Can Industrial Hemp Save Louisiana?

In the nola.com article “Toxic sites in Louisiana: 15 of the state's most polluted places” (Feb. 2017), Scott Threlkeld details several areas of environmental concern across the state. Louisiana is home to 15 Superfund sites on the EPA's national priorities list. St. Tammany Parish has two Superfund sites, the former American Creosote Works in Slidell and the former Madisonville Creosote Works in Madisonville. Contaminants are still being removed from the groundwater at both sites. In June 2014, The Times-Picayune/ nola.com reported that Louisiana waterways were among the most polluted in the nation, with industrial facilities releasing more than 12.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals into rivers, bayous and other waters in 2012, as per a report by the Environmental America Research and Policy Center. In 2017, CBS News reported that Italian farmers in Taranto, Italy are using industrial hemp crops in order to decontaminate the soil. Contaminants from a local steel plant polluted the area, causing a build up of dioxin in local grazing animals. The solution: Plant Hemp.
By Barbetorte (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In phytoremediation, contaminants are absorbed by the fast-growing roots of the cannabis plant which either store or transform toxins into a harmless substance. The process is proven to pull heavy metals from the soil, and industrial hemp was used following the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, removing strontium and cesium. While industrial hemp is still a controlled substance in the United States, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wants to mainstream hemp production by removing it from the list of controlled substances. Kentucky is at the forefront of the industrial hemp comeback with approval for more than 12,000 acres grown in the state in 2018, with 57 Kentucky processors turning the raw hemp into a multitude of products. The crop was historically used for rope, but other uses include clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soaps, lotions, building materials, plastics and biofuels. Industrial hemp has the potential to provide needed products at a fraction of the environmental impact as conventional methods of production using petroleum, which is the cause of much of the pollution in Louisiana in the first place. Let's give hemp a chance. Questions or comments: covweekly@gmail.com