Humans have been growing hemp for tens of thousands of years. It has been federal illegal in the US for the past 80 years due to its similarity to Cannabis sativa. In this article I will discuss its versatility as a material, its myriad of uses, the impact that the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill has had on cannabis reform laws and discuss the myth surrounding William Randolph Heart and hemp.
Biologically speaking, hemp is very similar to the cannabis plant. There are many different varieties of hemp just as there are many different varieties of cannabis. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC. There seems to be some difference of opinion about how much water is required to successfully grow commercial hemp. I decided to seek the advice of several of the new hemp farmers in Illinois. They were all in agreement; it depends on what variety of hemp you are growing.
Hemp products include foods and beverages, beauty and health care products, CBD hemp oil, clothing and textiles, biofuel, animal feed and bedding, garden mulch, nutritional supplements, paper substitutes and construction materials. The latest technology in hemp construction materials is the development of hemp wood and hemp bioplastics.
Because of its ability to absorb contaminants, toxins, pesticides, herbicides and CO2 through its roots, large scale industrial hemp cultivation my be our best hope to combat the effects of climate change due to CO2 emissions.
Here are the 3 ways that plants can clean up the mess that we humans have made through bad farming and industrial practices, and the irresponsible dumping of waste:
The roots absorb the following contaminants from the soil in which it is planted; arsenic, zinc, nickel, cadmium, magnesium, chromium and lead. They accumulate in the shoots and leaves of the hemp plant where they remain until the plant dies and degrades as the process repeats itself.
The plants absorb organic contaminants which are released through the leaves into the air.
Plants consume pollutants which are metabolized and destroyed completely.
Industrial hemp is being recognized as an excellent rotation crop for more traditional crops. It not only smothers weeds, but it minimizes insect and disease damage.
Hemp Is Incredibly Strong, Absorbent and Long-Lasting
- Hemp is lightweight, making it ideal for clothing, canvas, sailcloth, furniture, shoes and apparel.
- Hemp is mold and UV rays resistant.
- Hemp is durable, softens with age and retains its color and shape.
- Hemp keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Hemp can make 4 times more paper than can timber pulp.
- Hemp can make a plastic substitute that dissolves into a biodegradable waste product.
Hemp Hardwoods and Bioplastics
While the majority of US farmers are growing hemp for CBD, a Kentucky based company, Fibonacci LLC, is producing HempWood, a product made from hemp fibers and soy-based adhesives. Six foot high industrial hemp stalks are harvested and cold-pressed with resin to make hemp hardwoods, a wood product with a grain pattern. Hemp stalks grow in six months, reaching 20% higher density than oak. This increases its durability and hardness. Hardwood panels can be used for flooring, furniture and other woodworking projects. The technology was inspired by the bamboo industry.
In South Carolina, Earth Renewable Technologies is creating bioplastic hemp pellets to make consumer goods by melting them into injection molds. They are made from milled hemp fibers which produce a cellulose stock. The company manufactures plastic bottles and containers, films and coatings, home goods, clothing and 3D printing materials.
Impact of the Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill on Cannabis Reform Laws
This current Congress, the 116th, has already proven to be the most likely group of lawmakers to pass cannabis reform laws in our nation’s history. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized industrial hemp and CBD products, has led the charge towards the filing of several pieces of cannabis reform legislation.
- The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE), the first standalone bill passed by the House last month. It will allow banks to service the cannabis industry by protecting them from penalties by federal regulators. Amendments were added to protect hemp and CBD businesses.
- House amendment blocking the federally government from interfering in states’ rights regarding legal cannabis programs. It also protects the rights of Indian tribes and the US Virgin Islands.
- The FDA will start regulating the CBD product industry
- The Department of Veteran’s Affairs can no longer deny home loans to veterans working in the cannabis industry. The same bill, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allows the re-enlistment of military personnel convicted of misdemeanor cannabis offenses.
William Randolph Hearst Conspiracy Theory Making Hemp Illegal
An urban legend claims that there was a conspiracy by four powerful men to make hemp illegal in the US by way of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. They included newspaper baron, William Randolph Hearst, the DuPont family who invented nylon, Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, who was heavily invested in DuPont and Harry J. Anslinger, the first Director of Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
The conspiracy theory was perpetrated by long-time cannabis activist, Jack Herer. He grossly exaggerated the threat that hemp production posed for the timber industry. This myth has been dispelled by leading cannabis activist, Dr. Dale Gierenger, of NORML, as well as others. The idea that Hearst was a timber baron is untrue. He didn’t sell paper, he purchased it to print his newspapers. It would have been bad business practice to sabotage a more profitable paper option, namely hemp. According to Hearst’s biographer, he imported a lot of Canadian newsprint. The rise in its prices left him in financial straits in 1939. It would have been in his financial interest to support a paper substitute such as hemp which was cheaper than paper made from tree-pulp. It is true that Hearst’s newspapers sensationalized the dangers of cannabis crimes, revving up the “Reefer Madness” furor.
Let's hope that large scale industrial hemp production, with its CO2 absorption "Cleaner Upper" properties, can lead to the slowing of the effects of global climate change. Such a move is good not only for the economy but also for the planet.
fas.org, Defining Hemp: A Fact Sheet; Federation of American Scientists, March 22, 2019
plasticnews.com, Hemp Hardwoods, Bioplastics Expand Crop Use Beyond CBD, Alex Barrett, October 3, 2019.
cannabistech.com, Ethical CBD: Understanding Phytoremediation, Jan 28, 2019
skeptoid.com, Hemp, Hearst and Prohibition, Feb 11, 2014, Brian Dunning