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Call to action:

Support the development of hemp plants and products to restore soils, sequester carbon, provide food and fiber, and sustain local economies.

For millennia, hemp (cannabis sativa) has been cultivated as a source of food and fiber to make rope, paper, textiles, shoes, and lamp oil. Hemp plants grow quickly and thrive in many regions. Hemp seeds are a good source of plant-based protein, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus. Hemp plants enhance soil health and sequester carbon dioxide twice as effectively as trees. Hemp can prevent deforestation by replacing wood to make paper as well as certain types of building materials. It is a biodegradable alternative to plastic. It uses water six times more efficiently than cotton plants. In the early 20th century, hemp was banned by the U.S. government along with its cousin marijuana. In 2018, hemp was decriminalized and is now enjoying a resurgence, though it faces ongoing challenges, including stigmatization, stringent regulation, and competition from cannabis growers. Despite these obstacles, hemp’s versatility makes it a botanical ally in addressing climate change, especially if its market potential can be expanded and hemp products become critical in regenerative agriculture.

Nexus Rating SystemBeta

Solutions to the climate emergency have unique social and environmental effects, positive and negative. To develop a broader understanding of the solutions in Nexus, we rate each solution on five criteria.

Sources for each Nexus are graded numerically (-3 through 10), and the average is displayed as a letter grade. You can explore each source in depth by clicking “view sources” below. For more information, see our Nexus Ratings page.


Reference Social Justice Culture Women Biodiversity Carbon
Hemp production offers broad opportunities for farmers industrial sectors and consumers in the European Union. 8.0
Hemp and Soil Health: Enhancing Biodiversity and Carbon Sequestration 9.0
emps versatility and sustainability offer huge opportunities for developing countries 7.0
Ecological benefits of hemp and flax cultivation and products 8.0
Industrial Hemp: A Win-Win For The Economy And The Environment 7.0
Benefits of Cultivating Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa ssp. sativa)A Versatile Plant for a Sustainable Future 8.0
Industrial hemp: An old crop in a modern era 7.0
The Sustainability of Industrial Hemp: A Literature Review of Its Economic Environmental and Social Sustainability 9.0 9.0
Revival of Industrial Hemp 8.0 8.0
Hemp And Wildlife: How Hemp Farming Supports Biodiversity 9.0
The Cultivation of Industrial Hemp as Alternative Crop in a Less-Favoured Agricultural Area in Southern Italy: The Pignola Case Study 7.0 7.0
The Green Revolution: Unveiling the Role of Industrial Hemp in Environmental Restoration 8.0 8.0
Bee diversity and abundance on flowers of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) 7.0
Hemp fields offer a late-season pollen source for stressed bees 9.0
2023 Farm Bill Could Bolster Production of Newly Legalized Hemp 6.0
Racial equity and NCs budding hemp industry 5.0
Hemp - European Commission 7.0
Assessment of Carbon Sequestration of Hemp Concrete 7.0
The Benefits of Industrial Hemp in Carbon Farming 6.0
7.2 0.0 0.0 8.2 6.7

Action Items


Learn about the history of industrial hemp and its many benefits. Hemp is a common, fast-growing, sun-loving plant cultivated by civilizations throughout history as a source of food, oil, fiber, and medicine. Originating on the Tibetan Plateau, hemp spread along the Silk Road trade route. Known as a “camp-follower,” the plant quickly colonizes disturbed land and compost heaps. Over the centuries, humans have cultivated various hemp strains for different purposes, including its recreational effect. In 1839, an Irish doctor presented the first known clinical trials of the plant as medicine. By the turn of the century, hemp was a commonly used pharmaceutical in the U.S. and Europe. Industrial hemp is legally defined as cannabis containing 0.3 percent or less of the psychoactive compound THC. There are multiple reasons why hemp is considered a regenerative crop, including:

