I never knew hemp was so useful…
Assess for us, if you would, the qualities of this sustainable construction material:
- Bio-negative manufacturing (more carbon dioxide is locked up in the process of growing and harvesting the component materials than is released during the production of the binding ingredient)
- 100% recyclable (can be used as fertilizer after being demolished)
- Insulates well
- Does not rot when used above ground
What is this mysterious construction material, and why isn’t it in your home? The material is hemp, and it’s not used in the United States because of laws prohibiting growing of so-called industrial hemp. Hemcrete bricks, made from hemp, lime and water, have been used in Europe for years now. Growing hemp—even low-THC varieties specifically raised for food, fiber and industrial use—is illegal in all but a handful of states in America, making construction with sustainable hemp bricks prohibitively expensive. Figures from the Hemp Industries Association show that virtually 100 percent of the hemp used in American hemp products last year—products worth approximately $360 million in retail value—were imported.
Progress toward legalizing industrial hemp farming in the United States is crawling. Oregon recently became the ninth state to remove legal barriers to industrial hemp farming. Reports StoptheDrugWar.org:
Hemp is a member of the cannabis family, but is distinguished from smokeable marijuana by its low THC content and its lanky, fibrous appearance. The Oregon law specifies that industrial hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC. So does pending federal legislation, HR 1866, sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), which would remove low-THC hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and thus the DEA’s domain. The eight other states that have removed barriers to hemp production or research are Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia. Oregon joins North Dakota as the only states that do not require farmers to obtain federal permits from the DEA to grow hemp.
(Photo credit:storebukkebruse, flickr)