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Cannabis Laws Could Complicate Production Of Super Batteries

The American Chemical Society says it would like to use industrial hemp to make really powerful batteries called supercaps.
Posted at 5:35 PM, Aug 13, 2014

Hemp being used in batteries? Well, that's a new one. 

The idea was introduced this week at the American Chemical Society's national meeting. Engineers discussed how industrial hemp could provide a cheaper option in the manufacturing of supercaps. (Video via One Degree Organic Foods)

Supercaps are sort of high-energy batteries. Startup company Alta Supercaps promotes them as strong, fast and extreme.

Supercaps are currently manufactured with graphene, a form of carbon that's strong and malleable but also expensive. 

Some engineers now believe that just heating up hemp could create carbon sheets that could replace graphene in the batteries' construction. Sounds easy, except — isn't growing hemp illegal in the U.S.?

Not completely. In February, Congress passed the Farm Bill that legalized the growing of industrial hemp for research purposes.

​​The Washington Post: ​​"'Industrial hemp' means the plant Cannabis sativa L. ... With a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. So basically, it's hemp you wouldn't want to smoke." 

In March, the Drug Enforcement Administration released a statement that basically said it's not happy about the new law. "The cultivation of the marijuana plant exclusively for commercial/industrial purposes has many associated risks relating to diversion into the illicit drug traffic." 

And according to Rolling Stone, the agency isn't really cooperating with the law. The article points out in April the DEA seized 250 pounds of industrial hemp seed that was meant to be used for research projects in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture ended up filing a lawsuit and getting the seeds back. But in the letter releasing the seeds, the DEA implied it was justified in confiscating them because the law's stance on importing seeds into the country is unclear.

So supercaps engineers will likely have to jump through some hoops as well when trying to grow hemp for their research.