PULLMAN, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee was in Pullman to learn how hemp may play a big role in addressing Washington's housing crisis.
The governor got a first look at what could become building blocks to the future of green living: fiber hemp.
Advocates like Bio Fiber Industries Founder Ashley Stallworth say it could be the answer to problems plaguing Washington homes.
"We can get that thermal barrier for the house frame up in a matter of days, not weeks, right?" Stallworth said. "When it comes to mold, water damage, as well as the shortage on housing."
Stallworth says it can be made into flooring, plaster, even walls. It's also fireproof. Researchers believe fiber hemp could take over as a top building material, replacing plastics or cement.
"This is a non-toxic material, right?" Stallworth said. "A lot of those materials that you just listed give off VOCs or volatile materials that can literally hurt humans."
Friday's pitch to Gov. Inslee from Snohomish-based Bio Fiber Industries and staff with WSU's Cannabis Policy Research and Outreach Program was that Washington should invest in this growing industry.
"It used to sound like something hippie-dippie, right?" Stallworth said. "Like, people didn't really think this would be a thing."
WSU Professor David Gang says the technology is already there.
"Four years ago, there was one processor in the whole United States for fiber hemp that was just getting themselves up and running," Gang said. "Now, there's about 20. None of them are in our state."
Gang says Washington is actually an optimal growing location and could become the nation's leader in fiber hemp within a few years with Inslee's support.
"These could be something we could get started in the next 2-3 years, literally have homes built and have people in them," Gang said.
"We oughta be willing to take a lot more risks in development of this industry and every other clean energy industry than we were in a new type of consumer product because we have to solve this problem," Inslee said. "So, we as a state oughta be willing to take more risks on new technologies and new products, this amongst them. That's how I look at this."
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