Industrializing Hemp to Advance the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals

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INDUSTRIALIZING HEMP TO ADVANCE THE UNITED NATIONS’ 17 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS Through the SDGs, improved education, regulation, research and partnerships can be tailored to catalyze hemp as a critical crop with innumerous societal benefits.

By Calyn Ostrowski, associate director, Strategic Partnerships & Development, University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute Content for this report was drawn from literature review of academic and cannabis industry publications, and cross-disciplinary expertise provided by project partners: Omobolanle Ade-Ademilua, leader, African Centre of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science, University of Lagos; James Conway, director of the Office of Global Health, UW-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health and associate director, Global Health Institute; Steve DeAngelo, co-founder of Harborside, Steep Hill Laboratory & Arcview Group; Lori DiPrete Brown, associate director, Global Health Institute and Distinguished Teaching Faculty, Civil Society & Community Studies, School of Human Ecology, UW-Madison; Shelby Ellison, assistant professor, Department of Horticulture, UW-Madison; Marianne Fairbanks, associate professor, School of Human Ecology, UWMadison; David Kiefer, medical director, UW Health Integrative Health Clinic; Brian Kuhn, director, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Plant Industry Bureau; Jonathan Patz, co-director, Global Health Institute, UW-Madison; Rob Richard, president, Wisconsin Hemp Alliance; Natalie Schmitz, assistant professor, School of Pharmacy, UW-Madison; Shelia Stubbs, Wisconsin State Assembly (D-Madison), Janis Tupesis, associate director, Global Health Institute, UW-Madison



The United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 interconnected goals to end poverty, advance health and education, reduce inequities, protect the environment and accelerate economic growth through 2030 [1]. Agreed upon by all 193 member states, the SDGs include 169 associated targets and a set of global indicators designed to shape national, state and local government priorities and partnerships. Sustainable development is a balanced approach to growth, meeting the needs of today’s generation without compromising future generational needs. Cross-cutting and interdisciplinary, many of the SDG indicators repeat across goals recognizing complex issues like health, equity and climate change require collaborative solutions from diverse groups.

During a divisive political climate, the SDGs remain favorable across the world and offer a blueprint for catalyzing local assets to make global change.

During a divisive political climate, the SDGs remain favorable across the world and offer a blueprint for catalyzing local assets to make global change. Used in a variety of ways and by different sectors of society, the SDGs are increasingly integrated into business plans of Fortune 500 corporations, universities and non-governmental stakeholders. Industrializing hemp is harvesting a new moment in healthcare, agriculture, energy, banking, technology, policymaking and more. The nascent industrial hemp and marijuana industry is making a worldwide impact by advancing therapeutic applications for epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and more. The industry also provides solutions for climate change, using hemp as an alternative crop for paper, textiles, plastics, construction materials and other green technologies that rebuild biodiversity loss. As hemp unleashes a flood of potential to improve our human and planetary health, medical professionals are requesting training and evidence-based research to inform patient care. Farmers are looking for diversity of crops, access to genetics, and new ways of agriculture to combat climate change and feed the future. Governments are looking for ways to curb their carbon footprint while increasing GDP. Academia is critical to addressing hemp’s research and education gaps, equipping a new generation of future leaders. The industry’s early stage affords a unique opportunity for academia to break down silos and create new approaches to development that work across systems. Due to hemp’s diverse applications, the global market potential for industrial hemp far outweighs medical and recreational marijuana. The UN Sustainable Development Goals illustrate hemp’s versatility and help demystify negative perceptions about the plant. Through the SDGs, improved education, regulation, research and partnerships can be tailored to catalyze hemp as a critical 2

crop with innumerous societal benefits. Using the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the analytical framework, UW-Madison’s Global Health Institute (GHI) evaluated industrial hemp’s innumerous benefits and identified 54 hemp-related SDG targets to improve multi-sectoral collaboration, research, education in Wisconsin and around the world. Established in 2011, the Global Health Institute (GHI) serves as a hub for global health education, research and outreach across 21 schools, colleges and divisions at UW-Madison. GHI’s efforts focus on four key areas: climate change, health systems, gender and One Health which highlights the health of humans, animals and the planet are inextricably linked. A trusted resource, GHI is a pillar of UW-Madison’s global health education and serves as an invaluable partner to educators, researchers, and scholars, both within and beyond the health sciences, to address urgent global health challenges, tackle underlying causes of diseases and champion human and planetary health.



