Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant species often cultivated for industrial purposes or for use in the production of non-intoxicating consumable products.
It is one of the oldest known crops and has recorded historical links to cultures and civilizations from around the world. The earliest uses of hemp can be traced back as far as 6,000 years ago to ancient China where it was used in clothing, paper, food and eventually medicine.
Until the recent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, however, hemp has not been a viable agricultural product due to laws adopted throughout the last century meant to restrict the use of other cannabis varieties known for their intoxicating effects.
“Marijuana,” a controversial legal term used to classify psychoactive varieties of cannabis, is a controlled substance containing varying amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects or “high” experienced from consuming marijuana.
Hemp is a separate and legally distinct form of cannabis under U.S. law. To be legally classified as hemp in the United States, plants must have a THC concentration of “not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.”
Although hemp may not contain high concentrations of THC, it typically does have higher percentages of a different cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD). Because it does not have any psychoactive effects, CBD is not categorized as a controlled substance and does not impact whether plants are legally classified as hemp or marijuana.
Because hemp is a dioecious species, each plant is either male or female, and crops can be bred and grown to suit different purposes. Durable goods and industrial products are primarily made from stalks and leaves, while extractions and other consumables make use of the plant’s cola or flower. Both male and female plants can be turned into fiber biomass for industrial use, while only female plants produce flower and seeds for consumable uses. In both cases, the number and variety of goods being produced grow more diverse every day.
Ever since it was first cultivated, hemp has been prized for its strong fiber or bast, and with its legality restored, we’re seeing it return to industrial prominence. Countless durable goods from rope and textiles to paper and clothing can be made from processed hemp stalks. These uses for hemp have persisted for millennia, but more recently, it’s even begun to be processed into plastics and building materials with more innovative uses being explored all the time.
In addition to its versatility as an industrial product, the presence of non-psychoactive cannabinoids is another major factor driving increased interest in hemp. Many cannabinoids are believed to have medicinal benefits, but studies on CBD, in particular, have shown it has the potential to aid in the treatment of conditions like epilepsy, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety among others. This has led many companies and entrepreneurs to focus on extracting CBD and using it to infuse consumable products.
Hemp and CBD consumables take many forms and can appeal to a variety of people and needs. Some products are meant to be ingested and may be marketed similarly to dietary supplements, like capsules, infused foods, or drink mixes. Others may look more like bath and beauty products including bath bombs, lotions, and soaps. Certain products have more of a medicinal feel, for instance, tinctures, balms, and even transdermal patches. Finally, raw forms of either hemp flower or CBD extractions like isolate are also available, which are intended to be vaporized for inhalation or used in home-crafted infusions.
Additionally, there are some products that fall outside of these groups. There are CBD products made specifically for pets and a host of products that utilize hemp seeds. The seeds are highly nutritious and can be eaten whole, ground into flour, pressed into oil, or turned into milk, all of which can be used as ingredients in other consumable items.
There is a lot of enthusiasm around both hemp and the products that can be derived from the plant. Some of this stems from potential industrial uses for hemp being more “green” or eco friendly than traditional materials, and some come from excitement about possible medical applications for CBD and the other non-psychoactive compounds found in hemp.
What’s clear is that there is a market for hemp and multiple uses for many parts of the plant. Whether you’re a farmer looking to try a new crop, a manufacturer interested in green innovations, or an extraction pro looking for opportunities to apply your skills, working with hemp has a wide variety of exciting possibilities.
No matter what interests you about hemp, it’s important to educate yourself and understand all the unique aspects of its reemergence as a major crop. You can learn more by exploring additional resources here or by contacting Zera Hemp Labs with any questions you may have.