November 7, 2009 – To begin, a little refresher: Hemp is marijuana’s straight-laced cousin. Marijuana and hemp come from the same species of plant but from different varieties of it. It’s a greenspace-1bit like how a house cat and mountain lion are related and yet are rather different. Specifically, there is not enough of any psychoactive ingredient in hemp to get you high.

It’s currently illegal to grow hemp without a permit from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which tends to view hemp as undesirable, in part because growers could mask their marijuana operations with hemp crops, since they look so alike. Britain, Germany and Canada have lifted similar bans. And while 16 states have passed pro-hemp legislation for industrial hemp production, it’s still illegal in most of this country. Many hemp advocates and environmentalists think this is a damn shame since hemp is so versatile (see below).

Some, such as Hemp Global Solutions and USA Hemp Museum founder Richard Davis, advocate planting hemp on a wide scale to reduce climate change. They claim that a ton of hemp grown represents 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere, though we’ve found no scientific studies to back up that figure.

What is well-established is that hemp grows quickly with little need for the pesticides and herbicides; it’s best planted in rotation, which is a more sustainable growing method than mono-cropping; and nothing need go to waste with a hemp plant—everything from it’s stalk to its seed oil can be used for industrial production. It is legal to use products made with industrial hemp, a number of which can be found at natural foods stores. Here are a few of the ways you could use hemp:

1) Stash your cash in hemp wallets and purses.

2) Keep your pants on with a hemp belt.

3) Knit your grandma a sweater with hemp yarn

4) Go eco-chic. From sweaters to pants to sandals, hemp fibers are often blended with silk, cotton or wool for a wide range of clothing.

5) Sleep with it: hemp bedding, from pillowcases to sheets and comforters.

6) Pucker up with hemp lip balm.

7) Burn it as biomass used for fuel, or make biofuel or ethanol from hemp seed oil.

8) Drive your cat crazy with a hemp mouse toy stuffed with catnip.

9) Play tug with your pup with a hemp rope chew toy.

10) Start the day off right with hemp-fortified waffles or pancakes.

11) Sling on your guitar with a hemp guitar strap.

12) Write on it: hemp paper.

13) Make a hemp necklace or bracelet (as if you weren’t hippie enough with your hemp sandals and waffles).

14) Make a vinaigrette. Reap the benefits of Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids with the nutty taste of hemp seed oil.

15) Drink it: There’s hemp beer, wine, vodka, brandy, rum and other forms of alcohol to be found.

16) Build a house: From hempcrete to hempbales and hemp-lime construction materials, hemp is popping up as an alternative building material.

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