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The hempire strikes back

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Somehow in the early 2010s, nerd culture became cool, and found its way into the mainstream in North America. After decades of being treated like an outsider relegated to eating lunch on its own in a crowded cafeteria, nerd culture suddenly saw the crowd part and was offered a seat at the cool table. Judging by the seemingly endless opinion articles floating around the internet about the phenomenon, not many people saw this coming. Now there is a new kid elbowing its way into inclusion at that same table, and its name is Industrial Hemp. Riding the coattails of its already trending cousins marijuana and the sustainable living movement, I believe that within the next two to three years, industrial hemp products are going to follow in the footsteps of nerd culture by finding mainstream acceptance.

Why? Because industrial hemp sits perfectly at the intersection of two highly hot and trendy topics: the upcoming legalization of marijuana, and the slow but steady growth of interest in the sustainable living movement.

Although both marijuana and industrial hemp had previously suffered greatly in the realm of North American public opinion (due to smear campaigns and the eventual criminalization of marijuana several decades ago), it’s clear that both marijuana and hemp are due to make their respective comebacks. According to a 2017 study by Dalhousie University, attitudes toward marijuana are now overwhelmingly positive on the west coast, and at least over 50 per cent positive in the rest of Canada. Lift News also reported in 2016 that attitudes had been growing increasingly positive toward marijuana from 2014 to 2016. Marijuana will be legalized Canada-wide by July 2018, and multiple American states have already legalized it. This is significant because although they are made from different strains of the cannabis plant, marijuana and hemp are inextricably linked in the minds of today’s North Americans. If attitudes toward one improve, attitudes toward the other must follow.

Indeed, according to a 2017 article from Green Market Report titled “Hemp’s Rocky Road To Market Domination,” millions of dollars have been invested in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland into the hemp food and fiber industries recently, as well as hundreds of acres being purchased for industrial hemp cultivation. Clearly, this industry is just itching to take off.

The other factor pulling industrial hemp into the spotlight is the sustainability movement. As a person who constantly consumes news related to sustainability and writes a blog on the topic (called The Honest Root), I have noticed a distinct rise in interest in industrial hemp and acceptance of hemp products. Previously thought to only be good for brown macramé plant hangers and hippie friendship bracelets, hemp is becoming a superhero for those interested in sustainable living because it is known for being one of the more environmentally friendly and versatile materials to cultivate. Plus, this topic is even on the rise with big brands like Nespresso and Maple Leaf Foods touting their supposed sustainability practices, indicating a larger cultural interest.

My experience as a sustainable lifestyle blogger has further convinced me that the budding industrial hemp business is about to hit puberty, and become that casually cool indie kid that everyone suddenly takes notice of in the halls.

I’ve been blogging for about three years, but within the last nine months I have received a lot of pitches and emails about hemp products. Everything from underwear to shoes to hand lotion to t-shirts, all from companies trying to bust onto the radar of people interested in being more conscious with their purchases. The companies sending these pitches are savvy, have attractive models on their website home pages, and produce on-trend products. Clearly, there is money to be made as industrial hemp gains wider acceptance.

I can only assume that my position as a Vancouverite has something to do with companies thinking that my readers could be interested in their products, but many other bloggers in the sustainability niche have also been promoting hemp products to their readers. The promotions are almost always met with highly positive receptions, and I must say, my articles about hemp products are some of my most frequently viewed. Clearly, the trend is picking up steam.

As industrial hemp gains acceptance with mainstream audiences, I believe the legalization of marijuana and the growth of the sustainable living movement will only fuel this more, because industrial hemp sits directly at the crossroads of these two trendy topics. Hemp is about to make its comeback and take its place next to nerd culture at the cool table, as another niche interest that somehow began to take over the world.

Image: Simer Haer/The Cascade

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