The Hemp Renaissance

Why is hemp suddenly everywhere? And in everything? The hemp renaissance has actually been building for some time. Mankind is no stranger to hemp, one of our oldest cultivated crops dating back thousands of years. Early American settlers were legally required to grow it as a staple crop, and during World War II farmers were urged to cultivate it to provide rope and rigging for the war effort. Hemp was ultimately stigmatized in the United States in the 1950s, and the reasons for its unpopularity are multi-faceted (a subject for another time). For the sake of simplicity let’s say it was because of anti-drug sentiment and hemp’s conflation with marijuana.

Hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis family, but by definition hemp contains little to no THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound that makes people high. While marijuana long had a place in apothecaries for its medicinal uses, hemp provided the raw material for important commodities like rope, textiles and paper. In fact, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, and Betsy Ross used hemp fabric to create the first American flag.

Hemp’s role in the very creation of America is indisputable. Now that it has been legalized, it is once again taking center stage as an agricultural commodity that can provide raw materials for a wide range of products. Hemp can be used to make paper, textiles and rope, as well as health and cosmetic products, a high protein food source, cooking oil, animal feed and bedding, building materials, insulation, paint, biofuels and bioplastics.

The most recent excitement has surrounded the growing evidence that CBD or cannabidiol, one of the many cannabinoids found in hemp, may have medicinal qualities that assist with a variety of ailments, including chronic pain and inflammation, seizure disorders, insomnia and anxiety. Much research is being conducted on the subject, and while the FDA has not given the green light for CBD in general, it has approved its use for one prescription medication that treats seizure disorders.

You can now consume CBD in the form that suits your needs and preferences, including tinctures or drops, topicals, capsules, patches, edibles and smokables. You can wear clothing made from hemp fiber, drive your hemp bioplastic car past the barn, where the animals sleep in hemp bedding, all the way to your hempcrete house where you can snack on hemp hearts, a great source of protein and omega-3 and omega-6. One plant that clothes, feeds, houses, warms, and soothes people? I’d say that the hemp renaissance is in full swing.