Posted at 1 p.m. March 2, 2017

From hydrocarbons to hemp

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The Wyoming economy is in bad shape. Oil, coal and support businesses of both industries have lost a lot of revenue. Some companies have folded, and many workers have left the fields. During these times, Wyomingites have traditionally buckled down and weathered the storm, but there are better options than sticking our heads in the sand.

The industrial hemp plant is hardy, easy to grow and has been cultivated and used since the Neolithic Age. Full-size plants can be grown and harvested for wood and other cellulose products in a fraction of the time it takes a forest to regrow.

It could provide alternatives to hydrocarbon-based jobs and other new opportunities in Wyoming if cultivation were legalized.

According to Forbes, industrial hemp is made up of varieties of cannabis sativa that contain less than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high. You can smoke hemp all day but all you will get is a massive headache and bad breath.

It is an annual broadleaf plant with a taproot and is capable of very rapid growth under ideal conditions.

One acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as two to three acres of cotton. The fiber is stronger and softer than cotton, lasts twice as long and will not mildew.

According to the National Hemp Association, hemp is thought to be the first domestically-cultivated plant, with evidence of hemp fabric dating to 8,000 years ago found in Turkey. Hemp has a wide variety of uses, which include but are not limited to: rope, food, clothes, paper, textiles, insulation and biofuel.

According to hempbasics.com, hemp seeds are second only to soybeans in protein content. Hemp protein also contains all 20 known amino acids including the nine essential amino acids human bodies cannot produce.

The oil contained in hemp seed is 75-80 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids, the good fats, and only 9-11 percent of the less desired, saturated fatty acids. It is unique among seed oils found in nature.

Hemp is also being adapted to various construction uses including cordage, netting, compression molding, fiberboard, insulation, concrete reinforcement, boiler fuel, packaging and chemical absorbents.

According to hempplastics.com, hemp can also be used to manufacture resins that can be used in various manufacturing processes. Hemp resins are biodegradable and recyclable blends that address global policies for CO2 reduction and can help reduce our dependence on oil. These resins are preferred options to PP-glass fiber, High Heat ABS and PC/ABS plastics.

Manufacturing plants creating these products could serve as viable alternatives to oil field and coal-related support jobs.

The world is moving toward green energy, yet Wyoming seems to want to stay in the past. Holding on to dying industries is not the way to move the state into the future. Our neighbors to the south have legalized recreational marijuana use, yet Wyoming won’t even entertain the idea of legalizing its extremely distant cousin.

We the people must let our government know that being stuck in economic hell is not acceptable and alternative industries, such as hemp, must be explored. If you believe the current economic situation in Wyoming is untenable and unacceptable, contact your state representatives.


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