The resurgence of industrial hemp may be around the corner, as U.S. demand for the hardy and renewable resource is growing.
The demand for industrial hemp is growing “dramatically” in the United States, according to a press release from an industrial hemp manufacturer.
Hemp can be used to produce over 25,000 products.
“The great thing about hemp is the whole plant can be used to make beneficial products. The leaves and flowers are used for making high quality CBDs, the seeds are a highly nutritious protein, the oil is used for health and beauty products, the fiber is used for making paper and fabric, and the core of the plant can be used to make bio-fuel, building materials, oil spill cleanup products, and so much more.”
Industrial hemp has been grown in the U.S. since European settlers arrived in the 1600s and was considered a staple crop of American agriculture, but in the 1930s was lumped with marijuana and made illegal under the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.
Hemp cultivation started to return to the U.S. after President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed universities and state departments of agriculture to grow the crop for limited purposes. Since then, at least 30 states have passed legislation related to industrial hemp, with at least 16 legalizing hemp production for commercial purposes. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, introduced in the Senate but as of now stagnant, would make the federal growing and processing of hemp legal by all farmers provided it’s in accordance with state law.
Now domestic hemp manufacturers must “race to increase operations as the demand continues to grow,” says the company. The markets partly being driven by major companies like Ford Motors and Patagonia, which are opting to produce products using industrial hemp.
In car construction, hemp fibers are cheaper and possess a higher strength to weight ratio than steel, allowing manufacturers to produce a fuel-efficient, biodegradable vehicle. At a Ford Motors-sponsored panel discussion August 16 in San Francisco, senior technical leader Debbie Mielewski said that her team looked into using hemp fiber materials in the production of their automobiles several years ago. At the time, however, nobody could grow hemp legally in the U.S. With industrial hemp laws now expanding, Mielewski noted that she has “high hopes” for her team eventually turning to hemp fibers for vehicle manufacturing.
American clothing company Patagonia, Inc. has been active in the effort to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States. The company has a line of hemp products and has been dedicated to encouraging its commercial clothing industry to embrace a more sustainable and ecologically friendly fiber. The company currently imports its hemp fabric from China but has said it hopes to one day acquire its fibers from domestic farms once laws change and cultivation expands.
A report from the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and market research firm SPINS calculated that the U.S. sales of hemp clothing, auto parts, building materials, food, supplements, body care supplies, and other hemp-based products reached $573 million in 2015. Over 11 percent, or $65 million, of that total came from hemp cannabidiol (CBD) products, such as Real Scientific Hemp Oil™ and Dixie Botanicals Dew Drops™ that are produced by Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s subsidiary companies.