An investigation of hemp’s benefits, challenges and unique opportunities is already underway at UW-Madison, and in 2022, GHI convened the collective wisdom of campus researchers and faculty members studying hemp to initiate dialogue across disciplines and identify future areas of collaboration. Experts from the policy community, health care, agriculture, and industrial hemp industries furthered insights and recommendations to leverage hemp’s versatility and improve health worldwide.




Hemp, a variety of the cannabis sativa species, is a plant grown specifically for industrial usages and dates back to 2800 BCE in central Asia. When one hears or thinks of hemp, they commonly associate it with the intoxicating drug “marijuana” and often fail to make the distinction between hemp and marijuana. Although both are derived from the cannabis sativa plant, in order to be considered hemp, the plant must contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), compared to marijuana which is defined by the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act as cannabis that exceeds 0.3% THC [2]. THC is one of the 120+ cannabinoids found in cannabis and is one of the phytochemicals that causes the intoxicating effect when consumed [3]. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 placed a tax on anyone who dealt commercially in hemp or marijuana, ultimately destroying the legal cannabis industry. Before prohibition in 1937, Wisconsin led the nation’s hemp production meeting demand for rope, clothing and shoes for those serving in the military during WWII. In 2018, the United States federally legalized industrial hemp 3

and Wisconsin reignited its program experiencing a six-fold increase in grower and processor applicants during its second year [4]. Beyond hemp, 39 states have legalized medical marijuana and 19 allow consumption for recreational use [5]. Neighboring Midwestern states–Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan–have legalized production of marijuana for its medicinal or recreational usages. In Wisconsin, policymakers, health practitioners, researchers and businesses are responding with new programs and opportunities to be pioneers in this space again. UW-Madison now leads the state in working with a multidisciplinary team of scientists and extension agents to create a foundation of best production practices for industrial hemp in Wisconsin; and the School of Pharmacy requires candidates pursuing a master’s degree in psychoactive pharmaceutical investigation to complete coursework in safe and effective use of cannabinoid-containing treatments, the first of its kind for pharmacy programs worldwide. Further, this course is offered as an elective to pharmacy students. During fall 2020, UW-Platteville rolled out Wisconsin’s first certificate program in the business of cannabis, cannabis law and policy, and cannabis healthcare and medicine. Other top research institutions such as Yale, the University of California-Berkeley, Cornell and the University of Maryland have created cannabis research centers and offer training programs across medicine, business and agriculture [6]. Momentum for marijuana legalization is growing worldwide. In 2020, the United Nations approved the World Health Organization’s recommendation to reclassify marijuana from the list of most dangerous drugs and allow marijuana for medical purposes; and in 2021, the UN Drug Market Report placed special emphasis on cannabis trends, as jurisdictions across the globe move toward reform [7]. In May 2022, an historical meeting took place at the United Nations where policymakers across the world convened with cannabis industry experts in medicine, agriculture, equity and more to highlight the plant’s unique properties for propelling the SDGs in local to global markets. In the United States, 74 percent of adults have access to legal medical marijuana and 44 percent of adults can access the plant for legal recreational use [8]. Conversely, a quarter of the adult population live in states where possession and use of marijuana remains illegal [8]. Each year, more states legalize marijuana placing pressure on the federal government to address disconnected regulations nationwide. Through academic and industry literature review, coupled with guidance from multi-disciplinary experts, this report illustrates hemp’s relationship across the SDGs and serves as guide for future collaborations, research and curriculum whereby the social, economic, environmental and health benefits of hemp might be further evaluated.


