Hemp is a plant that is very commonly and easily misunderstood due to being a member of the species cannabis. Hemp has a similar leaf shape and looks the same as the marijuana plant, but unlike the cannabis sativa L. plant, it has virtually no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannanibol) which means it has no value for use as a recreational drug. Given that something as significant as that is often misunderstood about hemp, what are other facts about the hemp plant that people may not be aware of?
It is known that hemp has been cultivated for fiber and food for at least 12,000 years. The fiber is used to produce both textiles and paper, a variety of food which range from cake like substances to ice creams, and a number of other industrial applications. Hemp fiber can be used to produce particle board more than twice as strong as that created from scrap lumber, 2x4’s, and in 1941, Henry Ford made a car body from Hemp.
When America was still and English colony, hemp was an essential crop in the US. The fibers were in constant demand for use in producing ship sails and hemp ropes as well as to use in making poly blended clothing when cotton was in short supply. It was considered one of the strongest cash crops available. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp, and Benjamin Franklin owned a hemp mill that produced paper.
From a purely industrial perspective, hemp is one of the most versatile plants on the planet. It can be used in such a wide variety of applications that there are few industries that cannot find some use for the plant. Consider the following known and developing uses:
1. BMW is developing hemp materials for use in manufacturing their vehicles to make their autos more biodegradable.
2. Sterilized hemp seed is present in most bird seeds sold in the US because it has a protein content of around 25%.
3. Rudolph Diesel, who designed the diesel engine, originally developed it to run on hemp oil. The design was viable.
4. All told, there are over 25,000 current products which can be made from hemp.
Scientifically and ecologically speaking, hemp is one of the hardiest plants in the world. It can be grown nearly anywhere - although warm environments are best. It can be grown successfully in rocky soil, is bested perhaps only by soybeans in regards to value when used in a crop rotation cycle, and requires no pesticides be used to prosper. Hemp is more mildew resistant, stronger, and absorbent than cotton, and fabrics which consist of at least 50% hemp block UV rays from the sun more effectively than those which do not.
Random hemp trivia:
* The first Guttenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper
* The first draft of the US Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper
* During WWII when the US lost access to “Manila Hemp”, the USDA sponsored a “Hemp for Victory” campaign to encourage the growth of hemp in the US to help in the war effort.
* The word “Canvass” is rooted in the word “Cannabis”
* In 1619 the Colony of Virginia made the cultivation of Hemp mandatory
* The original Levi’s jeans were made from recycled hemp
* George Tyson of the Xylan Corporation has said that hemp is the perfect material to make fully biodegradable packaging for everything from fast food restaurants to packaging for non-consumables.
Hemp Revolution by Anthony Clarke