Hemp, the non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana, is making a resurgence. In the US, growing hemp was illegal for almost 80 years and once the ban was lifted, cultivation numbers began to rise. In 1999, roughly 250 million pounds of hemp were grown; this number grew to 280 million pounds by 2011. The steady growth of hemp cultivation is due largely for use in health food, body-care products and supplements; however, it’s also used for fiber and clothing.
In addition to being a powerhouse producer, hemp is among the oldest cultivated plants on the planet. Across the history of hemp usage, there is evidence dating to its use as far back as 12,000 years ago.
Across nations that allow hemp cultivation (namely Europe and Canada), the go-to strain grown for industrial use is cannabis sativa because indica doesn’t have the high-fiber quality. The biggest differences are the appearance of the plants and the amount of THC that the plants produce.
Hemp plants cultivated for industrial use have been bred to produce miniscule amounts of THC of below .3%—so little in fact that there are no psychoactive effects. (That’s not to say they don’t also contain many beneficial, healing compounds – just that it’s not THC.)
A little more about hemp: It’s quick growing and virtually weed-free (pardon the pun). Hemp is also a hardy plant that is fairly cold and pest resistant. Additionally, hemp is the perfect plant to grow in a rotational field, especially with plants that require nitrogen (a natural by-product of hemp growth), like legumes.
Industrial Hemp Uses
Hemp has numerous uses in the industrial world. These uses include:
- Housing Materials
For more insight into the various uses of hemp, read “4 Non-Medical Uses for Hemp“.
Historically, paper was one of the most popular hemp-made products with as much as 90% of paper being hemp-derived before 1883. In fact, many of the most important written documents in history were drafted on hemp paper, including the Gutenberg Bible. It’s likely that drafts of the US Declaration of Independence were written on hemp-based paper before being transferred to parchment for longevity, given the time period in which they were written.
For thousands of years, hemp has been used to produce ropes and cordage, clothing (including being incorporated into silk, nettle and cotton and flax fabrics) and twines. Additionally, hemp has the versatility to be used in fabrics from heavy upholstery fabric to delicate silks.
Benefits of Hemp Farming
In addition to being a versatile product, hemp is easy to grow. It’s being labeled as a part of the “Green Future” because its growth requires very little maintenance. Hemp requires little or no pesticides/herbicides, provides a high volume of oxygen output and works as an erosion control method for the topsoil it’s grown in, thanks to hemp’s elaborate root system–allowing it to be grown in both drought and flood prone areas.
Another benefit of hemp use lies in the products it can help us become less reliant upon; namely paper produced by trees. In order to produce tree paper, not only do we contribute to deforestation, but potentially toxic chemicals (like chlorine bleach) are used to treat the paper. Paper made from hemp fibers only requires the use of hydrogen peroxide to whiten, which is considered environmentally safe (PDF).
Using hemp to produce paper products can help to preserve our wooded areas. According to the USDA 404 Bulletin Report in 1916, it takes only 1.33 acres of hemp to produce 1 ton of fiber. Conversely, 5.4 acres of trees would be required to produce that same amount. Paper made from hemp can also be recycled upwards of 10 times. By comparison, paper made from wood pulp recycles only a few times.
At CBD Web, we’re excited about all the wonderful things hemp can mean for our world today, especially as we re-examine the medical benefits hemp has provided for thousands of years already.