What is a hemp plant, what does it look like, climate change, CBD, THC, cannabis FAQ
The hemp plant is beautiful and so versatile. There’s a lot of confusion around hemp, cannabis, the uses of these plants, hemp offset, and the hemp plant’s potential impact on climate change. So we’ve put this handy FAQ together for you. Enjoy and share!
Hemp is a plant that has been cultivated by humans for about 10,000 years for its useful fibre (think paper, fabric, rope, sails); and also for its oils, which can be used for food and as moisturisers; and for its CBD, which is undergoing multiple clinical trials on its medical potential; and for its conversion to fuel by fermentation (think ethanol). You can also make hemp beer by fermentation, it’s up to you. Hemp can even be used to make sustainable plastic. In 1941, Henry Ford unveiled a car made almost entirely of hemp, which ran on hemp fuel. Hemp can claim to be the most versatile and useful plant in the world. There’s even hempcrete, a much more sustainable building material.
It’s very green, tall and bushy, very fast-growing, with elegant leaves you’ve probably seen on a million pop culture designs. Wikipedia answers it best, and with a picture: “Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial use. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Along with bamboo, hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth. It was also one of the first plants to be spun into usable fibre 50,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, rope, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.”
Yes. The key problem in climate change is the carbon dioxide (CO2) that we emit into the atmosphere by burning oil, gas and gasoline. There lots more contributors, including methane emitted by livestock, but CO2 is the single biggest problem. Hemp, like all plants, absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, but hemp is the most efficient and effective plant at absorbing CO2. The CO2 is combined with water (H2O) inside the plant, to form carbohydrates. Oxygen (O2) is left over, so the hemp releases new oxygen into the air. One acre of hemp can absorb 9 metric tons of CO2 from the air in just a few months.
The hemp and cannabis plants are the same genetically, they have just been bred for different uses. The leaf is similar for all kinds of hemp and cannabis plant. The hemp plant leaf is very beautiful. Delicate-looking, yet so powerful.
Yes. Hemp grows fast, with two crops a year possible in hot climes. It has a dense fibre and wide, lush leaves. Just a few hemp plants can capture, in one season, the carbon that it takes a tree 40 years to capture. We’ve calculated that planting hemp on just 4% of the world’s agricultural land will absorb enough CO2 – 9 Gigatons/9 billion metric tons – to prevent us from going over the 2C degree tipping point into environmental catastrophe.
Hemp needs less water to grow, 50% less water than cotton for example. Hemp needs less pesticides. Hemp renews the soil in which it grows, making it the perfect rotation crop.
Hemp and cannabis/marijuana are, taxonomically speaking, the same plant; they are different names for the same genus (Cannabis) and species. But, in terms of utility, the plants are entirely different. Hemp typically contains less than 0.3% THC. Cannabis, whether used for medical or recreational purposes, contains THC in the 5 – 20% range. Hemp containing higher levels of THC was bred into cannabis by humans, starting thousands of years ago, to create the different varieties we see today.
THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – is the psychoactive chemical in cannabis (marijuana, weed, grass) that gives feelings of elation and euphoria, the ‘high’. THC also has medical benefits, used in treating multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and the side effects of chemotherapy. Clinical research into the medical benefits of cannabis continues around the world.
CBD – cannabidiol – is a chemical found in hemp, and also in cannabis, that may have multiple benefits. In the United States, the cannabidiol drug Epidiolex was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2018 for the treatment of two epilepsy disorders. Clinical testing of CBD continues around the world.
So many countries and states recognise the potential that cannabis has to alleviate pain and suffering. At time of writing (Nov 2020), countries that have legalized the medical use of cannabis include Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Others have more restrictive laws that allow only the use of certain cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals, such as Sativex, Marinol, or Epidiolex. In the United States, 35 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of cannabis, but at the federal level, its use remains prohibited for any purpose. (Source: Wikipedia.)
Things are changing fast, with the number of countries legalising recreational cannabis use accelerating. It is currently (Nov 2020) cool in Canada, Georgia, South Africa, and Uruguay, plus 15 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia in the United States and the Australian Capital Territory in Australia (Source: Wikipedia). Possession in small amounts has been decriminalised in many other countries, including in Ireland, for a first offence.
Some countries still mandate the death penalty for possession of even personal amounts of cannabis. Cannabis can get you the chop – literally! – in Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.
If there’s a hemp plant question that you’d like us to add to this resource, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wikipedia on the hemp plant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp
Wikipedia list of countries where cannabis is legal, recreational and/or medicinal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis
Read our 420 post on why cannabis needs to be legalized worldwide, so that the hemp plant’s potential can be unleashed.
Cannabis / hemp plant leaf – Christopher Thomas, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Main types of cannabis – By User: Photohound *derivative work:Cannab2.jpg: – Cannab2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4322629
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