The Hemp Plant
Hemp includes all varieties of the Cannabis genus that contain negligible amounts of THC, the chemical that makes marijuana psychoactive and gets you “high”. The Cannabis family has several different breeds, yet it is most infamously known for marijuana (“weed”). This is the main reason why people confuse the term hemp with marijuana. Hemp actually refers to the industrial, non-drug variant that is cultivated for its fiber, hurd, and seeds.
Uses of Hemp
The seed is mainly used in dietary products. Hemp seeds are typically hulled and use in variety of ways. Seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, made into milk, and is even used to make protein powder.
Canada is the biggest producer of hemp seeds with over 84,000 acres licensed for cultivation in 2015. Most of the hemp strains grown in Canada are called Finola. Finola is known for producing the most amount of seeds, but they are very short so can’t be used for their stalk.
The Bast (Fiber)
When you slice a hemp stalk in half, you’ll see, nestled in a snug hollow tube, a long, string-like band running the length inside. This is hemp’s famous bast fiber. When harvested correctly, the fiber is actually stronger than steel. The stalk and its fiber are used mainly in clothing, construction materials, paper, and more.
Historically, so many different applications have been found for hemp’s stalk. In a 1938 Popular Mechanics article, hemp was stated to be the next ‘billion dollar crop’, as it praised its bafflingly strong fibers. The magazine found there to be more than 25,000 industrial uses for hemp. Applications of hemp stalk include apparel, bags, rope, netting, canvas, and carpet.
China is the world’s biggest producer of hemp stalks, with the government claiming the hemp industry to be over $200M.
The Shiv (Hurd)
Often referred to as the woody core, hemp hurd is the soft inner core of the hemp plant stem. It is highly absorbent and rich in cellulose and great thermal and acoustic properties. The hurd can be used in two different forms:
- As untreated and unrefined chunks, it can be used in a wide variety of industrial and everyday products, such as cement, insulation and paper.
- As a form of pulp, it can be used to make biodegradable plastics that can be easily broken down and recycled.
Out of its many applications, hemp concrete (hempcrete) has been gaining a lot of attention globally as a natural substitute to concrete. More houses in Europe and Canada are starting to be built in hempcrete due to its strong insulation, windproof, and low carbon footprint properties.
In addition to hempcrete, hemp hurds are used for animal bedding, biodegradable garden mulch, paper, plastics, and insulation.
Learn More about Hemp
The Revival of Hemp
After being shunned for 40 years, why is hemp now in the spotlight?
Realizing the benefits of the Miracle Crop
As more people start paying attention to hemp, more facts are shared to demonstrate the power of this plant—hence why it’s often called the “Miracle Crop.” What has really been highlighted is the hemp seed’s nutritional benefits and its fiber’s durability. Hemp has been known to have over 25,000 applications. The key benefit of hemp is that it is such a sustainable and eco-friendly crop as well as being so useful. Hemp will be a key ingredient as we fight global warming and climate change.
Playing catch up on the international level
In 2016, the United States is the only industrialized country that does not allow hemp farming. Other countries and regions have incentivized their farmers and are now profiting from the harvest and development of hemp applications. China has a $200M hemp textile industry. Europe is utilizing hemp more for industrial purposes. Canada’s hemp industry has exploded in the past decade and its demand continues to grow at 20% per year – ironically, most of this demand comes from the US.
An economic force for our farmers and small businesses
Lawmakers are starting to notice the economic impact that hemp could have in our communities. Just looking at our import volume, it is easy to point out the economic opportunity we are missing out on. Ever since hemp import was legalized in 1998, our import volume has been continuously increasing to an estimated $600 million in 2014. This clearly shows that the consumer market is available in the US. We just need to allow our farmers to grow the crop.