Thomas Jefferson University Research Magazine



Through much of recorded history, the hemp plant was recognized as a sustainable, renewable resource with myriad practical applications. Its fibers are strong, resilient and possess unique chemical properties; its seeds and leaves are nutritious; and parts of the plant have medicinal benefits. However, for more than 50 years, its use in the United States was severely restricted by policymakers who equated all hemp products with just one: marijuana.

That situation has changed over the past decade. Today, most restrictions on hemp have been lifted, and states are legalizing marijuana and its byproducts for medicinal or recreational purposes. That evolution has been driven by three factors: growing consumer demand for products created from renewable resources; better understanding of the hemp plant’s complete physical and chemical composition; and expanding awareness of the known and potential medical uses of cannabinoids (including the fact that the human body not only uses cannabinoids but also manufactures its own).

The basic and applied research associated with the engineered industrial and consumer products of the hemp initiative has been strategically guided by Ronald Kander, PhD, Executive Dean of Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, whose research focuses include composite materials and sustainable manufacturing processes. “Since 2017,” explains Dr. Kander, “Jefferson researchers have been pursuing four integrated goals: advancing basic scientific knowledge about hemp and its components; exploring where hemp could be a cheaper or more effective raw material for existing products; conceiving and creating wholly new biomedical and manufactured products; and defining markets and sustainable supply chains for those products.”