Written By: Zach Champ
WHAT IS HEMP?
You may have heard about hemp and may be wondering just what exactly it is. Hemp is a special strain of the Cannabis sativa plant.
Hemp is a close cousin to marijuana. They essentially look, smell, and taste the same. However, what makes hemp so unique and special is that it doesn't produce high concentrations of THC, the primary psychoactive chemical compound in Marijuana. Instead, it produces high concentrations of CBD, the highly medicinal but non-psychoactive cannabinoid.
Hemp is grown and used primarily for industrial purposes. Hemp is prized for its plant fibers and for the valuable CBD oil, which can be extracted from the flowers and buds of the plant.
HOW HEMP CAN SAVE THE WORLD:
Hemp has nearly infinite possible industrial and manufacturing applications. These range from textiles to building materials to bio-plastics and biofuels.
One of the biggest environmental issues we face today is plastic pollution. It is estimated that nearly 3/4ths of all land-based pollution is due to plastic, including micro-beads and other harmful industrial products that don’t degrade or break-down (Plastic Pollution.org). This plastic often builds up into harmful amounts that disrupt the ecosystem, cause problems with normal biological processes, and which ultimately affect the food chain of local wildlife.
With hemp, we may have a solution to this crisis in the form of natural bio-plastics! Hemp-based bio-plastics are renewable and more easily recyclable than their fuel-based counterparts. They can break-down more easily when exposed to the environment, and are easy to make using existing technology and machinery commonly found in the plastics industry 1. This is just one way that hemp can drastically change the current paradigm.
Another way hemp is making a big buzz is with CBD. Each day and more and more people are becoming aware of the medicinal benefits of Hemp, Marijuana, and CBD. Many companies are starting to add and promote CBD in their products. It is estimated that by 2024 the CBD business will be worth nearly $24 billion (Green Entrepeneur)!
Hemp is good for the body beyond just being an effective medicine. It also is a delicious and highly nutritious food! The seeds of hemp can be used in various ways from pressing oil out of the seeds, to grinding them into a flour, to making them into a plant-based milk. Hemp seed is high in fiber and protein and contains omega fatty acids as well as Vitamin B. Hemp seed is a rich source of amino acids making them a great choice for athletes and body-builders looking for a vegetarian protein source.
Hemp as a natural product, with so many important and vital uses, can help us reconnect with nature and help fuel the restructuring of our global economy towards a more sustainable and conservation-oriented society.
HEMP: THE SUPER CROP
The extreme versatility of hemp is what makes it such a wonderful and curious crop for agriculture, especially here in the United States of America. Some folks are even going so far as to say that hemp can save American farms and restore confidence for our nation's farmers.
American farmers have faced significant challenges over the past few years, which has affected their livelihoods ranging from the changing climate to rising tariffs. The state of American agriculture is somewhat in question. Traditional crops and growing methods are no longer yielding the consistent and reliable results they once did, leaving many confused, hungry, and broke. Hemp may be the next big step in the evolution of American agriculture and already has a well-established historical precedence and legacy.
Hemp used to be a widely appreciated and essential crop for farmers in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Even one of America's great founding fathers, George Washington, grew hemp on their plantation and farm in Mount Vernon (2). During WWII the U.S Government also encouraged farmers back home to grow hemp as part of an effort to supply a reliable fiber for needed rope and cloth. Close to 1 million acres of hemp were grown in the American mid-west during this program (3).
So what happened to hemp that it fell out of popularity? The truth is that in the 1920s and 1930’s government policies, largely supported for by corporate interests, began to crack down on the production of hemp and marijuana. The government began to distribute propaganda calling marijuana a harmful drug. Strict laws were passed the incriminated anyone growing or possessing hemp and marijuana. Hemp essentially faded from American agriculture, even though it was still a widely demanded industrial material. It is only recently with the emerging trend of legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and hemp that we have seen a resurgence in this potent agricultural commodity.
It’s not just that hemp is a cash crop, capable of creating large profits. The plant itself is beneficial to the environment. Hemp helps with nitrogen-fixation in soil. When farmers grow plants in the same piece of land year after year, they end up depleting the soil of its essential nutrients including nitrogen. Without nitrogen in the soil, many plants won’t grow. Hemp can help correct and fix damaged soils from over-farming. This makes it a great choice for crop-rotation practices, where farmers will grow a nitrogen-dependent plant one year, then grow a nitrogen-fixating plant the next, and keep alternating this procedure each year.
Farmer’s are constantly looking for plants that they can maximize the potential use and value of. Hemp is perhaps the best candidate for farmers looking to get more ‘bang for their buck’.
HEMP AND THE DMV
While Washington D.C is known for its medicinal and recreational marijuana, there is no end to the availability of Hemp and CBD products in stores across the District of Colombia. Shops like New Leaf and Up & Down Smoke Shop contain a literal treasure trove of hemp-based and CBD products ranging from medicinal tinctures, candies, drops, and bracelets to smoking papers and more! Perhaps the most influential of them all is Capitol Hemp which is a head-shop located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Capitol Hemp not only sells CBD and Hemp products, but they were also essential to helping create the momentum necessary for the enacting of Initiative 71, the voter-led referendum which legalized marijuana in D.C. Capitol Hemp utilized a grassroots approach to reach out to the public and create awareness about pathways to legalization in the city. Their efforts were not only successful but crucial to helping define the culture and landscape of legal weed in D.C today.
In addition to the many head-shops, boutiques, pop-ups, and other various commercial enterprises, non-profit groups like The National Hemp Association are also headquartered and located in Washington D.C. The National Hemp Association are huge advocates for industrial hemp and work closely with farmers and communities across the nation to help facilitate the growth of the hemp industry and educate individuals about the benefits of industrial hemp.
It’s beneficial that groups like this are nearby to provide their insight, guidance, and wisdom; especially for farmers and entrepreneurs in Virginia who are starting their own hemp farming experiments. Recent legislative changes in Richmond have legalized hemp for commercial growing and manufacturing in the commonwealth of Virginia. Interested applicants have to register with the state as growers, dealers, or processors, and follow specific state guidelines on the amount of THC that is allowed in individual plants, or how much hemp can be grown, and other regulatory aspects of this emerging lucrative industry. Virginia is poised to become a major producer of Hemp within the DMV, and now is a great time to get involved for anyone who is interested...
It’s not just here in the DMV that hemp is becoming more and more popular. Neighboring states like North Carolina are also starting to grow hemp with the goal of making it a vital cash crop alongside other traditional crops like tobacco and corn. Across the country, people are hopping on the Hemp train and trying to cash in. The fact that one plant has such incredible potential should surely be a sign of it’s intended preeminence for our culture and society. Hemp has the power to revolutionize almost all aspects of modern-day society.
The world needs a powerful plant to bring us together and remind us of our duties and obligations to be good stewards of mother nature. I believe that plant is Cannabis in the form of Hemp and Marijuana.