric is also not readily available.
This is because the demand for hemp fabric is not well documented. Many people like hempen clothing when they see it. For instance, Hemp blocks more than 50 percent more UV rays than regular cotton fabrics. But many people are not aware of its benefits.
Tearing down the bureaucratic wall
You might think there’s nothing stopping us. Well, there is.
In Canada, you need to have control over ten acres of land, and have enlightened farmers adept in managing industrial hemp to make an agro-revolution truly happen.
Health Canada needs to inundated with requests to start plantations. Sound simple? It isn’t.
It’s time we occupy Health Canada to pressure them to change their “10 acre” policy.
Getting to the root of the problem
It’s difficult to pinpoint in any concrete and convincing way why Canada has not moved to grow industrial hemp, other than (in my opinion) a combination of laziness and a philosophy of outsourcing everything, combined with Monsanto-esque poverty of thinking around the value of sustainable local AGRO initiatives, which by and large seem be regularly targeted by vested interests over-reliant on traditional monoculture.
Then there’s the characteristically Canadian anti-manufacturing climate and the entire obstructionist reasoning that goes along with why we can’t make anything here at home. Then there’s North American interest at play—the U.S. hegemonic view of agriculture affecting Canadian cultural views—plus the dynamics surrounding the cotton industry, synthetic industry, and drug industry. It goes on and on.
In sum, there’s a failure in Canada to develop a self-sustaining market for hemp fabric.
Health Canada needs some heat. Here’s how to move forward. It is entirely possible and appropriate to enjoy the benefits of hemp products, as has been shown by government-funded community studies conducted in B.C.
Who’s done it right
Please visit the “Agriculture” tab at <> for more information and download the studies. This major project is the template that communities considering large-scale plantation developments need to be successful. However…
The District of 100 Mile House, in B.C., has moved toward the creation of hemp plantations—that is, hemp for use in the construction industry. Their researchers investigated whether to go with food, fabric, or construction products, and they decided on the latter because of their specific region’s needs—that is, a suffering forestry industry and a need for innovation in building materials to boost their local economy and community.
Their initiative (which is now a full-scale development including plans for a manufacturing facility for construction products) illustrates there is already broad support for industrial hemp plantations and manufacturing in B.C.
So what now?
Even though little or no government money has gone into evaluating the merit of hemp production for textiles, there are investors waiting in the wings, willing to support fabric manufacturing in B.C. This is where things stand now.
British Columbia should not be deprived of legitimate uses of industrial hemp. Talk to your representatives! It is entirely possible and appropriate to enjoy the benefits of hemp products, as shown by <>
Failure to utilize the healthy and sustainable resources available on this planet, of which hemp is decidedly a great one, is precisely the reason why our earth and economy spin out of balance in the 21st century.
Tell Health Canada you want Canada to grow industrial hemp on a large scale and balance the planet. Seize investor interest.

Leave a Reply