Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. It is one of the fastest growing plants and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.

Although cannabis as a drug and industrial hemp both derive from the species Cannabis sativa and contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they are distinct strains with unique phytochemical compositions and uses. Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects.The legality of industrial hemp varies widely between countries. Some governments regulate the concentration of THC and permit only hemp that is bred with an especially low THC content.

Hemp Market: Growth

Last year, sales of legal cannabis grew 24% to $5.7 billion, with 78% of that coming from medical marijuana, according to a report by ArcView Market Research and New Frontier Data. Sales are projected to grow to $7.1 billion this year and to $22 billion by 2020, when medical pot will make up less than half the total. “Legalization of cannabis is one of greatest business opportunities of our time, and it’s still early enough to see huge growth,” said ArcView CEO Troy Dayton.

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