What is Industrial Hemp?

What is Industrial Hemp Hemp Plant

If you’re shopping for CBD products, you may notice that some are listed as including industrial hemp extract. Industrial hemp is the source for the CBD in all our products, too. But what does it mean for hemp to be “industrial?”

History of Industrial Hemp in the U.S.

For the first Europeans who came to America, hemp was commonplace. It was used to make a variety of products, including cloth, rope, and paper. Hemp was a cash crop for the U.S., grown regularly until 1937, when the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed.

This act placed a tax on anyone who cultivated cannabis, whether it was hemp or marijuana. Hemp continued to be grown extensively during World War II, used to make uniforms and rope for the war effort. However, the tax significantly discouraged production of the crop after that time.

A further blow fell on hemp in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act reclassified hemp as a Schedule 1 drug. This reinforced the notion that hemp was a psychoactive substance like marijuana, though hemp does not cause a high and differs from marijuana in several ways.

It was still legal to import hemp, making it possible to find hemp products here in the U.S. But it wasn’t until 2014 that hemp began its comeback. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to develop pilot programs to grow industrial hemp, mainly for research purposes.

This is where the term “industrial hemp” becomes significant. As part of this bill, hemp was defined separately from marijuana, if it met an important qualification. To be considered industrial hemp, the plant must produce a product containing 0.3% or less THC, the psychoactive compound that marijuana is famous for. The 2014 Farm Bill also allowed product manufacturers to source and use CBD extracted from industrial hemp in a variety of products, including wellness supplements.

Last year, we saw the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This supported hemp even further, classifying industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity rather than a controlled substance. It also made it legal to grow hemp at the federal level. Industrial hemp products are still required to contain less than 0.3% THC.

Industrial Hemp vs Marijuana

The Farm Bills may have legally separated hemp and marijuana, but decades of prohibition have led many Americans to believe that hemp is no different from its psychoactive cousin. While they are both members of the cannabis family, they differ significantly in their composition and applications.

Here’s where the word “industrial” returns to play. Hemp is grown on a large-scale, commercial level and used for industrial purposes. This includes food, fuel, textile, and, of course, CBD production. It can be cultivated in many different environments, and grows into tall, thick stalks.

Industrial hemp versus marijuana infographic

Marijuana, on the other hand, is usually grown indoors in a controlled environment. It yields small harvests and is used for recreational and medicinal purposes.

Both of these plants contain CBD and THC. However, marijuana is cultivated for its high levels of THC and usually contains low levels of CBD. Industrial hemp, when intended for CBD production, is much more concentrated in CBD. And, as we know, it can contain only 0.3% THC. At this level of THC, hemp-extract products are non-psychoactive.

Why Grow Industrial Hemp?

Industrial hemp is quickly gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. The market for CBD is expanding rapidly, but more and more producers are growing hemp as a promising replacement for the less sustainable materials we’re currently using. These include:

  • Paper: Hemp matures much faster than trees, in just 8 to 12 weeks. This allows for several hemp harvests in the time it would take to produce one harvest of wood. And, a larger crop can be grown on smaller tracts of land.
  • Cotton: Hemp requires significantly less water than cotton. This has both a positive environmental impact and an economic one, as it helps farmers to save money on water costs.
  • Concrete: “Hempcrete” is durable, versatile, and naturally insulating. The process to manufacture hempcrete releases minimal emissions compared to traditional concrete, which is a top 5 producer of CO2.

Hemp is also being adopted by many smaller, family-owned farms. This includes tobacco farmers. The demand for tobacco has been steadily decreasing. Replacing it with hemp in their fields allows these farmers to stay in business.

One important use of hemp is as a method to detoxify soil. Hemp is a bio-accumulator and will absorb substances from the soil in which it is planted. This can be positive, as it can be used to clean up contaminated areas and still be used for industrial purposes. However, if the hemp is being used for food or supplements, it is important to know where it is grown to ensure it is produced in a safe way.

To recap…

  • “Industrial hemp” refers to commercially grown hemp containing 0.3% THC.
  • Hemp contains lots of CBD and little THC, while marijuana contains lots of THC and low levels of CBD. This makes industrial hemp extract a non-psychoactive substance.
  • Industrial hemp production offers an environmentally friendly alternative to several of our most commonly used materials.

Learn More About and Shop for Hemp-Based Products

Eco Health Source offers an extensive selection of wellness products made with industrial hemp extract crafted for healthier people, pets, and planet. Click here to visit our online store.

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