Yesterday, we ran through some of the consequences of newly legal weed in Colorado and Washington for local ecosystems and power grids. But those new marijuana laws also specifically allow for the cultivation and processing of super eco-friendly hemp, which could -- at least in theory -- be an environmental game changer.
Hemp completely dominated the U.S. textile market before the invention of the cotton gin. Some believe cannabis was originally made illegal by William Randolph Hearst and Dupont looking to knock hemp out of the market to protect their investments in timberlands and petrochemicals.
Hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct but are both regulated as Schedule I narcotics, even though if you smoked a bowl of hemp you'd end up with lungs full of smoke and no THC high. Textiles, biofuels, foods -- that's where hemp really shines. (Vanilla Tempt hemp milk is kind of amazing, you guys, I swear.)
Here Slate's eco-advice columnist half-heartedly makes a case for polyester as the best textile (um, ew), but ultimately admits: "Overall, hemp appears to be slightly easier on the environment than cotton, superior on water and land requirements, and only slightly worse for energy use."