[October 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]
What is Hemp?
Wear it, eat it, build with it. Use it for hair, skin, and health care. Hemp has so many uses, it’s hard to list them all. Hemp is truly a miracle crop; it’s to today’s consumer what the buffalo was to the Native Americans: an all-inclusive source of food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. As a topical body product, hemp is made into creams, creams, soaps, shampoos, bath salts, and sprays—all of which help skin stay soft and smooth and seem to have anti-aging benefits. The high fiber content gives it strength and durability for making into cloth or material that can be sewn, worn, or carried (like a backpack). It’s so strong (and doesn’t hold moisture) that hemp can be used in building construction and is even being considered for highway construction. And yet, from the late 1930s until recently, it was illegal to grow or sell it.
Now, thanks to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (popularly known as the 2018 Farm Bill), hemp and hemp-derived CBD have become one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., forecasted to be a $1 billion industry by 2020. Not surprising, since the turnover time for a hemp crop is only four months; it takes 40 years to replace a tree.
History of Hemp
Grown in North America since 1606, hemp is one of our oldest cultivated crops and an important source of oilseed and fiber. Prior to the 1930s, hemp was used for paper production, clothing, rope, herbal medicine, and even a recreational drug. The latter was the basis of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which killed the industry. It had a brief resurgence during WWII with the “Hemp for Victory” campaign, which ended after the war. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 placed hemp in the same category as heroin, to be regulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Farm Bill of 2014 allowed hemp to be grown for industrial purposes, provided it has a THC content of 0.3% or less. It was the THC component that got hemp banned as a controlled substance. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that produces psychoactive effects and causes changes in cognition, behavior, and how you feel—in other words, makes you “high.”
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Fresh agricultural hemp grows in the countryside
Both hemp and marijuana are the same species of plant, Cannabis Sativa, and both are virtually indistinguishable in appearance, but only marijuana has a THC content of over 0.3%. Marijuana is the fourth most popular recreational drug after caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Bet you coffee drinkers didn’t think of yourselves as indulging in recreational drugs. And did you know that alcohol is (supposedly) 114 times more toxic than marijuana?
Hemp is defined as being equal to, or less than 0.3% THC and grown for commercial and non-intoxicating purposes. Whereas most recreational drug strains contain primarily THC and little or no CBD, fiber and oilseed strains primarily contain CBD and very little THC. CBD stands for for cannabidiol, the second primary component of the hemp plant.
Pot? Marijuana? You hear that a lot and probably know what it is, especially if you were a “flower child” in the 1960s, as many of our readers were. And of course, since Colorado legalized it, you see “cannibas” stores everywhere, offering products to smoke, vape, eat, rub on your skin or hair, or wear.
Hemp? What’s that? “They make rope out of it, right?” someone asked me when I was writing this article. Well, yes they do, but they also make clothing, building materials, and consumables, including the newly popular CBD oil that supposedly cures everything from warts to worries.