Cannabis is a family of plants, with its primary classifications being Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. A cannabis plant that causes psychoactive qualities is referred to as marijuana. On the other hand, cannabis grown for industrial use is hemp. Hemp belongs to the Cannabis sativa family. Marijuana belongs to the Cannabis sativa family or the Cannabis indica family. Hemp was one of the oldest plants to be cultivated. It was grown to make paper, clothes, ropes, and as food. It is not clear when hemp use began. Most of its applications were probably passed down through oral traditions.
Ancient China used hemp in 6000 BC to make clothes, food, medicine, and tools. In 2000 BC, it was used to make ropes. In 100 AD, China made the first paper using plant fiber. By 1150 AD, Muslims built the first paper mill, and its paper was used for more than 700 years. In the past, sailors used hemp to make ropes and canvas sails for their ships. They also used it to make clothes for sailors and carried hemp seeds as food due to their nutritious value. Many societies used it in the past. It is noted in the histories of the Middle East, China, Indians, Greeks, and even Egyptians.
Hemp made it to England as time went by. By the sixteenth century, it was one of the main crops grown there. In the seventeenth century, hemp made it to North America. There were even strict laws mandating its cultivation by farmers, for example, in Massachusetts and Connecticut. At the turn of the nineteenth century, hemp’s use for medicinal purposes declined because of the increasing use of opiates and syringes. However, at the same time, it was gaining popularity for treating pain, tumors, convulsions, insomnia, gout, and even depression. As the war on drugs kicked in in the 1970s, its use declined sharply. This was mainly due to the interchangeable use of the words marijuana, hemp, and cannabis.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
When the war on drugs began, it led to a ban on cannabis altogether despite the rich hemp history. The plant that was the real culprit in the ban was marijuana, which is the variant of cannabis cultivated for its psychedelic qualities. Cannabis is a family of plants from which marijuana and hemp are derived. They are aptly named as they contain hundreds of cannabinoids. The main ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp and marijuana have distinct physical and chemical characteristics.
Marijuana is a small bushy plant while hemp is a tall, lanky plant with leaves prominently at the top of the plant. Marijuana has broad leaves, while hemp has narrower leaves. Concerning growth, marijuana grows in controlled conditions several feet apart while hemp grows very close together, almost like a weed.
Hemp is cultivated outside, and it grows in almost all climates. Chemically, they both have numerous cannabinoids, but marijuana has 5-40% THC. On the contrary, hemp has less than 0.3% THC. THC is the component that causes psychoactive effects. Its high CBD content counteracts hemp’s low amount of THC, so hemp doesn’t necessarily make you high. Furthermore, regarding usage, hemp is cultivated for its vast industrial and medicinal uses. Marijuana is grown mainly for its medicinal and psychoactive qualities.
|Tall, thin plant||Short plant with a bushy appearance|
|Skinny leaves at the top of the plant||Broad leaves|
|Less than 0.3% THC||5 – 40% THC|
|Grown outdoors||Cultivated indoors under controlled conditions|
|Used for medicinal and industrial purposes||Grown for medicinal and recreational purposes|
HEMP GROWTH AND CULTIVATION
Hemp takes about 108 – 120 days to fully mature. It can grow in a variety of temperatures. Therefore, it can grow in different environments. To grow hemp, drill its seeds into the ground with short intervals between them. You should cultivate the plant toward the end of flowering to reduce the seeds and increase the fiber yield. During cultivation, it is cut near the roots and left to dry at the farm first.
However, you should remove the seeds and leaves of the upper portion. After drying, the stems undergo “retting” to separate the fiber from the stems. Retting is the process of soaking the stem so that the fibers can soften. It is done either chemically, manually, or through dew retting (leaving them out to ret using atmospheric moisture and dew).
After retting, you do decortication. This is the process of separating the fiber from the stem. In the past, it was done by hand, but today there are mechanical methods. The plant’s various parts have been used. You can use the leaves and flowers to make essential oil. The seeds can be eaten ground, whole, or compressed for hemp seed oil. The stems can make biofuels or CBD oil. They can also be used to make bust fiber. The core is called hemp hurd and is referred to as shives when broken into pieces.
