Hemp is a variety of cannabis that is grown for the fiber and seeds. The fiber and seeds are incredible valuable and is why hemp is often called a “cash crop”. Hemp is a very hearty plant and grows very quickly in very diverse soil conditions. Cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes has been done by many civilizations for over 12,000 years. Industrial hemp was the desired fiber used to manufacture rope, canvas, paper, and clothing until alternative textiles and synthetics for these purposes were discovered. Although China has been the largest hemp producer over the years, other countries such as Australia and Canada are catching up. It has been illegal for anyone to grow hemp in the United States as hemp is illegal under the marijuana prohibition act but Colorado has changed the laws and paved the way for industrial hemp production again in the United States(see hemp history). Now hemp oils, hemp plastics, hemp building materials and many hemp fiber products can be seen and purchased on the market. Hemp is truly an amazing plant with the potential to help “green up” many industries.
Traditionally, hemp fiber has been a very coarse fiber when raw, which made it well suited to rope but less than ideal for clothing designed to be worn against delicate human skin. Advances in breeding of the plants and treatment/processing of the fibers have resulted in a much finer, softer hemp fiber, which is ideal for weaving into hemp clothing, fabrics and rope. Watch the video on Hemp for victory to learn more about the importance of hemp during war times.
The “re-“growth of industrial hemp in the United States is heavily regulated, although the neighbouring nation of Canada successfully grows hemp commercially. Since becoming legal to grow again in Canada, the crop has taken off and has become a booming multi-million dollar export. Hemp building materials are another growing segment of the hemp industry. Canada is now a leader in the global hemp food/health marketplace. Canadian hemp products can be found in many hemp markets now in the United States and the world over.
In addition to providing useful fibers, hemp seed also has high nutritional value. and the plant can be used to make biodegradable plastics, some fuels, and a variety of other things. Hemp foods including but not limited to hemp energy bars, hemp salad dressing,hemp milk, hemp protein shakes, hemp oil gel caps and hemp protein powder are among some of the health products being produced today. Visit the Hemp Education pages to learn more!
Industrial hemp is from the plant species Cannabis sativa and has been used worldwide to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products. Hemp is a source of fiber and oilseed grown in more than 30 nations. In the United States production is controlled under drug enforcement laws. To produce industrial hemp in the United States the grower must obtain a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
The confusion between industrial hemp and marijuana is based on the visual similarities of widely differentiated varieties of plants. By definition, industrial hemp is high in fiber and low in active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes some cannabis varieties a valued drug. Canada and the European Union maintain this distinction by strictly regulating the THC levels of industrial hemp, requiring it to be less than 0.3 percent, compared to THC levels of between 3 to 30 percent in marijuana.
Most pro-hemp initiatives in the United States are now focused on defining and distinguishing between industrial hemp and marijuana. Some pro-hemp supporters would like to move the control of U.S. hemp production from the DEA to the USDA. Proponents of legalizing hemp also argue that new technology to distinguish THC levels both in the field and from the air will allow for adequate production enforcement.
Industrial hemp is marketed a fiber, as a seed, or as a dual-purpose crop. Although detailed market information for hemp ins not readily available, estimates from The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) show that the total retail value of hemp products in the U.S. in 2013 was $581 million. This includes food and body products, clothing, auto parts, building materials, and other products.
Cultivated industrial hemp plants usually consist of a spindly main stalk covered with leaves. Considered a low-maintenance crop, hemp plants typically reach between 6 to 15 feet in height. Depending on the purpose, variety and climatic conditions, the period between planting and harvesting ranges from 70 to 140 days. One acre of hemp can yield an average of 700 pounds of grain, which in turn can be pressed into about 22 gallons of oil and 530 pounds of meal. The same acre will also produce an average of 5,300 pounds of straw, which can be transformed into approximately 1,300 pounds of fiber.
Industrial hemp may be an excellent rotation crop for traditional crops, because it suppresses weeds and decreases outbreaks of insect and disease problems. Hemp may also rebuild and condition soils by replacing organic matter and providing aeration through its extensive root system.