Hemp is the common name for the cannabis family of plants, although the word is typically used in reference to industrial hemp.
What is Industrial Hemp?
The term industrial hemp refers to cannabis strains cultivated for non-drug usage. Industrial hemp is usually referred to, simply as hemp. Most of the time, when someone talks about hemp, they are referring to industrial hemp.
Hemp is an extremely versatile, natural fiber. It is sometimes referred to as a “super fiber” due to it’s amazing range of benefits and attributes. Hemp is the strongest natural fiber in the world, and it has been cultivated for a wide variety of purposes for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest known woven fabric was made of hemp over 10,000 years ago.
In recent years, hemp has been gaining a reputation as an environmentally friendly alternative to many other fibers. For example, hemp clothing and accessories are becoming popular alternatives to their cotton or polyester counterparts.
Despite hemp’s usefulness, it is often misunderstood. Because hemp is closely related to marijuana, some people assume it can be misused (i.e. for drug use). The fact is that industrial hemp doesn’t contain enough tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to make it a psychoactive drug (such as marijuana).
Environmental Benefits of Hemp
To say that hemp is environmentally friendly is an understatement. Hemp contains so many environmental benefits, it’s amazing it’s not more popular. Hopefully this will change as the climate change / global warming debate heats up further.
For starters, hemp can be grown in most climates, without pesticides, and uses very little water. Also, hemp products are 100% biodegradable.
Here are some more of hemp’s environmental benefits.
Currently, hemp is allowed to be grown virtually anywhere in the world - except the U.S.. In the U.S. hemp cultivation is now illegal. This is unfortunate given the enormous environmental benefits to be gained from industrial hemp.
Hemp wasn’t always illegal in America though. Here are some interesting facts about hemp laws and usage in the U.S.:
- The first American flag was made from hemp.
- The U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were drafted on hemp, and then copied onto parchment.
- U.S. presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp.
- Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper.
- During the second world war, the U.S. government actually subsidized hemp.
- During the Colonial Era and Early Republic, American farmers were legally bound to grow hemp.
- In 1937, hemp cultivation was outlawed in the U.S..
- Although it’s illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., it’s not illegal to import or use products made from hemp.
Given the obvious environmental benefits of hemp, and the non-issue regarding it’s association with marijuana, the U.S. hemp laws are apparently in urgent need of review.
As Thomas Jefferson once said “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country”
…or as George Washington said, “Make the most of the Indian Hemp Seed and sow it everywhere“!
Uses for Hemp
Being such a versatile fiber, there are literally thousands of uses for hemp. Many people claim that there are over 25,000 known uses for hemp!
Without naming all 25,000 uses(!), hemp can be used in a wide range of areas including consumer textiles (eg, clothing, bags), industrial textiles (eg, ropes, nets), food (eg, oils, supplements), body care products (eg, soap, shampoo), and building materials (eg, fiberboard, hempcrete).
For more detail, check out my post on the uses of hemp.