By Veronica Araujo
Despite so many debates surrounding the legalization of recreational cannabis in regions across North America, I view the hype of cannabis with a pinch of “hemp”. The cannabis media focus has shifted away from hemp, an age-old “anti-drug” with sustainable earth-healing properties. Classified under cannabis, hemp and cannabis/marijuana both derive from cannabis sativa and contain the psychoactive (brain and mood altering) component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Their similarities end there. Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD) which diminishes its psychoactive effects when compared with recreational marijuana. Hemp has a long history in the production of fibre and has been dubbed a wondrous revolutionary crop for the green manufacturing industries. Hemp yields clothing, biodegradable plastic and non-toxic fuel. Farmers and government both benefit from sustainably produced agricultural crops like hemp.
Hemp cultivation reverses the environmental damages caused by GMO monoculture. Hemp adapts to balmy and cold temperatures, and has one of the fastest growing plant rates on earth. Its production is chemical-free, organic and high in fibre, improving soil health and suitable for a variety of soil types. Hemp grows quickly and tightly, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. Hemp-based products trap carbon gas, reducing CO2 emissions to mitigate climate change. Hemp’s low carbon footprint and environmentally friendly outcomes make it an important crop to society and the economy.
Plastic is ubiquitous in modern day industry and its oil-based non-recyclable composition along with its abundance in landfills and oceans degrades the environment. While petrochemical plastic emits CO2 and toxic bi-products, the bioplastic made from hemp is biodegradable and retains CO2, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. Despite there being a low demand for industrial hemp in many countries, businesses are manufacturing a wide range of hemp plastic items including CDs, musical instruments, clothes, and even plastic houseware.
For centuries, the oil extraction from hemp was used in lamps in homes. Today the pressed seeds of this renewable plant source can generate sustainable biodiesel and bioethanol. Modes of transportation can be run on ester-based oxygenated fuels or hemp biodiesel, just like petroleum diesel but less toxic, and generating a different exhaust odour than petroleum. This phenomenon was first tested and proven in 1885 by Dr. Rudolf Diesel in Paris. Other scientists like Henry Ford quickly followed suit, building car engines fuelled by bio-diesel. Ongoing experiments include fuelling aeroplanes with hemp biodiesel.
Doug Fine, author of Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, is famous for being among the first to usher in the “hemp renaissance”. His book explains the growth efficiency of hemp in agriculture, claiming it to be a vital crop and substance of the future. “Hemp is nothing less than a saviour of humanity, a miracle plant that will revivify depleted soils, mitigate the threat of climate change, and re-establish harmonic balance between humans and the environment,” says Fine. His vision of the hemp crop remediating soil while regenerating eco-friendly products is setting standards for a more sustainable economy. For these advantages and more, I see huge green potential in hemp.
Born in Brazil and brought up in Belgium, Malaysia, Brazil and Canada, Veronica Araujo holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Carleton University in Ottawa.