USES OF HEMP
Hemp is mainly grown for industrial purposes. It was highly cultivated in the past, but it declined after countries began to ban it, as mentioned earlier. Currently, there are more than 50,000 known uses for hemp. More discoveries on uses are on the way as research into the plant increases. Some of the main advantages of using hemp industrially are its fast maturation rate. Other merits include the gross output per square foot of land, low usage of water, and chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. Its applications vary from medicinal and food nutrients to fuels, paper, textiles, and bioremediation.
a) Textiles Industry
Hemp stems are a rich source of bast fiber. The fiber is derived from organic sources such as plant stems. Hemp fiber is particularly useful because the plant has a high fiber yield. Its short maturation time means it yields more in a year than other fiber plants like cotton. Materials made from hemp have several distinct advantages:
- They are breathable and suitable for extreme weather, e.g., winter or summer.
- They are also antimicrobial, which prevents organisms from growing on them.
- Hemp materials are also strong and become softer with every wash, so they get more comfortable with time.
- Odors do not stick to them, and though they easily merge with dyes, they can come in a variety of colors.
- Furthermore, they can blend with other materials to produce different textures.
- The fibers are also eco-friendly as they are biodegradable. Their growth is mostly organic, and their processing requires few chemicals.
Hemp is used in making various types of clothing, such as socks, sweaters, jackets, t-shirts, skirts, and dresses. The plant is also ideal for sturdier items such as bags, belts, shoes, jeans, and even wallets. In-home and décor, the material can make bed sheets, blankets, curtains, and even carpets. For animals, it’s used to make collars and leashes and even sturdy chew toys. The material tends to be hypoallergenic. Therefore, it is ideal for the manufacturing of reusable diapers for children and people with skin sensitivity to certain fabrics. All in all, hemp use in the textile industry is highly versatile.
b) Medicine and Nutrition
The most nutritious part of a hemp plant is its seeds. They are eaten whole, ground into hemp powder, or compressed for hemp seed oil. When eaten whole, they can be consumed shelled or unshelled. You can incorporate them in smoothies, shakes, salads, cereals, in baking, and in making hemp milk.
The powder is included in all the above uses. It is also a common component in the processing of food and snack products. The seeds are a rich source of proteins, fiber (the shelled seeds), essential fatty acids, minerals, and B vitamins. Hemp seeds are one of the few plant proteins that contain all essential amino acids. Therefore, they are also used as supplements for vegans and those facing food shortages.
CBD is the component of cannabis that contains most of the medicinal value. It is not found in the seed, although trace amounts may be found in hemp seed oil if it adhered to the grain. CBD is derived from the stem and contains other phytonutrients from the plant. It interrelates with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps in various body system activities. It also aids in hormone regulation, pain relief, and mood regulation.
Furthermore, CBD has neuroprotective, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsing, and antidepressant properties. Therefore, it is vital to manage a lot of chronic and non-chronic diseases. Animals, for example, also have endocannabinoid systems and undergo similar problems as humans, so they also benefit from CBD. However, research is ongoing to verify many of these medicinal properties using specialized drug trials. Generally, CBD is mainly ingested in the form of the oil or through supplements.
c) Agriculture Industry
Farmers purchase hemp hurds to use them as livestock bedding. They are highly insulating, so they keep the animals warm in extremely cold seasons. Hurds also last much longer than regular bedding and can protect the soil from harmful toxins in the animal’s litter. The materials make good mulch around plants for the same reason. As a mulch, hemp hurds reduce the watering required because they can hold more than three times their weight in water.
The plant is useful in intercropping and crop rotation because it restores most of its nutrients to the soil. Furthermore, the plant can help a farmer gain organic certification because they grow too densely for weeds to grow. The crop is resistant to pests eliminating the need for agrochemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. Farmers who grow cash crops can switch to hemp for many of the same reasons: it matures quickly and requires less water than most other cash crops.
d) Fuel Industry
Currently, most of the fuel we use is from fossil fuel sources that increase pollution to our environment. However, fossil fuel sources are nonrenewable and are in decline; organic fuels may be the next best thing. Hemp seed oil is convertible to biodiesel. The rest of the plant can make methanol and ethanol through various methods. Biodiesels release less CO2 into the environment compared to fossil fuels. Also, when they spill, they enrich the soil or the water, while fossil fuels tend to poison aquatic life and introduce toxins to the soil.
Bioremediation is the process of removing toxins from the water, soil, or air. Hemp can grow in sewage water, and absorb any toxins and break them down. It can also remove agricultural toxins from the soil, for example, chemicals from petroleum. It is evident that when hemp grows on land polluted by oil spills, it absorbs the oil and helps to renew the land. Hemp is also useful in removing radioactive isotopes from the soil. The plant was used to clean up one of the nuclear accident sites in Chernobyl, Russia.
