A Look at the Many Uses & Benefits
Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated crops known to mankind. It has been used for paper, textiles, and cordage for centuries. As a matter of fact, the Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a scrap of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC. Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic.
What is Hemp?
There are many different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp, also called industrial hemp, refers to the non-psychoactive (less than 1% THC) varieties of Cannabis. Both hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, but are genetically distinct and are further distinguished by use, chemical makeup, and cultivation methods. Hemp requires much less water to grow, and no pesticide so it is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops. Hemp can do a lot, but it can’t get you high. Because hemp varieties contain virtually zero THC, your body processes it faster than you can smoke it. Trying to use hemp to put you on cloud nine will only put you in bed with a migraine! Hemp can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials that can be incorporated into thousands of products. Its seeds and flowers are used in health foods, organic body care, and other nutraceuticals.
In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act which effectively began the era of hemp prohibition. Then came World War II. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor shut off foreign supplies of “manila hemp” fiber from the Philippines. The USDA encouraged U.S. farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. The U.S. government formed the War Hemp Industries Department and subsidized hemp cultivation. During the war, U.S. farmers grew about a million acres of hemp across the Midwest as part of that program.
Uses for Hemp
Hemp requires much less water to grow – and no pesticides – so it is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops. Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel. The bast fibers can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp, but they are commonly blended with other organic fibers such as flax, cotton or silk, to make woven fabrics for apparel and furnishings.