Hemp is made from the cannabis plant. The part of the plant used to make hemp is the stem, whereas the leaves are used most often for marijuana. Hemp itself will not work to get anyone "high."
Hemp has an incredible amount of uses, which span many industries. These include clothing, paper, auto industry, fuel, food products, and more.
Hemp grows well in the open without pesticides or herbicides. Cotton, however, needs a lot of agricultural chemicals to thrive and uses half of the pesticides sprayed in the world. Hemp's deep rooting system actually removes toxins and aerates the soil, which benefits future crops.
As opposed to cotton, hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more isolative, and more absorbent. Effectively this means hemp will keep a person cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than cotton will.
Hemp clothing is less likely to fade than cotton and can be made into a variety of fabrics, including linen. Hemp fabrics are soft, sturdy, and block ultraviolet light well.
Hemp is also frequently used in the auto industry as a substitute for fiberglass. With hemp being biodegradable and cheaper, it's a step in the environmentally conscious direction. Also hemp has the potential to become a biodegradable plastic, which would be a substantial improvement over existing technology. Ford, Mercedes Benz, and BMW have replaced more expensive and dangerous fiberglass with hemp.
Hemp produces 3 to 8 tons of fiber per acre. This is four fold the amount coming out of the average forest. With hemp's long fibers, construction materials can be made very strong and light into beams, studs, posts and fiberboard. This could save forests, recreational areas, and watersheds.
In addition to support structures for housing, hemp can be made into flooring, paneling, plywood, roofing, and reinforced concrete. Essentially, anything needed to make into a house can be made in some way shape or form from hemp.
Paper from hemp is very high quality and does not yellow with age. In Europe, bibles typically are made with hemp paper. Using hemp would save rainforests from depletion and hemp paper can be recycled many more times than paper from wood.
Hemp has some antimicrobial properties. This makes it useful for lip balm, sunscreen, creams, massage oils, shampoos, and hair conditioners. It's even well qualified for use in laundry detergents and provides a healthy protein to be used in pet foods.
Considering that half of the world's forests are gone and only 3% of the US original forests remain, switching to hemp would allow the chance to regrow some of these areas yet satisfy the growing needs for them in this country.