In countries with high industrial pollution, it can be grown on the rooftops of buildings to absorb some of the CO2 and chemicals, which reduces smog. Hemp grown for remediation cannot be used for consumption, but it can be used to make plastics and bio-fuels.
f) Making Plastics
Plastics from organic matter, such as hemp, are known as bioplastics. In 1941, Henry Ford made a car entirely out of bioplastics. It was resistant to hard blows and stronger than steel. Usually, plastics are made from fossil fuels. Therefore, they are inorganic and non-biodegradable. Bioplastics come from plant cellulose and organic matter.
Making plastics from organic matter is the future of sustainability. A high rate of pollution to our environment and aquatic life can be attributed to inorganic plastics. Currently, automobiles are using composite bioplastics to make some of their parts. Most recently, In Florida, an entire sports car’s body was made from tightly interwoven hemp fiber covered by a super hard resin. The plastics can also make chairs, pens, etc., and the list will increase as it gains popularity.
g) Skin and Beauty Industry
Hemp oil is perfect for skin, and it is common in many skincare and beauty products. Hemp oil has a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6. It has autoxidizing and anti-inflammatory properties, which make it suitable for the skin. It has proven to be useful for oily, dry, and itchy skin. The oil is also suitable for skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and atopic dermatitis. Beauty industries are incorporating hemp oil into moisturizing creams and lotions. Furthermore, oil is common in soaps, shampoos, and detergents. This is because the fatty acids make a good base for these soaps. The fatty acids are hypoallergenic to the skin.
h) Paper Industry
The first paper was made from hemp fiber in China. For more than five decades, hemp’s strength has made it a great ingredient for pamphlets, bonds, stocks, banknotes, etc. The main advantage of using the material to make paper is that it contains 65 – 75% cellulose, and it grows fast. Comparatively, trees have 30% cellulose, and when used in paper production, the rest of the strength must be obtained using toxins. Trees also take more than three years to grow.
Currently, hemp paper production is costly. Hopefully, as it gains popularity, innovative ways will come up to reduce the cost of production. Since the paper is recyclable up to eight times compared to tree paper, which is only recyclable three times, it will also greatly help the environment.
i) In Construction
Hemp shives, when combined with a lime-based binder, is used to make hempcrete. This is not strong enough to be load-bearing, but it can form insulating material for all parts of the house. The material also makes lightweight roofing tiles. Hemp houses help reduce the carbon footprint of the owner by absorbing CO2. Hempcrete is also breathable and vapor permeable. Therefore, it decreases the likelihood of mold growing in humid areas. In addition to this, hemp insulation may help reduce the utility bills of a home, particularly in extreme temperatures, such as winter, because they have excellent thermal performance.
Hemp is the ultimate cash crop. It has such versatile uses and requires few chemicals in its growth and processing. Hopefully, as it regains popularity, more applications will be found and utilized.
i) Hemp CBD Oil in the Food Industry
Hemp has a high CBD content and is used in many industries. CBD comes from the plant or seeds. It is consumed in liquid form, infused into snacks and drinks, and added to supplements. The main difference between hemp seed oil and CBD is that it contains some phytonutrients from the plant.
When it comes to the food industry, many manufacturers of snack protein bars and granola bars incorporate CBD oil in their meals. This is because of the precious nutrients in the oil. It can also be used at home in smoothies, baking, and hemp milk. Currently, there are a lot of restrictions on transporting and selling CBD products. We hope that the restrictions will loosen up, and people can fully embrace the potential of the plant.
LEGAL HISTORY OF HEMP IN THE USA
It is not precisely known when the cultivation of hemp began, but it is estimated that it might have started as early as 10,000 years ago. In America, hemp cultivation was introduced in 1606. It was one of the first crops grown in America. In 1619, the first English settlement town in the New World, Jamestown, established the first-ever regulations for cultivating it. Hemp’s popularity grew so much that in some states, like Maryland and Pennsylvania, it was accepted as a form of currency. In the 1700s, it was made mandatory for farmers to plant it, and some of the founding fathers cultivated it. Thomas Jefferson also drafted the first declaration of independence on Hemp paper in 1776.
In the 1800s, cannabis was embraced by doctors and farmers. Those in the Civil War used it as a quick-fix resource for clothes, ropes, and sails. Doctors mainly used marijuana for its medicinal value to treat menstrual bleeding, opiate addiction, alcoholism, and other ailments. In 1850, it was listed in the US Pharmacopeia as a drug and was even sold over the counter.