  • Carbon sequestration and soil health. Hemp grows fast and tall, typically reaching maturity within 100 days. Due to its rapid photosynthesis cycle and deep roots, it is highly efficient at drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into plant biomass. The carbon gets stored in the plant and soil. When hemp fibers get made into products such as textiles and building materials, they contribute to long-term carbon sequestration. The root systems of hemp plants improve soil structure and promote nutrient cycling and water retention.
  • Pesticides. Hemp is naturally pest-resistant, which means it can be cultivated with few or no pesticides.
  • Biodiversity. Hemp produces large amounts of pollen in late summer, which attracts pollinating insects. It provides shelter for birds, and hemp seeds are a food source for animals.
  • Prevents soil erosion. The dense leaves of hemp plants are a natural soil cover, protecting it against erosion. Fast-growing hemp can cover the ground just three weeks after germination.
  • Protecting forests. As a renewable and fast-growing source of fiber, hemp can be used as an alternative to wood-based products, preserving vital forest ecosystems.
  • Water efficiency. Hemp is known for being relatively drought-tolerant, with certain species exhibiting very efficient water use. This characteristic makes it a valuable resource in regions facing water scarcity or where sustainable water management is concerned.
  • Carbon-neutral and low-impact products. Hemp-derived products, such as hempcrete (a building material made from hemp fibers), have the potential to be carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative. This means that the overall carbon emissions associated with these products’ life cycle could be offset by the carbon sequestration and sustainability practices associated with hemp cultivation (see Carbon Architecture Nexus).
  • Decomposition. Products made from hemp are biodegradable and compostable, decaying quickly and returning nutrients to the soil. It is easily compostable (see Compost Nexus).

Learn about the obstacles to the utilization of hemp. At the turn of the 20th century, the expanding use of marijuana as an intoxicant caused a shift in public attitudes, spurred by politicians and others who stigmatized cannabis with a racist misinformation campaign that associated it with ethnic minorities and immigrants. As a result, cannabis and hemp were banned wholesale in 1937, which reduced hemp production globally for decades. After a long campaign by advocates and growers, the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances list in the United States. Commercial production of hemp started the following year. Although there has been significant progress, including the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program, which recently awarded $35 million to several hemp-specific projects, there continue to be significant challenges to the industry's growth.

Choose hemp products. Whenever possible, purchase products that use hemp as a raw material, such as clothing, food, household items, and others. This creates demand and supports companies in the hemp industry. In particular, support hemp businesses that prioritize sustainable and environmentally friendly practices and encourage businesses to adopt sustainable packaging for their hemp products. 

  • The Bulk Hemp Warehouse is a U.S.-based supplier of various products with multiple fulfillment centers and a commitment to fair trade practices.
  • Hemp Traders is a well-established company selling numerous products specializing in textiles, with organic certification, fair trade principles, and factories in China and the U.S.
  • When building or renovating, hemp-based products are becoming increasingly available worldwide. The U.S. Hemp Building Association has many resources online.

Lobby for legalization and hemp-friendly policy. Stay informed about local and national regulations regarding hemp production, and advocate for the legalization of hemp and hemp-derived products in regions where restrictions still exist. Where hemp is legal, you can push your local and federal government for policies that support the growth of the industry, such as fair regulations, access to banking services, and research funding.

  • The 2023 Farm Bill has provisions that will help hemp producers, including policies that recognize the historical injustices that Indigenous and Black farmers have experienced.
  • Hemp Today provides up-to-date news about the developments in the hemp industry, including regulation and policy updates.
  • Vote Hemp is a grassroots organization based in Washington, D.C. that has been lobbying to bring hemp farming back since 2000. They work to educate legislators and policymakers and advocate for fair commerce.

Offer direct support to local hemp farmers where possible. Buy straight from local hemp farmers or support businesses that source their hemp from sustainable and ethical farms. Attend farmers' markets or events that promote hemp products using this international Hemp Events calendar.


