By Marisa DeZara
At the Marijuana Investor Summit in Denver on April 21, 2015, Eva Silva, hemp activist and co-producer of the award winning documentary “Hempsters Plant the Seed,” spoke of the endless benefits that industrial hemp has to offer. Silva explained, “Hemp has over 50,000 uses and none of them have to do with THC.”
Hemp has played a rich and integral role in our global history, a fact that traditional textbooks tend to ignore. According to Silva, it has grown on every continent except Antarctica. In the context of American history alone, hemp has had an immense part in some of the most renowned and patriotic moments.
A draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. Betsy Ross’ first flag was made from hemp fabric. Henry Ford’s first car was made from hemp—it even ran on hemp fuel! Americans used to be able to pay taxes with, you guessed it, hemp. And, to top it off, the American government used to place mandates on farmers to solely grow industrial hemp.
It is no secret that hemp’s versatility is unmatched. The raw plant material can be manipulated for multiple uses. Goods such as clothing, fuel, rope, cars, even bricks, can be made from it. “If you can make it from anything else, you can probably make it from hemp,” Silva stated.
Popular Mechanics called hemp the “billion dollar crop” in 1938. “If hemp was called the ‘billion dollar crop’ 75 years ago, where would we be now if it were never made illegal?” Silva asked the audience. “The impact of industrial hemp on the environment is 100 percent positive. There is absolutely nothing negative about incorporating [hemp] into our culture, our country, our world,” she continued.
The words “environmentalism” and “profitability” are rarely seen together in the same sentence. However, with hemp, these concepts no longer have to be mutually exclusive; hemp will be the vehicle that bridges environmental consciousness with profitability. In comparison to cotton farming, which accounts for 25 percent of all pesticides used on earth, hemp cultivation does not require the use of pesticides and herbicides. It combats harmful agents naturally and requires very little water.
“Needless to say, we need to make some changes—not only for the environment, but for our own health,” Silva said.
Hemp cultivation ultimately minimizes operational costs and maximizes efficiency, a theme all too familiar for capitalists. As we move into an age of widespread marijuana acceptance, the hemp industry seems to be taking a back seat; it is the “lesser known cousin of marijuana.” However, hemp cultivation deserves just as much attention as the cannabis industry. Much like marijuana, an entire market could be built around hemp alone; it has the potential to create jobs and stimulate the economy, meanwhile benefitting the environment. It is a win-win.
Allison Graham, Executive Producer of “Hempsters Plant the Seed,” spoke alongside Eva Silva at the Marijuana Investor Summit. She talked about hempcrete, a hemp and lime mixture used as material to build homes. Hempcrete homes can outlast a typical brick home and it does not have a carbon footprint.
“To me, what’s ludicrous is that it is totally legal in the United States to sell hemp products. It’s even legal to cultivate the plant for educational and agricultural research purposes, but we absolutely cannot cultivate it for industrial purposes here because that is illegal,” Graham said.
Hemp presents an amazing opportunity to grow the American economy and expand a profitable market. Hemp cultivation for industrial purposes deserves to be at the forefront of legalization. After all, it is non-psychoactive, meaning that its material will not get you high. At the time this nation was founded, America had been using industrial hemp for nearly everything; it is time we come full circle.