College and University Blog

Is Hemp the Answer To Our Energy Problems?

Industrial hemp has little in common with marijuana. While marijuana produces a high when smoked, hemp doesn’t. This is because the level of THC in hemp is below 1%. No THC, no high. As more people become educated of the benefits of hemp, there is more interest in examining its potential and legalizing it. Unfortunately, Federal anti-drug officials say that allowing such crops would create a slippery slope toward legalizing marijuana. Currently, the U.S. is the only developed nation that has not established hemp as a legal crop. Great Britain lifted its ban in 1993; Germany did so in 1996; and Canada followed two years later. The European Union has subsidized hemp production since the 1990s.

Hemp is good for the earth and the American farmer. The hemp plant anchors soil and protects it from run-off. It preserves topsoil and subsoil structure just like forests do. Hemp plants can be grown in most climates, requires little fertilizer and water, and NO pesticides nor herbicides. Hemp yields approximately 10 tons per acre in four months and is drought resistant.

Additional job markets could also be created if growing hemp were legal. We would need processing plants. If these plants were kept in rural areas, this would provide a tax base for these often overlooked communities. The availability of hemp will create an increase in local cottage industries. The $500 million dollars the government spends on eradicating wild hemp each year would no longer be required. This sounds like a win-win situation for all involved.

Technically, growing hemp in the United States for industrial use is legal, but there is a catch. There is a $1000 non-refundable application fee for a permit. The permits are extremely difficult to get. If you are granted a permit, you will be required to have a security system. But not just any security system. You must have a fence around the field with barbed wire on the fence, armed guards around the clock, and electronic sensing equipment. This needs to be done around each field planted with hemp. As you can see, these standards are almost impossible to meet.

Hemp can be used for many things. Hemp provides low cost high quality food. It can be used for both people and animal food. Hemp contains high amounts of protein, amino acids, and essential fatty acids that are necessary to maintain a healthy life. Hemp seed is the only seed which contains these oils with almost no saturated fat.

Hemp has many non-food uses. Hemp is most known for its fiber. Hemp fiber is extremely versatile. It is known for its strength, length, durability, and its resistance to rot. Hemp fiber may be better than cotton. One acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as two or three acres of cotton. Cotton farming requires the use of many pesticides and herbicides, while hemp uses very few. Hemp is also stronger, softer, and lasts longer than cotton.

Hemp fiber is also made into a wood-like composite which is twice as strong as wood. Using hemp when making plywood and fiberboard makes the board stronger, lighter, and longer lasting. Hemp board is often used in building due to its durability in earthquakes, hurricanes and other severe weather. An added bonus is that hemp products are bio-degradable.

Hemp is made into paper products as well. Using hemp can eliminate our dependence on trees. One acre of hemp produces the same amount of paper as four acres of trees. Hemp can be harvested four times a year at 1/4th the cost of wood pulp paper and with 1/5th the pollution. Hemp only takes 90-100 days to mature, while most trees take 50-500 years. Hemp paper can be recycled ten times because of its long fibers. Most tree-based paper can only be recycled three times. Hemp paper production can reduce waste-water contamination. It reduces the need for acids and can be bleached in an environmentally-friendly way instead of with harsh chlorine compounds. Hemp paper does not yellow and is acid free.

Hemp can be made into body care products, lubrications, household stain removers, varnishes, resins, and paint. The paints and varnishes made with hemp are non-toxic. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products. These products include plant based cellophane, recycled plastics, and resins made from hemp seed oil, to name but a few. Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petro-chemical products. The most hazardous toxic waste comes from petro-chemicals. Hemp can safely, cleanly, and completely replace them.

Hemp could end our dependency on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are non renewable resources. They also contain chemicals that threaten the environment. Hemp burns with burns with virtually no ash or sulfur. Carbon dioxide is released when it is burned. The amount of carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere equals the amount released – it does not contribute to worsening the global warming or greenhouse effect. It is estimated that if we dedicated 6% of U.S. land to hemp cultivation, it could supply all current demands for oil and gas. This production would not add any carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Hemp could also be converted to methanol and fuel our cars in the future. Hemp is both beneficial for the American consumer and the environment. Hemp is the only crop capable of making America energy independent.

Hemp would be good for the tax base of county, state and the federal government. A legally regulated hemp crop would yield billions of dollars in tax revenue. A hemp industry would provide thousands of jobs. Hemp supporters claim that hemp could be worth more than $40 billion a year and yield 50,000 safe products.