The Development of Hemp Braile Bioplastic and Paper
Monique Zimmerman, President, Braille Boss
As the time approaches when Floridian farmers and cultivators will soon be planting and growing hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp, there must be a viable infrastructure to utilize all the capabilities of this highly versatile plant. One of the oldest uses of the biomass of Cannabis sativa is the creation of paper. Hemp has been reduced in current times to manufacturing cigarette and fibrous craft art paper, due in part to the lack of supply of hemp as feedstock. Innovations in paper creation have helped to produce papers of many kinds, including smooth card stock for use in braille. Its bacteriostatic and mold-resistant properties make it ideal for use in braille, where well-used braille embossing is touched by hundreds of fingers in regular use. These properties also make hemp the ideal substrate for this and other highly profitable commodities.
Another use for hemp in the braille industry is with clear bioplastic labels, which can be layered on packaging and menus so that product information and documents can be utilized by the sighted and the blind.
This industry can also be used as a means of training and vocational rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired, who currently suffer an 87% unemployment rate. This is just one of the many social equity projects that could spring from this reawakened industry.
Born in Detroit and a graduate of Wayne State University, Monique was diagnosed with Stickler’s Syndrome as a teenager when the retina her right eye suddenly detached when she was 17 and attempts to reattach it failed, followed by the left eye, which was saved by surgery. She worked as a journalist and teacher until 2007, when her left eye’s retina began to tear only a few days after helping to drive the family car to move to Florida. After surgery to reattach it, Glaucoma developed that could not be controlled by standard legal treatment or surgeries. Every attempt to correct it surgically started complications that led to her current total blindness.
Cannabis is the only treatment that seems to work on her glaucoma, which still attacks her eye, even though is has destroyed her optic nerve. She is seeking solutions to stop the impact of Sticklers syndrome. Two of her three daughters have the autosomal dominant but rare disorder. As a person who found benefit in cannabis for her pain, and as a mother of two affected girls, she seeks to find the treatments that will save their eyesight, by helping to make their treatment legal and available.
As a member of the blind community, she is working to solve the crisis if an 87% unemployment rate of the blind and visually impaired and sees the benefits that hemp can bring as an industrial crop to bring working for living wages back to that population.