A partnership between Lackawanna Community College (LCC) and the non-profit group, U.S. Ecological Advanced Research & Conservation Hub (USEARCH) has been formed to explore potential industrial uses of Hemp.
According to a news report in the Allentown Morning Call, the hemp initiative will have a unique Northeast focus by tapping into the region’s mining past. Research will test to see if hemp can be grown with abandoned mine drainage (AMD) water irrigation on abandoned mine lands. If successful, hemp could help remediate environmental problems associated abandoned coal lands and create a new agricultural opportunity.
The plan calls for researchers to tap AMD water to find out if hemp can be grown with reclaimed mine water. Hemp seedlings started in a lab will be transplanted into nearby culm land to determine if hemp can thrive in abandoned culm sites.
Hemp, which is a cannabis plant, is a cousin to marijuana. However, the two plants differ in their chemical make-up. Marijuana has high levels of the psychoactive plant chemical delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the agent that produces “a high,” while hemp has only trace amounts of THC, or less than three-tenths of 1 percent.
The 2014 federal farm bill opened the door to limited legal growth of industrial hemp as part of agricultural research pilot programs. The law provided a research framework and instructed states to build their own regulatory programs. As a result, hemp laws vary from state to state.
In 2016, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Research Act of 2016, which allows individual growers and higher education institutions contracting with the state Department of Agriculture to apply for permits to grow industrial hemp for research. Under the law, hemp may only be grown in Pennsylvania for research in pilot programs, and not for general commercial activity.
Hemp has been used for thousands of years around world as a source of fiber and food. Hemp is a versatile plant, relatively easy to grow and adaptable to many different climate and soil conditions.
In colonial times and early America, Pennsylvania produced large hemp crops, used for products ranging from rope to cloth to paper to sails. Oil from hemp seeds was used in paints, varnishes and soaps. George Washington grew hemp on his farms.
There are an estimated 25,000 uses for industrial hemp. It’s used in door panels in BMW luxury cars, in packaging materials, in farm-animal bedding, and in “hempcrete” building blocks that insulate and resist mold, insects and fire.
Hemp was grown commercially in the United States until the 1930s, when it became regulated along with marijuana and its cultivation was prohibited.Go back to previous page