Now that Oregon is the newest state to allow marijuana into its list of legal substances- along with cigarettes and booze, to name a few- we can now begin to brainstorm the ways in which this new legislation can benefit our state. In other words, besides the luxury of being able to get stoned in the comfort of your own home without any repercussions, how is this movement going to change things? 

We’re seeing developments in medical benefits for individuals with chronic pain as well as a multitude of illnesses and diseases that are eased by the consumption of cannabis. Additionally, there are incentives to implement local businesses that will cater to the marijuana movement, increasing employment and the all important need for businesses to stay and flourish locally. As far as we can tell, this legalization may be one of the smartest decisions Oregon has come to in a long time.

All that being said, I think we’re forgetting a crucial part of what this legalization means.  Have we gotten so caught up in the hubbub of marijuana initiatives that we’ve forgotten about its cousin: hemp? Simply put: now that marijuana is legal, so is hemp.

I know what you’re thinking: what does that mean and why should you care? Hemp is quite possibly one of the most underrated crops in the world, and with sufficient investment in its production and distribution on a legal sphere, we could be looking at a complete revolution that could save us money, time and resources; and one that could also help save the environment.

So, why haven’t we looked into it sooner? Truthfully, hemp used to be widely produced in the early days of our country, back when good ol’ George Washington was in power.  Even then, they knew quite a bit about the crop’s potential.  However, somewhere along the road, it wrongfully got lumped in with marijuana as an illegal substance.  While it’s true that both substances do contain THC properties,  only one is potent enough to get you high. It’s almost as if hemp started hanging out with the wrong crowd and got a bad rap by association, when really, hemp is as innocent as they come.

How can hemp help your body?

Consuming hemp in seed and oil form carries a plethora of health benefits.  It is high in protein and fiber, so it’ll help with digestion as well as keep your blood sugar on an even keel. There are Omega-3 and Omega-6 properties found in the substance and these can help with hair growth, give a boost to bone health, lower blood pressure, increase circulation and regulate your metabolism. Additionally, much like marijuana, it lowers inflammation in the body due to diseases, illnesses and injuries.

Industrial Benefits 

No other plant on earth can produce as much paper as hemp.  In fact, one acre of hemp can produce four times more paper than one acre of trees. Additionally, trees can take over 30 years to mature enough to be cut down and used for things such as paper, whereas hemp can be ready in a matter of months. Since it is an extremely adaptable crop, it can grow in most extreme climates and currently, can be grown anywhere in the continental US.  The plant also naturally fends off most insects and weed growth and needs very little water to survive.   This means we could greatly reduce our use of pesticides and herbicides as well as cut back on water use for crops.

Clothing made from hemp is already seen in little shops all over Portland, but few people know how great the fabric is. Hemp is ten times stronger than cotton and can be used to make shirts, pants, jackets, shoes, hats, sheets, blankets, rugs and much more.  One acre of hemp can produce as much material as 2 to 3 acres of cotton can.  It’ll keep you fresh in the heat and warm in the cold and best of all, it only gets softer the more you wear it and wash it.

Hemp can also be used for building things such as houses, furniture, roads, and even cars.  It can be produced to make carpet, hempcrete, fiber, cement, insulation and plastic. Structures or walls made from the plant are resistant to things like rot, mold and pesticides and can last up to 500 years.  The plastic created from hemp has been used to make things like car doors, and the material is so tough that it can take incredible blows from a collision that other materials can’t. Additionally, if that same plastic material were used to replace oil made plastic, we could dump it right into our compost after use, since hemp is one-hundred percent biodegradable.

So, what does this mean for the future of Oregon and the country at large? While the US is the top hemp consumer in the world, regulations around the crop keep us in a bind to take it to the next level. Currently, only a handful of farmers are taking on hemp as a crop in our state. The reason for this is that licenses for hemp farming come at the alarming price of $1500 and, on top of that, the seeds are pricey and difficult to come by in large quantities. The great news is that a bipartisan group of legislators are fighting to pass the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would legalize the crop nationwide, and release its association as a controlled substance. 

A large part of the issue is that many people don’t understand the benefits behind the crop.  Truthfully, an even larger problem is that corporations, especially oil companies, want to keep us blind to alternatives that could make our world a better place. This doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. The first step is legalization, and we’re already there. Next, we can begin to focus on educating people everywhere about it.  Fortunately, our dear city of Portland is filled with open-minded folks ready to change the world. Maybe with time our entire country, and hopefully the world, can take on hemp and revolutionize- one crop at a time.