What is hemp?
With hemp being one of the fastest growing industries of the 21st century, it is easy to get lost in the recent explosion. How can there be cars, buildings, clothes, fuel, and menstrual care all made out of hemp? Let’s start at ground zero.
Hemp, also referred to as industrial hemp, comes from the cannabis sativa plant and is grown for its fiber and seeds. The cannabis plant in general has over 700 strains but to be considered industrial hemp, the strain has to contain less than 0.3% of THC. There are many strains of hemp as well, including hemp grown for CBD, seeds, oil, hurd, or fiber. The intended use of the hemp plant determines the height, width, CBD level, and other key growth elements. These plants have a growth cycle of 120 days, making it possible to have up to three harvests per year. They grow up to 18 feet tall and thrive in mild climates but can also withstand unsteady conditions. Once it has gone through its cycle, hemp is retted. The retting process involves fiber being separated from the rest of the plant stalk then it can be processed as needed for textile, construction, and other consumer uses. The whole growth cycle is quick, especially considering that in its most natural state, hemp only takes 2 weeks to decompose.
The biggest producer of hemp has been China for centuries but Canada and US follow in the Top 3 list. The US supply of hemp is widely produced for CBD products, not for fiber. That is projected to change very quickly as the demand for industrial hemp fiber skyrockets.
While I could write a book on what makes hemp so different, its advantages are most evident in its sustainability, health, and versatility. Hemp “grows like a weed” in that it requires so little resources compared to its strong, absorbent, and durable output. It also is one of the most effective plants for carbon absorption and biodegrades in less than a month. Hemp’s natural anti-bacterial properties make it so it does not need pesticides nor herbicides to grow. Finally, the versatility of hemp is boundless and can truly transform our consumer products. It’s hard to believe that there are over 25,000 industrial uses of hemp and we are just scratching the surface of the plant’s potential.