While I’ve mainly touched upon the legalisation of Cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes (and I’ll continue to discuss that down the line), it seems a better time than any to discuss cannabis’ non-psychoactive brother in arms – hemp. Surprisingly so, many people I’ve had discussions about hemp with either (a) don’t know what it is, or (b) think it’s some kind of funky street name for cannabis. Strains of hemp that are grown most commonly contain no THC (and if they do, not enough to get you high), which means that while similar looking to marijuana plants, it is not cultivated for the same reasons. And what are reasons, you may ask? I’ve decided to go through and choose the best 5 out of the bunch, but if you think of anything else and want to discuss it, please comment below!
- Food – are you vegan or aspiring towards it? Hemp milk has been on the market for quite some time, and is often said to have a nice/more defined taste to it that soy milk. Hemp grains, cereals, seeds and oils would also be greener alternatives to other foods common to many recipes. European companies have also been using hemp in production of beer. The seed itself also contains calcium and iron, so for those with meat removed from their diet – it would be a nutritious addition to many meals such as stir-frys and currys. For further nutritional information on the hemp seed, have a browse here.
- Fibers/Clothing – Hemp has been used for centuries for its benefits as a strong, durable fiber. More widespread cultivation would see us relying less on cotton farming , which can be dangerous to both the environment and those working with it. Chains such as Braintree Hemp, who have a shop in Newtown, have embraced hemp use for clothing, however increase in cultivation would see prices come down and establish hemp as an affordable alternative for clothing
- Paper – As with fibers and clothing, using hemp pulp to make paper has been around for quite some time (some of the first Bibles were printed using hemp paper). If the industry were to be embraced on a larger scale with a processing system superior to current models, hemp for use as paper would be a much more environmentally friendly (using less power and water to produce) and sustainable (hemp grows a lot faster and in larger numbers than wood) method. For more facts on hemp paper, this site is excellent.
- Building Materials – Yes, it’s a thing. ‘Hempcrete’ has come to be used in the construction of houses in recent times, through hemp/lime mixture to create blocks. As it is a plant-product, hempcrete can also absorb CO2 emissions and release oxygen, making it an environmentally friendly option that both regulates moisture and insulates the house. The only problem is here is hempcrete is weaker than traditional concrete, so must be supported by a frame (steel, wood etc). Hemp fibers, as mentioned above are strong and durable, so make a good alternative to wood. Some examples of this are included on the Hemp wiki page.
- Fuel – Hemp seeds and stalks can be processed into biofuel. The only issue with this is that it can only be used to power diesel engines. In any case, though, it once again provides an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional petrol. The downside? It isn’t wholly sustainable. Converting the actual plant material into biofuel is a process with small yield – perhaps not enough to meet demand. Some argue, however, it should be seen as a transitional fuel until something sustainable and environmentally friendly is discovered.
So there you have it, folks. There are some great ways to use hemp for industrial purposes, and the reduced impact on the environment comes as a bonus. The issue here is that hemp production is conditional, based on approval through licenses in some countries, or in others, such as US, hemp production is illegal completely. There are currently too many hurdles, and a stigma attached to it due to its relation to marijuana, for it to become accepted and mainstream, however complete legalisation of both cannabis and hemp around the world could revolutionize certain industries given a larger scale would see more effective methods of processing the plant. What do you think about hemp use? Share your thoughts in the comments below.