Hemp – What is Hemp? Is it the same as marijuana?
Chances are that you have heard it or even seen it in some form recently.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there so lets review more details in reference to hemp so we can dispel the myths.
It is sometimes unfortunate when there is overlap between illegal drugs and legitimate plants that have an industrial and medicinal use.
This posting will NOT specifically differentiate the differences and uses of recreational marijuana (essential purpose is to get high or intoxicated) use VS medicinal use (purpose is to treat an illness, symptoms or conditions medically), that is a post for another day.
This post will focus specifically on Hemp which is also part of the same family but significantly lacks the intoxicating compound (THC – Tetrahydrocannabinol) which causes the high effect. Hemp has no use as a recreational drug.
What Is Hemp and How Is It Useful
Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis Sativa plant that is grown and cultivated specifically for industrial use.
There is a large list of industrial uses of Hemp which can include: Food, Clothing Cordage & Ropes, Paper, Oils & Lotions and CBD Oil.
Hemp As A Food Source
Hemp is a great food source. If you have bought a healthy cereal or granola type food in the grocery store it may have also included hemp seed as a part of its ingredients.
You can also buy hemp seeds (shelled) separate in your local grocery store. We actually have it in our pantry and I use it in an oatmeal that we make and may even include it in a smoothie or home made bread.
They have a great flavor profile. I am not a chef with a trained pallet but I would describe it to have a sweet nutty taste. My son’s pediatrician mentioned it to us as a great protein resource that we can include in his diet.
Hemp Uses For Clothing, Cordage Ropes
The Hemp Plant can also be used to make durable clothes, cordage and ropes. There are stores that have created a niche to basically sell clothes and accessories that are made specifically from hemp. Levi Strattus even announced a product line that would include using hemp as an a component in which it calls cottonized hemp. It can also be used to create strong cordage and ropes. Hemp was used as a essential material in the age of sailing ships.
Hemp Use For Paper
Paper can be created by utilizing the fibers of the hemp plant. The paper is much stronger than paper created from wood pulp and is more commonly used for specialty purposes like bank notes or cigarette paper. Uses for hemp paper date back over 2000 years ago to China.
There is a higher production cost for hemp paper so it is often just used for specialty purposes and not mass applications like printing or writing paper etc.
Hemp Oil & Lotions
Hemp Oil (hemp seed oil) can be created by pressing hemp seeds. It is more commonly used in soaps and lotions utilizing its moisturizing properties. Hemp Oil has a relatively low smoke point of 166 C or 330 F so its not suitable for frying.
Hemp for CBD Oil
The Hemp Plant is also be utilized in the production of CBD Oil. CBD Oil (Cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid (non-intoxicating, non habit forming) which has a variety of different health benefits. CBD is NOT to be confused with THC which does in fact have psychoactive properties and does cause the intoxicating high.
As time progressed more potential uses of CBD has been revealed. Oddly enough during the COVID-19 crisis many in the industry began circulating information about how CBD may be beneficial against the virus. Some initially was unfair and potentially trying to take advantage of the situation and regulators had problems with it. However, new research from Canadian researchers revealed some properties with CBD that could block pathways into the body.
Hemp As A Sustainable Cash Crop For Farmers
Previously if you were buying a Hemp based product, chances are that it was originated out of Canada. I had learned this a while back and actually checked the label of hemp seeds in my pantry and saw this was the case.
However, a lot of this looks to be changing soon. In 2018 the United States passed the Farm Bill which essentially legalized Hemp (with restrictions). This opened the doors for domestic production of hemp within the United States. So this is a step in the right direct for those who were seeking reform on outdated policies.
As mentioned before there are restrictions and the cultivating of hemp. It has to be for industrial purposes and there are rigorous restrictions that farmers have to meet. This means that not any person can just grow hemp in the same way you would basil and tomatoes.
There is some variability between states and as an example earlier this month the state of Texas moved forward with a bill to legalize hemp.
The bill could prove to be advantageous to farmers in many regards. This gives many a great cash crop alternative for a growing and thriving market. Many farmers can barely make ends meet. This is especially the case for many small family farms.
Unless you have spent much time in rural areas or worked on a farm this can be difficult for some to comprehend (my parents grew up on farms and I got my first job on a tobacco farm).
Hemp currently can be a lot more profitable than other cash crops but it doesn’t come without its draw backs either. For one the upstart costs for growing hemp can sting. The restrictions, lot size, equipment etc will lead potential farmers to carefully analyze the numbers.
Its a totally different beast then converting a crop to soybeans or corn. Any farm of any significant size would make a large investment in upstart costs.
Here is a news clip from my home state of North Carolina that details the potential impacts of farmers in the eastern part of the state.
The Future of Hemp
With the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018 the doors of possibility are now wide open. The potential to utilize Hemp have no began to show its promise. There are restrictions that are in place but this is a move in the right direction in public policy as we evolve past out dated laws.
The industrial usage of the plant creates opportunities for farmers while also providing medicinal products (CBD Oil), clothing, food and job opportunities.
As for now we are stepping away from the unfortunate stigma that is associated with hemp VS its fellow cannabis cousin marijuana. This should prove to provide a positive cascading impact for everyone for years to follow.