There’s a certain green plant with a reputation for its psychedelic effects and was known to help Bob Marley get through his days. Marijuana gets all the fame, but lesser known is its family member, industrial hemp. This column is about hemp’s gift to us all — the latest material used to make eco-friendly products.
Hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis family, but have completely different uses. Industrial hemp has been used for industrial and agricultural purposes as an alternative to everything including wood, gasoline and plastic. Marijuana on the other hand effects the nervous system. It has been used for both medicinal purposes, as a pain killer, and recreationally to alter the senses.
In 1998, a study titled “Environmental Economics” found that hemp is very environmentally friendly and is a carbon negative raw material, limiting harmful carbon footprints. The hemp plant requires little-to-no pesticide and herbicide use, meaning it does not put any more chemicals into the ground.
Hemp is a woody fiber, more fibrous than its munchie inducing cousin, and is commonly mixed with other organic fibers like cotton or silk to make clothing fabric. The oil extracted from hemp seeds can be used in oil-based paints, moisturizers and plastics. Some of the most valuable hemp can produce are paper, textiles, clothing and biodegradable plastics.
China is the leading producer of hemp ahead of Europe, Chile, North Korea and Canada. According to Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, industrial hemp is legal in Canada. In 1994, Canada began doing research on the usefulness of hemp. They discovered that industrial hemp fibers and seeds could be used for various manufacturing purposes, and on March 12, 1998 hemp was legalized in Canada.
According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, North Dakota, Vermont, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Oregon and West Virginia have individually passed laws that endorse using hemp in their states. However, growing hemp is still illegal under federal law.
Unfortunately, industrial hemp is not legal in the United States because many aren’t aware of the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is illegal to grow hemp in the United States without a special DEA permit.
“Many Americans do not know that hemp and marijuana are both parts of the same plant and that hemp cannot be produced without producing marijuana,” DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson said in a statement on the DEA website.
One of the ways hemp is different from marijuana is has little-to-no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it actually contains below 0.3 percent of the psychedelic chemical. This means hemp will not get you high, while marijuana, however, contains anywhere from 2 to 20 percent THC.
Known as “antimarijuana” among its proponents, industrial hemp will actually remove high doses of THC in marijuana plants if planted near them. If smoked, hemp will make the smoker sick due to the lack of THC.
In order to create a more sustainable country, endorsing and legalizing products that are more sustainable is a must. By endorsing and using industrial hemp, the amount of trees, fossil fuels and other unrecyclable products will significantly decrease. The environmental benefits are so great that a distinction between hemp and marijuana must be made.