CORVALLIS, Ore. (KOIN) — Most people connect cannabis with recreational use. But the plant can do quite a bit for people and their communities, as researchers at Oregon State University are proving.

“There is so much to this plant. You know, it’s one of the few plants that has can fit most all human needs,” said Professor Jay Noller. “So we can think about it as food fiber for wearing something, shelter and for health. That basically wraps up one’s life right there.”

Noller leads the OSU Global Hemp Innovation Center, the largest comprehensive hemp research center in the country.

Plants growing at the Oregon State University Global Hemp Innovation Center, 2022 (OSU)
Plants growing at the Oregon State University Global Hemp Innovation Center, 2022 (OSU)

“It’s the largest by all dimensions in terms of numbers of scientists working on it, the amount of funding we have, the breadth of the funding, and then also just the spatial footprint,” Noller told KOIN 6 News. “We grow hemp through research situations all across Oregon, also into Washington, across California, across the US and around the world.”

While the plant has been around for a very long time, hemp research in the US was limited until the country’s 2018 farm bill passed. That’s why Noller and his colleagues’ studies on the benefits of hemp are only just beginning.

“I think one of the big things about it is that it has a really complex set of omega fatty acids. You go, ‘I don’t want fat,’ but these are the good fatty acids,” he said.

From clothes to construction projects, OSU’s researchers are looking at hemp’s versatility.

“One of the wonderful things about hemp and why it’s been utilized by humans for millennia, thousands of years, is that it has very strong fibers in it,” he said.

With hemp’s strong fibers, Noller said they’re looking at putting them into things like cinder blocks as another option for construction.

OSU is also looking at how hemp’s versatility could be an economic force, not just in Oregon, but all kinds of communities around the world. More on that in the next episode of Northwest Grown.