Here's a job-creating, environmentally-friendly industry for New Zealand: hemp growing, processing and manufacturing. Industrial hemp is grown and processed through the world for paper, clothing, canvas, rope, food products, and many other commercial uses.
Farmers in New Zealand could grow it, and our small towns could set up processing plants to turn it into food, clothing and construction material.
Remember, hemp has no psychoactive properties in any part of the plant. Hemp is cultivated as an agricultural field crop, and grows as a stalk to a height of 12 to 16 feet. Hemp looks similar to bamboo, with few branches and leaves, which tend to cluster at the crown of the plant.
Hemp as a crop requires little or no pesticides and herbicides and improves soil conditions. Its dense growth smothers out competing plants and, after harvest, leaves a field virtually free of weeds. The positive role hemp plays in sustainable crop rotations reduces chemical use and saves farmers money.
Industrial hemp has many environmental benefits. It is a source for paper, building insulation, and fiberboard. As our demand for wood products grows we could save our trees for higher-end uses such as lumber, and supplement paper and fiberboard production with hemp. An acre of hemp produces 2 to 4 times more fiber than an acre of timber and it grows from seeding to maturity in just 90 days.
Twenty-five thousand products can be made from industrial hemp, including foods such as bread, energy bars, waffles, granola, coffee, beer, veggie burgers, pretzels, salad dressings.
Hemp seed oil has an excellent balance of the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3. Hemp is used in body care products such as lotions, lip balms, conditioners, shampoos and soaps.
Hemp can provide reinforcement fiber in 'biocomposites' " press-molded or injection molded parts used in doors panels, boot liners etc., replacing fiberglass composites or more expensive plastics. Many of these products could be manufactured or processed right here in New Zealand.
Industrial hemp has a long history of commercial use and cultivation in the United States. In colonial Virginia and Connecticut the cultivation of hemp was mandatory for farmers. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp on their plantations.
In World War II, the US government encouraged farmers to grow hemp in the 'Hemp for Victory' campaign to supply cordage for the war effort.
Nowadays, we need a new campaign: 'Hemp for the Future' or 'Hemp for the Common Good.'
Let's demand that our government remove restrictions that deter the growing of this crop for the benefit of our communities and the larger world. And then let's create a whole new thriving local economy around its production.