Marijuana Tax Act
The Marijuana Tax Act was introduced in 1937, making cannabis illegal and imposing hefty fines on hemp farmers. The Federal Narcotic Bureau, the predecessor of the Drug Enforcement Administration, spread propaganda through rumor-mongering and hate speech to shun cannabis. This was after the influx of Mexican immigrants who were smoking marijuana in 1920. The usefulness of cannabis was not highlighted, and false stories of marijuana users who became murderers were spread, along with racism claims against minorities.
In 1942, hemp growth was revitalized during World War II as soldiers faced a shortage of hemp imports. Hemp farmers were excluded from the war. In the same year, Henry Ford made a car with a body entirely made from hemp fiber that ran on biodiesel from the plant. The United States Department of Agriculture began advocating for hemp again under the campaign “Hemp for Victory.” In 1970, the war on drugs started also. This time the focus on anti-war pacifists and the minorities, and it led to the indiscriminate arrest of people who were punished by tough laws.
Controlled Substances Act
The Controlled Substances Act classified the cannabis plant as a Schedule I drug, again blurring the line between marijuana and hemp. Food-grade hemp seed and oil importation began in 1998, but farming was still illegal.
In 2014, Obama signed the Farm Bill that allowed research institutes to launch pilot projects on hemp farming. In 2015, the Industrial Hemp farming Bill was introduced at the federal level. By 2018, 33 states had legalized medicinal marijuana. Nine states had legalized recreational use of marijuana by adults, but these projects are considered illegal according to federal laws. On April 12th, 2018, Majority Senate Leader, Mitch McConnel, co-sponsored by Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, introduced the Farm Bill in a bid to legalize hemp production in his home state Kentucky and nationally.
The bill made the following provisions:
- Remove restrictions on hemp farmers to water rights, crop insurance, and banking services.
- Legalize hemp by separating marijuana from hemp using the criteria that hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, thereby excluding it from the Controlled Substances Act.
- Grant the farmer’s federal agricultural grants.
- Stating conditions and removing restrictions for agronomy research.
- Allow for the marketing of hemp products.
- Put the US Department of Agriculture and state agencies in charge of hemp farming regulation.
- Allow for possession of hemp products and remove the restriction on the transfer of products across state lines.
- Indicate punishments for violators of the bill.
- Giving shared power to state and federal agencies over hemp cultivation and production.
The Senate passed the bill in November of 2018 and was signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 20th, 2018. The Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration still imposes several restrictions regarding CBD, but the bill is a good step forward—particularly for cash crop farmers. The USA was the largest importer of hemp products before passing this bill. It imported from China—the largest hemp producer—but also from Canada, Europe, and France, among other countries.
OTHER COUNTRIES CULTIVATING HEMP
In the 1950s to 1980s, the Soviet Union, specifically Russia and Ukraine, used to be the biggest exporter of hemp, but when the Soviet Union collapsed, commercial cultivation declined. At the moment, China is the biggest exporter of hemp. It’s making huge strides in developing the plant and diversifying its uses. Currently, China has research projects in the pharmaceuticals, construction, textiles, and food industries. One of its biggest farms is in a city called Heilongjiang. In 2017, they were cultivating 74,000 acres and had plans to keep increasing it. That was more than the total amount of land utilized for hemp farming in some countries.
Hemp has been legal in Australia for more than 20 years, and in Canada, it was legalized in 1998. Canada is increasingly raising the production of its products. As of 2011, the country had more than 30,000 acres in use for hemp production. In Europe, the plant is also used as animal bedding. France is another leading exporter of hemp. They were the first to venture into the use of hemp for construction and even have ongoing projects constructing hemp structures. Other countries involved in hemp cultivation include the UK, Germany, Chile, and North Korea.
There are many law courts around the world with petitions to legalize hemp. Hopefully, innovation and global awareness will lead to more people to pursue the cultivation of the crop.
POINTERS FOR PEOPLE WHO WOULD LIKE TO VENTURE INTO THE HEMP INDUSTRY
Soon, the hemp market is going to balloon. It once thrived in the past, and as more legislative action continues to fight and win for its cultivation legalization, it will create a wealth of opportunities. In a few years, growing hemp will prove to be very lucrative.
For the farmer, hemp farming may come in handy if you want organic certification for your crops. It is highly pest and weed resistant, which reduces the need for agrochemicals. The main thing to consider is that you should have a massive tract of land. It is more profitable if you can produce hemp in bulk. Also, if incorporated into crop rotation cycles, its deep roots and tendency to shed leaves make the soil more fertile with time. The following things may be good to consider.
