‘Hemp’ can and is used in a wide range of products. The seeds have a high nutritional value, containing high amounts of protein, minerals and fibre; they can be used to make milk (which is much healthier, environmentally friendly and ethically produced than cow’s milk), added to foods or eaten raw on their own. Their nutritional value is so much that Gautama Buddha survived his time in the forest by eating hemp seed and in the 1800’s Australia survived two severe famines through the eating of hemp seed.
The main and most well known use of hemp is the use of it fibres in making material which can consequently be turned into clothes. Due to the height of the hemp pant and the fact that when the fibre is stripped from it, it can be as long as the plant itself there is hardly any waste. Any waste produce dies back into the soil providing it with rich nutrients preparing the ground for the following crop, the fibre is then strengthened when woven into textiles. This fabric is similar to cotton in thickness and flexibility, it is however much more durable. In the past it was a very common material for clothing however when the cotton industry gained strength in America it overtook hemp production and put many hemp famers out of business leading to hemp production dying out.
It can be used as a replacement for plastics which would cut the toxic chemicals and fossil fuels used in the production of standard plastics. Seeing as plastics are used in nearly every product of our everyday lives, hemp provides an environmentally friendly alternative that is biodegradable. This would drastically reduce the amount of waste taken to landfill. Or as Henry Ford proved in 1914 hemp can be used as an alternative to car bodies. As part of a media event he hit the body of a car made from a combination of hemp and other plant material with an axe to show the strength it held. Despite the success of this action it never became standard to use hemp as a material in car production. There are however slow movements to bring in more hemp alternatives to plastic however these are minor compared to plastic production and lack money and especially government funding.
There are however reasons why the hemp has not become a common plant despite all of its benefits. The cousin of hemp is cannabis sativa more commonly known as cannabis or marijuana. Due to the illegal restrictions placed upon this plant many governments do not make the distinction between the two despite hemp containing low levels of tetrahydrocannanbinol (THC) around 0.3% which is not enough to cause physical or psychological effects. America was the main driving force around the outlaw of hemp; ironically it is now one of the biggest importers of hemp produce. In 1937 the ‘marijuana tax
act’ makes hemp farming illegal and Dupon filed a patent for nylon preventing hemp usage in material production. Feelings against hemp farming grew due to racial fears of Mexicans, Asians and African Americans leading to the general public calling for its illegalality. Although in 1993 England reduced its restriction on hemp farming it never gained the strength it once had.
It is clear to see that growing hemp provides an environmentally friendly alternative to so many polluting materials we use on a daily basis. Although there are many movements to legalise hemp politics and unjustified fears continue to block these changes meaning once again ignorance prevents changes to a more environmentally friendly future.