Despite the resurgence, and full economic potential that comes with hemp, state and federal laws have taken a long time to embrace the hemp revolution. It is quite ironic that the versatile, sustainable crop was under a ban due to a misguided notion with its close counterpart- marijuana. The reason for the ban was that people used the words marijuana, hemp and cannabis interchangeably thus creating confusion as to which represented plant with medicinal benefits and which was the drug that had a psychoactive effect.
History of Hemp laws
The Food and Drug Act of 1906 was established to regulate the use of cannabis-containing drugs within the pharmaceutical market. Later on, the Mexican Revolution of 1910 resulted in an influx of immigrants into the U.S and consequently introduced marijuana for recreational purposes
The negative hype and campaign efforts towards hemp in the 1930s resulted in the U.S Congress passing the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The law criminalized any unauthorized growing or use of marijuana- both hemp and cannabis. Interestingly enough, the U.S government had all along not recognized hemp as being distinct from marijuana and would, later on, pass the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 to seal the crop’s fate.
However, the 1990s saw a revitalized interest in hemp, with the U.S even allowing the importation of food-grade hemp seed and oil. The move became a precedent of the positive aspects that hemp would witness during the nineteenth century. For example, 2007 marked the release of the first hemp licenses to North Dakota farmers in over 50 years.
Less than a decade later the 2014 Farm Bill was signed by President Obama to allow for state departments of agriculture, research, and educational institutions to conduct hemp-growing pilot programs. However, in 2015, the House and Senate halted the Industrial Hemp Farming Act- a bill that sought to remove all apparent federal restrictions in Industrial Hemp cultivation.
The U.S government’s agricultural and food policy, however, renewed the 2014 Farm Bill with a new 2018 Farm Bill in place. This new bill version signed by President Trump legalized hemp and hemp cultivation- paving the way for a legitimate sector that used to operate on the fringes of the law.
Hemp as an economic powerhouse
Industry Insights by the Congressional Research indicate that the market for hemp products remains vast with over 25,000 products operating in nine submarkets. What follows is an exploration into the countless roles through which hemp and its products can boost the American economy.
- Hemp Fiber
The plant’s suitability for rope, canvas, and fabrics make it an economical alternative to other raw materials. For instance, Hemp fiber is ten times stronger and safer than cotton since it does not require pesticides for growth. The amount of fiber per acre is also more for hemp compared to growing cotton in a similar area.
- Health and Wellness industries
The most promising aspect with Hemp springs from recent exploration in the health and wellness industries. Since the plant contains cannabidiol (CBD), hemp oil and its products have been hailed as miracle remedies for a variety of ailments such as inflammation, stress, to even pain-relief. The popularity would significantly change the course of pharmaceutical drugs with more natural alternatives.
- Job creation
Instead of the jobs staying with international hemp exporters, Americans can now flirt with the idea of working in the commercial aspect of hemp production. A good example is Kentucky, America’s second most productive hemp location. A single hemp processing facility under Kentucky’s hemp research program would bring in over 300 jobs to the plant’s nearby communities.
- Construction and paper industries
Additionally, hemp can be a significant boost to the economy with its unique properties, ideal for construction and paper industries. With strong fibers, hemp plants are the perfect substitutes to manufacture high-quality paper products and concrete substitutes. The fiber aspect of hemp (bast fibers) is also strong enough to make them ideal for producing concrete alternatives that are stronger, lighter and cheaper.
Still, there is a lot to be done, and further action is necessary to relax the tough legal setting surrounding the hemp plant. Only then can the U.S economy fully harness the job-creation and profits from the industrious plant. America has just discovered its gold, and it’s up to us to tap into its full potential and take the nation to the next economic phase.