Farmers and Ranchers

Network and form partnerships. Join local and national hemp farmer associations or networks to share experiences, insights, and best practices. Several important organizations are listed below under Key Players. Attend workshops, conferences, and training sessions related to hemp farming. Hemp expo events exist in many parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

  • Explore the possibility of joining or forming hemp cooperatives to share resources, knowledge, and market access with other farmers. Cooperatives exist for specific groups, such as Indigenous farmers, and in regions such as Ireland, the U.S., and Australia.
  • Creating partnerships with hemp processing facilities can help ensure a reliable market for your hemp crop.

Stay informed and educated about hemp cultivation. Stay up-to-date about hemp cultivation techniques, regulations, and market trends, including changes in legislation to ensure compliance with local and national regulations regarding hemp cultivation. Locke Lord is an international law firm with a unit devoted to helping clients navigate the cannabis industry.

Get involved with research and development on the farm. Partner with agricultural researchers and institutions to contribute to the knowledge base on hemp cultivation practices and potential uses. Experiment with new hemp cultivation techniques or product innovations.

  • Donate hemp for use in clinical trials. More data is needed to prove the safety and efficacy of hemp when fed to production animals. The Hemp Feed Coalition accepts donations of hemp products to be used for research and contributions of certificates of analysis from growers.
  • Make up for lost data and time. As a result of the decades-long federal prohibition on cannabis, the hemp industry needs to as rapidly as possible generate data on crop yields, nutritional profiles, varietal types, and geographical comparisons to gain a clearer picture scientifically about the efficacy of specific farming practices, consistency, and the safety of hemp and its by-products.


Invest in hemp-related businesses. Look for companies focused on hemp cultivation, processing, and product development with a solid business plan, experienced management, and a commitment to sustainable practices. Seek out and invest in companies that prioritize social responsibility and ethical business practices within the hemp industry. Platforms such as WeFunder allow direct, crowdsourced investments in startups and small businesses, such as the first American hempblock manufacturer.

  • Explore impact investing opportunities within the hemp industry, aiming to generate financial returns and positive environmental or social impact. The rePlant Hemp Impact Fund focuses on climate-smart technology, positive societal change, and developing the North American supply chain.


Conduct hemp-focused research. Lead or support research projects on hemp cultivation, processing, and applications. Contribute to academic literature and provide insights into the industry.


Integrate hemp into curriculum. Include hemp-related topics in relevant courses, such as agriculture, environmental science, business, or engineering. This exposes students to the potential of hemp in various fields. The number of cannabis-focused courses on college campuses in the U.S. has seen substantial growth in recent years.

  • Host workshops, seminars, and conferences focused on hemp. Bring industry experts to share insights and engage with students and the community. At Doane University in Nebraska, an educational campaign accompanied a hemp research project where students could see the plant growing in a greenhouse in a central campus location, involving presentations, discussion, and infographic posters. The result was a measurable change in the student body’s attitude and knowledge about hemp.

Promote student entrepreneurship. Encourage innovative development by supporting college-level students interested in starting hemp-related businesses. This could involve providing mentorship and resources or connecting them with industry professionals. Unity Environmental University offers a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Business Management: Hemp Industry and Science.

Promote sustainable campus practices. Advocate for and implement sustainable practices on campus, including the use of hemp-based products in construction, textiles, or other applications. In Australia, the University of Tasmania is restoring its Forestry building with locally made hempcrete.


Develop hemp-centric products. Incorporate hemp-derived materials into products, such as textiles, food, beauty products, and construction materials. Companies can help create demand for hemp and support the industry. Here is a listing of some of the top industrial hemp companies worldwide.

  • Create products that specifically showcase the unique qualities of hemp and ensure transparency in the supply chain, from sourcing raw materials to manufacturing and distribution. Earth Merchant is a company innovating a digital platform for farmer networking to streamline and strengthen the marketplace for hemp-building products.

Educate consumers. Provide information to consumers about the benefits of hemp and dispel myths or misconceptions. Education can contribute to increased awareness and demand for hemp products. Consumers of hemp products tend to have a higher-than-average education and income level.

