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Hemp Workers’ Cooperative film debut is now online at YouTube

By Hempology | March 26, 2008

Wed, 19 Mar 2008
Barry’s Bay This Week (CN ON)
Kate Weldon


Did you know hemp played a vital role in the settlement of North America and helped win the Second World War?

Many people don’t, but now with the help of a new video on YouTube more than 1,400 do.

Robbie Anderman and Errol Francis of the Hemp Workers’ Cooperative, based in the Killaloe area, put together “Hemp – The Environmentally Sustainable Alternative, Part One: Hemp History 101.”

They worked countless hours – Anderman figures they both put in more than 30 hours researching and editing the roughly nine-minute film.

The movie spawned from what Anderman sees as the need for informative materials about the history and the uses of hemp.

In 2002 Anderman, amongst others, recorded The Hemp SeeDee, an educational CD about hemp.

“We came up with The Hemp SeeDee as one way to communicate.  Seeing as hemp is a movement and movements need music to carry it on,” says Anderman.

“We’re realizing people are more computer focused and to download and to see something is so much more effective.”

With a budget of just over $2,000, Anderman and Francis got to work.

Anderman says he primarily focused on the research end of the film, while Francis did most of the tech work.

“The technology was our biggest problem,” Anderman says.

The two men used iMovie, a Mac editing program, to bring together old footage, photos, interviews and dialogues on hemp.

“When we inserted new visuals, the audio would fall out of sync with the previous video clips.”

Anderman says this was particularly frustrating for Francis as he would have everything working in his sound studio, but when he plugged it into the computer it simply didn’t look and sound the way it should.

The Hemp Workers’ Cooperative prevailed, and now their film debut is online for all to see.

“It feels good,” Anderman says.  “I feel proud of the work we did.  We communicated what we had to say in a concise way.”

YouTube limits video submissions to 10 minutes, Anderman says it’s quite the achievement to include so much information in so little time, while maintaining a cohesiveness.

The video can be found on YouTube by searching the title or at

A variety of local music, including two songs from The Hemp SeeDee and new song titled “1813″, were used in the movie.

The song 1813 illustrates hemp’s role in the burning of York ( now known as Toronto ) by the Americans, and the resultant burning of Washington, D.C.  by the British.

Hemp, previous to 1937, was an important crop in Canada and the United States.

An example given in the film is the use of hemp fibre, rather than fibreglass, in automobiles.

“That choice was there back in the 30s and 40s,” Anderman says.  “Hemp is stronger, lighter and cheaper than fibreglass.  Plus, in an accident, you don’t have all these shards of glass sticking out.”

When the U.S.  government banned marijuana 1937 under anti-drug legislation, Anderman says the Canadian government went so far as to issue a statement saying, “Hemp is no problem here, marijuana is no problem here.”

Despite this, Canada brought the axe down on hemp a year later; the plant, as well as the seed, was banned.

Anderman says this was a case of mistaken identity.  Hemp, although in the same family as marijuana, does not contain significant amounts of the chemical THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol ) that produces the high marijuana users experience.

People may try to smoke hemp, Anderman says, “But they won’t get high.”

“The U.S.  marijuana tax law of 1937 distinguished between hemp and marijuana,” Anderman says.

During the Second World War, U.S.  farmers were encouraged to grow hemp under the “Hemp for Victory” campaign.

Hemp was used to make items used in the war such as parachute webbing, boot uppers and threads, uniforms, web belts, hammocks, and ropes for the ships.

Anderman says hemp was also used to make tents and backpacks.

“When it gets wet it swells.  You don’t really have to do much for waterproofing.”

But once the war was over, the U.S.  farmers’ right to grow hemp ended as well.

Anderman explains, “After guaranteeing the hemp industry that they were safe from the effects of the tax law, the narcotics agents went out and harassed hemp farmers immediately, and burned many fields, essentially curtailing the hemp industry right when it was ready to take off.”

Hemp, in Canada, remained in that murky land of illegality for another 56 years.

It wasn’t until 1994 that hemp could legally be grown as a research plant.

In 1998, thanks to Senator Lorna Milne, formerly of Lake Dore, hemp was once again legal.

To promote the film, Anderman contacted hemp associations and environmental groups, asking them to promote the film amongst their members.

He says it’s amazing the number of things hemp is used for today, and how little hemp is promoted.

“So many environmental groups say ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’, but don’t offer any environmentally sustainable alternatives,” Anderman says.

In England, a company has constructed several buildings that are carbon negative.

They embody more carbon that was released into the atmosphere during the construction of the building, including the making of all the materials.

Called Hemcrete, hemp fibres are mixed with lime and sprayed onto forms right on the building site.

This keeps all the carbon ingested by the hemp plant sequestered in the building, while the oxygen emitted by the hemp in growing is free in the atmosphere.

Anderman says this is something that could be achieved in Renfrew County, “In Renfrew County we’ve got lots of lime and lots of ground good for growing hemp.”

In Australia, a company named Zelfo, has created a plastic made entirely from hemp stalks.

The plastic, Anderman says, is very sturdy and highly flame-retardant.

“We have footage of the developer holding a flame to it for over five minutes and it doesn’t burn.”

All these new product developments present a challenge, Anderman says.

Hemp production in the world is currently limited.

“More hemp farmers and more hemp fibre processing plants are going to be needed to make this a viable environmentally sustainable alternative to our dependence on imported oil.

“If the governments become sincere in their search for such an alternative, they can follow the example of the U.S., which built 42 hemp fibre processing plants in one year in order to win the Second World War, as the movie shows with clips from a US Government video,” Anderman says.

“Certainly the challenge is going to be gearing up to have enough hemp,” Anderman adds.

Hemp video number two is already in the works.

“The Hemp Revival – 1994 to 2008″ will feature footage of hemp used for carbon negative building, car parts, plastics and health food.

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