Everything Hemp You Ever Wanted To Know
To really understand the big picture of why cannabidiol oil or CBD oil as a product from hemp is so important, you have to take a look at hemp’s history and what else hemp is good for. Hemp is one of the natural wonders of the world that has been attacked time and again due to the high number of products it can be used for, the availability of a clean fuel source, and its ability to help the environment. We know, that sounds pretty illogical to go after something with that many benefits, but lobbying usually isn’t logical or good for the rest of us.
Much of the attack on hemp was financial in nature, or utilized confusion and ignorance while flat out ignoring facts regarding the difference between Cannabis sativa or sub. afghanica or sub. Ruderalis or indica that is higher than the allowable > 0.3% THC (9-delta tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive agent in Cannabis) and Cannabis sativa (industrial hemp) that is < 0.3% THC and is not psychoactive. In other words, industrial hemp will not and cannot get you “high”. Hemp is one of the commodities listed in both NAFTA and GATT, and until the 2014 Farm Bill was signed in 2018, the US was the only industrialized nation in the world where it was illegal to grow industrial hemp. There are over 25,000 different products made from hemp in nearly every manufacturing niche you can bring to mind. Hemp is a green, sustainable agricultural product and the entire plant can be utilized. A valuable biofuel source, hemp’s only reason for not being used for fuel is the fact it brings higher prices as a food commodity and is in high demand, and farmers make more money selling for other purposes. There is not much to dislike or disapprove of when it comes to industrial hemp.
So what is Hemp?
Often referred to as industrial hemp, hemp is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis has been cultivated from wild stock for thousands of years in many parts of the world, extensively for fiber and feed. The fiber, softer than jute, makes strong rope but softer feeling cloth. There is archaeological evidence of hemp being used for spinning and weaving as far back as 10,000 years ago. Hemp cultivars grown for industrial use in feed, textiles, biodegradable plastics, paper, paint, insulation, and biofuel are important agricultural commodities in many parts of the world, and constitute primary export items from several Asian countries.
As a plant, hemp is very fast growing and industrial hemp can reach a height of 10-12’ in a matter of a few months. Tolerant of nearly any kind of soil and drought resistant in the wild, hemp has a root system that allows it to hold material in place. This ability led to it being used many places to stabilize the shoulders of roadways and in highway cuts.
Wild Hemp Was Here to Start With, Right?
Hemp has been around in the U.S. since around 1545, and is believed was brought here from Central America or the Orient. No one really knows, but we do know there are records it was cultivated in Jamestown starting in 1611. We also know that Benjamin Franklin used hemp paper for his printing presses and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp as a farm crop on their acreages. Hemp was replaced for fiber content in textiles by cotton in the mid 1800’s, as hemp being made into fabric was labor intensive, but continued to be grown for other purposes.
It was in the mid-1800’s that medicinal uses for hemp began to arrive in the U.S. from Mexico. Sadly, it’s historical fact like so many other things from that period that medical Cannabis use coming out of Mexico and Central America tainted the policy towards hemp in later years being that it was not of European origin. Even the name commonly given the psychoactive form of Cannabis, marijuana, was derived as a cultural slur from the root languages it was drawn from. That is why the industry is working very hard to replace marijuana with Cannabis, the correct name of the plant. It is interesting to note that both “hemp” and “Cannabis” have similar words for the plant in nearly every ancient culture around the world, dating back to China, Ancient Persia and beyond.
What is the difference between hemp and Cannabis?
Both hemp and Cannabis, the term generally used to refer to Cannabis sp. containing higher levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC as everyone knows it, come from the same basic plant, but different varieties or cultivars. Industrial hemp has a THC level of < 0.3%, and Cannabis that is psychoactive or “gets you high” has a THC content above that number, usually substantially so. If you have a hard time picturing it, think of alcohol in an herbal or spice tincture, then a cocktail. The tincture has a tiny amount that is an ingredient used to get the oil to release from the plant material (i.e. vanilla you cook with), whereas a cocktail will inebriate you at various levels due to significantly more alcohol.
