When many of us think of hemp, we picture hacky sacks and hippie-style canvas bags. Stepping out of the shadow of its stoner relatives, hemp packs a lot of surprises and the only buzz should be for its versatility. From fabric and paper to food and fuel, the hemp plant has been grown for its myriad uses for over 12,000 years. The U.S. government classifies C. sativa varieties as "marijuana..." Read more...
...making the industrial version illegal to grow without a license and many security protocols, which can be cost-prohibitive stateside. The result is that nearly all hemp products in the United States are from abroad. As recently as December, 2009, the 8th Circuit Court ruled that, "industrial hemp is still marijuana."
The disconnect in the law is that industrial hemp is grown tightly-spaced together, which prohibits the "sneaking in" of "potent" marijuana plants because the latter requires much more space to allow for their leaves to grow. The close planting of the industrial variety chokes out weeds, meaning that herbicides aren't necessary. It is also naturally resistant to most pests, so pesticides are very uncommon. The benefit of hemp becomes more and more obvious when you realize that half the world's pesticides are used for cotton crops.
An acre of hemp can also yield four times as much fiber as the same space planted with trees, which makes it a no-brainer solution to global deforestation. In the production of paper, hemp is naturally brighter and can be lightened without the use of bleach, rather favoring hydrogen peroxide, which is much less toxic. The fibers are so incredibly strong that hemp paper can be recycled many more times that tree-based paper.
The oil is of high nutritional value because its 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids, which matches the balance required by the human body, and is considered a "superfood." Hemp seeds can be used as a cereal, can be pressed to create hemp milk, as an alternative to soy or nut milks and can be turned into a nut-less butter.
Fabrics made of hemp naturally block most UV rays, even if it's up to a 50% blend with other fibers and is naturally resistant to mold. Its durability and ability to maintain its shape gives it the ability to outlast most other fabrics. Similar to your favorite jeans, the longer you use hemp fabric, the more it "breaks in," and softens with age.
(Images: 1. Hemp Cotton Duvet Cover by nikkidesigns, 2. Hemp Reusable Coffee Filter by kroshaycafe, 3. Vintage Glass Fishing Float with Hemp Net by lightinawormhole, 4. Denim Blue Cross Hemp Pillow by enhabiten)