With Colorado’s recent legalization of marijuana, the cannabis plant has undergone a public relations turnaround like no other. Now, as discussions about further legalization across the country rage, one New York entrepreneur sees a use for cannabis that few realize is a possibility: “Mr. Savage is hoping to put hemp to use not in joints but between joists,” reports The New York Times.
James Savage is a former Wall Street analyst who sees a bright future for hemp in home construction. A small number of others join him in that vision, all interested in a product called “hempcrete.”
Hempcrete is made when the woody interior of the cannabis plant is combined with lime and water. According to the article, it offers “natural insulation that is airtight yet breathable and flexible.” It is also free from toxins, resists mold and pests and is “virtually fireproof.”
And while some might joke that a house built with cannabis could be smoked, one piece at a time, “You could smoke a telephone pole’s worth of our stuff and still not get high,” said one hempcrete entrepreneur.
The reason is that the hemp used in hempcrete comes from a strain of cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% of THC, the ingredient that causes the high that users of marijuana seek. By contrast, marijuana has anywhere from 5 to 30% THC. “It’s like the difference between a wolf and a poodle,” Savage told the Times. “Same species, totally different animal.”
While hempcrete offers a promising housing material option, it comes with some downsides: It requires thicker insulation than traditional materials, can stymie building inspectors who are unfamiliar with the product, and the raw material must be imported, as there is little if any domestic hemp production, according to the Times.
Still, it’s a product with promise, one whose profile is likely to increase as its more potent cousin gains respect. As one observer told the Times: “Some people thought hemp might help get marijuana accepted, but it’s going the other way around.”