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CINCINNATI – Hemp Capital

We can make Cincinnati the first ‘Hemp Hub’ in these United States.

Growing hemp, marijuana’s fiberous cousin, has been federally legalized as of 2018. The feds are still sorting out some of the details for what can be grown, processed and manufactured, there is a marvelous opportunity here.

So, it’s an excellent time to think about how our region can leverage this change in legal status to become a hub of hemp processing and manufacturing.

What’s the big deal? Hemp is a big deal. Humans and hemp have a long history, briefly interrupted in the 1930s when super elite huckster William Randolph Hearst used his yellow press and political influence to make hemp illegal. As it happens, he could make more money on his paper using wood pulp, as he owned lots of forest. Hemp, along with marijuana, was thoroughly demonized.

But back to the big deal. Hemp is an incredibly versatile plant, with each part of the plant providing useful products. Hemp is easily grown with little in the way of chemicals or fertilizer needed. It’s suited to relatively small plots of farmland, which are abundant in southern Ohio and much of Kentucky.

Hemp fiber is strong and durable, one of its earlier uses being the canvas sails that allowed for global travel hundreds of years ago. There were no long ocean-faring ships until the 16th century when Europeans discovered the Arabian secret of constructing hemp sails.

Hemp clothing alone could be transformative. The original Levi’s Jeans were made from hemp sailcloth, and today’s cottonized hemp is a versatile option for any number of cloth and fiber products.

Our Constitution was written on hemp paper. Hemp fibers can strengthen any number of other products as well, including building products. Actually, combined with other hemp materials and composites, it’s stronger and cheaper than wood or concrete for building. And shoes, yes, for generations hemp shoes were a thing, and they are starting to make a come back.

Hemp seeds can be used as food and seasoning, but are most commonly used to press the oil from them. Hemp oils can be used in cooking, on the skin, and ingested to mitigate a variety of discomforts. The seeds themselves are a bit nutty tasting, and can be used in salads or as a garnish.

Hemp roots are valuable as well, having been used as a health remedy and tea since ancient times. Powders or ground into a paste, it has diuretic properties and is a staple of natural healing methodologies.

In 1941, Henry Ford built a car out of hemp. It was not only built out of hemp plastic, but it also ran on hemp fuel. Hemp plastic was tested to be much stronger than steel. They tried denting the hemp car with a hammer, but the car didn’t even budge.

And those are just some of the basics. Hemp composites, where fibers, oils and powders are mixed to create or replace plastics are being discovered. Hemp composites to be used in 3D printing are only now beginning to be understood. Hemp was a key ingredient in Roman aqueducts, explaining while some are still standing 2,000 years later.

Of course, this notion of making Cincinnati a Hemp Hub has a ton of potential and needs far more discussion. Cincinnati’s mayor and council need to make this a priority in 2022 and beyond. The scalability, local nature and community-building aspects of hemp farming and processing are all wondrous and worth pursuing. There is no Hemp Hub or Hemp Capital yet in these United States. It seems like wonderful time for Cincinnati to lead the way.

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One Comment

  1. It would be so awesome to see more tobacco farmers switch over to a plant that is beneficial for people, rather than deadly addictive.

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