The industrial hemp plant is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant with very low levels of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). An environmentally friendly plant requiring little to no pesticides and herbicides, hemp is grown in increasing quantities throughout Europe, in China and in other countries to meet the growing demand for hemp-based products, such as textiles, composite materials, construction supplies, paper products, foods and nutritional supplements.
“Hemp’s excellent fiber can replace virgin timber pulp in paper, glass fibers in construction and automotive composites, and pesticide-intensive cotton in textiles. Because of its huge market potential and high biomass/cellulose content, hemp is an ideal future crop for producing bio-ethanol and bio-plastics.” – Dr. Bronners
The use of hemp is becoming more popular in many types of products because the plant is ideal for fiber production and also is a natural nutritional supplement with vast healing qualities. Hemp is now being used to make thousands of consumer products, including paper, clothing, fabrics, hemp oil, soap, building products, insulation, automobile parts, beauty products, foods, and many more everyday items.
“Among the species studied, the hemp species proved itself to be the best in fiber production. This plant was all the more interesting owing to its low fertilization requirements, and its ability to grow without being irrigated and without chemicals, whether it be for weed or pest control.” – Barriere, et al. 1994
US farmers are keen to find a new alternative to traditional crops as they have been struggling while the US agricultural industry continues to suffer from depleted soils, new competition driven by global trade, crop subsidies, drought, and increases in costs due to raising prices of labor and fuel. For example, economies in Kentucky and North Carolina are experiencing a transition from agriculture to manufacturing and services, which is having a negative impact on tobacco growers in these states. For them, industrial hemp could mean an opportunity for the farming community to renew itself and play a role in the new economy.
“Our farmers need a cash crop, need something to turn to since the great tobacco buyouts, need something to sustain their family farms! And we need industry in Kentucky!” – Katie Moyer, Chair, Kentucky Hemp Coalition
Over 30 industrialized countries are growing hemp as a drug-free crop. Great Britain, France, Switzerland and Spain are currently leading the world in the hemp-building sector, while Australia and Germany are the global leaders in the creation of biodegradable plastics and bio-composites. The US currently imports about $400 million or more worth of hemp annually. The hemp industry in the US is actively seeking government and public support by educating people and offering facts about hemp and its industrial potential, while pointing out that hemp has no intoxicating value as a drug since it contains only minute levels of THC compared with illegal marijuana.
“The United States is the only industrialized nation to prohibit the growth of industrial hemp.” – VoteHemp.com
Many states such as Vermont, North Dakota, California and others have passed laws that would allow for industrial hemp farming, although the US federal government and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) continue to regard hemp the same as marijuana. Marijuana contains much higher levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and because hemp is low in THC, it does not have the same value as a street drug. Put simply, hemp does not get you high.
Furthermore, industrial hemp is grown in a much different manner than marijuana plants cultivated for their THC-rich flowers and leaves. Hemp plants are planted closely together to help cultivate thin long stalks and are encouraged to fertilize in order to produce seeds. On the other hand, marijuana growers try to prevent fertilization of the female plant, which then produces more THC, and grow the plants spread widely apart to allow for bushier flowers and leaves.
To date 10 states (Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia) have passed legislation to remove barriers to the production or research associated with industrial hemp. The state legislations of California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia have also passed resolutions that urge the US Congress to recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity and to pass legislation to remove barriers to state regulation of commercial production of industrial hemp.
The global hemp industry was estimated at around $500 million in 2010, with the US accounting for an overwhelming majority of sales at an estimated $400 million. Many believe these figures are just a glimpse of the true potential of industrial hemp, and that once various myths about hemp’s street drug value are rationalized and its truths are revealed, hemp will easily prove its merit as the most important crop of our time. Of course, established industries do not want to see hemp legalized because it upsets the status quo by threatening to change to flow of money and power in an industry that is well-controlled by corporate interests.
In August 2012, US Senator Ron Wyden introduced bill S. 3501, the Senate companion bill to H.R. 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011.
“Introducing this bill is the first step toward a common sense policy on hemp that helps create American jobs. It is vital that all advocates for industrial hemp redouble their efforts to win support in Congress if we are going to reestablish this economically important crop.” – Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Wyden’s position on industrial hemp farming is further summarized in the video below.
If you wish to support Senator Wayden’s companion bill to H.R. 1831, you can take action here and write to your Senators in Congress to ask them to co-sponsor S.3501.
- Hemp building products allow us to create breathable but thermal resistant structures, that are also fire and insect resistant.
- Hemp structures are energy efficient and make a smaller impact on the planets natural resources.
- Hemp beauty products are natural and much healthier than chemical and synthetic-based products.
- Hemp is a pesticide and herbicide free crop that replenishes top soil with nutrients.
- Hemp industry would create new jobs such as transportation, manufacturing, weaving, seed pressing, etc.
- Hemp-based foods are easily digestible, allowing the body to absorb needed nutrients and live healthier lives.
- Hemp is an amazing source of carbon sequestration, with an acre of hemp reclaiming about 4 times as much CO2 as an acre of trees.
Our role as awake human beings is to use innovation and technology to enhance the design of the products we use and of our living spaces in order to make a less significant impact on our planet. As we continue industrial development, we need to do this more harmoniously with nature. The hemp plant allows us to do just that. Some would say it is as though Mother Nature, or God, has given us a gift of the hemp plant to help us on our journey to save our planet and liberate humanity from the dead end road of toxic consumption.
“Make the most of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” – George Washington, 1794
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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