“Hemp and cotton are two of the oldest fibers known to man. They have both been used for thousands of years to produce clothing and other fabrics, but in the last century hemp has fallen out of favor.
Despite having been used by humans since around 8000 B.C., hemp, along with other cannabis products, was outlawed by the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937. Although hemp is a type of Cannabis sativa plant, the same plant as most other marijuana strains, it has one crucial difference. Industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, meaning that smoking it will not get you high.
The fact that this plant has been lumped together with other, psychoactive varieties of cannabis seems crazy, but the government is finally seeing sense. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will allow farmers to grow this crop freely once more without the fear of repercussions.
It seems likely that this will mean a resurgence in hemp’s popularity for making clothing among many other things. But is there any advantage to using hemp rather than cotton, the mainstay of the modern clothing industry? Read on to find out.
Hemp vs. Cotton: The Basics
Humans have used hemp since the dawn of civilization. It is made from the stems of the plant Cannabis sativa and produces fibers which are long and incredibly strong. For this reason, it was traditionally used to make ropes as well as other items such as clothing and fishing nets. Hemp fibers can also be used to manufacture paper, and its seeds are a valuable food source. In spite of its long history, marijuana prohibition has meant hemp is now used far less than in previous years. In fact, hemp fiber only accounts for around 0.15% of the world’s textiles today.
The first use of cotton can be traced back to around 3000 B.C. It is made from the seed heads of plants in the Gossypium family. When these seed heads split, they produce white, fluffy fibers which can then be spun into cotton. Cotton is extremely popular and accounts for around 30–40% of the world’s fiber requirements. A staggering 20 million tons of cotton are produced worldwide every year.”
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