Hempologist talks cannabis with students

by Eliza Florendo / Beacon Staff • March 1, 2012

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Dvorak brought hemp items to show, from clothing to a block of cement.
Dvorak brought hemp items to show, from clothing to a block of cement.

A bright tie-dye tapestry runs across one wall of a Walker Building lecture hall and hemp paraphernalia and products -- lip balm, oatmeal, non-dairy desserts, and a block of cement -- rest on a table in front of an attentive audience.

Activist and hempologist John Dvorak talked cannabis to 19 students at an event co-hosted by Earth Emerson and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). The program, “Cannabis Curriculum” with Dvorak, owner of hempology.org, was held Wednesday night.

Dvorak spoke about cannabis -- and its current state of prohibition -- in the United States and pushed for legalization, outlining dozens of industrial benefits for hemp and medical advantages of marijuana. Dvorak explained the discerning quality between marijuana and hemp as a difference in THC levels.

“You can smoke hemp, but you won’t get high from it,” Dvorak said to the crowd.

After a brief introduction from Earth Emerson and SSDP, Dvorak addressed the need to educate people on the facts of drug use and policy. Dvorak said he, along with many hemp enthusiasts, intends to shed light on “reefer madness,” or the reason why hemp is illegal, which he cited as government enforcement laws against the use of any strain of the cannabis plant.

“Our society is wacked-out crazy. My goal is to un-brainwash society,” Dvorak said to the audience.

Organizations such as Earth Emerson and the Piano Row-based Living Green learning community have encouraged sustainable living at Emerson, especially in its future.

“It’s so important, especially at Emerson because we’re a communications school to learn about this stuff, and since we have the tools to go out and inform other people, it’s really important that we hear this stuff,” said Alexandra Grange, a senior visual and media arts major and president of SSDP.

To voice his message more effectively, Dvorak said he is educating students, hoping that they advocate change in marijuana policy. This is the second year he has come to Emerson to give a lecture, according to Erin Moriarty, a junior marketing communication major and president of Earth Emerson.

“The more that we can try to change reefer madness, [we can] turn reefer madness into reefer gladness,” said Dvorak.

His presentation began with the history of hemp and its usage in years past — from sails, to clothing, to protection during battles. Dvorak stressed hundreds of positive uses for cannabis as a sustainable, eco-friendly material — it can be used to make paper, plastic, and types of biofuel, such as ethanol.  

Its positive effects also extend into creating buildings made entirely out of hemp, using a material called “hempcrete.” This breathable, fireproof, and mold-resistant material can greatly help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, since it actually sequesters it, giving it a negative number of carbon dioxide released into the air, he said. This material, according to Dvorak, will be huge in the future.

According to Dvorak, there is one problem with hemp: lack of research. Although other countries, such as Canada and China, are able to conduct research on, produce, and sell cannabis, manufacturing and growing the plant is illegal in the United States. This is what Dvorak calls a “Catch 422” — more research into the benefits of the plant is necessary, yet it cannot be done in the United States, which poses extreme difficulty. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not grow hemp, according to Dvorak.

“We’re creating an entire industry from the ground up,” Dvorak said.

The first step to ending prohibition and making an industry in the United States possible is expanding on the market for hemp by purchasing cannabis-based products from other countries. According to Dvorak, the more hemp purchased, the larger the increase for the market, and the lower the price for the crop.

While most of the information related to the cannabis plants outlines its negative effects, Dvorak’s presentation enlightened students not about the drug itself, but about its versatility as a product.

“I had no idea how useful hemp could be and how much you could do with it and how cheap it would be economically,” said Armando Vazquez, a sophomore visual and media arts major and SSDP member.

To end his presentation, Dvorak encouraged students to invent a sustainable hemp product and discussed the social issues caused by laws against cannabis. Dvorak asked the audience to find the cause of millions of dollars spent annually on pharmaceuticals instead of using medicinal marijuana and over-crowding in jails.

“The answer is prohibition, stupid” Dvorak said.