Support research and development. Invest in research and development initiatives focused on advancing hemp technologies, improving cultivation practices, and discovering new applications for hemp in various industries.

  • The Hemp Research Consortium at the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research invites investment to accelerate their research.

Learn about the regulations and opportunities in various markets. In the U.S., a source of information is the Hemp Industry Opportunities Report. The Investing News Network reports on investing in hemp in Australia. This Cannabis in Latin America report offers information about the unique opportunities and challenges of investing in this region.


Legalize and deregulate hemp production. Clarify and simplify regulations around hemp cultivation, ensuring that it is legal and feasible for farmers to grow hemp. Governments can create an environment conducive to the sustainable growth of the hemp industry, fostering economic development, job creation, and innovation while contributing to environmental goals. The Industrial Hemp Act introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives is an example.

  • Develop clear guidelines for licensing and compliance. In South Africa, hemp was one of fourteen priority sectors identified in a national investment strategy, and the application process for hemp permits was established in 2021. Since then, hundreds of permits have been issued, along with access to lab equipment and other services for farmers through partnerships with several private companies.
  • Establish clear quality standards for hemp products to ensure consumer safety and build trust in the industry. The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is an international organization that partners with government regulators to improve training and education, develop standards, and provide third-party certification, including for hemp products.
  • Engage with industry stakeholders and leaders, including farmers, businesses, and advocacy groups, to develop policies that address their needs and concerns. In Latin America, Paraguay is the largest producer of hemp and is a model in the region for public-private partnerships and for integrating indigenous communities into the hemp-generated economy.
  • Continuously assess and address regulatory challenges that may hinder the growth of the hemp industry. Adapt regulations as needed to keep pace with industry developments. The European Industrial Hemp Association outlines several ways the EU could amend its common agricultural policy (CAP) to support growth in the hemp sector.

Facilitate funding to support the industry. Allocate funds for research into hemp cultivation practices, product development, and potential applications across various industries. Creative collaborations between governmental programs and the private sector can be effective tools, such as the Hemp Club, a joint project launched in Europe to finance innovation and support interregional investment. 

  • Provide financial incentives, such as grants, subsidies, or tax breaks, to farmers and businesses engaged in hemp cultivation, processing, and product development. The USDA is funding several, listed on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture site.
  • Work with financial institutions to ensure hemp-related businesses have access to banking services, reducing obstacles to financial transactions and investments. The SAFE Banking Act, which would allow financial institutions to provide legally operating cannabis businesses access to services without fear of retribution by federal regulators, passed a key U.S. Senate Committee in late 2023 and could be voted into law in 2024.
  • Invest in infrastructure for hemp processing, including facilities for extracting oil for food and cosmetics, such as these two being built in Alberta, Canada, with government grant backing—processing fibers for textiles and manufacturing hemp-based products. China, the world’s largest industrial hemp producer, opened an International Industrial Hemp Industry Park in 2020 featuring facilities for testing, research and development, corporate offices, and an exhibition and trading center. 

Cooperate across borders. Collaborate with other countries to share knowledge, best practices, and market insights related to the hemp industry. China and Israel have created an Innovation Cooperation Forum to share and co-develop technologies related to industrial hemp farming. 

  • Simplify and expedite import and export processes for hemp and hemp-derived products to encourage international trade and market expansion. In recent years, Switzerland has reformed laws related to hemp seeds and the import of cannabis flowers with a THC content of one percent or less, making it a hub for the industry within Europe.

Support Education and Outreach. Develop educational programs to inform farmers, businesses, and the public about the benefits and uses of hemp. This can help dispel myths and build support for the industry when integrated into a broader plan, such as one being developed in the Australian state of Victoria. Government grants to universities can support development and educational goals, such as in the Nebraska research trial and educational campaign described above. 

  • Facilitate community engagement by organizing forums, town hall meetings, and initiatives that involve local communities in the development of the hemp industry.

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