Throughout the 20th century, disinformation campaigns targeting cannabis all but eliminated our cultural understanding of the plant. Despite being cultivated for millennia in communities around the world — despite being among the most popular materials for textiles and an amazing source of nutrition even in times of famine — hemp became taboo, and all of the known benefits of the plant were replaced with lies concocted by a racist, nationalist propaganda machine.
Today, the taboo surrounding cannabis is crumbling, and people are once again discovering the outstanding value of hemp. Still, you might have some burning questions about this plant, like “what is hemp?” and “why does it matter?”
Are Hemp and Marijuana Different?
Unless you were born in a bomb shelter, you probably know that cannabis is a highly regulated substance in the United States. Prohibited by the Federal Government and carefully managed by most states, cannabis contains psychoactive compounds that can alter the mental state of those who inhale or ingest it. For much of the 20th century, cannabis was known widely as marijuana — but today, the term “marijuana” has become less popular due to its use in racist and xenophobic drug wars.
Hemp is cannabis — or, at least, hemp is a type of cannabis. Because cannabis has been cultivated by humankind for more than 12,000 years, humans have generated nearly uncountable varieties of the plant and nearly as many names for it. “Hemp” became a popular name for European varieties of cannabis, which due to their cultivation in cold, wet, dark climates, were less likely to manifest psychoactive or medicinal effects. Therefore, today, the term “hemp” most often refers to cannabis with low quantities of psychoactive compounds, which is more likely to be used for its seeds or fiber.
Is Hemp Legal?
Hemp products have almost always been legal across the U.S., but because growing cannabis has been mercilessly persecuted for the better part of a century, hemp production has been outrageously low. Fortunately, in 2018, President Trump signed a Farm Bill which officially legalized the cultivation of hemp across the United States — given individual state acceptance. Because of the immense economic benefits of permitting hemp cultivation, almost every state in the U.S. has created hemp-growing programs to help farmers raise this immensely valuable crop. Today, you can purchase all manner of hemp products from almost any corner store, including hemp clothing, hemp paper goods, hemp skincare, hemp furniture, hemp foods, and more.
What Are the Uses and Benefits of Hemp?
Hemp’s most avid supporters typically focus on two main benefits of hemp: sustainability and nutrition.
Cannabis plants are remarkably easy to grow in almost any environment; they require few nutrients and little attention, especially when growers do not care about the presence of psychoactive cannabinoids. A cannabis plant can mature in as little as six weeks, at which time a field can be harvested and replanted to grow another hemp bounty. Farmers can typically enjoy at least two harvests per growing season, and in some warmer states, they can cultivate and harvest year-round. Many other crops require many more resources and much more time, which exacts a much heavier environmental toll than cannabis. Hemp might be the best material to curb climate change in 2022 and beyond.
The roots, stalks, leaves, and buds of hemp plants are not exactly edible — but the seeds are remarkably nutritious. Hemp seeds, also called hemp hearts, contain about 30 percent rich, healthy fats and 25 percent high-quality protein. What’s more, the seeds boast a number of exceedingly valuable vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc. Thus, hemp seeds are even more nutrient-dense than chia or flax seeds. You can sprinkle hemp seeds on almost anything — salads, ice cream, pizza, pasta, smoothies, and more — for a simple boost of nutrition.
What Are the Best Hemp Products?
Hemp fans come in all shapes and sizes. Some prefer hemp products designed for some kind of medicinal benefit, like sleeping or skincare; others enjoy the myriad products created from hemp fibers, like clothing, household linens, and paper goods. Because hemp is a growing trend, you can find hemp in almost anything, including construction materials and jewelry. In truth, you should experiment with hemp yourself to find which products work best for your lifestyle.