Hemp Could Be A Solution For Homeless Living On The Streets - RxLeaf
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Hemp Could Be A Solution For Homeless Living On The Streets

Emily Robertson
hemp, hemp homelessness, living on the streets, hemp construction, hemp insulation, legalization, USA, Canada, homelessness, poverty, oppression

Could a hemp construction initiative end people living on the streets?

With every new bit of cannabis legislation, we move closer to freedom in health and recreation. Canada federally legalized in 2018, and this has led to fewer arrests of citizens enjoying the medicinal and recreational benefits of a plant. It’s true that the United States is lagging in federal legalization of ‘marijuana’, but its cannabis cousin, hemp, was just made legal in December 2018. And with this comes a giant leap ahead for American farmers and industry. It also opens up a great opportunity to make a difference among the most vulnerable communities, like those who are living on the streets.

The re-introduction of hemp onto the world stage has meant that new (and old) uses for the plant are being closely considered. Legalization of cannabis, including hemp, has brought attention to societal issues. One of the key bits of fallout from prohibition has been racial and class oppression. Reparations for wrongful criminalization are being made across both countries in the form of pardons. But can we go even further than that?

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Can Hemp Solve Homelessness in Canada?

The homelessness issue in Canada is a major one. The stereotype is that if you’re homeless, it’s because drugs have made you that way. While that has no basis in actual fact, if that’s the case, then the use of cannabis in the opioid epidemic is a benefit. But what if it could do more than treat addiction? What if hemp could help the homeless population find homes?

While Canada likes to pretend it’s a great place for all to live, we simultaneously like to brag about our hardiness against the winter snows from the comfort of our homes with central heating. Compared to those without a home, we know nothing, Jon Snow. And those without homes are no small population.

Canada has a little under 37 million people. Of these, around 30,000 each night don’t have a home to sleep in. Every year, roughly 150,000 to 300,000 people experience homelessness. Those numbers are bonkers. If we go with the highest estimate – 300,000 people – that’s a little under 1% of the population.

By contrast, only 11% of people in Canada experience breast cancer by the time they’re 90 – with just 10% more (a still relatively “small” number), this issue is discussed with commercials, advertisements, campaign programs. Even rare cannabis research funding is sent towards breast cancer. Everyone knows of it. And everyone cares.

Why do we not discuss homelessness to the same degree? Anyone could be at risk. Shantytowns are becoming a real concern across the globe. Homeless shelters often cannot accommodate the number of people who need a warm place to sleep.

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Hemp Textiles Could Build Cost-Effective Homes

So what’s the solution? Clearly up to this point, we’ve pointblank failed. How do we house all these individuals without making the problem worse or causing outrage at those who don’t believe we should be spending excessive national income on those who “don’t work”?

You guessed it: Hemp!

Hemp textiles are incredibly sustainable. A crop is ready for harvest within about 100 days. By contrast, harvest cycles of trees – like pine – take years, even decades. And we need these trees for environmental cleansing. And unlike traditional timber trees, hemp can be used not only to make plywood, but also bricks and concrete.

Furthermore, it’s naturally insulating, which reduces the number of products required for final construction in warmer climates. But in the chilly Canadian temperatures, hemp can be softened and turned into extra insulation.

Other Sustainable Options to Match with Hemp

It’s not just hemp. There are insulation products that can be produced using other plants that are, while no less useful, less crucial to the total well-being of our planet and air-quality. Fungus, for instance, has been tested for its use in cost-effective, environmentally friendly insulation.

Bamboo is another sustainable building material. Countries across the Asian continent have been using it for thousands of years. Its incredible strength pairs well with the durability of hemp. Of course, shipping bamboo over to North America may not be the most cost-effective, eco-friendly alternative. Yet in regions of the globe where bamboo is abundant, combining this sturdy material with the insulating qualities of hemp could provide cheap, person-forward housing for those living on the streets.

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Image credit: Material District

And this says a lot. Hemp is cost effective, mycelium is cost-effective, and both are sustainable. Why aren’t we using these products general housing? Not just for those living on the streets, but for the average person.

As with most other cannabis-based products, further testing and research on these products is required. And what’s the hold up? There are people across the globe who need warm, affordable housing – not tents, not shantytowns, not blankets in an alley, or over-packed homeless shelters. Real, affordable housing for the safety, health, and well-being of our communities and our globe. Is hemp the answer? I can’t say. But research, for the sake of human ethics and for the sake of our globe, needs to consider hemp as a potential solution to two massive crises.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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