Lingerie, sports cars, supercapacitors, and houses. All made with cannabis sativa!
Hemp has a long history in the UK, thousands of years in fact, and was once one of the most valuable crops produced in this country. More recently, hemp was widely grown from Elizabethan times right the way through to the mid 19th century. It’s most notable use was in the construction of naval and commercial vessels which enabled overseas trading as well as underpinning the expansion of the British Empire. As the Empire grew, the demand for hemp grew with it.
These days things are different, the subject of hemp is surrounded by controversy and confusion, so let’s quickly get one thing straight:
Hemp is not marijuana.
Industrial hemp( cannabis sativa), contains less than 0.2% THC vs marijuana (cannabis sativa var indica), which can contain up to 30% THC. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive constituent of marijuana that causes people to feel high. Industrial hemp won’t get you high unless of course, you smoke a field full of it! All CBD oil(cannabidiol) sold in the UK is produced from cannabis sativa and contains less than 0.2% THC.
The confusion between hemp and marijuana is one of the reasons why it is so difficult for farmers across the world to get Government permission to grow hemp This tall graceful super useful plant has been demonized because of its association with psychoactive marijuana, and it’s a shame because hemp has a lot to offer.
In fact, hemp has a bit too much to offer for its own good! It has thousands of applications across multiple industries and it’s hard to believe that it can be difficult, or in some countries impossible, to obtain a licence to grow it.
Could it be that the reason hemp is illegal is not because of any negative impact on human health, but because it is so environmentally friendly and beneficial and can be used for so many applications? Many long-established global corporations would suffer if hemp was to be grown in abundance as it can replace many existing raw materials including cotton, timber, and oil.
Hemp can be grown in virtually any type of soil, it is pest and disease resistant, and reaches full maturity in as little as 12 weeks. So basically anyone can grow it anywhere.
During the expansion of the British Empire, hemp was heavily relied upon for the manufacture of many items essential for the British Navy, including ropes, sails, rigging, and sacks. It was also used to make the sailors clothes and uniforms.
Hemp was so valuable, it was seen as an essential commodity, and vital to the naval and trading requirements of many nations. Wars were waged over hemp, and countries went as far as launching preemptive strikes on other countries to prevent them from obtaining the valuable crop.
The history of hemp and hemp oil
Humans have used hemp for thousands of years, over 9000 years according to archeological evidence. And it has a pretty good safety record. There have been zero recorded deaths from using hemp in over 9000 years. I don’t know about you, but I would feel very safe using something has been used for over 9000 years with zero fatalities.
Hemp was actually grown and used up until fairly recently, during World War II the US government was urging people to grow hemp as it was such a valuable crop. “Hemp For Victory” was the slogan used by the US government in their efforts to persuade US farmers to grow over 300,000 acres of the crop. It’s claimed by some that the war would not have been won if it wasn’t for the massive amounts of hemp produced for military and civilian applications. The US government even produced a promotional film to encourage farmers across the US to devote more land to hemp production, the government even went as far as levying heavy fines against farmers who refused to grow hemp.
The original film is also an excellent introduction to the many industrial applications of hemp which include fibers for rope and canvas, and fuel for engines.
After the war many corporate lobbyists began work to ensure that hemp was associated with marijuana, the primary reason being that hemp was far too useful for many applications including fuel, housing, medicine, food, fuel and industrial products. Hemp’s potential for use in multiple industries coupled with easy production was seen as a threat by large corporations as they were unable to patent a plant that anybody could grow.
Some uses of hemp and hemp oil.
Hemp fibre is perfect for making a durable paper and its a much more environmentally friendly method than cutting down forests or growing plantations that take 20 years to mature. It also produces four times more fibre per acre than growing trees and produces a harvest of over 10 tonnes of fibre every 12 weeks per acre grown.
The first dollar bills were printed on hemp paper and even the US constitution was drafted on paper made from hemp. Hemp also has the strongest naturally occurring fibres.
The original jeans were made from hemp as were the sails of ships and the canvas used for wagons and tents.
