Hemp is the name for the Cannabis plant. It is a soft and durable fiber. Hemp has been grown for the last 12,000 years for paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, health food, fuel and construction material. There are many advantages to utilizing this source, but there are also many stigmas attached to the product.
Hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants known. Jefferson actually farmed hemp and drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. George Washington also grew organic hemp and Ben Franklin owned a mill that produced hemp paper. Because it was so important for rope and sails for ships, hemp used to be a required crop in the American colonies. Hemp was also used extensively in WWII for uniforms, canvas, rope and more. The leader in hemp production today is China. However, Europe, North Korea and Chile are some of the other major producers. There are also over 30 countries that produce industrial hemp. Some include Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, Austria and Australia. It is important to note that the US imports more hemp than any other country. Our government however does not distinguish the difference between marijuana and the non-psychoactive Cannabis used for industrial uses; therefore it is against the law to farm.
For those that do not know the difference, let me explain. Industrial hemp has a THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol) of 0.05% to 1%. This simply means a person would have to smoke at least 10 hemp cigarettes in a very short time to feel any effect. Marijuana has THC of 3% to 20%. While these two plants look similar, a trained eye can easily distinguish the two.
Here is just a short list of the fine qualities of organic hemp:
• Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, mold resistant and more absorbent than cotton.
• It does a better job of blocking UV rays than most fibers.
• It can be made into quality paper and can be recycled several times more than wood based paper.
• Hemp is a sustainable crop and can grow without the use of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
• It grows in a variety of climates and soil types. Because it grows so tightly together, it out competes weeds. This is great for a weed free crop and to use while certifying an organic field.
• Hemp can displace cotton. Cotton is the most chemically treated crop in the world.
• It can also replace wood fibers, save forests, wild life habitat, oxygen production, carbon sequestration and many other values.
• Hemp can also grow at four times the rate of an average forest.
• It can also be used as food (it contains no gluten), dietary supplements, oils, medicines, jewelry, fuel, cosmetics and much more. There are also no known allergens to organic hemp.
Harvesting can be a little more labor intensive than other crops. Most small crops are harvested by hand; however the bigger plantations have gain access to mechanical cutter-binders and simpler cutters. After they cut the hemp, it is laid in swathes to dry for up to four days. It is then gathered, steamed and the fibers are separated. The processed is called, Thermo mechanical pulping.
There are many legal statistics that have been put in place for the production of organic hemp. There are also many different opinions on how and if we should produce this in the US. Only those who do the research and get the facts should place opinions on this subject. There are facts supporting what a great product this is, how it could benefit our country and the all-around good it is for the environment. As a world that is going back to their roots, this is just one of those topics worth mention.