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What is Hemp? What’s It Used for and Is It Illegal?

What is Hemp? What’s It Used for and Is It Illegal?

What is Hemp

Hemp is a very well-known name for certain varieties of the Cannabis sativa species. It is one of the oldest domesticated crops known to humans as they have cultivated hemp plants for thousands of years for medicinal and nutritional purposes.

As it appears, people in ancient China first started cultivating hemp around 2,700 BC. Historical records say hemp first expanded across Asia some 2,000–2,200 years ago. Then it spread to Europe.

According to the Columbia History of the World, the oldest relic of human industry is a scrap of hemp fabric used approximately at 8,000 BC.

So the human relationship with hemp is multifaceted. Humans started using hemp and parts of the hemp plant for multi-purposes. Some records claim that the spine of the first copy of the Bible, and even Christopher Columbus’s ropes and canvas sails, were made of hemp fibers.

If you’re wondering– what is hemp oil, hemp seed, or hemp extract? If you’re looking for answers to such questions, then you are at the right place. Read this article thoroughly as we clear all your doubts about hemp’s use, limitations, legality, and if hemp can make a comeback; and ultimately help you look past its generally negative connotations and, in some cases, prejudice.

What is Hemp?

Hemp is the same species of plant as cannabis. The term ‘hemp’ classifies the variety of cannabis that contains only 0.3% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp as a drug or industrial hemp comes from the species– Cannabis Sativa and may contain the psychoactive component THC, not enough to get you high.

Hemp may comprise more than 100 cannabinoids. The most well-known one is non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD), which has made hemp multifarious for its various properties. Hemp extract may contain a high concentration of CBD of up to 40%. Not only hemp stalks but also hemp seeds have made it unique and versatile.

According to history, industrial hemp has been grown for fiber, not for CBD. Hemp’s fiber is thought to be green and eco-friendly. You can divide it into two categories– the outer, longer fibers called bast fibers used in textiles, rope, and paper, and the inner fibers are called core or hurds (the coarse parts of hemp that adhere to the fiber after it is separated) fibers. They are used in building materials or plastics.

Hemp refers to all non-psychoactive natural chemical compounds coming from cannabis plants, cannabis seeds, and extracts.

What is Hemp Seed?

As you can tell, hemp seed is the seed from the hemp plant, Cannabis Sativa.

You can eat hemp seeds raw, grind them into hemp meal, sprout, or make them into dried sprout powder, or a slurry for baking or beverages, such as hemp milk and tisanes. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from hemp seeds and is high in unsaturated fatty acids.

What is Hemp Extract?

Hemp extract refers to CBD, a cannabinoid, one of over 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant. Hemp extract is made from the stalks, stems, and flowers but not the seeds of the cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp seed oil is made by extracting oil from raw hemp seeds.

What Can Hemp Do?

Hemp is fantastic for numerous benefits. Multi-purpose uses have made it widely famous. Hemp is unique for making into many different commercial items, like paper, rope, textiles, clothing, paint, etc. Other substantial products from hemp include biodegradable plastics, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.

The fiber and hurds from the hemp plant’s stalk help create paper, fiberboards, and organic compost. You can also find hemp in diapers, handbags, carpeting, building materials, soaps, shampoos, and other personal care items.

The fibers of hemp plants are full of cellulose, which is ideal for textiles like rope, cloth, and clothing. Hemp clothing is fabulously soft, durable, and a usable alternative to cotton. Hemp can also make bio-concrete and bio-plastics.

Hemp seeds, most commonly used as hemp seed oil, are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other vitamins and minerals. You can also use hemp seed oil suitably for mixing with salad dressings and other cold dishes.

There are some organic uses for hemp seeds. Get a handful and sprinkle them on protein bars, in smoothies, even occasionally sneak some into your baked goods. Hemp milk, hemp butter, flour, and protein powder are also available for you in the markets. The hemp seed products are astonishingly rich in dietary fibers, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

According to a 2008 result, hemp proteins are better digestible for humans than common soy protein isolates (SPIs) that food products usually use. Hemp seeds can be used as food directly or through oil yielded from them. Seeds can also be ground up for making flour and mixed with water to create hempseed milk.

Hemp has a great variety of medical uses due to its CBD content. The only FDA-approved CBD drug, Epidiolex that treats childhood epilepsy is the most official. Although more research is essential, scientists are looking at hemp CBD for treating or healing the symptoms of:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Inflammation
  • Pain, including chronic and neuropathic pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Eczema
  • Dryness and itchiness
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Glaucoma
  • Headache
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia or sleep disorders
  • Malaria
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Other conditions

Hemp seeds contain fats, protein, and other chemicals. These fats in hemp seeds might help to decrease inflammation (swelling). Some chemicals in hemp seeds help to promote bowel movements and lower blood pressure.

Hemp leaf

What Can’t Hemp Do?

Hemp can do numerous things, but it can’t get you “high.” The reason is that hemp varieties contain only zero to 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Your body can process it faster than you can smoke it.

One of the drawbacks of hemp as fiber is its silicon content. For this, hemp needs a lot of water and other inputs.

