THE RISE, FALL, AND RISE AGAIN OF HEMP
Planting the seeds for a more sustainable future
- Hemp isn’t the same as marijuana, but they’re related! Kind of like bouldering and rope climbing. Only one will get you high.
- Hemp is one of the most environmentally rejuvenating and sustainable materials on the planet, and has been used by humans for centuries.
- Hemp is used to make over 25,000 different products, making it one of the most versatile, and least wasteful, farmed plants in the world.
- Hemp used to be loved industry-wide in the US until xenophobia & capitalist greed led to its prohibition (along with marijuana) about 80 years ago, paving the way for systemic racism and the disproportionate criminalization of people of color.
- Hemp is finally making a comeback so we can look forward to a more sustainable, climate-friendly future powered by hemp.
HEMP IS MAGIC
We love hemp. When it comes to producing high-quality, durable, and long-lasting fabrics, hemp is by far the best material that nature has to offer. Hemp clothing’s naturally antimicrobial fibers and the sustainability of its farming practices make it an absolute super fiber in the apparel industry. Which is why we want to share the magic of hemp with the world, one stalk at a time. From hemp clothing benefits to all the different hemp uses, we’re here to answer all of your questions.
So, what is hemp anyway?
ONE MOTHER PLANT, TWO UNIQUE SISTERS
Is hemp the same as marijuana? The short answer is, “No.”
While the nomenclature can be confusing about how hemp and marijuana are related, we know they are classified as different varieties of the same plant, according to the USDA.
Hemp and marijuanna plants look similar because they are both members of the Cannabaceae family, but they are distinctly different. The primary difference is that hemp contains less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the intoxicating psychoactive chemical, while marijuanna contains up to 20% THC. This means that even if you really try, hemp will never be able to get you really high.
Aside from their chemical differences, they’re also cultivated in very different ways. Generally speaking, hemp is planted closer together in order for their stalks to grow tall with almost no branching. Marijuanna plants are planted farther apart to encourage the growth of their branches and flowers.
THE MAGIC OF HEMP
When it comes to creating the best natural material for clothing, hemp takes the lead. But what is hemp fabric, really? Made from hemp bast fibers, hemp clothing is eco-friendly and sustainable in its cultivation and processing, while also providing wearers with a wide range of health benefits. It’s as strong as it is durable, and is absorbent while still being breathable, antimicrobial, and antibacterial. And by interweaving hemp with other fabrics, such as cotton or linen, it becomes even more comfortable without sacrificing any of these benefits. That’s why you’ll notice that most of our products are made from 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton, making them perfect for lounging, exercising, and everything in between.
As if the benefits of hemp fabric weren’t enough, the plant can be used in so many other industries as well to produce a variety of goods, meaning that little to none of the plant ever goes to waste. One such byproduct of hemp is cannabidiol (or CBD), which is a non-psychoactive chemical used for therapy and pain management.
Hemp also leaves many other common crops in the dust thanks to the natural sustainability of its cultivation and processing. It grows fast, requires far less water than other crops, converts CO2 into oxygen quickly, and requires almost no herbicides or pesticides due to its antibacterial composition. And the good news is that hemp crops start making a difference as soon as they’re planted. Their roots purify the soil while their stocks and branches extract CO2 from the air four times faster than trees can, making them an invaluable tool for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. And because it is classified as a bioaccumulator, it even helps to purify the soil as it grows. This means you’ll find cleaner soil, cleaner air, and cleaner watersheds around each and every industrial hemp farm — and that’s exactly the level of sustainability we need if we’re going to be able to start taking care of our planet like it takes care of us.
FROM FABRIC, TO FUEL, TO FOOD
Hemp is truly one of the most versatile plants that nature has gifted to humanity. It only takes between 90 and 100 days for plants to mature, and they can reach up to 16 feet tall. After they’re harvested, hemp plants can be used to make a myriad of different products — at least 25,000 — using everything from seed to stock.
To make many of these products, industrial hemp farms first break the hemp plants down into three main materials: seeds, hurd, and bast fibers. These materials can be used to make nutrient-rich foods, building components, and even biofuel. You’re probably most familiar with bast fibers, as they’re often used in the creation of textiles and fabrics like those used to make our clothing.
Hemp bast fibers, which come from the soft outer layer of the plant, are commonly used to make rope, canvas, carpet, clothing, shoes, and bags. Because bast fibers can be processed in a few different ways, making them either soft or tough, they can be woven so that they’re both durable enough for clothing and sturdy enough for ship sails.
Hemp hurd, which is produced from the tough inner portion of the stock, can be used for mulch, insulation, paper, cardboard, animal bedding, and even as an ingredient in fiberboard, concrete, and biofuel.
