WHAT IS HEMP
Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated crops known to man. It has been used for paper, textiles, and cordage for thousands of years. In fact, the Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a scrap of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.
So what exactly is hemp, and how is it different from the psychoactive form of cannabis that we consume medicinally and recreationally? Let’s dive into some Hemp 101 so you can better understand this versatile material.
There are many different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp — also called industrial hemp — refers to the non-psychoactive (less than 1% THC) varieties of Cannabis Sativa L. Both hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, but are genetically distinct and are further distinguished by use, chemical makeup, and cultivation methods.
Hemp can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials that can be incorporated into thousands of products. Its seeds and flowers are used in health foods, organic body care, and other nutraceuticals.
Last year, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) estimated the total retail value of all hemp products sold in the U.S. at $620 million. Sadly, all of the raw hemp materials were imported from other countries. (More on that later.) Hemp is an attractive rotation crop for farmers. As it grows, hemp breathes in CO2, detoxifies the soil, and prevents soil erosion. What’s left after harvest breaks down into the soil, providing valuable nutrients.
Hemp requires much less water to grow — and no pesticides — so it is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops.
Hemp can do a lot, but it can’t get you “high.” Because hemp varieties contain virtually zero tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), your body processes it faster than you can smoke it. Trying to use hemp to put you on cloud nine will only put you in bed with a migraine!
In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act strictly regulated the cultivation and sale of all cannabis varieties. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis — including hemp — as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal to grow it in the United States (which is why we’re forced to import hemp from other countries as long as it contains scant levels of THC — 0.3% is the regulation for hemp cultivation in the European Union and Canada). As a result of this long-term prohibition, most people have forgotten the industrial uses of the plant and continue to misidentify hemp with its cannabis cousin, marijuana.
4 HEMP FACTS
While marijuana plants contain high levels of THC, hemp contains very little of the psychoactive chemical. This single difference is what most rely on to distinguish hemp from marijuana. For xample, countries like Canada have set the maximum THC content of hemp at 0.3%. Any cannabis with higher THC levels is considered marijuana instead.
Outside the U.S., hemp is grown in more than 30 countries. In 2011, the top hemp-producing country was China, followed by Chile and the European Union. Hemp production is also expanding in Canada, with the country’s annual crop reaching a record high of 66,700 acres in 2013.
Hemp food products have become increasingly popular for health-conscious people, since 2007. It is used to make paper, plastics that are biodegradable, clothing, textiles, body care products, bio-fuel and construction materials like concrete and insulation. It helps conserve renewable and non-renewable natural resources.
Hemp is an incredibly sustainable renewable resource that can be grown in many climates and conditions around the world. With that being said, there are many environmental benefits by using this sustainable plant. For one, the use of hemp to create a better quality and longer-lasting paper is extremely environmentally friendly.