To assess Washington State’s potential for a fully developed cannabis economy, I will first examine what cannabis sectors appear to be the most marketable and profitable.
PROFITABLE CANNABIS SECTORS
On the hemp processing industry front, there are much higher profits to be made, from fuel replacing gas, to offering homeowners a low cost energy efficient building and insulation material that helps conserve increasingly scarce forest lands and heat within the house, including with pelt stove.
Industrial hemp, thanks to their long, strong fibers, require less energy to manufacture and can be used to replace petroleum-based plastics used in comparable industrial applications today. Hemp plastics would not only be lucrative, but it would help to replace toxic oil-based plastics which act as “hormonal disrupters” in humans leading to diseases. Carmakers like Ford and BMW report that replacing heavy fiberglass and epoxy automotive components with durable, lighter-weight hemp-based fiberboard cost and pollute less.
Savings are thus realized both in the production stage and through better gas mileage for the life of the vehicle. Altogether, millions of cars are already on the road today with hemp components, and the industry says they’d use more hemp if it was available domestically.
Hemp is also super holistic as a material to make paper. Hemp pulp paper in more sustainable and ecological than wood pulp paper industries which apply lots of toxic substances and cutting wood for paper requires decades for tree regrowth, while hemp is grown each year. Although hemp fibers are a bit coarse, Washington’s wood pulp paper mills can be operational for industrial hemp.
Washington workers can also build specific hemp paper mills and processing plants, that which will also generate new jobs without the disagreeable smell of wood pulp based paper production. As another consequence, the birds and animals in proximity to the hemp paper mills will develop fewer diseases and the air will be less polluted than if we used wood pulp paper mills.
Hemp can also produce textiles similar to cotton, an important agricultural commodity which pollutes the soil while hemp does not. On a per-acre basis, hemp would produce more fiber, using half the irrigation water and half the nitrogen fertilizer, in half the time that it takes to grow even genetically-engineered herbicide tolerant (“Roundup Ready”) cotton varieties. Substituting hemp for cotton would also result in substantially fewer herbicides, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals being used in the country.
And more health, since more and more pesticides are implicated in Parkinsons disease, allergies, auto-immune diseases and cancer.
Hemp foods and cosmetics are equally lucrative businesses. To the hemp food industry we can add animal bedding, decorticating facilities, clothing lines and hundreds of other products.
“Hemp produces a strong, clean yarn, with a structure that makes the cloth cool in summer, and warm and comfortable in winter,” said Armani at a December 1996 press conference. Last year, Addidas sold 30,000 pairs of shoes made partly from hemp. Owen Sercus, a textile professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, said, “It’s going to be a gigantic market” (9)
CREATION OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF JOBS
A few pieces of evidence that show the profitability of this plant: A study from the University of Kentucky Business school in 1998 states the following:
“If just a fraction of the agricultural counties in Kentucky went into the industrial hemp business, thousands of jobs and sizable earnings would be created. If just one-fourth of Kentucky’s 90 agricultural counties went into industrial hemp business, approximately 17, 348 jobs would be created and $396 million in worker earnings generated yearly. The vast potential of industrial hemp creating jobs and worker earnings needs greater study.” (Source). And this study was done in 1998, so today, these figures would be much more impressive. The American Farm Bureau Federation, a 4.5 million members farm group, called hemp “one of the most promising crops in half a century. … [It] could be the alternative crop farmers are looking for.”