Hemp is—again—gaining popularity for its inherent characteristics: strength, durability, fast growth, and its friendliness to the environment since it needs fewer substances to control pests and/or weeds. A bonus is that its fibers are stronger when the plant is younger—which means it spends less time in farm fields taking up valuable real estate.
Hemp has been used for thousands of years in the making of household goods—it’s one of the earliest domesticated plants—but unfortunately it fell out of favor in the US after the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed.
The soft, brawny fibers of hemp for industrial production come from the Cannabis plant—its genus significantly lower in THC (tetrahydro-cannabinol) than narcotic strains and it grows quite differently as well, especially in height.
Its versatility and benefits, specifically as a fiber used in paper and cloth production, are ironically what may have caused its growth to be restricted to this day. It’s suspected that some paper and cotton industrialists lobbied in favor of the Act—seemingly by blurring the difference between it and its narcotic cousin—thereby protecting their own interests.
Compared to cotton, hemp cloth can be stronger and last longer—durable rugs, ropes and cording can be made from these fibers as well. Due to its fiber structure, colorfastness can be an issue if dyed—especially for darker tones—and some shedding should be expected, similar to jute and wool.
Its seeds are rich in heart-healthy, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. They’re also pressed to make ‘milk’ which is both dairy and gluten-free.
As a crop, hemp seems to have tremendous untapped potential since it can be grown for food, fuel, daily necessities, tools and building materials. But also as animal bedding, horticultural mulch, and to clear impurities out of wastewater, sewage—even contaminants at the Chernobyl nuclear reactors.