The UK coastal town of Bridport has a long Association with hemp. the earliest official record is from 1211 when King John ordered that Bridport make “as many ropes for ships both large and small and as many cables as you can”. The hemp required for the manufacture of ropes was grown in the countryside surrounding Bridport. The quality of the Bridport products resulted in the ropes being exported all around the world to be used for many applications including the hanging of convicted criminals. Hence the term: “Stabbed with the Brydport dagger”
Did you know that plastic can be made from hemp? In 1941 Henry Ford built a car from hemp which also ran on hemp fuel The car body was created by processing hemp oil to create a natural and biodegradable plastic. Ford named the project “Cars from the soil”
Hemp also makes an excellent biofuel alternative to fossil fuels. At one point, Henry Ford powered over 40000 cars using ethanol produced from only ten thousand acres of hemp.
Fast forward to today, and car manufacturers are again looking at hemp with a view to creating environmentally friendly transportation, being 10X stronger than steel is another advantage of hemp plastic that is difficult for manufacturers to overlook. One company in the US has developed a sports car produced from hemp plastic. The company aims to produce carbon negative cars, which actually remove carbon from the atmosphere during their lifespan.
Some more interesting facts about hemp.
Planting 6% of the US with biomass crops would provide enough a fuel to fulfill all of America’s energy requirements.
Hemp is the number one biomass resource on the planet 1 acre of hemp produces over 10 tonnes of biomass in only 16 weeks.
Corn is currently used to make methanol but hemp can produce a thousand percent more methanol than corn for the same acreage and hemp methanol burns clean.
Fuel production from hemp does not contribute to global warming, the crop absorbs gases when growing and releases them when processed. It is carbon neutral.
As well as making fuel, hemp oil can also be used to manufacture inks, varnishes, and paints.
The strength of hemp fibres is enabling new applications in environmentally friendly construction. Hemp fibres blended with lime and water create a super strong building compound more flexible and stronger than concrete. In addition to being super tough and lightweight, it also has excellent insulating properties. Some companies have even designed large 3D printing machines that can actually print a complete house shell using a specially formulated hemp fibre material.
Hemp used in construction results in non-toxic buildings that are low energy, environmentally friendly and durable.
Hemp oil is healthy! It is an excellent source of Omega 3, 6, and 9 which are extremely important for the proper functioning of body cells, as well as working to reduce bad cholesterol and arterial plaque.
Hemp oil is now being used in a wide range of products including CBD vape oil, hemp seed bars, beer, cheese, hemp milk and even cannabidiol drinks and snacks.
Hemp seeds and hemp oil are two of the best protein sources available.
Hemp oil as a natural moisturizer it can nourish the skin and improve circulation.
Every cosmetic company that uses oil and petrol to create their products can substitute with hemp oil which is more beneficial.
Hemp oil can be used for low-temperature cooking as well as in many types of recipes and as a salad oil.
Hemp is being used to design a new breed of supercapacitors due to its incredible properties which resemble graphene.
Used as a biodiesel, hemp is an excellent replacement for fossil fuel as it is non-toxic and has a low impact on the environment.
Many types of plastic and other compounds usually made from fossil fuels can also be made using hemp oil and have the added advantage of being non-toxic when they biodegrade.
Hemp can be used to make low toxicity paint which is good for the environment as well as human health.
Hemp seeds and oil can be used to make dietary supplements for feeding dogs, cows, horses, and other animals. The fibre can also be used for the manufacture of non-toxic animal bedding products as well as bedding material for rabbits rats and guinea pigs.
Hemp is beginning to be used in the production of a wide range of clothing. Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren are among some of the top brands now using hemp to make things such as jeans. Some companies are even manufacturing lingerie made from hemp fibre.
So, are you interested in growing some hemp?
Well, it’s not that easy, there is a little more to it than sprinkling a few seeds onto your garden and adding water!
To grow hemp in the UK you need to apply to the Government for a licence, submit to a thorough background check, and pay a fee of over £500. You must include a plan showing where the hemp will be grown and from which strain of seeds.
You must also adhere to several conditions including:
The strain used does not contain more than 0.2% THC -the psychoactive chemical responsible for its initial criminalization- compared to the 20% found in psychoactive strains.
That the hemp is grown is done so away from public footpaths, roads, and buildings e.g. schools.
Good luck 🙂