Pay attention this fall, because hemp is hitting the runways. Well, it has been for years. Derek Lam, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, YSL, Versace… the list goes on. High-caliber fashion houses have been blending hemp in their textiles for years, and for good reason. Hemp is sustainable, biodegradable, affordable and eco-friendly.
But is it legal in the United States, federally? Yes. Well, sort of. It’s legal to import hemp products from other hemp-producing countries. Hemp isn’t the type of marijuana that gets you high (otherwise your hemp-seed juices would have a much different post-workout effect…). You see, hemp is different than its sister strains of cannabis; it’s a particular strain of cannabis which has been genetically bred to produce male plants, which contain little or no THC (the psychotropic compound in the cannabis plant). Hemp is stalky, durable and fast-growing, and has been used for hundreds of years as a sustainable fabric. In fact, hemp crops were brought over from Britain to Colonial America in the 1600s and relied upon heavily for production of sails for ships due to its durability, resistance to decay and climate adaptability. Bob Reilly, manufacturer of Florida-based hemp clothing company Sativa Fashion Brand and co-owner of Highlife Media is a staunch advocate for use of the sustainable fiber in all things from clothing to car interiors. While everyone is nail-biting over the legality of use of the cannabis that currently sits as a Schedule 1 narcotic, Bob is busy educating the public on the history of hemp and why it’s destined to rebound as one of the world’s most important industrial crops.
It’s a no-brainer that we are beyond being mildly concerned about our carbon footprint. It’s urgent at this point, and this is one of the biggest arguments hemp-advocates – which include major fashion houses – relies upon when advocating their pro-hemp agenda. Do not confuse pro-hemp use with pro-legalization-of-marijuana use. Generally those who tout the benefits of hemp are pressing a more important agenda – the use of sustainable, eco-friendly materials. Hemp leaves a small carbon footprint. It actually absorbs CO2, potentially reducing the overall carbon footprint. It requires less water and land use than cotton. It grows like a weed – well, it is a weed – so minimal care, fertilization and pesticide use is required. It strengthens fibers it is blended with, is more durable than cotton and gets softer with use. And been around a heck of a lot longer than your poly-blend tracksuit – the first historical recordation of hemp use was discovered off the coast of an ancient Chinese village dating back 10,000 years.
So what are we waiting for? Well, the “legalization of marijuana” conversation will continue to complicate things. First, because hemp is a fast-growing male plant (and males love to spread their seeds), the states that have legalized marijuana are in a position to also regulate the growth of hemp crops, with the goal to keep them away from each other. Why? Because the coveted female plant – the “narcotic marijuana” – can turn hermaphrodite, or full-blown male – if exposed to other male plants. Even a small gust of wind can carry the unwanted pollen from hemp to carefully cultivated female cannabis crops, essentially destroying the salability of the crop. So, as our legal marijuana climate continues to expand, as does our need to commit endlessly to our ailing climate, we will need to set aside our differences and find a way to co-exist. And we can certainly look good doing it.