Here is a bit of history you may not have known. In 1776, in the USS Constitution, the flag ship of the Navy, more than 120,000 pounds of hemp fiber were required to rig the warship with rope and canvas. Old Ironsides, you might say, was powered by hemp, because hemp grown and produced into a fiber is a remarkably strong textile. The word canvas actually comes from the name cannabis.

In fact, according to the global hemp industry, hemp fiber is about 10 times stronger than cotton and can be used to make all types of clothing, and hemp plants produce nearly twice as much fiber as cotton on the same amount of acreage.

When England first established colonies in the New World, hemp farming was actually mandatory for many new settlers. It was grown, traded, sold and shipped to distant ports, and it provided a good source of living for many of the early colonists. Two of America’s most famous hemp growers were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Both were strong hemp advocates.

While hemp was subjected to many smear campaigns by logging companies and branded as closely related to marijuana and drug abuse, its demise was primarily the result of over taxation created by the 1937 Marijuana Tax Code.

But by the start of World War II, the U.S. government began encouraging hemp production again, since it was used to produce military uniforms, among other goods. Following the war however, cotton was booming again and with the introduction of synthetic fibers, hemp farming and processing became less popular and more controlled.

But there is no denying the advantages of hemp as an industrial crop. For one, hemp is friendly to the environment as it is biodegradable, nontoxic and renewable.

Other advantages include the many uses of hemp. For one, it is a great substitute for wood in the manufacture of paper products and can also be used to manufacture cost-effective building materials that are stronger than wood, meaning lower costs to builder and buyer.

From an agricultural perspective, growing hemp requires less effort than most production crops with substantially less input costs. Hemp is touted as a plant that repels weed growth and has few insect enemies, meaning few if any herbicide or pesticide requirements. A healthy hemp crop can easily reach heights of 20 feet, and the crop can be mechanically harvested and processed.

Hemp enthusiasts say it is soil friendly, makes a perfect alternating crop, and can be successfully grown in all 50 states. Farm-produced hemp also provides more biomass than almost any other plant grown domestically and can be converted to fuel as a clean-burning alcohol.

On top of that, according to a popular hemp web site, hemp seeds are a source of nutritious high-protein oil that can be used for human and animal consumption. Proponents claim extracting protein from hemp is less expensive than extracting protein from soybeans, and that protein can be processed and flavored in many of the same ways as soybean protein.

Hemp oil can be used to make alternative forms of butter, cheese, salad oils, and other foods. It can be used to produce paint, varnish, ink, lubricating oils, and plastic substitutes.