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.

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