Hemp may have gotten a bad name for itself due to its association with marijuana, but for University of Rhode Island sophomore Emily Greenwood, equating the two could be a misconception.

Industrial hemp is the name given to variants of the cannabis plant that do not have high levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, which is found in marijuana. Industrial hemp, unlikeĀ hemp cbd, as its title suggests, can be used industrially as a clean fuel and plastic alternative.

Greenwood, studying human development and family studies and elementary education, started a petition on Change.org to legalize hemp for its industrial uses.

In her letter to President Barack Obama, which is posted on her petition on Change.org, Greenwood states, “Because of the devastation inflicted by the oil industry, nuclear power plant complications, and the excessive use of non-biodegradable plastic goods, the human race has adversely affected the environment in only a few hundred years. We are facing debacles we will eventually be unable to fix, such as the 1,000 mile wide circle of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre and the sheer number of carcinogens in our foods from plastic packaging.”

Her mission began during a summer trip to France, where Greenwood noticed pollution and a lack of recycling.

“I just started thinking more about the way I live back here in the states and what I could be doing to help,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in hemp and renewable resources because I feel like we just don’t use a lot of them. We just use plastic and paper and things that are more disposable but aren’t good for the environment.”

“Hemp is one of the most amazing resources,” said Greenwood. “It’s so different than all other resources because of how quickly it grows, how productive and how efficient it can be and it’s completely recyclable and completely biodegradable … You can get as much out of one acre [of hemp] in one year as you can get from four acres of trees in one rotation.”

Each rotation, or growth cycle, of hemp lasts from approximately 70 to 140 days, yielding about three or four rotations a year. In her letter to President Obama, Greenwood cites many facts about hemp. First, it requires little to no chemical fertilizer. Hemp produces four times the amount of ethanol than does corn per unit of biomass. About seven tons of dry biomass is produced per one acre of hemp and one ton of dry biomass can produce 80 gallons of oil that burns 95 percent cleaner than petrol oil. Greenhouse gases sulphur dioxide and NOx are eliminated with the use of this fuel, which is biodegradable and non-toxic.

Hemp can be used to make plastic, fabric, charcoal, organic fertilizer, cement, paper goods and building materials stronger than steel.

“When plastic degrades it basically degrades into the same stuff that you put into your car,” said Greenwood. “It’s like a diesel. So, in the ocean it will just degrade into oil and petroleun … Hemp is an overall cleaner, more efficient and marketable fuel source than oil.”

Greenwood’s petition has reached nearly 2,500 signatures to date. She says she has received mostly positive feedback from the URI community, but there are some who have misinterpreted what her cause is all about due to the inevitable stigma that hemp faces an association with marijuana.

“It’s a completely different product,” says Greenwood. “Regardless of anybody’s opinions on marijuana they really need to look at hemp as a completely different thing because it really is… This crop has been banned and blindly stigmatized as a narcotic, alongside and the same as marijuana, even though it is impossible to use as a drug itself.”

Greenwood emphasizes that there are two distinct varieties of hemp: psychoactive and the other being nonpsychoactive, officially recognized as two separate subspecies in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Greenwood hopes to reach 250,000 signatures, which will result in an official response from the Obama Administration.

“I think URI students especially [should support this cause] because we are all part of a generation that thinks so differently from our parents’ generation and grandparents’ generation … There’s all sorts of environmental awareness groups now and so people do care about [the environment] and people should care about this issue just as much.”