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The Race to Relearn Hemp Farming (scientificamerican.com)
48 points by oblib 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments

What's the interest in hemp other than for marijuana? It's the least useful of the bast fibers. Sisal, jute, and manila all have big markets. Hemp and kenaf are niche products. The EU has allowed hemp production for years and it's still a tiny business.

Hulled hemp seed sells for about £10 for 200g in my local organic shop. Then there's oil which by many measures is healthier than olive oil.

Apart from food and CBD, hemp is generally more environmentally friendly than cotton and grows in a far wider range of climates and is softer than the fibres you mentioned.

Then there are cosmetics, hempcrete, animal feed, bioplastics, etc...

> Then there's oil which by many measures is healthier than olive oil.

I found this statement hard to believe, so I checked. I can confirm you are right, and by a large margin. Wikipedia has a comparison of vegetable oils [1]. Hemp oil has the most polyunsaturated fatty acids, at 82%. However, it has a low burning point, so I guess it's best to use it in salads, rather than for frying.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp_oil#Comparison_to_other_v...

CBD sales in the US over the next two years will likely exceed the value of all combined global hemp sales for 2017 (~$3.9b). A modest market for it in the US makes it a billion dollar crop.

"That would create a legal market for CBD that could be worth more than $20 billion by 2022, according to research firm Brightfield Group. ... Next year alone, sales of hemp-derived CBD in the U.S. are expected to rise almost 10-fold to $5.7 billion, according to Brightfield."


Hemp is a route to CBD oils, which are hot right now

Cattle forage.

The hemp flowers are good, cbd is interesting. We did a small experiment using hemp as replacement for tobacco. There is very little psychoactive components. The difference is that it smokes like a dream. When the user runs out though, tobacco cravings come back full swing. It could become a good harm reduction technique for tobacco/vaping users. Still the production is just starting in my state, so it's rare and expensive.

Breathing a different kind of smoke and hoping it will reduce harm seems a bit bizarre. Smoke particles are dangerous whatever you burned to get them, right?

I guess it wouldn't have the addictive qualities of nicotine, but addiction means people wouldn't switch away in the first place.

There is at least some preliminary evidence that smoke from the cannabis/hemp flower is less toxic than commercial tobacco smoke (much of which may be due to the fact that people usually smoke far less mass of the former)-- heavy marijuana users do not seem to have the same sort of cancer risk spike as heavy cigarette smokers.

As a decades veteran smoker of tobacco and weed and Wild Hemp without buds, only leaves and seeds that can be found around The Great Wall of China, I can see Hemp replacing Weed or at least softening the Carving, but I can not see how it could effectively help to quit tobacco, in my experience.

I remember seeing plants in the wild near the great wall when I was there!

There was still wild hemp growing from when farmers grew in So Wisconsin & No Illinois when I was growing up there in the `60 & `70s. My grandfather used to point it out as we drove on the rural farm roads.

Nobody really paid any attention to it until guys started coming home from Vietnam and they'd point it out.

When I was around 11-12 some friends and I got our hands on a paper grocery sack full of plants someone had found. No buds on them, just leaves and stalks. We probably smoked about half of it up before someone older told us it was "hemp" and wouldn't get us buzzed. It was about a week after that most everyone I knew had heard about us. Kids were getting "grounded" all over town just for knowing us.

Soon after the local Ag Dept guys started campaigns to eradicate it and did a pretty good job of it. Probably sprayed tons of pesticides along miles and miles of those old farm roads to do it.

Trading microscopic amounts of chemicals that feel good with massive amount of chemicals that give you cancer.

Isn't there lots of... crossover knowledge between hemp and the psychoactive cultivars?

Hemp is big ag, cannabis is smaller scale horticulture. You treat your trees way different

There have been pretty strong Cannabis planted in big scale farms for many decades in South America. There are those not so strong too, but there are tons of good stuff in big operations. Paraguay, for example, have skilled big plantation farmers.

Given hemp was grown in North Dakota during WWII (hemp for victory), I think the normal farmers will pick it up just fine.

I'm sure farmers won't have any trouble growing it, but I did read not long ago about a farmer in Kansas who's family has farmed there for practically ever looking into it.

He was wanting to know about strains and what bugs eat it and fertilizers to use and was especially worried about growing plants that had levels of THC that were too high, even by just a tiny amount. He didn't want get busted for that.

It's been a few generations gone by since it was legal to grow hemp as a crop. They'll have to relearn it and that will take some time.

I'm not convinced that all the farmers in the area lost the knowledge of how to grow hemp, but I take your meaning and I would imagine the AgriBusinesses are the ones who are going to be learning some new tricks soon.

Maybe. You maximize flower yields when growing the latter, though.

Interesting that KY and NC seemed to have had more success investigating hemp than the much more progressive VT.

KY was one of the major producers early on. Deep history there.

> Historically, hemp production had made up a significant portion of antebellum Kentucky's economy. Before the American Civil War, many slaves worked on plantations producing hemp.

> Hemp was used extensively by the United States during World War II to make uniforms, canvas, and rope. Much of the hemp used was cultivated in Kentucky and the Midwest.


Additionally, one of the big cash crops of KY has been Tobacco, at least until the Fed started heavily subsidizing corn and penalizing farmers who grow too much tobacco.

Tobacco looks very similar to marijuana and many farmers would have small bits of marijuana dispersed amongst several hundred acres of Tobacco.

Source: born and raised in KY. Left to join the US Army and then work in LA and Chicago as a software engineer.

Does not look similar other than they are both plants with green leaves.

that was my same thought too, if you ever saw a tobacco leaf and a Marijuana leaf. Even the green shade is pretty different. Now, the Castor Oil Plant[1], which is planted for it's oil, can be confused with marijuana from distance to the untrained eye.

1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricinus

Looks similar in 200 acres of tobacco. I’ve seen it :)

That's a cool life journey

I think this is because of the tobacco farmers that no longer make money hand-over-fist they way they used to.

Hemp has the same kind of high-income-to-low-work cred as tobacco, but times 20!

They also still have all the equipment necessary for processing hemp as it is similar to processing tobacco.

That is a good point. Again showing that economic forces are typically stronger than political ones.

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