Growing the future
As the cannabis industry flourishes in Colorado, grossing over 12 million taxable dollars for January 2016 alone, all of the attention is mainly directed at recreational marijuana since it happens to be one of the biggest economic booms since the 1800s gold rush. Yet, on the sidelines of all of the media attention is another form of cannabis which is revolutionizing technology and several other industries: hemp. And from the looks of all the media it is receiving, this plant seems to be paving the road to the future.
What are the applications of hemp?
Hemp has become a powerhouse in regards to health and nutrition trends. This versatile plant has been found to have many of the same medicinal properties as its cousin plant, marijuana, if not more, while also being able to be processed to make cereals, breads and other food products that use wheat as the main ingredient. It’s changing the lives of many people who suffer from an overwhelming amount of ailments—from cancer to digestive problems. Hemp has been proven to have benefits all the way down to the cellular level. Outside of complementing our health needs, hemp is quickly becoming the main ingredient in everything from TV displays to building houses. Yes, it is even building houses.
Innovations happening in Europe and the States are creating ways to incorporate hemp into industrial applications. In construction materials, hemp is being added to concrete and insulation to create structural materials that cost less and perform better than conventional bricks and fiberglass insulation.
In the automotive industry, companies like BMW and Lotus have begun using hemp composites in place of materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber. Hemp is being made into molded parts that are stronger and more durable than plastic or composites. The demand for more eco-friendly materials is growing with higher volumes of people becoming aware of their impacts on the environment, and hemp fits many of the requirements for alternative building materials. With new technologies helping to make the manufacturing industry even more efficient, the future when hemp plastics become the mainstream in manufactured parts is not too distant.
How do these applications impact the environment?
Manufacturing of construction, plastic and composite materials is just flat out wasteful and, more often than not, relies on the use of chemicals that are quite damaging to the environment. Since hemp is a natural substance, the methods of producing materials are far more efficient and less detrimental to the environment, as the hemp plant can be used in its entirety to manufacture several different types of products. Hemp is one of the few crops whose single harvest can be utilized in so many different industries.
Are any of these industries starting in New Mexico?
Due to the laws in New Mexico, hemp is not legal to grow, even though it does not produce THC, the psychoactive compound in its relative, marijuana. However, the Agriculture Act of 2014 allows for certain states to grow, manufacture and produce hemp-derived products. Because of this act, there are several companies starting to focus on the benefits hemp can provide. Most of these companies, are either clothing or nutritional stores, such as The CBD Boutique. The CBD Boutique sells products that are produced and manufactured in these legal hemp states and their products contain extracts from hemp that provide all of the health benefits of compounds found in THC-loaded cannabis. Yet, what distinguishes the two plants is the difference in THC content. Hemp has less than .3% THC. In a nut shell, we get all the health benefits of hemp without the psychotropic effects of THC.
How would New Mexico benefit from allowing production of hemp?
If New Mexico were to allow production of hemp, it would dramatically affect the state in many positive ways, but mainly through income. It would provide thousands of jobs in farming, manufacturing and retail. Since hemp is such a rugged plant, farming it on a commercial scale would bring a new form of revenue for small towns around the state. Along with bringing new life to farming in New Mexico, hemp would also open the doors for new industries in textiles, construction materials, electronics and other forms of manufacturing that want to be near the source of hemp. When discussing solutions to lessen the impacts we make on the environment, hemp surely sets the bar for being a green material.