Hemp fiber has been used extensively throughout history, with production climaxing soon after being introduced to the New World. For centuries, items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials were made from hemp fiber. Hemp was also commonly used to make sail canvas. The word "canvas" is derived from the word cannabis. Pure hemp has a texture similar to linen. Because of its versatility for use in a variety of products, today hemp is used in a number of consumer goods, including clothing, shoes, accessories, dog collars, and home wares.
As a result of intensive selection in cultivation, Cannabis exhibits many sexual phenotypes that can be described in terms of the ratio of female to male flowers occurring in the individual, or typical in the cultivar. Dioecious varieties are preferred for drug production, where the female flowers are used. Dioecious varieties are also preferred for textile fiber production, whereas monoecious varieties are preferred for pulp and paper production. It has been suggested that the presence of monoecy can be used to differentiate licit crops of monoecious hemp from illicit drug crops. However, sativa strains often produce monoecious individuals, probably as a result of inbreeding.
Former President Barack Obama defined industrial hemp as a distinct crop from marijuana in the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill, authorizing higher education institutions and state agricultural departments to give the green light to "regulate and conduct research and pilot programs." But with its classification as a Schedule 1 drug still in effect, the path toward cultivating industrial hemp hasn't been an easy one.
While cultivating marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin is currently illegal in the U.S. outside of exceptions for state-approved hemp research programs authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill, there’s a strong possibility that industrial hemp will be broadly legalized—possibly by the end of the year—once the House and Senate reconcile their versions of a new Farm Bill and put it on the president’s desk.
The US Office of National Drug control Policy issued a statement on industrial hemp in 1997 (www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/policy/hemp%5Fold.html) which included the following: “Our primary concern about the legalization of the cultivation of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is the message it would send to the public at large, especially to our youth at a time when adolescent drug use is rising rapidly... The second major concern is that legalizing hemp production may mean the de facto legalization of marijuana cultivation. Industrial hemp and marijuana are the product of the same plant, Cannabis sativa... Supporters of the hemp legalization effort claim hemp cultivation could be profitable for US farmers. However, according to the USDA and the US Department of Commerce, the profitability of industrial hemp is highly uncertain and probably unlikely. Hemp is a novelty product with limited sustainable development value even in a novelty market... For every proposed use of industrial hemp, there already exists an available product, or raw material, which is cheaper to manufacture and provides better market results.... Countries with low labor costs such as the Philippines and China have a competitive advantage over any US hemp producer.”
“Hemp is of high nutritional quality because it contains high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids… Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are the only two fatty acids that must be ingested and are considered essential to human health … In contrast to shorter-chain and more saturated fatty acids, these essential fatty acids do not serve as energy sources, but as raw materials for cell structure and as precursors for biosynthesis for many of the body’s regulatory biochemicals…”