When connecting the SDGs to hemp industrialization, we applied an “SDG360 Analysis” method to understand hemp’s interconnections across the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This method breaks down complex systems to holistically understand synergies and trade-offs of a topic or project. SDG360 analysis uses the SDG wheel, goals and targets to reveal interconnections, co-benefits and opportunities to improve or avoid errors [9]. The stepwise process optimizes impact and establishes the broadest possible base for support. Through explicit identification of costs and resources, SDG360 creates space for democratic deliberation and decision-making. It provides a framework for identifying critical sectors and stakeholders, mapping key issues and facilitating relationship building, iterative perspective-taking and equity implications. To begin our 360 evaluations, we anchored industrial hemp in the middle of the SDG wheel and identified a cluster 4

15.3 15.5 15.6 15.9

17.14 17.16 17.17

16.3 16.4 16.6 16.b

2.3 2.4 2.5 2.a 2.b


3.5 3.8 3.b 3.c


4.4 Industrializing Hemp

Source: UW-Madison Global Health Institute

13.2 13.3

5.1 5.5 5.a

12.1 12.2 12.5 12.6 12.b

6.3 6.4

11.a 11.b

7.2 7.b 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4

9.1 9.2 9.3

9.4 9.b

8.2 8.3 8.5

8.8 8.9 8.10


of four SDGs most critical to GHI’s areas: SDG 3: “Health and Well-Being”, SDG 9: “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure”, and SDG 12: “Responsible Consumption and Production” and SDG 13: “Climate Action”. Within each of these four goals, synergies and co-benefits related to industrial hemp and the sub-targets were highlighted and used to navigate the next cluster of SDG goals for review. The SDG360 analysis continued and led to a full evaluation of all 17 goals and 169 targets, resulting in 54 unique entry points for unlocking hemp’s full potential in advancing local to global sustainable development (Figure 2). For example, under SDG 3: “Good Health and Well-Being”, four targets related to hemp and marijuana were identified: • 3.5 Prevent and treat substance abuse • 3.8 Access to safe and affordable essential medicine • 3.b Research and development of medicines • 3.c Increase financing and recruitment of the health workforce Achieving these four targets requires implementation of many other SDG sub-targets such as SDG 9.4: “retrofitting industries” and SDG 9.b: “supporting technology R&D”. To scale the global hemp economy, greater infrastructure and technology is needed to advance hemp cultivation, production and end-use applications. Areas of opportunity to focus infrastructure investments can be found in hemp’s ability to address SDG 2: “No Hunger” and alleviate food insecurities while expanding equity and driving economic growth. • 2.3 Double agriculture and land access for women, family, farmers, indigenous people • 2.4: Sustainable food production and agriculture practices


• 2.5: Maintain genetic diversity of seeds and equitable sharing of seed genetics • 2.a Invest in rural infrastructure and agricultural research • 2.b: Correct and prevent trade restrictions By completing the stepwise SDG360 analysis, a roadmap for scaling hemp and prioritizing resources, research and improved policies is established. The process also uncovers unintended consequences of hemp industrialization like the plant’s ability to absorb toxic metals making it dangerous for consumers. This tradeoff can be addressed through SDG 2.5: “maintain genetic diversity of seeds” not bred for phytoremediation. In the United States, prohibition has disproportionately impacted communities of color where black residents are nearly 50 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white residents [10]. Though racial justice components influence new legislation legalizing cannabis–as witnessed in Illinois and California–these programs have unintended tradeoffs by failing to include cross-cutting support like access to financial services (SDG 9.3), investment in agriculture research (SDG 2.5) and retrofit industries (SDG 9.4). The SDG360 analysis of industrial hemp demystifies negative biases surrounding cannabis and unpacks the plant’s versatility to heal our human and planetary health. Greater education around hemp’s 54 complementary targets lessens concerns around decriminalization and federalization of the plant’s innumerous properties. These 54 targets trailblaze common pathways for multi-sectoral collaboration and offer gaps for creating new publicprivate partnerships, research, education and improved policymaking at local, national and international levels. This report provides a brief overview of industrial hemp’s versatility and lays the groundwork for multi-sectoral collaborations, discussions and policies that target specific development indicators.


To better understand the health benefits of hemp, it is important to recognize the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex nerve cell signaling system that modulates the central nervous system’s function and helps maintain homeostasis. The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has allowed researchers to investigate the effects of cannabinoids (a group of closely related compounds found in the cannabis plant) in the body. UWMadison’s School of Pharmacy leads one of the nation’s first ECS courses required by master students and offered as an elective to pharmacy students, providing new knowledge in safe and effective use of cannabinoid-containing treatments. Ending food insecurities is imperative to global health and well-being. Since the US federally legalized hemp in 2018, strides have been made to research the health benefits of consuming hemp. Findings indicate hemp can uniquely address the interconnected issues of health and hunger as hemp seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and healthful fatty acids, including omega-3s and omega-6s [11]. Their antioxidant effects also reduce symptoms of numerous ailments, improving the heart, skin and joints. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabidiol product on the market, Epidolex, with applications for specific seizure disorders; however, most research on industrial hemp has been done under preclinical conditions illustrating pharmacological properties with the potential to improve MS, epilepsy, skin disorders, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, anxiety and cancer [12]. To achieve SDG 3.b “research and development,” empirical research needs to find ways for standardizing the hemp 6