Follow the Money Trail, and You Will Find How Hemp Was Pushed Out of Business
The problem is that both industrial hemp and Cannabis used for recreation look somewhat alike. This “looks like, must be” misidentification was part of what led to a sweeping ban by the federal government in the days post Prohibition when “maryjane” became an alternative high of choice. Between 1914 and 1933, 33 states passed laws regulating industrial hemp production, some being fueled by visions of drug crazed poster images and others through stiff lobbying from industries fueled by cotton, petrochemicals (polyesters, Dacron, rayon, etc.) timber (paper) and others with a financial interest in stemming the production of hemp.
So why was hemp made illegal in 1937?
The increased pressure against drug use supposedly led to the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, whereby any medicinal or other use of hemp had to be done through a licensed pharmacy or drug store, and was labeled and heavily taxed as such. Cannabis extracts were a common additive to things like cough syrup, considered much safer than what it replaced like laudanum (opium), cocaine, and high levels of other opiates. The psychoactive agent in Cannabis, THC, was grouped with narcotics, which interestingly at the time did not include many opium products, cocaine, and other highly addictive and physically damaging materials. It is worth note that testimony was given in Congress that the industrial hemp plant and hemp seed contained little to none of the drug components of “marijuana”. History notes the Act was pushed through, with little attention paid during hearings or to research presented.
Evil Mary Jane poster goes this para Films such as “Reefer Madness” were financed by religious organizations and put in movie theaters across the nation. From early on, the pressure against industrial hemp and marijuana in general were financial and prejudicial in nature, and both were used as a means to go after ethnic groups and indigenous people, down to the names given the material and who was arrested for possession once it was outlawed. Due to this weed insanity, the US infrastructure to process Cannabis completely disappeared, and now processing facilities, machinery, and other industrial equipment have to be redeveloped, tested, and built to handle this fast growing segment of Agribusiness.
Hemp For Victory
Industrial hemp got a big boost, however, during WWII when there was a shortage of material to make rope, and “Hemp for Victory” campaigns were pushed by the War Department. 400,000 pounds of industrial hemp seed was distributed to farmers to grow hemp for rope and textile use in the war efforts. By 1958 the industrial hemp industry had effectively been killed in the US due to unwillingness to recognize the biological differences in varieties of the same plant. This would be like outlawing roses because one variety had wicked thorns, and others were thornless.
It is interesting to note that two of the biggest attacks against industrial hemp came from the newspaper industry and magnates that controlled the press, and the American Medical Association. Wealthy industrialists ranging from Mellon, Hearst, and duPont all spent a lot of money killing off hemp as competition for timber, and thus, newsprint production. Later studies have shown industrial hemp does not have sufficient cellulose content to be viable as a paper source. Meanwhile, physicians, who were being required to establish the tax and pharmacies to collect and submit same from the Marijuana Act much preferred to prescribe codeine, cocaine, and opium, largely unregulated at the time, and which they claimed was safer than marijuana. The truth was, it was easier and less paperwork.
Hemp is a Sustainable Product – Good for the Environment and Economy
Hemp is proving viable for construction materials and biofuel now. Cement, plastics, lumber, flooring, insulation, and other materials are being heavily researched and companies launching to provide materials made from hemp. It is not a fad, it is a sustainable resource that provides a good product at a fair cost, unlike timber and even some recycled products. Hemp is sustainable and has a low environmental footprint while acting as a carbon sink for CO2. Hemp can be farmed with the same equipment farmers currently own that plant row crops, and it is a crop that will grow where irrigation or an abundance of water is not available.
Hemp processing does not take large plants and expensive resources to process, either. Many small processing facilities could be set up across the US in rural farm predominant areas, giving a boost in jobs to the local economy while helping the local farms with a valuable cash crop that improves their soil at the same time. Hemp is naturally pest resistant, uses few soil resources, and is great at controlling erosion. For American farmers, hemp is a golden crop of green – money green.
What all is hemp used for besides CBD products or hemp oil?
Besides all the good stuff listed above, hemp is highly utilitarian for both biofuel and building materials. Energy efficient to produce and process, hemp’s structure provides insulation and is naturally somewhat mold and fire resistant, making it ideal to explore for construction materials. The fiber is also extremely strong and resilient, and holds up well under torque.
