“Hemp” refers to the non-psychoactive variety of cannabis sativa, which contains less than one percent of THC. While hemp and marijuana come from the same source, they have many differences. Most notably, they have a completely different genetic makeup and usage. So with that in mind, what is hemp good for?
Hemp as a raw material
Hemp seeds and flowers are commonly used in food because of their nutritional value. As a food, hemp can be used as a raw ingredient in bread, granola, and protein powder. Hemp seeds are considered a superfood due to their rich protein, fiber, and fatty acid content. In fact, they’re one of the rare plant-based foods with a high protein content. Hemp seeds also have antioxidant effects, which are known to reduce risks for health disease, as well as improve skin and joint health.
Hemp oil is used in body care products, and is also used in lubricants, fuel, and ink. Hemp oil is used in eastern cultures as a multi-purpose natural remedy because it’s a great source of high-quality nutrients. It can be used to moisturize skin, boost hair and nail health, improve mood, and assist with sleep. Hemp fibers and stalks are also used in clothing, construction materials, and more.
Hemp and the environment
Hemp, once a dominant crop in America, is a renewable resource and one of the earliest known domesticated crops. In place of trees, hemp can be used for paper, textiles, and cordage. Hemp is both renewable and fast-growing, and can act as a substitute for unsustainable products like non-organic cotton and plastic products.
Hemp can be used in a seemingly infinite number of products — because of this, hemp has a significant net environmental benefit. Hemp is also resistant to most pests, and it outcompetes weeds and grows in most climates and soil types. As a result, hemp requires less pesticides to grow and is more environmentally friendly than traditional crops. Hemp also absorbs carbon dioxide, detoxifies soil, and prevents soil erosion, making it an attractive rotation crop for farmers.
In the United States, the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) prohibited the cultivation of hemp in 1970. Major manufacturers like Ford Motors, Patagonia, and The Body Shop were forced to import hemp from farmers in Canada. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) calculated the total retail value of hemp products sold in the United States to be $620 million.
So, why is hemp illegal?
Since hemp and marijuana share the same source, many policymakers view the legalization of hemp as synonymous with the legalization of marijuana. However, this is untrue: hemp has no value as a recreational drug. Long-term prohibition has caused many to forget the many uses and benefits of using hemp.
Today, 31 states have pro-hemp legislation, beginning with Colorado in 1995. Despite state authorization, hemp farmers face the risk of federal raids, prison time, and property forfeiture if their crop is mistaken to be psychoactive.
The future of hemp
Currently, the US Senate is considering a farm bill which contains language from the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. This would legalize state-regulated commercial hemp farming. If it passes, it could do wonders for the hemp industry.
If you want to help support hemp, you can do so by supporting local help farmers. Try visiting a hemp farm in Colorado or buying more products that use hemp as a raw ingredient. Once you begin using products made from hemp, you’ll realize what an amazing resource it is and how much it has to offer.