No Poverty 1.4 Equal rights to economic resources Zero Hunger 2.3 Double agriculture and land access for women, family farmers, indigenous people 2.4 Sustainable food production and agricultural practices 2.5 Maintain genetic diversity of seeds and equitable sharing of genetic resources 2.a Invest in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services 2.b Correct and prevent trade restrictions Good Health and Well-Being 3.5 Prevent and treat substance abuse 3.8 Access to safe and affordable essential medicine 3.b Research and development of medicines 3.c Increase financing and recruitment of the the health workforce Quality Education 4.4 Relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship Gender Equality 5.1 Gender equity 5.5 Political, economic, and public life 5.a Land ownership Clean Water and Sanitation 6.3 Reduce Pollution 6.4 Water-use efficiency across sectors

Decent Work and Economic Growth 8.2 Productivity through diversification 8.3 Job creation and entrepreneurship 8.5 Decent work 8.8 Safe working environments 8.9 Sustainable toursim 8.10 Strengthen domestic financial institutions Industry Innovation and Infrastructure 9.1 Sustainable infrastructure 9.2 Sustainable industrialization 9.3 Increase access to financial services 9.4 Upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries 9.b Support technology R&D

Sustainable Cities and Communities 11.a Strengthen national and regional development planning 11.b Mitigation and climate change adaption Responsible Consumption and Production 12.1 Sustainable consumption and production 12.2 Efficient use of natural resource 12.5 Reduce waste through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse 12.6 Companies adopt sustainable practices and integrate into reporting cycle 12.b Sustainable tourism Climate Action 13.2 Climate change adaptation in all policies and plans 13.3 Human and institutional capacity to mitigate climate change Life Below Water 14.1 Reduce marine pollution from land-based activities Life on Land 15.3 Restore degraded land and soil 15.5 Protect and prevent extinction of threatened species 15.6 Share benefits of genetic resources 15.9 Integrate biodiversity values into national and local planning

Source: UW-Madison Global Health Institute

Affordable and Clean Energy 7.2 Increase renewable energy 7.b Upgrade technology

Reduced Inequalities 10.1 Income growth 10.2 Social, economic and political inclusion 10.3 Eliminate discriminatory laws 10.4 Fiscal, wage and social protection policies

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions 16.3 Justice for all 16.4 Reduce illicit financial and arms flows 16.6 Develop accountable and transparent institutions at all levels 16.b Non-discriminatory laws and policies Partnerships for the Goals 17.14 Enhance policy coherence 17.16 Multi-stakeholder partnerships 17.17 Effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships


plant and subsequent products for pharmaceutical use and uniformity in experimental designs to strengthen the premise of using hemp as medicine. As hemp is highly varied in both cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid contents, focused selection on hemp strains and growing conditions is needed for biomedical research. Access to the cannabis plant for medicinal purposes is a human right defined in SDG 3.8 “access to safe and affordable essential medicine.” At the beginning of COVID-19, many state and city governments in the U.S. deemed marijuana businesses “essential” allowing patients to continue receiving treatment. Since the plant can be grown in nearly any environment, it provides equitable opportunities for patients and consumers to grow their own medicine; and in the US, 17 states allow consumers to grow marijuana at home. SDG 3.5: “prevent and treat substance abuse” further supports the need for increased marijuana and hemp research as cannabis offers alternative usages to opioid treatments, alcohol and other addictive substances with lower overdose and addiction concerns. One study found 41 percent of participants use marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, 36 percent use marijuana as a substitute for illicit substances, and 67 percent use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs [8]. An unintended consequence of increased access to hemp and marijuana is the possibility of cannabis abuse disorder, impaired cognitive functioning and unknown interactions with other medications. Researchers at Harvard University’s Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program are using neuroimaging to understand 7