It is challenging to grow hemp industrially without chemicals. Regulatory controls and strict maintenance are other problems. Since the farmers grow things to turn a profit, ready buyers are essential. They look at the difference between input and output as they want to maximize income per acre. But all their calculations are obstructed by the regulatory controls.

Hemp is not legal everywhere, which limits its use for packaging materials. It does not have the properties to make polymers so widely used. The main weaknesses of hemp as a polymer substitute are durability and resistance to crack nucleation and growth. It is not sufficiently rigid for a conventional polymer to endure frequent impacts. This is the biggest hurdle for all polymer substitutes. Other materials may be biodegradable, compostable, ocean-friendly, or recyclable, but they can’t perform like a conventional polymer.

Hemp has some other weaknesses in the following areas-

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if hemp is safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. You should stay on the safe side and avoid using it during this time.

Children: There isn’t enough supportive information to know whether or not children can safely use hemp. Keep in mind that hemp seed oil has caused rare cases of sleepiness and bloodshot eyes in children.

Cannabis allergy: People allergic to cannabis might also be allergic to hemp. So you should use hemp with caution if you are allergic to cannabis.

Surgery: Hemp can lower blood pressure. But in some people, this might make blood pressure fall too low, especially during surgery, which may be risky. So, you should stop using hemp protein at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Is Hemp Legal?

Although the legality of hemp is complicated in the U.S, the 2018 Farm Bill, which incorporated the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, removed hemp as a Schedule I drug or a controlled substance and instead made it an agricultural commodity. This bill legalized hemp at the federal level. Not only that, the 2018 Farm Bill made it easier for hemp farmers to get production licenses, acquire loans, and receive federal crop insurance.

The bill permits Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and South Dakota to continue to ban the growth of industrial hemp in those states. Again, some of these states have approved their legislation to permit the research and production of hemp.

Under the new rules, only the farmers with USDA-issued licenses could grow hemp under tight regulations. In some cases, people may be allowed to grow hemp if they have managed state or tribal approval or run specific research projects with legal approval.

In October 2019, the federal law made hemp legal to grow in 46 U.S. states. As of 2019, 47 states have approved legislation to make hemp legal to grow at the state level. Several states are implementing medical provisions for growing the plants, particularly for non-psychoactive CBD.

In early 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) passed a final rule outlining national hemp production regulations.

Can Hemp Make a Comeback?

Hemp is an incredible substitute for wood in the paper industry. American newspaper capitalist William Randolph Hearst was conducive to hemp being forbidden in the US in 1937 because of its relation with marijuana, a part of the hemp plant family. And other countries soon agreed with the ban.

True to say that commercially-grown hemp has been legal throughout the European Union since the mid-1990s as it has an almost negligible quantity of THC.

THC is a natural chemical compound with psychoactive properties and is far more prevalent in marijuana– a more potent member of the hemp family.

The 2014 US Farm Bill allows states that have passed their industrial hemp legislation to grow industrial hemp for research and development. Several states– including Kentucky, Colorado, and Oregon were already conducting hemp pilot projects. Many other states were then pursuing similar legislation and programs. After many years of prohibition, American farmers were finally reacquainting themselves with industrial hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill is more expansive for hemp. Beyond pilot programs for simply studying market interest in hemp-derived products, the bill permits hemp cultivation broadly. It allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It applies no restrictions on the sale of hemp-derived products, their transport, or possession so long as those items do not cross the border of law.

So with time, hemp is getting more legal and expanding its market. There are many reasons behind it.

Growing hemp is much easier and more potent. Unlike forests which may take decades to regenerate, hemp can be harvested every three to four months.

On average, one hectare of cultivable land for hemp can produce the same amount of usable fiber as three to four hectares of forest.

Since hemp is very effective in absorbing carbon dioxide– one of the principal greenhouse gases– cultivating hemp is highly efficient in reducing the Greenhouse Effect.

If you ask, what is hemp used for? The answer is versatile. Hemp usage in the industry seems virtually endless. It can be converted into the same wide variety of wood-based raw materials like plastics, particleboard, and explosives.

Then what is hemp oil? The answer is a non-toxic oil produced from hemp seeds. Hemp oil is generally the oil derived from the entire hemp plant, including its leaves, buds, stems. Hemp seed oil is produced from hemp seeds and typically has a lower CBD content than the buds. It can be used for non-toxic paints and varnishes and lubricating oils. When mixed with water and lime, hemp can be turned into a building material more robust and lighter than concrete.

Now it is optimal that when the unreasonable federal prohibition of hemp is finally repealed, the world’s oldest domesticated crop will make a comeback once again and be available to serve humankind in a broad range of environmentally friendly ways. Hemp’s use will be acknowledged and implemented worldwide as soon as:

  1. USDA outlines final ruling on the regulations regarding hemp cultivation such as rules for planting, harvesting, non-compliant crop, waste removal, etc.
  2. The FDA makes a ruling on cannabinoids in food and beverage.
  3. More scientific and academic research goes on and brings to light more information about hemp’s applications, potentials, and, in some cases, limitations.

The Bottom Line

Hemp is a various potent crop. It’s time hemp got a new ruling for its widespread use and numerous effective services for humans without obstructions. We should make sure of its proper uses and avail the maximum benefits from it.

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