The Benefits of Hemp for the Environment

Hemp is a versatile and sustainable plant that has been used for centuries in a variety of products. It is capable of growing in a variety of climates and soil types, and requires no herbicides or pesticides. Hemp is also an effective carbon dioxide scavenger, removing 1.63 tons of carbon from the air for every ton of hemp produced. Not only does hemp reduce soil erosion, but it also improves soil quality by removing nitrogen from the atmosphere and absorbing toxins from the soil.

Hemp biofuel is a possible future alternative for fuel, but demand and scale do not yet fully exist. The plant's low lignin content means that it can be pulped with fewer chemicals than wood, and its natural sheen can avoid the need to use chlorine bleach. In the early 20th century, hemp-derived cellulose was promoted as an affordable and renewable raw material for plastics; Henry Ford even built a prototype car with biocomposite materials, using agricultural fiber such as hemp. Hemp was also used in everything from the sails of 19th century clipper ships to the covers of pioneering wagons. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) formally banned cultivation of industrial hemp (although the state of Hawaii is home to the first industrial hemp crop grown since the approval of the CSA).

If passed, bills would eliminate federal restrictions on domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, defined as the non-pharmacological varieties of oilseeds and cannabis fiber. This would mean higher profit margins for farmers who grow hemp as an alternative crop, in addition to their usual agricultural repertoire. Hemp is an incredibly resilient plant that can thrive regardless of soil or air quality, or with limited rainfall. It is clear that hemp has a net environmental benefit and can be used for a staggering number of products. The government's “Hemp for Victory” campaign during World War II demotivated fears that industrial hemp was the same as marijuana, together with selective harassment by law enforcement, deterred farmers from growing hemp.

Ethel Sweetwood
Ethel Sweetwood

Unapologetic organizer. General twitter buff. Friendly social media expert. Infuriatingly humble coffee nerd. Proud tv nerd. Evil tv scholar.

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