Hemp 101: What is it and how does it work?
One of the oldest and most versatile of crops, hemp allegedly has been cultivated by man since the 8th millennium BC. Hemp is a fibrous plant whose versatility can be gauged by the fact that it’s used for producing textiles, papers, foods, bio-fuels, construction materials, and the like. It can be convincingly asserted that hemp has played a key role in facilitating mankind’s primeval inventions and innovations.
With passage of time, the market for hemp has been through bad patches as well as experienced boom phases. However, the hemp industry, in the past few decades, is experiencing resurgence thanks to a rising popularity and demand for CBD-based products. Owing to the steadily increasing demand for industrial hemp and products processed from hemp, eco-conscious entrepreneurs and cultivators have become passionate about hemp farming.
This article will explore hemp as a plant, how it is distinct from cannabis, its applications, and the legal implications of consuming it.
How Does Hemp Differ from Cannabis?
At the outset, it is absolutely essential to make one thing very clear, and that is hemp and cannabis is not one and the same. Cannabis is a distinct genre or species with many varieties with hemp being one of the species. But there are some subtle yet distinct differences between cannabis and hemp.
Distinctions In Terms of Appearance
Hemp and cannabis plants have some basic differences in terms of appearance. Hemp plants have scrawny and lean leaves that are found increasingly on the plant’s top part. Cannabis plants, on the other hand, have a canopied appearance characterized by dense and stout buds and broadened leaves.
You can easily tell a hemp plant from a cannabis plant by carefully observing their physical features.
Differences in Terms of Chemical Composition
Unlike cannabis plants, hemp plants contain trace amounts of psychoactive or psychotropic compounds. Stoners take to cannabis extracts, especially because they contain a high proportion of the psychoactive chemicals that are responsible for giving the stoners the highs they look for. Owing to the low concentration of psychotropic compounds, hemp finds extensive industrial use-hemp extracts are used for making clothes, papers, construction materials, and so on. On the other hand, extracts from cannabis plants find therapeutic and recreational use.
Dissimilarities By Way of Cultivation
The environment as well as the cultivation process needed for farming and harvesting cannabis and hemp are also distinct. Cannabis plants have a typical 60-90 day grow-cycle, can thrive in different types of climes, and sufficient space needs to be left between any two plants for healthy growth and development. Hemp plants, by contrast, are by and large is sown or cultivated quite close to one another.
To be precise, you can leave a gap of 4-inches between two hemp plants whereas for cannabis plants, you’ll have to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet. Hemp plants need a longer time to develop fully-it takes at least 108-120 days for the plants to become fully mature.
Tracing the Historical Roots of Hemp
The cultivation of hemp plants can be traced back at least eight thousand years back. As a matter of fact, majority of the agriculturists, archaeologists, and historians believe that hemp was possibly the first plant to be cultivated by humans. Hemp was primarily farmed for producing fibers for textiles-archaeologists have found several relics and textile items crafted from hemp fibers.
Hemp has been instrumental as a marker or indicator of human development and evolution through the ages. The celebrated Gutenberg Bible had been crafted from the fibers of hemp. There was a time in England, when it was mandatory for farmers to cultivate and harvest hemp.
George Washington, the first president of the US, is well-known for encouraging and promoting the farming of hemp in North America.
Hemp and its Multifarious Applications
What is it about hemp that makes the plant so versatile for humans? The different uses that extracts from the plant are put to make it amply clear why hemp is so special for humans throughout the world:-
Seeds of the plant not only taste great but also happen to be quite nutritious. You can take them in raw form or you can grind them for consumption. Oil extracted from the seeds is rich in unsaturated fatty acids. You also get milk from hemp seeds and the leaves serve as a salad vegetable.
Fibers processed from hemp plants can be used for making paper, ropes, and fabrics.
Hemp plants are the richest source for cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, has gripped the hemp industry by storm. Products processed from hemp CBD enjoy universal demand as they impart several health benefits.
Oil extracted from stalks and seeds of hemp have been used for creating bio-fuels like biodiesel for many years now.
Hemp also finds extensive use when it comes to making building materials including concrete-style blocks known as ‘hempcrete’ and ‘biodegradable plastics’.