It is for this reason that all the finished hemp goods that you see for sale in America, from food products to clothing to building materials, are part of an imported hemp industry that has surpassed $688 million annually. The size of this import industry is one of the major catalysts for hemp legalization in the U.S. As a renewable source of a range of products, hemp provides an exciting new step in American agriculture.
In 2013, BMW announced its newest electric car, the i3. Using low-weight hemp in its interior, the i3 weighs 800 pounds less than its market competitors. The Kestrel, created by Canadian Motive Industries, uses polymer resin-infused hemp stalks to replace fiberglass in the body of the vehicle. From this replacement, consumers can expect a dramatic reduction in weight, improved efficiency and the appeal of an ecologically sustainable vehicle.
Hemp oil has never been as popular as other marijuana products. With little to no THC, CBD-rich strains of cannabis don’t deliver the pleasant buzz recreational users seek out in marijuana. In the 1970s, however, scientists found that cannabidiol was effective in reducing seizures. The brain’s endocannabinoid system contains receptors that respond to CBD, producing anticonvulsant effects. Being plant-derived and native to the brain’s own chemistry, CBD is therefore one of the most natural options for seizure treatment available today. Still, not many people took interest in CBD until 2013, when a CNN documentary special, Weed, hosted by the network’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, highlighted CBD’s effectiveness in combating seizures. Since then, demand for hemp oil products has exploded.
Cannabis has long had an image problem, because of the extremely widespread use of “narcotic” cultivars as illegal intoxicants. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has the mandate of eliminating illicit and wild marijuana, which it does very well (Fig. 54–56). Those interested in establishing and developing legitimate industries based on fiber and oilseed applications have had to struggle against considerable opposition from many in the political and law enforcement arenas. The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) information web site on marijuana, which reflects a negative view of cannabis, is at www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/Marijuana.html, and reflects several basic fears: (1) growing Cannabis plants makes law enforcement more difficult, because of the need to ensure that all plants cultivated are legitimate; (2) utilization of legitimate Cannabis products makes it much more difficult to maintain the image of the illegitimate products as dangerous; (3) many in the movements backing development of hemp are doing so as a subterfuge to promote legalization of recreational use of marijuana; and (4) THC (and perhaps other constituents) in Cannabis are so harmful that their presence in any amount in any material (food, medicine or even fiber product) represents a health hazard that is best dealt with by a total proscription.
Last year, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) estimated the total retail value of all hemp products sold in the U.S. at $620 million. Sadly, all of the raw hemp materials were imported from other countries. (More on that later.) Hemp is an attractive rotation crop for farmers. As it grows, hemp breathes in CO2, detoxifies the soil, and prevents soil erosion. What’s left after harvest breaks down into the soil, providing valuable nutrients.
Scientists in Europe and North America concluded that hemp seed is an excellent source of nutrition. Numerous anecdotal incidences cited improvements in a wide range of acute and chronic conditions such as rapid healing of skin lesions and relief from flu, inflammation, and allergies. The benefits were attributed to the presence of rich source of the EFAs linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, and their respective biologic metabolites, GLA and stearidonic acid.9
Israel, another example, has led the way with ground-breaking research into cannabis cultivation. The country recently recognized medical marijuana as an official part of the nation’s branch of agriculture. Israel is already one of the world’s leading exporters of medical-grade cannabis. Recognizing marijuana cultivation as an official branch of the country’s agriculture will open up even more funds to support Israeli cannabis farmers.
The confusion compounds when one realizes that in today’s popular lexicon, the terms indica, sativa, and hybrid tend to indicate a set of effects, rather than the taxonomy of a particular strain. But that’s just as well. Most marijuana strains today, especially those under commercial cultivation, are genetic hybrids. Only a handful of pure, or “landrace” cannabis strains are in circulation.
Hemp, or industrial hemp (from Old English hænep), typically found in the northern hemisphere, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. It is one of the fastest growing plants and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.