Industrial hemp is actually a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, which is more commonly known by its colloquial name of marijuana. While industrial hemp comes from the same species of plants, it doesn’t make it equivalent or identical to the cannabis plant which is cultivated because of its high THC levels.
THC is the psychoactive ingredient that creates the buzz or high when people consume cannabis. Industrial hemp is a variety of the marijuana plant that has an opposite chemistry.
It is high in cannabidiol, but low in THC. In fact, industrial hemp only has about 0.3% THC, while cannabis has anywhere between 10%-30% THC. Additionally, industrial hemp has plenty of fiber of oil, which makes it an excellent industrial raw material.
It was after World War 2 that the United States drastically changed its position with Cannabis sativa, and unfortunately there hasn’t been enough differentiation between the varieties of plants from the same species.
Basically, if industrial hemp can be used for food and other non-food products, its regulation should be under the USDA, and not the Drug Enforcement Agency. With better technologies for testing the THC levels of hemp plants, we should see some improvements in how industrial hemp is regulated within the United States.
There are plenty of advantages of switching to industrial hemp: the plant is easy to grow, and as the industrialist Ford once said, we can actually replace what we take from rainforests with what we can easily grow in wide scale hemp fields.
A mature hemp plant can rise to about fifteen feet, and six-footers are exceedingly common, too. That’s plenty of plant material if you are after fiber, oil, and other materials for various applications. It has been estimated that a single acre of hemp can yield a staggering 5.3 tons of hemp straw, which, after processing, can be transformed to almost 1.5 tons of hemp fiber.
Industrial hemp has also been known to be a great soil-conditioning crop, as its massively extensive root system can reach down further than other crops, which helps provide aeration and the replacement of organic compounds in the soil.
Industrial hemp is a good choice for farmers who might want to rotate their crops, as it naturally drives away weeds and prevents them from growing. Is it a wonder crop?
Well, we don’t know, but what we do know is that it is one of the most giving of plant species, and with the current shift to bioplastics, it would only be a matter of time before this plant will start to make waves internationally.
With the increasing acceptance of the cannabis variety (the one cultivated for medical marijuana programs), we should start to see people opening up to the idea of using hemp products more and more.
Take note however that growers of industrial hemp must still contact the DEA for the appropriate licenses, and each state and city may have different regulations for its cultivation, transport, and sale.