What Is Industrial Hemp? [Explained]

Those of you on our site will probably already know that CBD comes from hemp. Now that CBD is so accessible, lots of people are aware of hemp, but few people really understand what it is, where it comes from, and why it’s so important.

Industrial hemp is a miraculous plant with lots of uses, yet we are only just starting to use it again. For a long time, hemp fell out of use in America and the world over. Fortunately, it’s back in a big way.

Hemp has hit the scene and made a big splash, leaving many consumers confused when they see ‘hemp’ plastered all over product labels. Is hemp really as good as it seems, or is it all just a marketing ploy?

In this guide, we go over the basics and the details about industrial hemp, including why you should be delighted to see it featuring more on the market!

Industrial Hemp: The Most Useful Form of Cannabis?

When people know the applications of hemp, they are often surprised to hear that it is a species of cannabis. Its Latin name is Cannabis sativa, the very same Latin name as marijuana!

Cannabis plants have been on this Earth for centuries and have long been enjoyed by humans. And no, not just for getting high! Hemp and marijuana might technically be the same species, but there are some very vital distinctions between them.

The cannabis species has evolved unique compounds called cannabinoids. These are the active compounds that interact with the human body when we imbibe cannabis.

industrial-hemp

Each cannabinoid has different effects. Perhaps the most famous is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This compound is responsible for the intoxicating high felt by marijuana users. Unsurprisingly, marijuana contains lots of THC – up to 30% in some cases!

Hemp, on the other hand, is very low in THC. According to the current legal definition of hemp in the USA, it must contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. In contrast, hemp contains lots of cannabidiol (CBD). It has become most famous in recent years due to the boom in the CBD industry.

Industrial hemp, the term for hemp cultivated for various uses, looks very similar to any other cannabis plant. It can grow up to 5 meters tall, with long, green, pronged leaves. That said, it grows differently to marijuana because it is extremely hardy.

Furthermore, hemp has many more uses than marijuana. Breeders have selectively grown it to produce fibrous, sturdy plants that have a variety of applications. Later, we will run through a handful of the things industrial hemp can do.

Hemp’s History Around the World

Way back in the day, hemp was an essential crop. It flourished naturally in Asia and the Middle East, where the species originates. Before long, farmers had brought it to Europe. Due to the many uses of industrial hemp, growing it was vital for the economy; at the time, its primary purpose was textiles.

After the colonization of the Americas, the British insisted that landowners in the New World grow industrial hemp. In George Washington’s diary, he wrote in 1765 that hemp seeds were sown each day up to the middle of April.

Hemp was used to make cloth, long before cotton was popularized. Thanks to its natural growing capabilities and benefits for the soil, nearly every farmer in America was growing hemp at one point.

So, what happened?

In the early 1900s, a cannabis scare was spreading. Reports of Mexican immigrants using “locoweed” that made them lazy and violent were circulating in newspapers, and political campaigners fought against the idea of aliens using drugs. By 1937, the anti-marijuana stance was so large that the US Marihuana Tax Act passed.

The Act effectively banned cannabis, though it wasn’t technically a controlled substance until the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970. Unfortunately, it did not distinguish between hemp and marijuana, although the former cannot get you high.

As a result, hemp was suddenly illegal. Under the 1970s Act, both plants are considered Schedule 1 substances – worse than cocaine! (Cocaine is a Schedule 2, by the way.)

Nowadays, hemp is coming back in a big way. Politicians and the public at large are finally starting to recognize its many uses and separate it from its intoxicating counterpart.

What Is Hemp Used for?

Hemp has some incredible uses and a long list of diverse reasons to grow it. Here are just some of the things we can use it for:

CBD products:

The flowers of the hemp plant are rich in cannabinoids, particularly CBD. In recent years, CBD has become extremely popular as a nutritional supplement, with an extensive range of purported health benefits. Rather than harvesting it from marijuana, which tends to be low in CBD, manufacturers get it from hemp.

Textiles:

The fibrous stalks of hemp are ideal for making cloth and textiles. Some people believe that hemp is a better alternative to cotton because it is more durable and better at retaining color. Furthermore, it gets softer with wear, rather than more uncomfortable like cotton.

Bioplastics:

Some parts of hemp can also be mulched down and used in the construction of bioplastics. These are the plastics of the future, biodegradable alternatives that give us the convenience of plastic without the damage to our planet. In fact, one of the first-ever Ford cars contained hemp materials in the dashboard.

Bio concrete:

Similarly, some inventors have figured out how to make concrete alternatives using hemp.

Biofuel:

Yet another thing we can replace with hemp is fuel. It is commonly used in biofuels as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels and gas.

Nutrition:

The seeds of hemp are incredibly nutritious. They are a source of complete protein, containing all nine amino acids. They’re also packed with Omega 3s and 6s.

Cold pressing hemp seeds results in a delicious oil with a nutty flavor, perfect for drizzling; the seeds can also be eaten raw, offering plenty of nutrition.

Insulation:

You can build your house using hemp concrete, and you can also insulate it using hemp fibers!

Animal feed and bedding:

Hemp makes good fodder for farm animals. It’s also soft enough to make the perfect animal bedding, which is why hemp dog beds are now quite common on the market. Comfy enough for Fido, but durable enough to survive his claws!

Hemp Farming 101

As you can see, hemp is a wonderful plant with lots of uses. It’s pretty sustainable, too. With a singular hemp plant, the seeds can be used for food, the buds for CBD, and the stalks and leaves for textiles and construction. There is absolutely no waste!

Plus, hemp is excellent for growers. It grows very easily, without the need for chemical growth enhancers. That’s yet another reason why hemp is good for the environment: No fertilizers or pesticides are needed.

Hemp is a bio-accumulator, meaning it sucks anything and everything up from the soil. It is sometimes planted in areas with poor soil to suck out toxins and improve soil quality for future crops. Nevertheless, hemp does not damage the earth in any way, and farmers can repeatedly grow on the same land for years without soil degradation.

What’s more, hemp is much more sustainable than cotton and other plants. It requires very little water – up to 50% less than cotton just during growing, and even less when you factor in processing. It also requires less land than cotton. Finally, unlike cotton, it returns 60-70% of nutrients to the soil.

To recap, hemp is excellent for the soil, better for the environment than cotton, and can be used with very little waste. If that pleases you, you’ll be glad to know that hemp farming is on the up.

Is Hemp Farming Allowed in the US?

This question is not straightforward to answer. Until recently, hemp farming was banned throughout the US. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed research institutions to farm hemp as part of an investigation into its properties and uses.

Then, in 2018, the Farm Bill was updated with the Hemp Farming Act. Now, it’s up to individual states whether they allow the cultivation of hemp. Most have jumped on the bandwagon with individual hemp farming guidelines, allowing licensed growers to cultivate hemp that is overseen by the state.

Those looking to grow hemp should thoroughly check the guidelines in their state and go through the relevant processes. A word of warning: It’s not cheap! States expect lots of application fees and fees to help their staff test the crops for THC. It can be a lengthy process, but worth it if you’re eligible.

After all, hemp is thought to be a $41.78 billion industry by 2027.

Final Thoughts: Hemp Today

Industrial hemp is a plant with a lot of potential. At the moment, it’s most well-known for CBD, but there is a lot more to hemp. It can be used for textiles, construction, nutrition, animal feed, and more. With little waste and the possibility of sustainable growing, it’s no surprise that we are finally waking up to the benefits of hemp.

The hemp market is set to grow in the years to come, which is excellent news for proponents of the plant. As for how far it can go, we will have to wait and see.

Article Sources:
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