Legalizing Industrial Hemp: Continued Sustainability for Renewable Fibers
Hemp, used in the production of everything from clothing and salad dressing to paper and protein powder, is not the same as marijuana. Sure, they are different varieties of the same plant, but the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, is less than 0.3 percent in hemp compared to three to 15 percent in marijuana.
The THC levels are simply too low to provide a lasting mental effect in hemp compared to its counterpart so it only makes sense to have larger hemp farming and production in the U.S. for its many other benefits since all current hemp products are created with seeds, oil and fiber farmed outside the U.S. But now that Congress passed the legalization of hemp farming this past June, it could have a positive impact on the economy.
5 Ways Industrial Hemp Can Benefit the U.S.
Prior to the vote to pass legalizing hemp cultivation, $400 million has been spent on importing hemp fibers and seed productions. Not a single dime of that money was spent inside the United States for production. This creates a more open market for goods created from hemp fibers and seeds within the United States, which can help economic growth. Everything from purchases of goods made with hemp to creating additional jobs from farming, the growth possibilities are great.
Hemp does not require pesticides or herbicides to grow. As the plant is sturdy, it can be grown in virtually any environmental condition and can produce up to four crops per year. And it's sustainable: One acre of hemp can create more paper than a single acre of trees and it's able to absorb five times the CO2 than natural forests can assimilate.
Hemp seeds are loaded with nutritional value. It is one of the world’s most prominent sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, all nine essential amino acids and is a great source for protein, second only to soy, but just as versatile and healthier.
Hemp, unlike cotton, has hollow fibers. When used in clothing, it can help regulate and maintain body temperature better than cotton. When used in home building materials, like concrete, carpet and other textiles, it can be used to help insulate a home. And since hemp grows faster than cotton, the crop can be turned out much more quickly and turned into products faster. Cotton can also take up to twice as much land to yield the same results when compared to textiles made with hemp.
Because of hemp's ability to grow in virtually any climate, is resistant to weeds and grows faster than other biomass fuel crops, some speculate it can join the ranks of being used in biomass power plants (no pun intended). Hemp can be made into ethanol and biofuels, which could help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Although there may be a great deal of speculation and conjecture regarding the June ruling of industrial hemp, the benefits can be staggering to say the least. As the United States was the only industrialized nation that had prohibited commercialization of hemp, more money and products can be kept inside the country for economic benefits. While it may take some time and realization from other industries to favor hemp over other alternatives such as wood, sustainability has won a great victory.