Hemp is the same plant as marijuana, its scientific name is “cannabis sativa.” For thousands of years hemp was used to make dozens of commercial products like paper, rope, canvas, and textiles. In fact, the very name “canvas” comes from the Dutch word meaning cannabis, which is marijuana. That’s correct, real canvas is made from marijuana!
Many years ago hemp/marijuana was unjustly banned. However, hemp has recently been rediscoverd as a plant that has enormous environmental, economic, and commercial potential. What follows are some fascinating facts about hemp/marijuana – facts that will shock most people:
The potential of hemp for paper production is enormous. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, one acre of hemp can produce 4 times more paper than one acre of trees! All types of paper products can be produced from hemp: newsprint, computer paper, stationary, cardboard, envelopes, toilet paper, even tampons.
Paper production from hemp would eliminate the need to chop down BILLIONS of trees! MILLIONS of acres of forests and huge areas of wildlife habitat could be preserved.
Trees must grow for 20 to 50 years after planting before they can be harvested for commercial use. Within 4 months after it is planted, hemp grows 10 to 20 feet tall and it is ready for harvesting! Hemp can be grown on most farmland throughout the U.S., where forests require large tracts of land available in few locations. Substituting hemp for trees would save forests and wildlife habitats and would eliminate erosion of topsoil due to logging. Reduction of topsoil erosion would also reduce pollution of lakes/rivers/streams.
Hemp produces twice as much fiber per acre as cotton! An area of land only 25 miles by 25 miles square (the size of a typical U.S. county) planted with hemp can produce enough fiber in one year to make 100 MILLION pair of denim jeans! A wide variety of clothing made from 100% hemp (pants, denim jeans, jackets, shoes, dresses, shorts, hats) is now available.
The sizeable economic opportunity for domestic industrial hemp products explains the tenacity of lawmakers and industrial hemp advocates seeking a second chance for the law. The long, strong fibers of the hemp plant require less energy to manufacture than many petroleum-based plastics used in comparable industrial applications today. Carmakers like Ford and BMW report that replacing heavy fiberglass and epoxy automotive components with durable, lighter-weight hemp-based fiberboard cost-and pollute-less. Savings are realized both in the production stage and through better gas mileage for the life of the vehicle. Altogether, millions of cars are already on the road today with hemp components, and the industry says they’d likely use more hemp if it was available domestically.
Hemp seeds are a source of nutritious high-protien oil that can be used for human and animal consumption. Hemp oil is NOT intoxicating. Extracting protein from hemp is less expensive than extracting protein from soybeans. Hemp protein can be processed and flavored in any way soybean protein can. Hemp oil can also be used to make highly nutritious tofu, butter, cheese, salad oils, and other foods. Hemp oil can also be used to produce paint, varnish, ink, lubricating oils, and plastic susbstitues. Because 50% of the weight of a mature hemp plant is seeds, hemp could become a significant source for these products.
Hemp for rope, lubricating oil, shoe material, and other materials was in such short supply during World War II that the U.S. government temporarily re-legalized hemp so U.S. farmers could grow it for the war effort. Hemp helped us win World War II! Hemp was a common crop that was grown legally in the U.S. for commercial use until 1937.
U.S. Presidents and founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp, used hemp products, and were hemp advocates. Today’s political leaders–as well as the public that favors marijuana prohibition–would treat George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with disdain, brand them criminals, and throw them in prison!
We actually use hemp a lot in daily lives, but we aren’t allowed to grow it ourselves. In 2015, the United States imported about $78 million worth of hemp seeds and fibers from other countries like Canada and China. In recent years, there has been an increased effort to inform the public about the differences between hemp and marijuana so that we can allow farmers to grow hemp locally and add to our economy. So far, 27 states have legalized the production of hemp in some way, whether it be for pilot programs heavily monitored by the state or complete legalization with regulations that determine THC content and farming practices.