Industrial cannabis is getting a lot of renewed attention these days, now that cannabis legalization has started to sweep the world. The latest country to join the movement, Mauritius, has approved a range of industrial uses for the miracle plant. Here we take a look at a number of those uses, weighing up their positives and negatives for the consumers, the farmers, and the economy as a whole.
Its cultivation had been called for for years. Last week, the Council of Ministers finally approved a pilot project on hemp. Since then, there has been a lot of praise for this “miracle” plant which, according to all predictions, will not only become a new pillar of the economy but will also boost the agricultural sector. And no, Mauritius will not become the new Amsterdam because industrial cannabis contains only 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a level so low that the only effect the plant will have on humans is a dry throat.
Hemp can be made into a multitude of products, and the advantage is that the plant is tenacious and grows quickly. Without much watering and fertilizer, it reaches maturity in about four months. A low-cost crop, therefore. According to several studies, for each ton of hemp produced, the plants will have absorbed 1.6 tons of CO2, which is very interesting when global warming is on everyone’s lips. Moreover, it has bio-accumulative properties, that is to say, it cleans the earth by absorbing the residues of pesticides and other chemicals used in previous plantations.
The cultivation is easier and less expensive than cotton. Therefore, hemp fiber is of increasing interest to the textile and fashion industry. Beyond the cost, the hemp used in the production of textiles is very often produced locally, which allows the creation of a whole ecosystem around the plant. From planting to sewing, through the transformation of the fiber and weaving to make fabric, hemp fiber is also known to be more resistant than cotton or linen.
In this sector, there are still experiments and improvements underway to optimize the use of industrial hemp. But already, hemp fiber is quickly becoming the preferred choice of future homeowners for insulation. There are also hemp fiber bricks, but for now, they are not used for the structural part of buildings because it will take too much added concrete to solidify them, but experiments are underway to find a solution. However, the use of hemp fiber partitions is already widespread. Two advantages: the cost and the reduction of construction waste. For the record, in 1941, Henry Ford designed a car whose body is completely made of hemp.
Another industry that capitalizes more and more on medical cannabis. In addition to the fiber, the oil of cannabis sativa is known for its many properties. The oil is rich in omega 3 and 6, fatty acids and vitamin E, everything that the skin requires. It is used in products to soften and strengthen the hair as well. The oil, which falls into the dry oil category, also has anti-inflammatory properties and is recommended for acne and other skin problems. So, if the production of the oil is also done locally, it will be very likely to see the local cosmetic industry grow even more.
Here, it is not the fiber but the seeds that are interesting. Industrial cannabis seeds are like the Oscars of the plate. Everything is there: amino acids, omega 3 and 6, vitamins B and E, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and proteins. Moreover, 100 grams represent 64% of the daily protein intake. With all this, it has been proven that regular consumption boosts the cardiovascular system. Hemp flour is also used by people who are allergic to gluten.
However, there is one caveat. For consumption, it is advisable to make sure that the production is organic and clean because the bio-accumulators make the plant can be overloaded with heavy metals and other chemicals if the soil is contaminated. Not very healthy in this case.
Made from the seeds, hemp milk has become, in a short period of time, one of the beverages that are on the podium of vegans and lactose intolerant people. The reason is that it is richer than soy milk or almond milk for example and easier to make yourself.
Let’s go back to Henry Ford’s car. In 1937, the big boss of Ford challenged his engineers to design a totally natural car (ecology was not yet a buzzword). Four years later, the first green car was born. The bodywork was made of hemp and soy fibers among other natural products. Moreover, because he wanted it to be really green, the car was fueled by ethanol produced from hemp. But the Second World War put an end to this project.
If cars with hemp bodies are not on the carpet, biofuel is making a comeback and as the yield is much better than other plants such as rapeseed or sunflower, its use is spreading fast.
Before the industrial era, paper was made from hemp. Then, as the production with wood pulp was easier with the advent of machines, hemp was abandoned. But in recent years, handmade paper made from hemp is making a comeback. Reason: it can be recycled more times than paper, is more quickly available and does not contribute to the felling of trees.
One of the most used arguments for legalizing cannabis has to do with the medicinal properties of CBD (cannabidiol) oil. Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychotropic properties. CBD oil is used as an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, and helps combat the side effects of other long treatments. There are also studies that have shown it to be effective in treating epilepsy and delaying degenerative diseases, but the optimal dosage has not yet been defined.
Another positive point for the agricultural sector. Since the relaxation of the laws against cannabis internationally, hemp is massively replacing cattle feed, which until now has been mainly composed of corn. The advantage is that industrial cannabis already provides the animals with the necessary nutrients and therefore chemical feed supplements become obsolete.
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