Hemp and Sustainable Development

Hemp has suffered from bad reputation in the past but is currently making a come-back all around the world because of the great contribution it can make to sustainable development efforts. It has traditionally been used to produce rope and textile but there are numerous other uses of hemp. Why the bad rep? The Hemp plant is a subspecies of the same species as the Marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa) scientifically known as Cannabis sativa L., but unlike the Marijuana plant it has very low levels (less than 0.3%) of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that gives Marijuana its psychoactive properties. So, smoking hemp will not make people high. There are two other hemp species Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis but these are not commonly grown for industrial hemp.

Even if countries continue to restrict the growth and use of Marijuana, they can continue doing so while allowing the growth of the hemp plant. Hemp grows distinctively different to Marijuana and would be easily detectable by drug enforcement agencies. Like Marijuana, Hemp can be smoked. But smoking is not illegal in any country. All smoking is bad for your health and I would encourage everyone to stop smoking. But studies have found that hemp is not as harmful as cigarettes. This means that moving people from smoking cigarettes to smoking hemp would be better for their health, and some health scholars see this as a potential step towards stopping smoking altogether.

Sustainable use of hemp. The hemp plant is a renewable resource that grows quickly, naturally resists plant diseases, requires little weeding, thrives in most climates, and enriches the soil it grows in. Hemp is an ideal material for making paper. It regenerates in the field in months (unlike trees which can take many years to become harvestable after planting.)

It is also used to make a variety of fabrics more durable than cotton. Hemp is also excellent for making rugs and other textiles. The word canvas comes from the Latin word for hemp. For centuries, hemp oil was used as lamp oil. It began to be phased out when petroleum was introduced. With issues of climate change, the practice can be revived to create bio-fuels to replace fossil fuels. In a similar effort to replace petroleum products, a large variety of alternatives to plastic can also be made from hemp.

Hemp based materials can replace wood and other materials used to build homes and other structures including foundations, walls, shingles, paneling, pipes, and paint. The modern hemp building materials Hempcrete and Isochanvre are lightweight, waterproof, fireproof, self-insulating, and resistant to pests.

Due to its high content of beneficial oils and natural emollient properties, hemp is becoming a common ingredient in lotions and many other skin, hair, and cosmetic products. It is a good alternative to the toxic chemicals present in many petroleum based lotions and cosmetics. Hemp as food.

Hempseeds and hemp oil are highly nutritious and delicious. Hempseeds are an excellent source of protein, minerals, and dietary fibre. Hemp is the only plant that contains all of the essential fatty acids and amino acids required by the human body. These essential nutrients affect a variety of body functions, including metabolism, the skin, mood, behaviour, the brain, and the heart. Hemp is also good for animals and can be included in the diets of livestock. Hemp has been acknowledged by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) as a highly nutritious food.

In its assessment FSANZ found that hemp:

  • Is safe

  • Is not psychoactive in any consumable quantity

  • Provides valuable nutrition

  • Contains less than the allowable level of THC (or none at all)

  • Cannot make it easier for people to grow Marijuana (actually, growing Marijuana amongst a Hemp crop would make the Marijuana less potent as a drug)

  • Cannot cause people to fail a drug test

Legal restrictions Hemp cultivation is illegal in most Pacific countries. Growing hemp is legal in Australia and New Zealand. Policy and legislative review Farmers cannot grow hemp until the legislation is changed. Considering the above information and the potential of hemp to bring income generation to rural communities, it may be time for countries to consider lifting restrictions on hemp that could allow a new agro-industry in the Pacific, where it would grow very well.

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