Cannabis Paper


By John Birrenbach The Institute, First Published in 1987

Also Published version in the book Hemp Today

Cannabis is it the wonder plant of the next century, can it be as great a boom to the planet as is predicted by so many, is it truly the cash crop that is predicted ?  All of these were questions of mine when I formed the Institute for HEMP. I was out to find the real truth about the cannabis plant and either confirm or deny, separately, the information being told on both sides of the issue.

What I discovered was this.   That since the early thirties of this century a campaign of misleading information has been disseminated about this plant.  Also that there is hard evidence to prove that cannabis can indeed be used in the manufacture of thousands of products.  Further that cannabis can relieve the pollution stress on our environment.   As I will show in detail cannabis can save the world from economic and environmental disaster all we have to do is demand the switch be made.

The Institute has finished a study on the feasibility of using cannabis for paper.  What we found was astonishing.  First we found that the United Sates alone uses some 54.1 million Metric Tons (MT) of trees in the production of paper each year.  Of that some is imported the rest is U.S.  cut.  These trees are also worth between $750 to $1,000 per MT depending on if the tree is either of hard or soft wood, soft being more expensive.  This makes the tree pulp paper industry worth $40.5 to $54.1 Billion Dollars per year.

During our study we searched for agricultural records.  We found that the U.S. has approx 950 Million Acres (MA) of available farm land. Of that land we planted, in 87, some 450 MA’s.  This leaves some 500 MA of land unplanted each year.  We also found out that the farmer on average receives $350-400 per acre for corn, of which some is government subsides.  We discovered in old USDA Literature, 1942, that the farmer can produce 2-3 tons of cannabis stalks per acre.   These stalks are the raw material for a number of products of which paper is one.   We could easily pay the farmer $350 per MT for hemp stalks to be used in the manufacture of paper.  At the rate of only 2 tons per acre the farmer could receive approx. $700 per acre.  If the farmers of the US were to supply the raw material for paper they would need to plant some 27 MAUs, or 5% of the UNPLANTED FARM LAND to hemp.  That 27 MAUs would be worth conservatively $18.9 Billion Dollars per year. This would also reduce the paper cost to consumers by 50-70%.  If we wanted to keep the pulp industry as it is the farmers would finally reap the benefits they truly deserve.

When we examined the viability of cannabis for paper we concluded the following.  First that hemp as a paper source is an extremely viable alternative.  Unlike Kenaf, a plant the USDA has high hopes for and can only be grown in the south west, hemp can be grown on any farm land in the continental U.S.  Even marginal land should be able to produce 2 tons of stalk per acre. Cannabis also does not require the use of  fertilizers, like kenaf. Cannabis when manufactured into paper  does not require the use of the toxic chemicals, like tree paper.  Instead cannabis paper only requires the use of lye, or lime stone, to break the lignan down and hydrogen peroxide to bleach it white.  While the factories currently making trees into pulp will have to retool for cannabis the cost of this retool will be far cheaper than the lawsuits that will be filled by environmentalists against them if they don’t stop the pollution they create.

We must ask our selves and elected official if we want to remain the same and die on a burned out planet or do we want to save ourselves and our children’s world. Cannabis is a plant that can indeed save the worlds trees.