Updated: Oct 6, 2021
For many Americans, one of the most vivid memories of the year 2020 is and will continue to be empty shelves where toilet paper used to be on sale.
Whether motivated by panic or good sense, the run to purchase additional toiletries shocked supermarkets and big box stores all across the country in March as the novel coronavirus outbreak cast a shadow on the world.
Supply lines are mostly back to normal for toilet paper now, if not for meat and other essential goods, but some hope that a new player in the agricultural market could also help accommodate the demand for paper products.
Hemp, a cannabis-variant crop, has recently exploded in popularity in the United States after its federal legalization in 2018.
This wonder crop has a long history in North America and around the world, with a wide array of uses and characteristics that made it a staple until the U.S. prohibited it in the early part of the 20th century.
Hemp’s industrial uses are often overshadowed in popular media by its retail use in CBD oil and related products.
CBD is typically capable of higher-end consumer markets and is used by tons of folks for their anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, inflammation and other issues.
Meanwhile, hemp has shown itself to be a capable, renewable and cheap alternative to myriad industrial raw materials.
Hemp has been known for centuries as a fine component for rope-making and ship-building, as well as textiles and an increasing range of other high-tech uses like concrete substitutes and even bioplastics.
Hemp’s environmental impact is also a major selling point: The plant consumes less water than competing textile crops like cotton, and its biodegradability lends major benefits to its use in paper products.
According to some reports, industrial hemp also has 3 times more cellulose content than trees, which is important because this is the element used to create paper products.
It seems the March toilet paper shortages were nothing but a black swan event, but in the future hemp could become a reliable backstop to the U.S. economy because of its multiple uses and adaptability.
For instance, hemp toilet paper is still a minor part of the crop’s overall contribution, but if the more diversification happens toward that use the hemp and toiletries markets might both become more resilient to events like the coronavirus pandemic.
Some hemp TP brands include HempSoSoft, Hempies and Alibaba, a small smattering compared to the number of companies and brands serving the CBD oil market.