Hemp Explained

With the hype around legalize marijuana and CBD, you’ve no doubt heard the word “hemp” thrown around in the media.

You know what cannabis is, and marijuana is a “no brainer”, but where or how does “hemp” fit into the mix? Is it legal? What’s it used for? And why should you care?

If any of those questions sound familiar, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will help you explore all things hemp, and by the end you’ll have a solid understanding of what it is and why you should care.

Etymology

The word hemp comes from the Old English word “henep”, but its earlier origin was Germanic. This is apparent due to the fact that similar words are present in the Dutch and German languages. Its popularity peaked in the 1800s and has been on a decline ever since. That is until the resurgence in cannabis, marijuana and CBD as a mainstream recreational and medicinal drug.

Hemp vs. Marijuana: what’s the real difference?

Most people use the two terms interchangeably, but this is erroneous due to the fact that the words describe two distinct plants.

Yes, it’s true that both marijuana and hemp come from the cannabis sativa plant, but hemp and marijuana are very different. Even beyond their appearances, the differences between the two are very clear.

For one, marijuana contains vastly higher levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the compound that gets you high — as compared to hemp. The legality and uses of the two also vary wildly (which we’ll elaborate on next).

Legality of Hemp

For most of its history, hemp was not only legal, but even encouraged to be grown by American farmers. This is due to the fact that it had a wide variety of uses which made it a highly sought-after resource (more on this later).

It was formerly an economic staple of American trade due to its versatility. That being said, it eventually was banned under the orders of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, the move wasn’t meant to target hemp specifically, but rather it’s more infamous cousin, marijuana.

The prohibition of hemp was merely a casualty of the “war on drugs”. This situation was a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” type of scenario. Even though hemp was non-psychoactive, because it came from the cannabis plant, it too was banned along with marijuana due to a failure of the laws to make a clear and distinct differentiation between the two.

What was once a staple of the American economy had now become an obscure, illegal plant. Gone were the days when it was the favorite crop of farmers and the government alike. This trend continued on up until recently. Luckily, President Donald J. Trump has made hemp legal once more under the 2018 Farm Bill.

No more than a week after the bill was passed, hemp could be seen making a strong comeback with various agriculture magnates investing into hemp farms. The FDA is still figuring out how to regulate the sale of hemp, as well as products derived from it like CBD oil, but that’s a story for another day. For now, hemp production is well on its way to returning to its former glory days.

Uses of Hemp – one of the most versatile natural products

The reason that hemp quickly rose to its rank as a budding economic staple during the early days of America was due to its incredibly versatility, especially as it related to textiles such as clothing.

Clothing

In many cases, hemp was deemed preferable to farm over cotton. Though cotton was good for clothing, its uses were limited in comparison to those of hemp. Even British soldiers would often boast their hemp-made coats upon arriving back in England.

Rope

The durability of hemp made it an often preferred option for military and civilian clothing, as well as for ropes. In fact, roping was one of the biggest applications of hemp.

This is due to the fact that rope is a universal need. Whether you’re attaching a plow to a horse, lassoing cattle, or transporting military equipment, you’ll need some rope. The high demand for rope ensured that hemp would always be, comparatively, in short supply leading to the value of this crop.

A neat piece of historical trivia is the fact that the crates of tea that were damaged during the Boston Tea Party were actually married together with rope made out of hemp. Let’s fast-forward a bit closer to modern times and look at the contemporary applications that we have for hemp.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Hemp is the ideal source for CBD for those jurisdictions in which THC and Marijuana may be illegal or highly regulated. Hemp, by contrast, contains very low levels of THC. In fact, the trace amounts of THC found in hemp are usually around 0.3%. That’s right, a third of a percent.

This low level of THC makes it far easier to distill and process into pure CBD products, as well as to comply with regulations restricting the use of THC or marijuana derived products.

There’s no doubt that hemp will steadily make its way back to the top as one of the greatest crops that America will ever produce. It may take some time while the FDA get their regulations together and international trade laws are set, but the eventual truth is that hemp will restore its former glory.

Other Uses of Hemp

A few other uses for hemp include:

  • Human and pet food
  • Pet bedding
  • Oil-based uses (paint, candles and lantern fuel)
  • Plastics (biodegradable)
  • Construction materials
  • Fuel
  • And more...

Bonus: Is hemp psychoactive?

We figured that one of the main questions you’d have after reading this is whether or not hemp can get you high. It’s a fair question. After all, if something is related to marijuana then surely it can get you high.

As we mentioned in the article, the levels of THC — which is the psychoactive part of cannabis responsible for producing a euphoric high — are extremely low in hemp. As such, it is virtually impossible to get “high” from hemp. The same holds true for CBD isolates and CBD derived from hemp.