Before you decide to farm it, be sure that it is legal to do so in your country or state. In addition to this, be sure to come up with an excellent working business plan. Find out the possible buyers of the crop and any legal processes you need to start hemp farming. Secondly, obtain any necessary licensing. Apply for any other necessary certifications. You may apply for an insurance policy, water rights, and banking services.
In the USA, hemp farming is legal since Dec 2018. The recently passed Farm Bill made hemp legal but has restrictions on hemp farming by criminals. It contains a time restriction of how long after incarceration, one can begin farming. Your plants may be checked for THC content after maturity to ensure you are within legal limits. All of these steps prevent legal problems before you begin your farming.
You decide on the type of hemp you want to plant by choosing what kind of yield you desire. Hemp can be cultivated to maximize fiber, seed yield, or both. The types of seeds for each of these are fiber, oilseed, and hybrid, respectively. In deciding, you consider the climate cycles in your area, the nature and content of the soil, water, and sunshine availability and the types of crops growing in your area. The latter is because there are some crops such as sunflowers, soybeans, and edible beans, which will negatively affect your yield. The best thing to do is to consult a specialist before you begin.
Here is a checklist before embarking on this journey:
- Consult and decide the best hemp to grow depending on weather patterns and rain and sunshine intensity.
- Perform soil tests to determine if the soil has optimum pH, nutrient content, and moisture content.
- Check the type of soil, its aeration properties, and drainage qualities.
- Ask for the projected content, such as cellulose and CBD.
- Find out the genetic history of the seed.
- Learn the ratio of male to female plants and how you can adjust this to meet your specific needs.
- Decide on fertilizers and nutrients you may need to add, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium, and also determine the optimum amounts to use of such fertilizers.
It is important to ask such questions before you start farming. Experts can show you how to get quality yields without sacrificing quantity. A lot of research and hard work has to go into the decision on what to grow and how to grow it to increase your chances of success.
In a hemp farm, there are a few necessary pieces of equipment, such as cutters and seed drills. Seed drills assist in planting the seeds within the required seed depth. Hemp cultivation is typically done a short period before corn cultivation. The ideal depth for seed planting is anywhere between O.75 and 1.25 inches and at close intervals. At this depth, the seeds sprout quickly and choke out any weeds.
There should be no risk of your seeds freezing because of frost. The most attention to the hemp plant is given during the first six weeks as the seeds germinate. The male hemp plants die soon after pollination, which is why farmers should consider checking the male to female ratio of plants. The female plants have the highest yield of flowers, leaves, seeds, and fiber.
Harvesting can be done by hand or by modifying machine cutters to the specific height of your crops. The plants can be cut in two places:
- The top section for the leaves flowers and seeds.
- Then, from about 3 inches above the soil for the fiber, fuel, or CBD.
You can let the stems to ret on the farm from environmental moisture. This requires that you turn them every few days so that they swell evenly. Alternatively, you can roll them up into balls and dump in water then separate them into the necessary raw materials. The hemp hurd is blended into hemp shives and the fiber removed from the stems. You then weave it into yarn for different materials. After that, transport the raw materials to the industries for processing.
Alternatively, you can also use the hemp to intercrop their existing crops. With intercropping, the farmer aims for the following advantages from growing hemp crops:
- They grow densely, choking out any weeds, which reduces the need for herbicides.
- Hemp is pest resistant and can help the farmer save on pesticides.
- Hemp plants shed a lot of leaves, which increases soil fertility with each planting season.
- Hemp’s deep roots aerate the soil for the other plants.
- Hemp is particularly good at diversifying crop rotation for other harvests, such as wheat or alfalfa.
With correct planning and execution, hemp farming can be a good source of income and success.
HEMP AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) were set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and came into effect in January of 2016. They aim to balance the ecological, social, and economic dimensions of sustainable development and consequently end poverty, protect the earth, and ensure equitable peace and prosperity for all. They address some global issues such as environmental degradation, poverty, climate change, and peace and justice. Here are some of the ways hemp can help accomplish the SGDs:
No Poverty, Availability of Decent Work, and Economic Growth
Unemployment is one of the leading causes of poverty, but hemp may help mitigate it because it requires intensive work, from cultivation to production. Farmers can grow hemp in various climates, and it grows so densely that they may need to employ workers to cultivate it and to separate the different parts before processing. It also makes a variety of products, which would translate into more industrial jobs. This will also contribute to the economic growth of the country.
