Hemp Is Much More Than CBD

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The enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) and the legalization of hemp and hemp derivatives, including cannabidiol (CBD), has led to a massive CBD craze in the Yes, workout clothes!) According to a 2019 study conducted by Cowen Research, the sales of these products are expected to reach $16 billion by 2025.

Yet, the potential of hemp lays beyond CBD. Indeed, as the market becomes saturated, and the value of hemp and CBD declines (the aggregate price of hemp biomass dropped by 79% from April 2019 to April 2020), U.S. companies will need to — and should — turn to other product offerings.

The good news is that they need not look far. The hemp plant is an underappreciated and high-value crop used in a wide range of products and product types, ranging from food, textile, automotive parts, and construction supplies, just to name a few.

Virtually every part of the hemp plant has a purpose.

Hemp seeds are rich in protein, fiber, omega-3 fats and other essential nutrients and vitamins, and can also be ground into flour.

Hemp seed oil can be used for human consumption (in fact hemp seed oil, along with hulled hemp seed and hemp seed powder have been generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, but also to produce nontoxic paints, detergents, adhesives, inks, and plastics.

The stalk’s outer bast fibers can produce textiles, canvas, and rope, while its woody core is used for paper, animal bedding, and construction, including “hempcrete,” a lightweight insulating material that closely resembles cement.

But one of the most exciting uses of hemp probably lays in the crop’s sustainable nature and incredible environmental benefits.

The hemp plant can be grown successfully on a variety of soils, providing growers with the most eco-friendly answer to soil pollution and soil erosion, which have been threatening our ability to grow food. The crop can also be cultivated without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides, and requires only moderate amounts of water. For example, while it takes 10,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton, hemp only requires 2,700 liters. Moreover, the hemp plant grows faster, yields two to three times as much fiber as most traditional crops, and returns nutrients to the soil, leaving it in optimum condition following cultivation.

Hemp also has the potential to help reduce carbon dioxide and combat global warming. International scientific studies have shown that hemp absorbs more carbon dioxide per hectare than any forest or commercial crop (one hectare of hemp can absorb between 15 and 22 tons of carbon dioxide), making it the ideal “carbon sink.” Indeed, once absorbed, the carbon dioxide is permanently bounded within the fiber, which is then used to manufacture other hemp-derived products, such as textiles, building materials, and auto parts.

Another by-product of the legalization and versatility of hemp is the creation of thousands of new jobs across multiple sectors. Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, several employment recruitment sites, including Indeed and HempStaff, have reported a significant uptick in hemp-related jobs, ranging from high-skilled management positions to labor-type jobs and everything in between.

So, while the overwhelming demand for and focus on CBD products is bound to fade away, hemp provides entrepreneurs with the extraordinary opportunity to invest in and develop technology that will help the industry thrive but will also positively impact the economy and the environment.

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