Industrial Hemp

By Manny C.
Legalization's other front-line



Legalization won a big victory in Nevada’s successful launch of recreational dispensaries earlier this month. With initial numbers showing hundreds of thousands of dollars earned in sales tax for the state coffers, thousands are buzzing with refreshed optimism about the potential for the cannabis industry. The success is even catching the attention of world leaders as the G20 Summit progresses, and the future seems bright for the industry despite clear animosity from the White House team.  


But as celebrations come to an end, activists begin to refocus their energies to the next obstacle in ending the prohibition. One of the areas that has gained a large group of support with numbers continuing to grow is the movement to support the  growth of industrial hemp.  So here’s your very own Industrial Hemp:101 Quick Guide to bring you up to speed on the differences between Industrial Hemp and Medical/Recreational Cannabis, and it’s as easy as one, two, three!




Hemp fields

Physical Properties

Although both industrial hemp and recreational weed are both from the Cannabis plant, they are two very different versions of the plant. While the more popular recreational and medical plants are easily identified by their large, aromatic flowers, and  small, adaptable sizes industrial hemp is visibly different from their more popular cousins. There are also some stark physical differences between the two types of planes. Cannabis plants both have distinct stems and leaf patterning, but the similarities dwindle from there. Medical and recreational cannabis plants are both much shorter on average than their industrial twins. And Industrial hemp also tends to have “skinnier” leaves than its more popular siblings. The industrial hemp plants also have less foliage, most of their value is found in their thick, fibrous stalks.  




One of the most amazing textiles in the world


While medicinal and recreational cannabis uses are well known, industrial hemp has become lost in translation since the original Hemp Stamp laws of 1937. Emerging data only continues to reinforce the benefits of cannabis in various areas of people's lives, including: spirituality, mental health, and physical wellness, however this great news does seem to outshine its industrial counterpart these days. Industrial hemp despite having no psychoaffective impacts is no less an amazing plant. Industrial hemp has over 25,000 current known uses from rope and cloth, to concrete and explosives. Back in the early twentieth century, Ford even made a premier automobile made entirely of materials derived from hemp plants and fueled by, you guessed, hemp fuel.  




Industrial and recreational plant differences

Industry Differences

Cannabis markets have thrived in society for ages, the prohibition in America is still less than 80 years old even! But through the centuries the markets for industrial hemp has been a beast of its own nature, separate from medical and recreational weed. While THC potent plants have been attacked and demonized on a global basis for decades, with only small pockets of relief and acceptance scattered across the globe,  As a result while bud was shoved into the underground, illicit market, industrial hemp was booming in other parts of the world. In 2015 the USA reportedly imported nearly $500 million dollars worth of hemp based products from our northern neighbors, Canada. In fact the hemp that was so well loved in early colonial America was indeed industrial hemp! 






Dr. Raphael Mechoulam – along with his colleagues, Dr. Yehiel Gaoni and Dr. Haviv Edery discovered THC in 1964

History (How Industrial was included in the Prohibition)

So if industrial hemp is actually good for farms and the economy, and it has been scientifically proven that it doesn’t get anyone high, then how did it prohibited? Well, because science… or really, lack of science. With some racism sprinkled on top. Back when prohibition was first pushed in the 1930’s there weren’t tools available to measure the differences in the levels of THC between the two types of plants, in fact they hadn’t even discovered THC yet! THC, the main instrument in creating the high experience associated with recreational and medical cannabis, wasn’t discovered until 1964 in Israel! The plants were considered to be basically the same thing, because no one could prove otherwise beyond looking at their physical properties. But not many people wanted to wait around for science to catch up to the demand, as prejudice against a growing Latino population lead to the plant being criminalized - much as it was later used to criminal People of Color during the peak of Reefer Madness a few decades later - and so industrial hemp was lobbed in with the bill and subjected to the Stamp Act of 1937, essentially sealing its fate and demise from being America’s Textile Sweetheart.    



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About the author: Manny C.

Cannabis Activist, industry blogger, and founding member of Illinois Citizens Responsible Regulation.