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Hemp History Week raises awareness of the benefits of hemp, and to get hemp farming legalized. What does this mean for industry, and for the consumer?

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The sixth annual Hemp History Week is next week from June 1-7, 2015. Begun in 2010, its purpose is to bring about awareness of the benefits of industrial hemp as a building material, food, textile, paper, fuel, ‘plastics’, medicine and body care. Hundreds of events in dozens of US states showcase examples of hemp’s uses and encourage people to take action to get it legalized.

The short version on hemp

Before 1937, hemp was the raw material for most everyday products – rope, canvas, paper, textiles, gasoline, lumber, shoelaces, sails, and rigging. As nylon was invented and cheap oil discovered in west Texas, Congress was pressured to outlaw hemp so these other industries could flourish.

That’s the short version. The point is, a natural, sustainable and versatile crop was replaced, and growing it became illegal. It’s time to turn that around, and the organizers and participants of Hemp History Week are working to do just that.

A legal and successful crop elsewhere

The 2014 Farm Bill signed into law in January of 2015 allows universities and state Departments of Agriculture to grow hemp and conduct research on its uses. This is reinventing the wheel, since it is a legal and successful crop almost everywhere except the US. There is no lack of information.

Ironically, the US allows hemp products to be imported, but growing and processing the raw material is illegal. We are supposed to be a developed country, but we are way behind in this field. Pun maybe intended…

Supporting the industry

One of the best ways to get any product noticed is to buy it. Vote with your dollars, is the saying. By shopping for hemp products, you increase the demand for its manufacture.

Here is a brief list of products made of hemp. Always read ingredients, and check the product website.

Textiles – I wrote about this briefly last month. Hemp is sturdier and more durable than cotton, resists mold, and provides UV protection. It is sometimes blended with organic cotton for use in clothing and accessories, upholstery, wallets, shoes, shower curtains (great place for the mold resistant quality!), rope, and just about any place you can use fabric. Buy hemp clothes!

Hempcrete or Cannabricks – This is an alternative to mud and concrete in home construction. It is made from the inner part of the stalk, and mixed with lime and water. It can be formed into bricks, like adobes, or put into temporary forms inside a frame, like rammed earth. It is not good for bearing walls, so a frame must be built first and filled in with the hempcrete.

It is lightweight and easy to use on a building site. Hempcrete has good insulating properties, and because it breathes, it naturally regulates temperature and moisture, preventing mold and mildew build-up.

Soap – Hemp seed oil is a product in some castile soaps. With its high fatty acid content, it contains natural moisturizers, and does not dry hair or skin. It can also be used as a household cleaner and laundry detergent, too! How handy to have one soap for all your cleaning!

Body care – Hemp seed oil is a moisturizer, so it’s the perfect lip balm, hand lotion or body wash. I buy hemp salve to put on my tough gardener’s feet. It works better than any kind of oil I’ve tried!

Food – Hemp seed is a complete and highly digestible protein, is high in fiber, and contains essential fatty acids, that our bodies need. Hemp has been turned into breakfast foods (granola, energy bars, waffles, etc), milk, yogurt, tofu, butter and flour. You can also buy seeds to sprinkle on all your meals.

Finding hemp products

Check out the Partners of Hemp History Week for ideas of hemp products. If you don’t find them locally, ask store owners to stock them.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.