North Carolina currently holds the distinction of having the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation. That statistic could change soon, since people who aren’t able to draw unemployment benefits no longer count, but sweeping a problem under the rug helps no one.
Cutting unemployment benefits might seem like a smart move to Tea Party legislators in Raleigh, but it’s of little use to the thousands of North Carolinians now facing the choice between starvation or working in one of Art Pope or the Walton family’s retail sweat shops. There is simply no good reason for our state, once a leader in manufacturing and agriculture, to be in such dire straits.
North Carolina is ideally positioned to take full economic advantage of the versatile cannabis plant. I’ve written extensively in the past about the virtues of cannabis and why North Carolinians should be leading the charge to develop a hemp industry, but here’s a brief review.
- Industrial hemp has been proven to be a superior textile compared to cotton.
- Hemp produces four times as much paper per acre as wood pulp, with far less toxicity.
- Hemp seeds are a superior nutritional food source, for both people and livestock.
- Hemp seed oil has a long history of use as industrial lubricants, as well as paints and varnishes.
- Hemp based plastics are stronger, more durable, and cleaner than their fossil fuel cousins.
We have plenty of farm land in need of marketable crops in North Carolina, and unlike soybeans, cotton, tobacco, and corn, industrial hemp requires almost no chemical inputs.
We have several world class universities and research hospitals in our state, poised to explore both medicinal and industrial uses of cannabis, all of which could jump start any number of new or expanded industries in our state.
And now researchers in Canada have discovered a method using hemp-based nanotechnology to lower the cost of high tech electronic components.
Commercial supercapacitors use activated carbon electrodes, but experimental devices made with graphene can store more energy. Unfortunately, graphene’s production costs can’t come close to competing with the price for activated carbon, about $40 per kilogram, says University of Alberta chemical engineer David Mitlin.
Part of Mitlin’s research is finding ways to use plant waste as feedstocks for commercial materials. He thought he could transform waste from the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa) into a carbon nanomaterial that had similar properties to graphene and with a much smaller price tag.
Mitlin and his colleagues focused on a barklike layer of the plant called the bast, which is usually incinerated or sent to landfills during industrial hemp production. “Hemp bast is a nanocomposite made up of layers of lignin, hemicellulose, and crystalline cellulose,” Mitlin says. “If you process it the right way, it separates into nanosheets similar to graphene.”
The team built a supercapacitor using the nanosheets as electrodes and an ionic liquid as an electrolyte. The best property of the device, Mitlin says, is its maximum power density, a measure of how much power a given mass of the material can produce. At 60 °C, the material puts out 49 kW/kg; activated carbon used in commercial electrodes supplies 17 kW/kg at that temperature.
North Carolina farmers deserve the right to grow industrial hemp. Their harvests could then be processed into industrial feedstocks, textiles, building materials, food products (animal and human), medicine, and even high tech electronic components; all of which have the potential of providing thousands of good paying jobs for our citizens.
Why aren’t our leaders in Raleigh, as well as our delegation in Washington D.C., screaming bloody murder to get laws changed so our citizens can get to work capitalizing on all of the above?
Irrational fear and ignorance, that’s why. Our leaders are stuck in the past, held captive by misinformation and lies, scared to death that some kid somewhere might smoke a joint.
I hate to break it to them, but they’re too late.
More than thirty years ago I was that kid, and today, despite their irrational fears, lack of vision, and inability to think for themselves, I am a successful small business owner. If they’d get out of the way perhaps even more people in our state would be gainfully employed.
That might not fit Art Pope’s business model, but Rose’s and Maxway don’t pay a living wage anyway, so from where I’m standing, I don’t think we need Art Pope around anyhow.