It is true that marijuana has become more legal and acceptable in an increasing number of states in the US these days. Many states allow for the medical use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions, though states have different lists of which maladies can be treated legally by marijuana products. Some states even allow for the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, even out in public.
Still, the federal government regards marijuana as a controlled substance much like cocaine and heroin. This has been true since 1937, as marijuana is considered a psychoactive drug that gives users a “high”. But near the end of 2018, the federal government also passed a Farm Bill explicitly stating that hemp (which is related to marijuana and is also part of the cannabis sativa group) is absolutely legal to grow and sell. Hemp products, including CBD oil from hemp, are perfectly legal to sell and use.
So, what does that mean for this new industry? Already, some experts are predicting profits reaching up to 10 billion dollars as early as 2025. The key to understanding where the money will come from starts from understanding the true nature of hemp in comparison with marijuana.
What Makes Hemp Different from Marijuana?
Marijuana is part of the genus and species cannabis sativa. Surprisingly, hemp is also a strain of the cannabis sativa plant species. This can make some people think that hemp and marijuana are basically the same plants. In fact, in some circles, the word “hemp” is a nickname for marijuana itself.
But this is a misnomer because there are several key differences between hemp and marijuana. You can see this right away in their appearance. Hemp plants are thin and skinny because the value of the plant lies mainly in its fibrous stalks. On the other hand, marijuana plants are bushier and shorter because the value lies mainly on the flowers.
Legally speaking, hemp plants are those with a THC level that doesn’t exceed 0.3% THC. If the THC content is higher at even just 0.4% THC, the plant is technically considered a marijuana plant. This is a notable difference because it is the THC chemical compound that causes the intoxicated “high” feeling that recreational users are looking for.
With the low THC levels in hemp, products such as CBD oil can be extracted from hemp and these won’t cause any “high” sensations. The CBD products can still provide therapeutic benefits due to the CBD component, which is a different chemical compound (called cannabinoids) that is distinct from THC. THC causes intoxication; CBD doesn’t.
Why Was Hemp Illegal in the First Place?
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 banned both marijuana and hemp and lumped the two plants together. The brains behind the act were industry players who would profit greatly if hemp was ever banned. They used a misinformation campaign that worked very well since the players behind the scheme were some of the most powerful men of the time.
These players included Randolph Hearst, the head of the newspaper empire that was able to effectively spread the lies and misinformation about hemp. Hearst also had a timber empire as well, and that particular timber empire would profit greatly with hemp knocked out of the competition.
The other key players behind the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act included Andrew Mellon, who under President Harding was Secretary of the Treasury. Mellon had a significant interest in Gulf Oil, and they teamed up with the DuPont petrochemical company. Hemp oil at the time was a recognized fuel, and in fact, the diesel engine that was originally designed by Rudolf Diesel actually burned hemp oil. By removing hemp oil from the picture, Gulf Oil and DuPont were able to rake in massive profits.
Still, at least the truth was finally able to come out even though it took nearly a century. The facts about hemp are now clear. Hemp oil can work with combustion engines, while other types of hemp oil offer medicinal benefits without the intoxicating effects of recreational marijuana. Paper from hemp actually is a better type of paper because it turned yellow a lot more slowly. Even the fabric from the hemp fibers work better than cotton as this hemp fabric required less labor to manufacture and less maintenance was needed.
The Sources of Hemp Industry Profits
Today hemp is thought to have as many as 50,000 different uses. The burgeoning hemp market is poised to rake in the profits finally. The money is expected to come from these categories of hemp products:
This may seem like a strange category to get profits, given that nowadays paper isn’t as commonly used as before. Newspapers and magazines are closing down in droves, and actual books aren’t sold in high numbers as before. Electronic copies of books, magazines, and newspapers have become much more common and have made paper almost obsolete.
But there is still a market for paper, especially for use as packaging materials. Due to the surge in popularity of online sales, paper packaging materials are still very common and these can come from hemp.
The advantages of hemp paper include its greater strength, which makes it better for packaging. The manufacture of hemp paper needs fewer chemicals compared to the chemicals needed for standard paper made of wood pulp. The hemp can also be grown on the same plant of a lot each year, which means it doesn’t use as much land as timber pulp. These are advantages that can resonate better among a growing number of the environmentally-conscious consumer public.
In the 1930s, DuPont and its ilk had real financial reasons why they would want to take out hemp as a competitor. During this time, they were about to launch a new product called “nylon”. Nylon is still very popular even to this day, but at the time hemp fabric was clearly superior to nylon. DuPont would have had its profits cut if hemp remained as a competitor.
