PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- As Arizona farmers begin growing hemp for the first time, a Phoenix business owner hopes the crop will transform the state’s construction industry.

Hemp is a cannabis cousin of marijuana but contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive compound THC.

The state started allowing licensed farmers to plant hemp June 1.

[WATCH: Is hempcrete the next big thing for building homes in AZ?]

Chris Martin of Hempful Farms predicts much of the state’s initial hemp crop will get used for the exploding CBD supplement market.

He hopes the new growing acceptance of the plant will lead to broader adoption of it as an environmentally friendly construction material.

“I think everyone's learning the health side and the supplement side. The construction side is the side that's new to everyone. If I even mention replacing drywall with hemp I get ten people's heads to snap around,” he said.

Martin hosts workshops on building with “hempcrete” with John Patterson of Tiny Hemp Houses in Colorado.

“It’s not a replacement for concrete but what it does replace is the drywall, insulation, exterior boarding, house wrap, siding, caulk,” said Patterson.

[RELATED: Legal hemp production starts Friday in AZ; farmer says it's the future]

Patterson said Hemp is healthier than synthetic materials, fire resistant, and more sustainable than materials like wood. Unlike trees that take years to mature, hemp can harvest after four months.

It’s a particularly good form of insulation, he said.

“The Hempcrete material actually is able to absorb moisture, and it takes heat with it at the same time. That's one of the reasons it's so good at regulating both temperature and humidity,” he said.

While hempcrete is common in Europe, it’s been used in only a few dozen homes in the U.S., Patterson said.

Right now, Patterson estimates hempcrete costs 10 to 15 % more than other green building materials, but as more U.S. farmers grow hemp, he’s optimistic the price will drop.


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