cannabis effects on the human brain and conducting a longitudinal study of patients using medical marijuana [13]. The MIND program has found medical marijuana patients performed better on cognitive functioning tests and report using less conventional medication and improved sleep, energy and mood. Several universities are investigating cannabinoid-based treatment of COVID-19 symptoms, showing as much as one-third of proposed cannabinoid-containing formulations lower the body’s natural immune responses while still maintaining proper cytokine levels to continue managing infection. Additionally, two hemp compounds–CBDa and CBG–stopped COVID-19 from entering human cells by binding to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein which is a critical step in preventing infection [14]. Hemp’s ability to heal our human and planetary health is evident in existing research. Targets in SDG 2 “No Hunger” and SDG 3 “Good Health and Well Being” highlight areas of opportunity for herbal development while positively advancing solutions for equity, climate change, sustainable infrastructure and responsible consumption.


Harvesting hemp offers an alternative to fossil fuels, concrete and fiber, improving biodiversity of ecosystems around the world. Hemp can be cultivated in practically every environment without artificial fertilizer and less than a third of water needed to produce cotton [15]. Local cultivation and processing results in less exportation emissions and hemp’s lightweight material lessens its carbon footprint during transportation. Industrializing hemp has downstream benefits on the supply chain catalyzing local cultivation, shortening distances between producers and igniting rural economies. Though greater infrastructure is needed to scale a hemp economy, industrial hemp offers sustainable options for renewable energy, paper, fiber, concrete, plastics and more [16]. Hempcrete–a bio-composite material mixing hemp hurds, lime or sand–is being used as organic building materials around the world, especially in France and Canada. Hemp concrete improves the efficiency of climate-controlled buildings acting as an insulator with low density and thermal conductivity, acoustic insulation, moisture buffering and is carbon negative [17]. Different parts of the hemp plant can be industrialized to produce energy products, leveraging hemp’s wheat for ethanol, rapeseed for biodiesel, and biomass for electricity and vehicle fuel. In addition to producing carbon negative goods, hemp captures 22 tons of CO2 per hectare which is more than forests or other commercial crops [18]. Hemp is a regenerative crop rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil and supporting SDG 15.3: “restore degraded soil and land”. Strains of hemp are bred specifically for phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to remove pollutants from soil, water, or air [19]. Advancing SDG 6.3: “reduce pollution”, hemp’s deep roots penetrate the soil, absorbing heavy metals like nickel and lead, making it a regenerative cleanup crop that can be grown alongside hazardous materials while simultaneously capturing carbon from the air. Being an exclusively wind-pollinated plant, hemp allows for an abundance of pollen production which in turn creates an attractive ecosystem for a wide range of bee species crucial to sustainable agriculture [20]. While hemp does not produce nectar, the pollen rich flowers make hemp an ecologically valuable crop yielding three times more metric tons than cotton while addressing SDG 15.3: “retore life on land” [21].


The global textile industry is one of the highest polluting industries in the world offering a unique opportunity for


hemp to replace cotton–the primary fiber found in today’s clothing. While hemp and cotton have similar properties, hemp seeds cost less and do not require as much water, fertilizer or pesticides resulting in a 77 percent decrease in agriculture production costs advancing SDG 6.3: “reduce pollution”, SDG 6.4: “water-use efficiency across sectors”, and SDG 14.1: “reduce marine pollution from land-based activities” [21]. Due to barriers in the industrial process of the production of full hemp-based textile, hemp has been mostly blended with cotton and synthetic fibers. Cotton has economies of scale, enabling high productivity rate. Hemp fiber extraction has long processing lines related to a high investment cost, with low mass flows and well-known operational problems [21]. Lack of technology specifically catered towards hemp fiber processing creates a labor heavy supply chain. Machinery for the extraction of hemp fiber requires specific machinery that is still evolving to enable efficient and less laborintensive fiber extraction [21]. Research is needed to improve the efficiency of fiber extraction processes and better understand the related social, economic and environmental impacts on the supply chain. Targets identified in SDG 12, catalyze sustainable production practices (SDG 12.1) requiring companies to adopt such policies (SDG 12.6) and reduce waste (SDG 12.5). Hemp provides a clear pathway for building a greener economy and SDG targets 9.4: upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries, and 9.b: requires supporting technologies for research and development. Policymakers, academia and corporate partners must work together and innovate new technology for supporting hemp industrialization. A UW-Madison study surveyed hemp stakeholders across the U.S. on research gaps and infrastructure support. Results indicated that marketing and economics of hemp is the highest priority. Accessible education and connections to the supply chain, such as producers, processors, regulators, consumers, and lawmakers was also highlighted. Respondents said postharvest considerations, disease management, plant breeding, seed considerations, flower quality, hemp markets and economics and regulatory issues to be extremely important areas of research. These stakeholders highlighted extreme challenges in market access, risk management, financing or banking, lack of reliable and available information and high production costs. Additional challenges included finding buyers, building trust, inconsistency in laws, weather and lack of processors, unstable genetics, cross pollination, community education, theft, harvest, insurance availability and organic certification [22]. Market demand is critical to scaling industrial hemp and reducing inequities across the supply chain. Legalization of marijuana, along with the education of the cannabis, will improve the image of industrial hemp as the public becomes educated about the differences between the two. Considering the consumer demand for industrial hemp products, public image plays an important role in market demand [23].