The hemp fiber was demonstrably stronger than nylon. Hemp manufacturers also had the benefit of spending less to manufacture hemp fabrics. In addition, hemp fibers are biodegradable. At the time, hemp could even be used to make chemical additives for petroleum fuel, which was just at the right time to hike on the increasingly popular automobile industry.
Today, hemp is now poised to profit from potential biofuel technologies. Hemp can be used in compostable bioplastics, while the hemp fibers can become a more mainstream option in various industries.
This is to be expected since the advent of marijuana mainstreaming began with the increasing awareness of medical marijuana health benefits. Today, marijuana is much more available for use in medical therapies. Still, this use is limited to those states that allow for medical marijuana. It is still problematic given the federal ban still in place, and insurance companies typically don’t cover medical marijuana despite the fact that it can be safer, more effective, and even more affordable.
But hemp is explicitly legal these days, and that means greater acceptance for medical products derived and extracted from the hemp plant. CBD oil from hemp is perhaps the most famous example of this. CBD hemp oil is by definition a product with less than 0.3% THC, and this means there’s no way that the hemp product can be used to get “high”. Users and detractors who use the intoxicating effects of THC no longer have any reason to object to the use of CBD oil. It is both legal and non-intoxicating.
Because hemp oil is absolutely legal, funding for research and innovation into health products will grow. The problem with research on marijuana is its rather vague legal status, which has discouraged a significant number of donors into medical marijuana research. But the legality of hemp research is incontrovertible, and thus businesses can pour money into hemp research to find new ways of creating and meeting consumer needs and demands.
Fibers and Fabrics
Fiberboard and textile products are also 2 markets that are expected to provide substantial profits for hemp investors. Current research has found that innovative hemp panels are both strong and long-lasting, even while these are actually easy to manufacture. This can make a real impact in the auto industry, where many companies are looking for viable alternatives to fiberglass.
Fabrics based on hemp are also found to be resistant to UV rays, which makes it very different from cotton in this regard. Hemp fabric is even hypoallergenic. You can use less sunscreen under your clothes if you wear clothes made from hemp fabric. This can even help with preserving corals since sunscreen chemicals are notoriously bad for corals.
Products for personal care have also used hemp even before 2018. Before the 2018 Farm Bill, local US companies had to import the processed hemp products (along with the hemp oils and seeds) for use. Now, these companies won’t have to pay for the importation of these hemp products as they can buy more affordable hemp locally. A small cottage industry is expected to emerge to meet this demand as the hemp-based market for local personal care products grows.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties supported the repeal of the ban on hemp, as hemp legalization helped farmers. Unlike soybeans and corn, there are no tariffs for that farmers have to pay for. In addition, hemp needs fewer resources to grow compared to corn and soybean. Hemp is basically cheaper to grow.
You have to realize that cotton requires twice as much land to grow than hemp to produce an equal amount of fabric. You also need twice as much water for cotton, and with twice the land needed for cotton, it means that for hemp the water use is reduced to just 25% that for cotton.
DIY Savings and Homegrown Industries
Homesteaders and DIY fans can also enjoy savings with the emergence of the hemp industry. People in their homes can grow the hemp themselves, and find that they can easily manufacture products to meet a wide variety of uses.
The ease in which growers can come up with homemade hemp clothing can lead back to the old days when factories weren’t absolutely needed for shirt manufacturing. The woody stems of the hemp plant can provide fibers that growers can easily dry and pound themselves. It’s expected that the Internet will probably see plenty of tutorials on this subject so that DIY enthusiasts can grow hemp plants and then weave hemp products themselves.
Many healthcare experts recommend that adults take in at least 250 to 500 mg of omega-3, which can help fight off heart disease and inflammation. You can get your omega-3s from mackerel, salmon, or herring, or just from omega-3 supplements. But you can now get omega-3 from both hemp oil and hemp seeds.
Some latte shops now even feature hemp milk, which home growers can make at home using cheesecloth and the guidance of YouTube videos.
Do you want to generate your own electricity to cut down on your energy bill? You can have a customized diesel generator that can run on the hemp oil you get from your homegrown hemp plants. You also end up with cleaner air as the hemp oil doesn’t produce as much combustion byproducts. In fact, you can burn the hemp oil in a lamp or use it for your candles.
This is just the start of the hemp industry, and it is very possible that experts have underestimated the potential profits from the new hemp industry. The emergence of research into hemp can uncover exciting new uses and products that can make an impact on various industries. Hemp’s 50,000 potential uses offer a very wide range of new products that can be made from hemp. In today’s environmentally-conscious consumer market, hemp can be very much in demand.