Cannabis has often been misperceived as a purely recreational drug; with many perceiving it as harmful and poisonous. But thanks to the critical mass of ‘experiential knowledge’, most have realized the benefits of the flowering plant, as well as the environmental benefits of industrial hemp. And according to a recent Pew Survey, the majority of Americans support the full legalization of cannabis.
Industrial Hemp is from the same species of plant that marijuana comes from. However, industrial hemp has an extremely low psychoactive ability. And that’s because THC levels in the medicinal cannabis flower is between five and ten percent. Whereas industrial hemp contains about one‐tenth of that; and is from a different variety, or subspecies that contains many important differences:
Tetrahydrocannabinoids (THC) is the primary psychoactive and ‘intoxicating’ ingredient that makes you ‘high’. Hemp has a minimal amount of tetrahydrocannabinoids (THC). This is because THC is formed in the resin glands of the female cannabis plant. Industrial hemp is not cultivated to produce flowers, and therefore lacks the primary component that forms the cannabis (marijuana) ‘high’. Furthermore, industrial hemp has higher concentrations of Cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a class of diverse cannabinoid compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These receptors are a part of the endocannabinoid system (endocannabinoids are produced naturally in the human body and enable our regenerative abilities). The most notable phytocannabinoids (found in cannabis) is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis. Other cannabinoids represent up to forty‐percent of the plant resin. In fact, there are at least eighty‐five different cannabinoids present in cannabis, exhibiting a diversity of effects.
In France and China, they use it to strengthen concrete. Mercedes Benz uses it to make many of their interior door panels, and the original Levi jeans were made from it. Christopher Columbus had ropes made from it as he sailed to the New World, and our own Declaration of Independence is written on it; hemp was grown by the Puritans, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin used it to make paper in America's first paper mill.
All around the world, hemp is used to make paper, clothing, rope, textiles, biodegradable plastics, food and fuel. Hemp requires no chemicals to make it grow or keep bugs away, controls the erosion of the topsoil, and produces oxygen. Hemp will also supplant many industrial materials that have been proven to be harmful to the environment and to ourselves; such as paper made from trees (not only does this require the cutting down of trees, but the use of bleach and other toxic chemicals which contribute to water pollution anywhere paper is made), and cosmetics and plastics that are petroleum‐based and do not break down easily.
What is this wonder material? Is it some new high‐tech substance, perhaps? The answer is hemp (a weed really) that has been cultivated for nearly 10,000 years, and has been used for various purposes since the Stone Age. It could be the answer to untold environmental issues, not to mention world hunger.
Like quinoa and soy, hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary for human life. Hemp is rich in omega‐3 and omega‐6 essential fatty acids, is easy to digest, and has an abundance of vitamins and minerals.
Products that are made from hemp include hemp milk, flours, cereals, frozen waffles, nut butters and all sorts of baked goods. Hemp lends a nutty flavor to foods and pairs well with all kinds of other ingredients and flavors.
According to The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford University Press, 1999), the ancient Greeks used to eat fried hemp seeds. In fact, almost every civilization from the Sumerians on has used hemp for both food and fabric. In medieval times, hemp was used in all sorts of cooked dishes including pies, tortes, soups and pastries.
Today, hemp continues to be used all over the world for food and other purposes, with more than 30 countries producing industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Spain, China, North Korea, Hungary, Romania, Poland and Italy. With our economy, our environment and the world's food supply all in trouble these days, hemp could be a marvelous solution to many of the world's woes.
And America continues to import hemp products from other countries, notably our northern neighbor Canada, whose Manitoba Harvest is the world's largest farmer‐owned vertically integrated hemp food manufacturer. They make some of the freshest and highest‐quality hemp food products in the world. Perhaps we can look to Canada as inspiration to start growing our own hemp fields. After all, it grows like a weed!
Hemp seeds are actually nuts (31 percent of the nut is fat) with a nutty flavor similar to pine nuts. Although small, the nuts are big on nutrition, with up to thirty‐five percent of their makeup being protein, and most of that edestin, a highly digestible storage protein. Unusual for plant protein, hemp seed protein contains all nine essential amino acids in a favorable ratio for human needs.
There are 20 types of fatty acids (the "good" fats) that our body needs for optimum health. Our bodies can manufacture all but two of these twenty, known as the essential fatty acids (EFAs): omega‐6 linoleic acid (LA) and omega‐3 linolenic acid (LNA). Their sources are food nutrients. To be most effective, these two EFAs need to be consumed in a balanced ratio; the World Health Organization's recommended ratio is 4:1.
The hemp seed is one of the most balanced sources of omega‐3 and omega‐6 EFAs around. Studies link many common ailments to an imbalance and deficiency of EFAs in the typical Western diet: too much omega‐6, and not enough omega‐3.
Fish and fish oils are typically recommended because they provide the omega‐3 derivatives, but consumers are concerned about mercury contamination of fish (which has led the FDA to warn pregnant women and nursing mothers to restrict their fish intake).
Hemp's omega profile is a good alternative to fish. The seeds also provide other phytonutrients, including phyto‐sterols and carotenes, as well as vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, and it's also rich in some EFAs, among them gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a rare nutrient also found in mother's milk.
In 1937, Popular Science published an article called “Hemp: The New Billion‐Dollar Crop” that listed over 25,000 potential uses for the plant. While this ancient crop has recently started to gain popularity around the world, it still hasn’t received the attention it deserves:
• A Colorado company is using hemp to fight the spread of staph infections in hospitals. Various chemicals found in hemp possess antibacterial and antifungal properties. Traditional cotton and polyester fabrics help bacteria survive for months at a time.
• Insulation made from hemp is quickly becoming a popular eco‐friendly alternative to traditional insulation materials like mineral wool. Hemp is also carbon‐negative (absorbs more greenhouse gases than emitted during the production process).
• Hemp has also found its way into concrete mixes. Hempcrete can be used for a variety of construction needs, from walling to roof insulation to flooring. On top of being carbon‐negative, hempcrete is said to be easier to work with and has natural insulating and moisture regulating properties. Hemp bricks also lack the brittleness of traditional concrete and thus do not require expansion joints.
• Hemp composite can be found in cars made by Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Mercedes, Lotus and Honda, among many others. Biocomposite made from hemp fiber is just as strong as fiberglass, but incredibly lightweight. With fuel economy becoming a primary focus of all carmakers, hemp composite will only become more common in cars.
• Graphene is often touted as the future of nanotechnology, and the thinnest, strongest, and lightest material ever made. But how does hemp compare? Apparently, it’s even better. Earlier this year, chemical engineers from the University of Alberta turned hemp fiber into a nanomaterial with similar properties as graphene, but a much lower price.
• What’s more, when it comes to making energy storage devices like batteries and supercapacitors, the hemp nanomaterial showed “superior electrochemical storage properties” compared to graphene. Research is still in its early stages, but if the results hold, hemp could eventually be used for a wide range of nanotechnology applications, from flashlights to solar cells.
TRANSITION TO HEMP
If today is a typical day on planet Earth, we will lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or about an acre a second. We will lose another 72 square miles to encroaching deserts, as a result of human mismanagement and overpopulation. We will lose 40 to 100 species, and no one knows whether the number is 40 or 100. Today the human population will increase by 250,000. And today we will add 2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere and 15 million tons of carbon. Tonight, the climate will be more extreme, the waters more acidic, and the fabric of life more threadbare.
David Harold Moore, CEO
I have alway striven for the golden mean...