THE CANNABIS PLANT: BOTANY, CULTIVATION AND PROCESSING FOR USE
Cannabis plants have been cultivated in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years as a source of three main products-hemp fibre, cannabis seeds and medicinal or narcotic preparations (Fairbairn, 1976). Hemp fibre is obtained from cannabis stems, and has been used over the centuries for the production of textiles, rope and sacking. It is strong and durable, composed of about 70% cellulose and reaches lengths of 3-15 feet (Schultes, 1970). The fibre has been used in the past to make paper, and has been proposed as a replacement for wood pulp in modern paper production (Kovacs, 1992). However, there are many technological limitations to be overcome before this becomes a commercially viable proposition (Judt, 1995). The “seeds” (which technically are the fruit or achene) may be roasted and consumed by man, used as birdseed or anglers’ bait or pressed to yield a greenish yellow, fixed oil which has been used in foodstuffs and in varnishes, paints and soap (Schultes, 1970; Fairbairn, 1976). Cannabis leaves and flowering tops and preparations derived from them have many pharmacological effects in man, including narcotic properties; the latter is the most widely known use of cannabis in the present day.