Industrial Hemp Production May Just Save The Planet
I know it sounds like a hyperbolic claim that hemp may save the planet, but it may actually be true. In this article I will explain what makes hemp one of the most ecological plants to grow, how it can combat the CO2 effects of climate change, describe its botanical origins, its uses, and how its legalization has impacted movement towards legalizing cannabis.
Botanically, hemp and cannabis are from the same species of the plant, Cannabis sativa. However, they are from different varieties, also known as cultivars. What distinguishes them is their use and their different practices of cultivation and production. Humans have been cultivating and manufacturing hemp products for tens of thousands of years.
Hemp products include foods and beverages, fabrics and textiles, construction materials, health and beauty products, nutritional supplements, home goods and paper, livestock feed and biofuel production. These days, just about any product made from plastic can be replicated in hemp. There are hemp airplanes and hemp cars.
You can use every bit of the hemp plant; the root, stalk, leaves and the seeds. The fibrous stem can be used to make paper, textiles, clothing and construction materials. The seeds can be eaten as a nutritional supplement or pressed for hemp oil for culinary and industrial usage. Hemp leaves are edible although this is not commonly known. The root can be made into an ingredient for a topical lotion.
Water Requirements for Hemp
There seems to be a difference of opinion on whether or not commercial hemp requires less water than other crops and whether or not it can be grown successfully in arid climates.
After seeking the input of those currently farming industrial hemp, they are all in agreement. Different strains of hemp require different amounts of water, so it is difficult to make a generalization about how much water industrial hemp plants need to thrive.
Hemp Is Stronger Than Steel But Softer Than Silk
Hemp can hold almost twice the weight as steel before cracking and breaking. It can bend and mend back to its original position almost 6 times better than steel.
- Hemp fiber is lightweight and absorbent; 3 times stronger than cotton
- Hemp is UV rays and mold resistant making it perfect for outer wear
- Hemp can be combined with other fibers with the finished product possessing the most desirable qualities of both fibers
- Hemp fiber is durable and will outlast any other fiber, holds its shape and stretches less than any other fiber
- Hemp gets softer with age and will retain its color better. It is cooler in warm weather and warmer in cool weather.
Hempcrete is created by mixing water, lime and hemp pulp, made up of the inner woody core which is high in silica. The result is a lightweight cement-like insulating material which weighs about 14% of the weight of concrete. When hempcrete is fully cured, the bricks will float in a bucket of water. Wood stud framing is the most commonly used type of structural component used with hempcrete insulation. Buildings as tall as 10 stories high have already been built in Europe.
All the materials that make up hempcrete are blended together in mortar mixers for 1-2 minutes. It is placed into the wall cavities by hand. Over time, the chemical reactions of the ingredients will petrify the hemp, turning the lime into stone.
Due to the one drawback that hempcrete takes a long time to cure, making it unsuitable for load bearing walls, companies began making hempcrete bricks. There are now several different companies manufacturing bricks, using different techniques:
- The slurry is placed in wooden forms and allowed to dry
- The slurry is pressed into brick form by machines and left to cure
- The slurry is strengthened by 2 x 2s, ready for immediate use as load bearing walls
- The bricks are a few inches thicker than cinderblocks and are much lighter
They may be stacked like regular bricks, eliminating the need for a wooden frame. They take on the quality of petrified rock and can last for hundreds of years.
Benefits of Hempcrete
- Durable and Sustainable
- Fire, Mold and Pest Resistant
- Natural Temperature and Humidity Controlled
- Non-Toxic and Solvent Free
- Outstanding Insulator
- Carbon Sequestration
- High Vapor Permeability
Hemp Federal Legalization’s Impact on Cannabis Legalization
Hemp and CBD were federally legalized last year with the passage of The 2018 Farm Bill. What impact has this had on the push to federally legalize cannabis?
The current Congress, the 116th, is the most cannabis-friendly group of lawmakers in this country’s history. Just a few weeks ago, the House passed the first ever standalone cannabis reform bill, The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE). The bill protects those banks willing to do business with cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.
In addition there has been:
- 7 hearings on cannabis
- House voted to adopt an amendment attached to a large appropriations bill in the 2020 Budget blocking the feds from interfering in states with legal cannabis programs
- Approved similar protection for Indian tribes and added the US Virgin Islands to the list of territories covered by medical cannabis programs
- Approved an amendment directing the FDA to begin the process of regulating the CBD market for foods, beverages and supplements
- House passed an amendment to end the Veteran’s Affairs’ policy of punishing vets working in the cannabis industry by denying them home loans. As part of the same bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would allow military personnel convicted of a misdemeanor cannabis offense the right to re-enlist.
More and more American farmers are replacing unprofitable crops such as tobacco, corn and soybeans with industrial hemp. May we be in time to stop the unprecedented effects of climate change due to CO2 emissions.
fas.org, Defining Hemp: A Fact Sheet; Federation of American Scientists, March 22, 2019
medium, com, What is Strength and Why Is Hemp Stronger Than Steel, Dec. 2, 2016, Joe Powers
thehia.org, Hemp Textiles
nationalhempassociation.org, Some Interesting Facts About Hempcrete As A Building Material, Mar 30, 2016, Dave Burkey
marijuanamoment.net, House Approves Marijuana Banking Bill in Historic Vote, Sept. 25, 2019, Kyle Jaeger