Good Health and Well-being
Hemp seeds are a superfood. They contain enough proteins, carbohydrates, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins to supplement unbalanced diets. Particularly for vegetarians and those who are facing starvation in desert areas and third-world countries. Furthermore, hemp has a high concentration of CBD, which has a lot of medical uses. CBD is currently common in food and supplements. Unprocessed consumption aids in the management of many chronic and non-chronic ailments in humans and animals. This may be a good step forward for pharmaceutical companies because it does not have some of the side effects that synthetic inorganic medicines have.
Clean Water and Sanitation
This goal aims to increase the sustainability and accessibility of our water sources. Hemp can help achieve this goal in three main ways.
- Forests serve as water catchment areas, but they are cut down for timber and paper making. Hemp is also a good source of paper, and an acre of hemp yields four times more paper than a forest. Besides the fact that it takes a much shorter time to grow. By planting hemp, we can reduce the rate of deforestation.
- The second way is by bioremediation. Hemp can clean up sewage water, making it safer to use.
- Finally, a lot of our water sources are polluted by plastics. Hemp can produce bioplastics that would reduce water pollution, therefore, preventing further pollution.
Sustainable Cities and Communities and Affordable, Clean Energy
Currently, most of our energy is from fossil fuels. They have led to an increase in pollution through an increase in greenhouse emissions. This goal aims to push for renewable sources of energy such as hydrothermal, solar, wind, and biomass. Hemp is a good source of the latter. Its fast growth rate implies that we can obtain a lot of fuel from it in a short amount of time. More so, its growth will also contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gases as plants use CO2 for photosynthesis.
As our fossil fuel sources face depletion, bio-fuels may come to our rescue. Not only through the provision of cleaner energy but also clean up the pollution effects from fossil fuels. When cities use renewable sources of fuels and planting hemp, they can make their cities more sustainable.
Industry Innovation and Infrastructure and Responsible Production and Consumption
Hemp may help in creating eco-friendly infrastructures such as green homes. The use of hempcrete is still under research, but its current benefits are a good sign. Furthermore, the many uses of hemp will lead to innovation, particularly for industries.
Since hemp is organic, these industries become more sustainable as their products will not contribute to pollution as much as non-organic products. A lot of legislation and regulations will, however, have to be put in place to ensure that these industries use safe, eco-friendly materials and dispose of their waste correctly.
Life on Land
As was mentioned earlier, hemp will help reduce the rate of deforestation. Besides that, hemp can be an alternative to some cash crops like cotton. Its cultivation requires no agrochemicals and little water. Another way it will help is through bioremediation. Hemp for crop rotation and intercropping sucks toxins from the soil, increasing fertility and reducing soil erosion. Furthermore, it is also cleaned up toxic waste such as oil spills and radioactive isotopes, which helps to rehabilitate the land.
Greenhouse gases contribute to the temperature increase of our planet. Planting hemp will lead to the absorption of more CO2. Secondly, hemp serves as alternatives to trees for various products, reducing deforestation.
Hemp’s uses are diverse, and if we play our cards right, we can mitigate some of the harmful effects of human activities on our planet. We can make it more sustainable and eco-friendly for us and future generations to come.
HEMP AND THE FUTURE
Hemp’s versatility means that it may be integrated into many industries in the future, which naturally translates into better economies. More people will be able to differentiate hemp from marijuana. Hemp has the potential to help us change our climate when it is integrated into our agricultural system. First, it will replace a lot of cash crops that require a lot of water and agrochemicals. Industries can use the plant for paper production to reduce deforestation. It requires fewer toxins to process while producing eco-friendly, biodegradable products. Furthermore, it will assist in reducing the green gas emissions since it grows more densely in small areas and requires CO2 to photosynthesize.
Hemp also offers the opportunity to jump into an untapped industry with immense potential. Our past experiences with hemp have already proven that it can be a valuable cash crop with many different uses. Research on optimal use and innovations for hemp may lead to many world collaborations. Research grants can allow us to optimize many industries, which can help us meet many of our sustainable development goals. All of these research jobs and all implemented projects will lead to a new job niche, employing many people.
In the fashion industry at the moment, there is an ongoing fast fashion trend. There are two main fashion runways and other minor clothes expo that aims at creating new stylish designs. Some textile industries have been producing similar clothing in much cheaper synthetic materials because they sell. Most of these clothes are made of inorganic materials, so they cannot degrade organically. On top of that is the fact that the fashion styles last such a short time that more clothes are being discarded, leading to pollution in landfills. There is a new fashion trend advocating for more sustainable clothes and more recycling instead of discarding.
