Not only does hemp grow in a variety of climates and soil types, it also grows very tightly spaced (decreasing land use) and has a fast growing rate (which leads to high yields). Farmers in Canada are reportedly making from growing hemp. Moreover, because the crop improves soil health (see below), farmers can grow food crops immediately after a hemp harvest without a fallow period.
Ever wonder where the nickname "weed" comes from? The hemp plant grows like one, obviating the need for most pesticides (it is naturally resistant to most pests), herbicides, fungicides and thriving on less water than most crops. Because of its resiliency, it has also been flagged as a natural way to clean up soil pollution. Using , hemp was used at Chernobyl to harmlessly extract toxins and pollutants from the soil and groundwater. Hemp actually absorbs CO2 while it grows through natural photosynthesis, making it carbon-negative from the get-go.
Hemp has been used as a fabric since time immemorial. As a textile, hemp is durable, comes in based on how it is processed from the plant, and has ", comparable to linen," according to Patagonia. Plus, it needs approximately as cotton does to thrive.
Hemp seeds are used in , including hemp seed butters, hemp seed energy bars, hemp oil and even hemp seed milks. The seeds have a nutty flavor and are regarded as a superfood since they are high in omega-3 fatty acids and complete protein.
Hemp pulp has been used to create paper for at least 2,000 years, including a draft of the Declaration of Independence, but it is currently significantly pricier to process than wood pulp. If processing costs come down, however, hemp pulp could conceivably replace wood pulp, creating . Moreover, hemp's low lignin content and naturally light color mean that would be needed to pulp and color hemp paper.
A 2009 study from the University of Connecticut's Biofuel Consortium found that hemp seed oil made a "" feedstock for producing biodiesel. Hemp biodiesel proved to be high efficiency (97 percent of the hemp oil was converted to biodiesel) and could even be used at lower temperatures than other biodiesels.
Lovingly called "hempcrete," hemp fiber can be mixed with lime to create carbon-neutral building supplies, including insulation, pressboard, flooring and wall construction. Hempcrete is . Moreover, it is easier to work with than concrete and just as strong.
Henry Ford in the early 1940s, and Lotus recently did the same. In 2008, the used hemp in its composite body panels and spoiler, and for door panels, columns, seat backs, boot linings, floor consoles and instrument panels. Hemp composites are stronger, lighter and cheaper than fiber glass and carbon fiber -- plus, they're recyclable!
Currently, America imports most of its hemp seed and hemp oil from China and Canada. In 2011, the U.S. imported , up from $1.4 million in 2000. With the laws against industrial hemp changing, however, the U.S. has a chance to create domestic jobs and capitalize on the growing market. Some estimates value the U.S. industrial hemp market at ; Canada's hemp industry is reportedly going to this year in earnings.