Hemp is efficient at turning sunlight into biomass. It can produce up to four times more fiber per acre than trees. It’s a very durable fiber and industrially useful fiber. The US Constitution was written on hemp paper, unfortunately, the text of the constitution hasn’t survived as well as the paper has. The text has proven incapable of withstanding attacks by politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers.
It’s outlaw status in the US is a shame because it forces the use of much less environmentally friendly alternatives for fiber and biofuel. Industrial hemp contains less than 1% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp grown for drug use, contains more than 10% THC. Industrial hemp would not be sought for recreational drug use. Anyone who has ever tried to smoke marijuana of this quality would understand. The closest you would get to a high is a headache from carbon monoxide. Unfortunately, there is nothing rational about federal drug laws.
Take a look at this video link on the Science Channel, it shows how a form of biodiesel can be made and utilized to fuel diesel powered vehicles. Unlike other vegetable crops that biodiesel can be derived from, growing hemp requires very little energy or pesticides.
The psychoactive component, THC, is only one of a class of related compounds present in hemp called cannibanols. Obviously, hemp didn’t evolve these chemicals to get humans high. A clue to the purpose of these chemicals is the fact that hemp is the only broad-leaved plant that grows in arid regions. Cannibanols serve as a moisture barrier retaining moisture. This makes the plant a valuable crop because it can be grown in regions that are too arid for other crops without robust irrigation, but unlike cactus and other plants that grow in arid regions, it’s broad leafs make efficient use of sunlight allowing it to grow rapidly. In Canada, where it is legal to grow industrial hemp, it is the second most valuable crop after tobacco.