Food, Beauty, and Pharmaceuticals
The food, beauty, and pharmaceutical industries also stand to gain a lot. Hemp farming is affordable and highly organic, reducing the use of agrochemicals. Farmers can grow more hemp per acre than many cash crop farmers. Hemp for maximizing CBD yield can sell to this industry. The beauty industry will create organic skincare products that have fewer side effects than synthetic alternatives. Hemp seeds and hemp seed oils can be incorporated into the food industry as a supplement or food. The pharmaceutical industry will gain an arsenal with many positive effects and fewer side effects than synthetic chemicals used in our drugs.
In ancient France, the Romans used to incorporate hemp fiber in construction as early as the sixth century. Currently, its insulating properties and a potential alternative to fiberglass are under research. The reason hemp is useful is that its fibers are sturdy. It’s also breathable and has good thermal performance, which prevents the growth of molds and reduces utility bills. Hempcrete is also being used in retrofitting. The best thing about structures made from hemp is that they absorb CO2 from the environment, reducing the user’s carbon footprint. Countries like Ukraine, Sweden, France, and Jamaica have already begun erecting hemp structures. Building costs may be a little steep at the moment due to low hemp supply versus its demand, but prices will reduce as more farmers plant it.
The energy industry as a whole stands to gain from hemp cultivation. Fossil fuel sources are in decline, so there is already a need for other sources of fuel, particularly renewable ones. In 1941, Henry Ford invented the car with a body made from hemp fibers that ran on hemp diesel. However, the discovery of fossil fuel sources prevented his idea from gaining much traction. We have seen how fossil fuels have negatively affected our environment. Biomass fuel (like hemp and other renewable sources like wind, hydrothermal and geothermal sources) will help prevent further damage to the earth. Oil spills remain a constant danger to our animals both on land and sea.
While this is just a view of the industries that profit from hemp, we do not fully know other secondary and tertiary benefits it will have. But, if we can take anything from the past, it would be that hemp is good for our land, economy, and overall health. It is exciting that hemp legalization has finally taken root in the United States as it gives us a chance to fully tap into its potential and improve the state of our country.
Hemp was a common plant in the past. The first papers were made from hemp by China, and ships were using its fibers to make canvas sails and ropes, but misconceptions about hemp and the generalization of cannabis led to legislative action that stopped its production. However, as people gain an understanding of the differences between the cannabis species, and as research continues to uncover the many benefits of this plant, more and more countries will lift the ban on the growth of the plant.
Industrial hemp may prove to be a solution to a lot of sustainable development goals. The plant has a wide variety of uses from—domestic to industrial. Everyone can reap the benefits of hemp, but because so few people are doing it, little has been done to make hemp’s use economical. As more countries begin to use it, technology and innovation will allow for new methods that are more energy efficient in terms of its processing.
10 FUN FACTS ABOUT HEMP
- An acre of hemp produces three times as much fiber as three acres of cotton on an annual basis. Hemp fibers last longer and are softer and much stronger than cotton fiber.
- While it might take trees years to mature enough so that they can be harvested for wood or paper, hemp only requires around 120 days. Hemp produces a superior quality paper that does not turn yellow and can be recycled more times than its trees. Manufacturing paper from hemp is environmentally friendly as it requires less toxic chemicals.
- Hemp was the first cash crop to be grown in many states. In fact, it was the largest cash crop until its ban in the twentieth century. In 1938, hemp was called the “Billion Dollar Crop.” It was the first time a cash crop had a business potential to exceed a billion dollars.
- Until the introduction of cotton in the 1820s, about 80% of all linen, clothes, textile, fabrics, and drapes were made of hemp. Also, all schoolbooks were manufactured using either hemp or flax until the 1880s.
- From 1631 to the early 1800s, it was legal to pay taxes with hemp in America. Hemp was such a valued commodity that refusing to dedicate a portion of your land for growing hemp was against the law. Jail time was guaranteed for residents of Virginia who refused to grow hemp from 1763 to 1769.
- Going back thousands of years, around 90% of all ships’ ropes and sails were made using hemp. Consequently, when Christopher Columbus set out to explore the world, he chose ropes and sails made of hemp due to their ability to withstand continuous exposure to saltwater.
- Hemp has been part and parcel of the American culture ever since the founding days of the country. In fact, Betsy Ross used the material when making the first-ever American flag. Most recently, in 2013, the Growing Warriors Project, which employs veterans to make flags out of hemp and is behind the legalization of the crop. The group managed to get one of their hemp flags fly over the Capitol building as part of a veteran’s day celebration.