From jobs to tax revenue to commercial real estate, hemp industrialization has a large and growing impact on the broader economy. Industrialization’s early stage affords a fresh opportunity to anchor equity and establish structures for improving social, economic and health gaps locally and globally. SDG 10 “Reduced Inequities” creates a powerful framework for mobilizing resources and developing hemp’s infrastructure to advance equality. Targets 10.1: income growth; 10.2: social, economic and political inclusion; SDG 10.3: eliminate discriminatory laws and 10.4: fiscal, wage and social protection, provide guidelines for catalyzing hemp’s capacity to bridge equity gaps and integrate holistic solutions in policies, plans and multi-sectoral collaborations.


As hemp thrives in many types of soil and environmental conditions, it is a viable crop around the world igniting new jobs and innovation while simultaneously improving food, gender and health inequities. Access to land (SDG 2.3), maintaining genetic seed diversity and equitable sharing of resources (SDG 2.5), investing in rural agriculture (SDG 2.a) correcting restrictive trade policies (SDG 2.b) and gender equity (SDG 5.1) illustrate unique pathways for utilizing hemp to advance positive change. In the U.S., more people are arrested for cannabis possession than any other offense. Black people are 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession [24]. In some counties, the ACLU reports Black residents are up to 50 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white residents [25]. Negative consequences of low-level offenses are well documented, leading to difficulties achieving SDG targets 1.4: equal rights to economic resources and 16.3: justice for all. Federalization of hemp and more lenient laws for marijuana-related offenses (SDG 16.b: non-discriminatory laws and policies) close equity gaps and foster social, environmental and economic development opportunities. In March 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE Act) that removes marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and adds a federal tax on cannabis products. It also establishes a process to expunge convictions and review sentences for past federal cannabis convictions [26]. Though unlikely to pass the Senate, decriminalization reforms with similar components to the MORE Act are being implemented at state and local levels through social equity programs intended to ignite social and economic development for communities of color negatively impacted by the war on drugs [24]. As states launch their equity programs, they often fail to provide transparency to applicants and do not include holistic resources to address the consequences of prohibition towards black entrepreneurs [24]. These equity programs can be improved by integrating SDG targets 4.4: relevant skills for employment and entrepreneurship; 4.5: decent work; 8.3: job creation and entrepreneurship 11.a: strengthen national and regional development planning, and SDG 16.6: develop accountable and transparent institutions at all levels. Although industrial hemp is federally legal in the U.S., most major corporations, banks and credit unions refuse to engage with the plant due to unclear banking regulations and tax implications. SDG 9.3 “increase access to financial services” clearly defines the need for ensuring measures are in place to launch the legal hemp industry. Funding for industrial hemp and business start-up costs come primarily from private investors, corporate finance or personal debt. Small business loans and other financial aid is unavailable, illustrating unintended consequences of patchwork regulation and need for holistic development plans that include SDG 8.10: strengthen domestic financial institutions and 10.4: fiscal, wage and social protection policies. Available funding from government entities is growing and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing in hemp innovation to advance sustainable development. In 2021, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency within USDA, announced grants to support hemp projects related to research, education and extension with the goal of achieving SDG 2.a: empowering rural economies [27]. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), established through bipartisan congressional support, builds unique partnerships to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population [28]. In March 2022, FFAR committed $2.5 million dollars to establish the Hemp Research Consortium which “brings together research-intensive and land grant universities with industry participants to advance science supporting a sustainable hemp industry”. As a


leading research institution and land grant university, UW-Madison is uniquely poised to build upon such efforts and positively influence the SDGs in Wisconsin, nationally and internationally.


