Hemp: The Super Plant

hemp plants

There has always been some degree of confusion regarding the difference between hemp and marijuana. The two plants are, in fact, mutually exclusive. Marijuana is not hemp and vice versa. Hemp, for instance, is one the oldest domesticated crops in the world. Fabrics have been found containing hemp from as far back as 8,000 B.C., according to the Columbia History of the World.

Hemp contains very little of the active compound that produces the psychoactive effects of marijuana, THC. There is typically less than 1 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in hemp. So if you’re looking to get high using hemp, I wouldn’t count on it. Trying to use hemp to get high will prove fruitless, wasteful, and disappointing.

There are many different kinds of hemp, and while both hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis source called Cannabis Sativa, they both have a unique, genetic makeup. Therefore, they are used for different reasons and have different cultivation processes and chemical compositions.

The Renewable Product

rows of hemp

Hemp can be utilized in an almost limitless number of renewable products. It has historically been used for the foundational raw materials that support these products. Additionally, the seeds and flowers from hemp are routinely used in health foods and organic substances. You’ll likely find hemp fibers and stalks in clothes, office paper, plastics, biofuel, and construction material- among many others.

In a report released in 2016, the Hemp Association of America (HIA) placed an estimated value on hemp-related products sold in the U.S., at $688 million. Hemp is a highly sought after material for farmers. It has been found to consume CO2, slow down soil erosion and detoxify the ground. The results are precious nutrients that have been broken down into the ground; especially after harvest. Also, hemp does not require as much water to grow and is therefore far more environmentally welcoming than most other crops, and requires little to no pesticide use.

The Illegal Plant

Hemp Marijuana Materials

Hemp is classified as a schedule one drug making it illegal to grow in the U.S. Therefore, all those terrific benefits derived from the use of hemp would not be possible if we did not import hemp from outside the country. From as far back as 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act restricted the sale or the cultivation of any plant of the cannabis variety. So perhaps the public should be reminded of all the industrial and agricultural uses of hemp.

Then in 2015, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, under President Obama, amended The Controlled Substances Act to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana, if found to contain less than 0.3 percent concentration of THC. But that didn’t mean that hemp was universally approved for growth and cultivation in the U.S. Prohibition at the federal level still needs to be repealed entirely. If so, the world’s oldest domesticated crop could soon be back in the marketplace providing a wide-range of agricultural, environmental and industrial uses.

Although hemp and marijuana are assumed to be the same, they are not. Both plants come from the same primary source. Even though hemp and marijuana possess male and female sexes, it is the female plant that primarily distinguishes marijuana from hemp. In marijuana, for example, the female plant produces the flowers and buds that produce a high.

The difference with hemp is that the female plants contain the seeds and possess strong fibers. Essentially, this is what hemp is developed for. The durable fibers are the main reason why hemp is used for commercial and industrial reasons. There can be no high derived from hemp because of its low THC content which is usually between 0.3 and 1.5 percent. On the other hand, marijuana can possess anywhere from 5 to 40 percent THC.

What may pique your interest is that hemp has even been used in money or legal tender. Citizens in the U.S. were allowed to be relieved from the tax debts a couple of centuries ago. Oddly, at the same time back then, farmers could actually be put in jail for refusing to grow hemp.

The Planet Saver

bowl of hemp seeds

The use of hemp can also help global issues like deforestation. For example, it would only take one acre of hemp to produce the same amount of paper as more than four acres of trees. And that’s not all hemp can also be used as an alternative clean-burning fuel. This would be very helpful in reducing our dependency on fossil fuels like oil. The one acre of hemp in the previous example can also yield as much as 1,000 gallons of methanol over the course of one growing season, which means that it extracts CO2 from the environment. This closed carbon effect has been an efficient way to mitigate the effects pollution.

Beyond that, there are possible medical benefits to using hemp.
In a study by the National Center for Biotechnological Information, it was revealed that there is a protective impact of cannabidiol (CBD).

Several countries around the world have been using hemp to add to their economic output. According to the L.A. Times, Canadian companies earned a whopping $250 per acre for hemp in 2013. Hemp was legalized in Canada in 1998 after having been prohibited for some 60 years.

Many suggest that hemp could also help the American economy. It would add a new crop for farmers who wanted to diversify their crops and potentially create thousands of new farm jobs around the country. Add to this the additional positions that would be needed for transportation, processing, and sales.

Given all these advantages one might ponder why hemp was ever listed as a schedule one drug and banned from production. Since there has now been a great deal of data from the time the plant was prohibited, there is a renewed sense of hope that hemp will make a strong comeback.