Haute Hemp: The New Face Of A $500-Million Industry

Industrial hemp's been having a hard time for the past 77 years. Yes, it looks like cannabis, but it's basically impossible to get high on it. Nonetheless the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made the once-profitable industry illegal, and it stayed that way until 2014.

As a result, 2015 has been a big year in hemp. The Cannabist reports sales of hemp products will reach $500-million nationwide in 2015, according to early numbers from the Hemp Business Journal. That's up 25 percent from $400-million in 2014.

Here are some of the concepts currently making hemp hot again.

1. Cannabidiol (CBD)

Just a few years ago, there wasn't much of a market for CBD products, which relieve pain and inflammation like cannabis, only minus any psychoactive effects. Now, according to The Cannabist, consumer sales of CBD-infused products in 2015 are projected to reach $85-million.

2. Clothing

"Hemp clothing" doesn't mean cargo pants and patchwork hats anymore. Hemp-based collections by the likes of Hoodlamb, Patagonia, and Hemp Blue prove that hemp can do almost everything cotton does - only with half the water, half the land, and no pesticides necessary.

3. Cosmetics

Elle Magazine has lauded hemp oil-infused beauty products for their Vitamin A, C, and E, amino acids, and antioxidant properties, which the mag says "can do wonders" for your skin and hair. While the claims of individual products are debatable, consumers are all over it: hemp's image as a natural, organic ingredient make it appealing for folks looking to branch out from unpronounceable-chemical-laden drugstore brands.

4. Building Materials

Manufacturers are looking to utilize all parts of the hemp harvest: enter Hempcrete, a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime that's less brittle than concrete, easier to work with than traditional lime mixes, and acts as an insulator and moisture regulator. Ditto: NatuHemp, a hemp insulation which manufacturers describe as ultra-flexible, good for use in confined spaces, and faster to install than conventional insulation.

5. Natural Foods

For the past few years, hemp hearts have been a super-trendy ingredient: with a nutty, mild flavour, they contain over 30 percent fat, and are exceptionally rich in "good" fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3). Twenty-five percent of the calories in hemp seed come from high-quality protein, and they're also supposed to reduce inflammation and help you lose weight. Tons of manufacturers are cashing in on the trend with products ranging from granola bars and cereal to hemp milk and protein powder.

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