Hemp seeds can be used in a variety of ways as well, either by extracting their oil or by using the seeds themselves. Because the seeds are 30% oil, they can be used in inks, varnishes, and paints as well as some body products and low-heat cooking oils. The seeds as a whole, also called hemp hearts, are one of only a few plants that are considered a complete protein and can be used to make cereals, alternative flours, protein powders, and hemp milk.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HEMP
The impact made by hemp worldwide can be seen throughout human history. Native to Central Asia, hemp was first cultivated in China around 2800 BCE, slowly making its way to neighboring countries like Korea, the Middle East and Europe before finally crossing oceans to reach the shores of the Americas in the 1500s. It was long utilized as a miracle crop, becoming a staple to social and economic development worldwide.
Despite misconceptions about hemp in the US today, it was actually a crop that farmers were required to grow during the establishment of the colonies and remained a primary economic staple in the US well into the 20th century. But by 1937, hemp production came to a sudden halt with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act, which made the cultivation and sale of any cannabis products illegal.
The driving force behind the many laws criminalizing cannabis comes down to the same thing: racism. The racist roots of cannabis restrictions can be seen as early as 1910 when large numbers of Mexican families began moving to the US during the Mexican Revolution. As these families moved to the US, they brought with them many cultural traditions, including smoking marijuana. Shortly after, a combination of anti-immigrant and racist propaganda quickly led to some of the first anti-cannabis legislation being passed.
By the 1930s, marijuana was being defined by lawmakers as a dangerous substance used primarily by people of color leading them to incite violence. Many of these lawmakers also had close ties with various corporate entities that had a specific interest in decreasing the popularity of and industrial reliance on cannabis products in favor of synthetic goods and fossil fuels. For example, William Randolph Hearst’s (yes, the owner of Hearst Castle) anti-cannabis attitude was motivated by the fact that hemp was threatening profits for his many paper mills. Similarly, the Dupont company, which developed nylon, considered hemp a direct competitor.
Government and corporate interests against cannabis production led swiftly into the development of anti-marijuana propaganda campaigns and films like Reefer Madness, which were being actively marketed to white audiences about the evils of cannabis. Though hemp made a temporary comeback with the “Hemp for Victory” campaign run by the US government during WWII, it quickly regained its status as an illegal product soon after. And even though scientists continued to refute claims about cannabis products being dangerous, the negative reputation stuck.
Then, with the help of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, both marijuana and hemp became classified as a Schedule 1 drug (along with LSD and heroin), claiming them to be highly addictive and of no beneficial medical use. The racism inherent in the development of the governmental regulation of cannabis products continued into the enforcement of those laws, with people of color being arrested for marijuana-related crimes at rates at least four-times greater than white individuals to this day.
Because of the restrictions put in place by USDA hemp regulations, all hemp materials either had to be imported or replaced with other fabrics — until recently. With the help of laws like the 2014 Farm Bill and the 2018 Hemp Farming Act, hemp has finally once again made a name for itself as a beneficial cash crop and versatile material, and can now be legally grown by industrial hemp farms in the US.
THE FUTURE OF HEMP
As our world continues to change around us, one thing remains certain: hemp isn’t going anywhere. In fact, hemp has the potential to lead our global community toward a more sustainable and just future. It’s a high-yield, low-impact crop that is as good for the soil as it is for the economy, and because of its unique composition, it likely holds solutions to some of the most pressing problems we face as a result of climate change. In the apparel industry alone, nearly 10.5 million tons of clothing end up in landfills across North America every year. On top of that, the production of these clothing items contributes upward of 1.7 billion tons of CO2 into the air per year. That adds up — fast.
If all of us were to keep each article of our clothing for just nine to ten more months, we would be able to reduce our individual carbon footprints by 20%-30% every year. And with the help of hemp fabric, we can make this future become a reality. In fact, the more hemp clothing we all buy now, the better off our planet will be in the future.
Even outside the apparel industry, hemp continues to find ways to benefit our environment. There are a variety of biofuels and hemp-based plastic substitutes that are being actively developed in an effort to give consumers more sustainable options to choose from. There are even efforts within the auto industry to develop cars with hemp components to make them more easily recyclable and biodegradable. As the popularity of hemp fabrics continues to grow, so does the positive impact of sustainable, natural hemp clothing production. When it comes to discovering new hemp uses, the possibilities are truly endless.
As you can probably tell by now, Comfortable Adventures (Co/Ad) loves hemp. And we believe that in order to really enjoy our adventures, wherever they may take us, we need to be comfortable. But our world needs to be comfortable, too. The more we embrace hemp, the stronger we fight against climate change and systemic racism. So let’s take care of our people and our planet, love our Mother, and enjoy our comfortable adventures.