In December of 2018, President Trump signed a new farm bill into law which includes, among its provisions, the legalization of hemp nationwide.
That’s industrial hemp and not marijuana, folks. The bill removes industrial hemp from the list of Controlled Substances, effectively allowing the commercial cultivation, research, and development of industrial hemp. This piece of good news coming at the tail-end of a year filled with stories of more marine wildlife dying from plastic, worsening global climate change, islands of garbage floating in the ocean is just what we needed.
With industrial hemp now entirely legal beginning January 2019, research into its value as an alternative and sustainable source for many manufactured products can proceed without any restrictions.
Industrial Hemp vs Marijuana
Industrial hemp and marijuana come from the same Cannabis Sativa family, which is why, to the untrained eye, they look one and the same. Chemically, however, industrial hemp is different because it has extremely low levels of THC, the chemical compound that makes you high when smoking MJ.
One way of distinguishing them visually is through its growth. The Ministry of Hemp says that industrial hemp grows taller and skinnier than marijuana. It has skinny leaves that are concentrated around the top of the plant. Marijuana, meanwhile, has a short bushy appearance with broad leaves and denser buds.
Industrial Hemp as a Climate Solution
Hemp has a long beneficial history with agriculture. In fact, I tend to think of it as one of the miracle crops, right alongside coconut and quinoa because every part of it can be used for something else. Nothing is wasted with hemp. What really is interesting, however, especially in this era of rising carbon levels in our atmosphere, is its natural potential as a carbon sink. That’s because hemp captures carbon while growing.
One acre of industrial hemp has the potential to capture up to 20 tons of carbon. It grows quickly too, having one of the fastest CO2-to-biomass conversion found in nature. In just 100 days, it can grow to four meters and would even grow larger and faster by 44 percent under conditions of high levels of atmospheric carbon.
In fact, cannabis development companies often zero in on these facts when advocating for the viability of hemp farms. One of them, CannaSystems, has calculated how large the requirements would be in order for industrial hemp to help offset the rising CO2 levels.
Working with data gathered from the period of 1998-2015, they found out that one only needed to grow 216 million acres of hemp to offset the 41.09 billion of atmospheric CO2 worldwide. That’s just about the size of Texas and South Dakota alone. Can you imagine then if every country set aside some land to grow the crop? We’d quickly fall below the carbon threshold.
What Hemp Means for the Surfing Industry
The versatility of hemp means that it is also a perfect alternative for use in surfing products. Right now, there is a growing demand for surfing gear that does not add more problems to the environment. Surfing isn’t a toxic sport per se, but the industry relies on surfing-related products and accessories that are made from toxic materials or from processes that contribute to global warming.
Hemp can help break that toxic cycle. Hemp fiber when combined with other textiles like wool, cotton, flax and even silk, they create garments that are cool to touch and comfortable to wear. It takes dye easily and retains color very well. It also grows softer the more it’s washed and worn.
But what really makes it stand out is that it has exceptional tensile strength three times that of cotton. It’s also naturally anti-microbial and resistant to ultraviolet light and heat. It’s not as cost-intensive as cotton production, it doesn’t require pesticides and fertilizers to grow; in fact, it prefers soil with low quality. It also doesn’t require lots of water for its growth, so from a production standpoint, it’s cheaper to rely on hemp as a source for the production of eco-fabrics.
Now that it’s no longer illegal to study and develop hemp fiber, eco-gear production in the surfing industry can proceed dramatically. It may be too soon to expect a hemp-based wetsuit, but similar approaches towards the improvement of similar surf-adjacent products can flourish.
More Eco-friendly Surfboard Bags
For us here in Wave Tribe, legalizing hemp makes us even more able to serve a wider spread of consumers. As more hemp farms become established and hemp becomes more widely available, we can bring down the costs to make every Wave Tribe Surfboard Travel Bag even more affordable for the average surfer.
With all the ongoing research, we can probably find more ways to make our board bags even better. Or, heck, develop more stylish eco-wear products. A hemp-based rash guard? Why not?
A Win-win for the Economy and the Environment
Legalizing hemp has the potential to create benefits both on the economic and environment front. I like the fact that it can help create new industries which can provide a boost in our economy while the same time, mainstream the existing eco-industries, not only in our sport but also elsewhere.
Hemp can be the poster crop for our agricultural sector embracing sustainable farming practices. In doing so, we help make the world a little bit cooler and our environment even more sustainable for the future.