Biofuel from hemp seed oil is actually not a new idea. Henry Ford, when inventing his Model T, designed it to run on gasoline or hemp based fuels. The discovery of large deposits of crude oil early in the 20th century squashed the hemp fueled vehicle approach, again from big money. Hemp biofuel is seeing a comeback. An interesting attribute of hemp, given our current soil and groundwater toxin issues, is that hemp does phytoremediation, taking up toxins in the root system and converting or holding them, thus cleaning soils directly to the roots and no further. Hemp was successfully used to clean up radioactive fallout and waste in Chernobyl, Russia, and is proving valuable in areas where soil and water supplies have been subject to dangerous spills, trash and waste disposal, mining dumps, and where other difficult to clean conditions exist. A natural solution that is inexpensive like hemp is far better than more chemicals being added to the equation.
Industrial hemp can also be grown for the most part with few chemical additives. Hemp takes in a tremendous amount of CO2, much more than trees are able to, and thus “scrubs” air to make it cleaner. It also returns 70% of the nutrients it uses back into the soil, a higher number than most crops. Studies have shown that hemp seed oil converts at 97% when turned into diesel, or can be turned into hemp biodiesel or methanol/ethanol (hemp gas). Since a big challenge from pesticides is the subsequent endocrine disruption that occurs in humans, a plant that not only binds toxins but can be safely converted to a clean burning fuel source that does not create hydrocarbons and high levels of ozone while cleaning the air and requires little to grow is a pure win-win from our perspective.
Hemp is legal now, right?
Hemp was a very important crop in the history of the US, providing fiber for fabric, paper, animal feed and bedding, food, oil, rope, and many other uses. For a period of time in US history, farmers were required to plant a certain amount of hemp on their farms if they participated in certain other government programs. When hemp was made illegal, it hurt a lot of American farmers and pushed a lot of business overseas because the primary needs for hemp remained so we ended up having to import hemp products instead of our farmers growing hemp for them and keeping the jobs here.
Industrial hemp is finally legal to grow again in the U.S. after decades of effort to get the US Department of Agriculture and various other government agencies to differentiate between hemp and Cannabis forms that contain higher THC content. Hemp, or Cannabis, used for medical and recreational purposes is only legal to grow in states that have made medical and/or recreational Cannabis legal, or a number of states who are working with the Department of Agriculture on test plots for commercial application. Since hemp is still listed on the federal Controlled Substance Act, that alone has made it a challenge for farmers who have their state’s green light to grow test plots, but must buy seed out of the country, or find a carrier that will transport it, fearing the other not up-to-date branches of government will go after them.
All the hemp used for wellness* products at The Bearded Hempster comes from plants grown in the most environmentally sensitive manner in states where it is completely legal to grow the crop. We know that plants grown in the U.S. generally have much less chance of being exposed accidentally to chemicals and do not have the carbon footprint like materials shipped from overseas CBD products made by The Bearded Hempster are legal to use in all fifty states.
Hemp is Good for the Economy
Besides the fact that hemp is sustainable and environmentally smart, hemp is also good for the US economy. It is known that with hemp now legal to grow again, and with the significant increase in production the last five years, the hemp industry has added a lot of jobs and money into the US economy.
The initial guestimate when the 2014 US Federal Hemp Farm Bill was signed late last year was that hemp would add about $76,000,000 into the US GNP. Colorado alone just passed one billion dollars in money flow from legalized Cannabis. The US had $1.1 billion dollars pass through the hemp industry last year alone, and estimates are the figure will more than double by 2022 to $2.6 billion. The legalized Cannabis dispensary industry did $9 billion alone last year. Estimates of the number of jobs created are around 211,000, nearly 65,000 during just 2018. Hemp in all its forms is good business, and big business.
The infrastructure for things like hemp fuel and building materials has to be reestablished after six decades of it being illegal to grow this important agricultural crop in the US. With the vast increase in planted acreage, over 76,000 acres last year, industrial hemp production employment will surpass dispensary employment significantly in a very short time. Hemp may be the shot in the arm that American farmers need to stay competitive in the world market and keep their farms in the family.