The 54 SDG targets identified in Figure 1 maximize hemp’s innumerable planetary health benefits and should be used to develop synergies across sectors and improve strategic action plans. Countries and US states leading hemp industrialization must share their knowledge with the world and academia needs to rapidly bridge knowledge gaps equipping a new generation of leaders and breaking down silos. SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals” provides a roadmap for unleashing hemp’s potential and targets SDG 17.14: enhance policy cohesion, SDG 17.16: multi-stakeholder partnerships, and SDG 17.17: effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, illustrate pathways for scaling hemp industrialization. The industrial hemp and cannabis industry should anchor the 54 SDG targets into their business plans and leverage its nascent status to shape multisectoral collaborations and drive sustainability. Hemp is having a new moment and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals clearly demonstrate the cannabis plant’s full versatility to address all 17 goals. Wisconsin’s history industrializing hemp, coupled with UWMadison’s expertise, must lead innovative new development and curriculum to meet the moment and improve our collective health. UW-Madison’s Global Health Institute is naturally positioned to advance strategic partnerships, research, education and evidence-based policy across disciplines and catalyze sustainable development through hemp in Wisconsin and around the globe. Innovative research, outreach and education on hemp’s versatility is already underway at UWMadison and the 54 related SDG targets provide areas for catalyzing innovation and new partnerships to improve health, climate change and sustainable development. Opportunities to consider for future partnership at UW-Madison include but are not limited to: • Establish a multi-disciplinary cannabis initiative or think tank to increase awareness, exchange knowledge, identify synergies and close gaps in research, education and policies. • Develop a series of educational webinars for Wisconsin and global policymakers to improve understanding of the endocannabinoid system and industrial hemp’s capacity to advance the SDGs in local to global communities. • Author multi-disciplinary grant proposals with campus and non-campus partners to create strategic alliances with government entities investing in hemp innovation, such as NIFA, as well as foundation and corporations strategically aligned with cannabis or SDG research. • Create partnerships with universities leading hemp and marijuana research. Host scholarly exchanges with universities conducting hemp research in different growing conditions and legal regulations to share lessons learned about genetics, agriculture best practices and social, economic and governmental implications. • The School of Pharmacy requires master’s degree candidates to complete coursework in safe and effective use of cannabinoid-containing treatments, the first of its kind for pharmacy programs worldwide. Additional research is needed to investigate available curriculum on hemp and marijuana across universities and medical schools. • Increase campus and community understanding of marijuana and industrial hemp products and processes


through public engagement workshops, such as the Hemp by Hand series led by the Department of Horticulture, College of Agriculture Life Sciences [29]. Include the College of Engineering to advance solutions for retrofitting hemp’s infrastructure needs to scale hemp paper, hemp textiles and hempcrete.

Academia is critical to addressing hemp’s research and education gaps, equipping a new generation of future leaders.

• Identify and advance synergies with the Hemp Research Consortium dedicated to convening research-intensive and land grant universities with industry participants to advance science supporting a sustainable hemp industry. • Attend events at the United Nations to raise visibility of cannabis-related targets and improve multi-stakeholder engagement, policymaking and education. • Partner with UW Integrative Health Consult Clinic to advance medical professional and patient knowledge, and incorporate lessons learned into group medical visits for chronic pain and insomnia.


This report is generously funded by the Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Reiley Endowment. The author would like to thank the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute, Global Health Certificate Course 500 “Global Health and Communities” and esteemed grant partners for generously sharing their knowledge and resources. Noah Cook, GHI research assistant, thank you for your hard work advancing this research and supporting the grant project.


[1] United Nations. (n.d.). The 17 goals | sustainable development. United Nations. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from [2] Industrial hemp factsheet - vote hemp. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https:// PHOTOS BY SHELBY ELLISON

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