- The first Model-T made by Henry Ford was constructed from hemp and ran on hemp gasoline. Its hemp plastic panels had ten times the impact strength of a steel car. Also, every Mercedes C-class has about 20kgs of hemp. Other car brands like Audi and BMW use hemp to make some of their machinery.
- The plant is also suitable for bioremediation properties. Bioremediation is the process of removing toxins from soil, water, and air. It helps in the rehabilitation of soil after nuclear disasters as it can remove radioactive isotopes. For example, after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, hemp was planted to clear the site of harmful products like radioisotopes.
- When you think of some of the most renowned painters of all time, people like Van Gogh, Gainsborough, and Rembrandt, what do these three individuals have in common? They all painted on hemp! This is because one of the main qualities of hemp is that it remains undamaged by light. Any oil painting done on hemp canvas can remain in good condition for hundreds of years.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What is industrial hemp?
Industrial hemp is a plant member of the cannabis family, specifically the Cannabis sativa family. For a plant to be classified as hemp, it has to have a minimum of 0.3% THC, though this number may vary depending on the country.
- What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Hemp is different from marijuana in four main ways; physically, chemically, cultivation-wise, and utility-wise.
- Physically, marijuana is a short bush-like plant with broad leaves, while hemp is a tall, thin plant with few slender leaves at the top of the plant.
- Chemically, the main difference between hemp and marijuana is the composition of THC. Hemp has less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana has 5% to 40% THC. For this reason, you can get high from marijuana as THC is the psychoactive element, but it is difficult to get high from hemp.
- Hemp does well outdoors in temperate climates and very close together. Marijuana requires controlled environments like in greenhouses several feet apart from each other.
- Hemp has many industrial purposes. On the other hand, marijuana is mainly grown for its psychoactive qualities.
They, however, both have medicinal value because they have CBD and other cannabinoids that stimulate the human body.
- Why did hemp production drop in the past?
There are two main reasons why hemp production ceased. When countries banned the plant, they classified it together with marijuana as cannabis, and they set regulations that discouraged its farming, such as hefty fines and penalties. The second reason is that the demand for the products reduced further, discouraging farmers.
- What are the potential uses of hemp?
Hemp cultivation leads to the production of seeds, leaves, and stalk. The stalks can be further processed into fiber, hurds, CBD is applicable in the fuel, food, beauty, and pharmaceutical industry. The seeds and hemp seed oil are full of nutrients useful in a variety of industries. The fiber is applicable in the textile, paper, and construction industry. You can use hurds as animal litter and tree mulch.
- What do I need to start farming?
The first thing to do is to check the legislative requirements of your country. Generally, hemp farming is highly regulated, and you may be required to pay some fees, acquire some licenses, and file some paperwork. The next thing is to have a significant amount of land and to consult a specialist for the best type of hemp to plant and the best ways to plant and harvest your crop. Finally, decide on potential clients so that you have a ready market for your harvest.
- What can I do with industrial hemp stalk?
The hemp stalk produces fiber and hurds after processing. The fiber is used in the paper and textile industry. Hurds are sometimes broken down into hemp shivs and used in construction and animal bedding. The stalk can also make bio-fuels like methane and ethane or in making CBD oil.
- Where is hemp grown?
Many countries grow hemp, but China is the leading cultivator and exporter. Other countries include Canada, Australia, Russia, and France.
- Is it legal to grow hemp in the USA?
In December 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law a farm bill legalizing the growth of industrial hemp in the USA. There are, however, many restrictions, such as chemical composition limits and the need for farming permits from federal governments.
- What are the advantages of hemp in comparison to other cash and food crops?
Hemp plants are very pest resistant and therefore do not need pesticides. The plant also grows densely, so it does not require herbicides. For the above reasons, a farmer can gain organic certification by intercropping hemp with their other crops. Hemp also has a higher yield per square foot than most other crops. When planted, hemp benefits the soil in various ways: it removes toxins, its deep roots aerate the soil, it restores 70% of its nutrients to the soil to fertilize it, and it reduces soil erosion.
- How are hemp clothes made?
Hemp stalks have a lot of fiber. After the harvest, they are retted to soften them, and then they are removed, separated, and interwoven to make threads that can be used to make fabrics.
- Why is it better than cotton?
Hemp is much better than cotton because it produces a higher yield in a shorter time. Furthermore, it uses less water, fewer chemicals, and is less intensive than cotton cultivation.