First things first: hemp is not marijuana, and marijuana is not hemp. In fact, hemp is completely different from marijuana in its uses, benefits, and applications.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two is the fact that they serve totally different purposes. Marijuana, as it is widely known, is used for recreational and medicinal purposes. Hemp, on the other hand, is used in a variety of other applications. These include making paper, clothing, food, cosmetics, paints, and fuel, just to name a few. In total, hemp has over 25,000 possible applications.
Differentiating Between Hemp and Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana often get aligned because they are both part of the Cannabis Sativa L plant. In fact, we could say they are cousins. Hemp is the fiber (and seed) of the plant while marijuana is the flower of the plant.
It’s important to note that hemp is not used for recreational purposes. Hemp has less than 0.5% of the psychoactive chemical THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, contains around 15% THC, which supplies the sought after ‘’high’’.
Additionally, hemp produces a cannabinoid called CBD. Clinical studies show that CBD blocks the effects of THC in the nervous system, meaning its psychoactive component is non-existent.
Hemp for Food
Hemps seeds are incredibly nutritious. They can be eaten whole, ground into flour or pressed into edible oil. They are rich in vegetable protein. In fact, hemp seeds have the second highest amount of vegetable protein after soy. Their protein closely resembles that found in the human blood, making it easier to digest than any other protein. They boast a full complement of essential amino acids and are very useful in lowering cholesterol and reducing plaque build-up in the coronary arteries.
Hemp for Body Care
Hemp seed oil is perfect for skin and hair care and maintenance. Its high nutrient profile, combined with its replenishing and moisturizing properties, makes it a front-runner for vegetable-based body care oils. Hemp seed oil contains omega-3, omega-6, omega-9, polyunsaturated fatty acids and gamma linoleic acids (GLA’s). GLA’s are highly sought after in skin care maintenance and are rarely found in natural oils.
Hemp for Paper
There is no plant on earth capable of producing as much paper as hemp per acre of land. One acre of hemp can produce four times the amount of paper produced on an acre of trees. Additionally, hemp paper can be recycled up to 6 or 7 times, as opposed to tree paper which can only be recycled up to three times.
Hemp paper processing also uses much less energy and fewer chemicals than tree paper processing. It doesn’t produce toxic chloroform, dioxins and 2000 other harmful compounds that are often by-products of tree paper processing.
As if that’s not enough, hemp is ready for harvest just 120 days after planting, compared to trees that take tens or hundreds of years to achieve full maturity. What’s more? Hemp harvesting doesn’t destroy the natural habitat of other plant and animal species and is naturally free of acids.
Fun Fact: Thomas Jefferson drafted the U.S. Constitution on paper made from hemp!
Hemp for Fuel
The large quantity of cellulose that makes hemp suitable for paper also makes it ideal for the production of ethanol fuel. Ethanol is the second cleanest fuel after gasoline. It is derived from plant cellulose. Plants absorb CO2 (carbon dioxide), water and sunlight to produce cellulose and oxygen. When ethanol burns, it releases CO2, water and energy. The CO2 is absorbed by plants, along with sunlight and water to create more cellulose and oxygen – thus utilizing a clean and sustainable cycle. Hemp provides a natural, renewable and sustainable alternative to harmful fossil fuels.
So, Why Is Hemp Illegal?
Despite being an incredibly beneficial industrial and commercial plant, hemp was bundled with marijuana and has continued to be an illegal drug ever since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The political agenda of those in power during that time were thought to have benefited financially by the bundling of hemp. Four decades later, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis – including hemp – as a Schedule I drug. Today, hemp is still a controlled substance in the same category as heroin and ecstasy, even though it contains no psychoactive properties.
Can Hemp Redeem Itself?
In 2015, The Industrial Hemp Framing Act was tabled in the House and Senate. If passed, it would have decriminalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, and removed its classification as a Schedule I drug.
When this prohibition is ultimately lifted, one of the world’s oldest and most sustainable crops will once again be able to serve humanity in a multitude of ways.