It’s long been treated the same as marijuana, LSD, and even heroin. But the cultivation of hemp is now legal in the United States. The legalization was part of the 2018 farm bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump in December.
Hemp is part of the cannabis family, which is why the DEA had it classified as a schedule 1 drug since 1970. But it doesn’t have the same psychoactive effect as marijuana, meaning it won’t get you high.
What it does contain is CBD, the non-psychoactive compound that’s said to hold many medicinal benefits. Research has shown CBD oil can provide pain relief, help people overcome anxiety and insomnia, and even fight cancer.
Hemp can be used for so much more than CBD, though. From medicine, fiber, fuel, and fabrics, to building materials, and bio-plastics, the possibilities are endless!
More research is certainly needed and will no doubt happen now that it’s legal to grow in the US. But so far, science has suggested hemp is nothing short of a miracle crop!
Hemp is considered a “Superplant” thanks to its ability to rejuvenate the earth. Industrial hemp crops have been found to remove toxins from the soil; a process called phytoremediation.
The theory was put to the test in Chernobyl following the 1986 nuclear disaster, which left radioactive waste across Eastern Europe. Industrial hemp was used to remove the dangerous pollutants from the soil and water at former weapons producing facilities in Ukraine. Science has discovered it is just as effective at removing metals, pesticides and crude oil from the earth.
After performing such a dirty task, hemp crops cannot be eaten, but they can safely be distilled into ethanol for the use of biofuel.
Another ‘green’ quality? Hemp removes more Co2 from the air than trees do! Just one hectare of hemp, which takes 90 days to mature, captures ten times as much Co2 as a hectare of pine trees, which takes 20 years to reach maturity.
Growing it is relatively easy too. It’s highly pest, disease, and drought resistant. That means that unlike most other crops, it uses less water and doesn’t require any pesticides or herbicides.
Delicious and Nutritious
Hemp foods are especially wonderful. They’re not only tasty but are also super nutritious with a low allergen content. Rich in protein and other essential vitamins and minerals, hemp can be consumed by way of seed, oil, and flour.
The seeds give spinach a run for its money; Popeye may even start incorporating them into his salads! One of my favorite cookbooks right now (Oh She Glows, by Angela Liddon) says just 3 tbsp contains almost 10 grams of protein! How’s that for muscle-building action?
Highly digestible and balanced, you can use the seeds to make hemp milk or sprinkled overtop your meals. Use the oil for salad dressings or for dipping bread into, and add the hemp protein powder into smoothies and baked goods.
Aside from the great nutritional benefits, when you eat hemp, you can feel right about how it’s grown too!
Check your closets and some of the items around your house; chances are you will find “hemp” listed as one of the materials used to make them.
This is nothing new; for 10,000 years the hemp plant has been cultivated for its fiber. And no wonder! Hemp fiber is strong, durable, and extremely absorbent. While it was historically used for cordage, it has evolved into a variety of uses.
Two kinds of fibers that come from the hemp plant’s stalk: bast fibers and core fibers. Bast fibers are long and best for textiles because they can be cleaned, spun, then made into fabric for clothing and various housewares. Bast fibers are also great for high-quality pulp, such as currency papers, tea bags, and cigarette papers.
Meanwhile, the core fibers of the hemp plant are typically used for building materials, such as MDF, building blocks, and hemp cement or concrete. “Hempcrete” is extremely low-cost, easy to use, and has thermal properties. Hemp building materials also trap Co2!
A Bright Future?
Hemp certainly holds the potential of being a major cash crop for the US. It’s one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly plants around – one with the capability of cleaning the earth, feeding future populations, and even healing what ails us.
But just because its cultivation is now legal in the US doesn’t mean that growing it is going to be easy. CNN reports that because of the previous restrictions around hemp, plant breeders have a long way to go in terms of building a genetically-sound seed bank.
There are also concerns over how it will be grown alongside other crops, such as tomatoes or corn.
Regardless, it’s an exciting new chapter where research into the benefits of hemp is concerned. It’ll be interesting to see where it takes us.