NMU students explore industrial hemp uses

Photos of industrial hemp are shown. Northern Michigan University students in a communications course taught by professor Jessica Thompson found that there is low awareness of industrial hemp’s uses, environmental benefits and differences from marijuana in a recent survey they conducted, and they hope to see this change. The students have designed an environmental campaign this semester that aims to educate the public on industrial hemp. (Wikimedia Commons photos by Adrian Cable)

MARQUETTE — Many are unaware of the environmental benefits of using industrial hemp to produce fibers, fuels, plastics and medicines, according to a recent survey conducted by students in Northern Michigan University communications course taught by professor Jessica Thompson.

The students, who performed the research while designing a campaign centered around the environmental benefits of industrial hemp, said they hope to see increased awareness of industrial hemp’s uses and differences from marijuana, as they found 80 percent of 200 university community members surveyed had “little to no knowledge about hemp.”

“What hemp is used for and what marijuana is used for is fairly different,” said Joel Hendricks, who worked on the project with fellow NMU students Austin Muller and Spencer Yahrmarkt. “I think one big thing we learned from the pilot study was a lot of people don’t know there’s a distinction, a lot of people don’t know much about hemp in general.”

Due to the low awareness, the group designed an environment campaign in Thompson’s class this semester that is based upon the World War II-era environmental campaign, “Hemp for Victory,” which encouraged Americans to grow and utilize hemp for its many uses and benefits, they said. Their own project, entitled “Hemp for Victory 2.0,” seeks to educate the public on hemp’s uses, environmental benefits and differences from marijuana, they said.

Some of the major differences between marijuana and industrial hemp — which are both cannabis plants — are the plants’ appearances, respective THC contents and uses, Hendricks said.

“Hemp is grown for three primary purposes: textiles, medicinal uses and then biofuels,” Hendricks said, noting that while marijuana can be bred to contain varying THC contents, an entire industrial hemp plant can only contain a maximum of 0.03 percent THC.

Beyond textiles, medicine and biofuels, industrial hemp can also be used for many other purposes, Hendricks said.

“It’s very, very fibrous and can be used for textiles, it can be used for lotions, oils, pharmaceutical products, it has many medical benefits,” he said, noting that phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol, or CBD, are found in hemp and can be used for medicinal purposes.

Using industrial hemp to create plastics, textiles, biofuels, medicines and other products is a greener way to produce them than using trees, fossil fuels, soy or corn that are more resource-intensive to produce and process into these products, he said.

“When you think about papers, cordages, ropes, clothing — things like that that use lots and lots of trees and it takes years for trees to grow to a certain height before it can be processed,” he said. “Whereas hemp under good soil conditions can be processed up to three times a year and with a lot less water than trees would use.”

Furthermore, industrial hemp can also remediate the soil it is grown in, he said.

“Along with rejuvenating nutrients in the soil, especially in really nutrient-depleted areas, another really cool thing is that hemp will actually pull out toxins and heavy metals and things that might deplete nutrients but also harm other plants and get into our water supply,” Hendricks said.

The group encourages the public to take the time to educate themselves on industrial hemp’s uses, environmental benefits and differences from marijuana, he said, noting that while the recent enactment of Proposal 1 in Michigan has legalized the cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of industrial hemp along with recreational marijuana, he emphasized that the two plants and their uses should not be confused.

“The whole goal is to educate people and show them that there is a difference between hemp and marijuana,” he said.

To view the original Hemp for Victory campaign video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIxFhYVv_Gk

For more information on hemp and its uses visit, https://ministryofhemp.com/