Environmental Costs of Hemp Prohibition in the United States

Comparing the environmental performance of industrial hemp relative to substitutes in key industrial applications

This article seeks to add to the discussion about hemp prohibition in the United States by comparing the environmental performance of industrial hemp relative to its substitutes in a few key industrial applications. The life cycle environmental performance of industrial hemp products is of particular interest because environmental inefficiencies often impose costs on society as a whole, and additionally, the government has initiated a large number of programs intended both to reduce pollution and to increase production of bio-based industrial feedstocks. The positive attributes of industrial hemp are considered here in the context of counter-vailing attributes.


Skaidra Smith-Heisters is a policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Her research is part of Reason's New Environmentalism program, launched by Lynn Scarlett, which develops innovative solutions to environmental problems and emphasizes the benefits of local decisions over Washington's command-and-control regulations.

Smith-Heisters is a graduate of the University of California at Davis program in Nature and Culture. Prior to joining Reason, she worked in habitat restoration, endangered species management and natural resources planning with the California State Parks system.

She has been extensively involved in grassroots journalism and political organizing in San Francisco's North Bay area, where she currently lives.