For some time now it has been keeping Almere busy; where does that strong smell of weed come from that you can smell in the vicinity of the Stichtse bridge. Not only cyclists and walkers talk about it, but motorists on the A27 also smell it.
Omroep Flevoland discovered that the weed smell is caused by a large hemp field with thousands of plants. The 30 hectare field (that’s about 60 soccer fields) is located just along the A27 and is owned by grower Frank Franzen from Zuid-Holland.
No beneficial substances
The hemp plants that grow here are not meant for the coffee shop, but are grown for the fibres. They do spread the well-known weed odour, but there is no THC in the plants. That’s the active ingredient in cannabis that gets you high. According to Franzen it makes no sense to smoke this hemp: “If you start smoking this, the effect is the same as when you smoke a chestnut leaf, at most it makes you nauseous”.
The plants and leaves are used for very different things. Together with other residual products, Franzen wants to turn it into chipboard, among other things. Trees are still being cut down for this building material and, according to the grower, this should be possible in a more sustainable way.
More and more hemp farmers
Since the beginning of this century, hemp fibre has been on the rise in the Netherlands. In total there are about 2500 hectares of the plant. In Germany and France this has already risen to 10,000 hectares. Grower Frank Franzen has chosen to plant the hemp fibre in Almere, because according to him, Flevoland is open to innovative ideas.
There are also a lot of large hemp fields in eastern Groningen. For a long time, Oude Pekela had the only two companies involved in industrial hemp cultivation, but that number has increased considerably in recent years.
The car industry in particular uses the fibres to reinforce plastic door panels and dashboards in their cars. The hemp fibre is lighter and as strong as the synthetic alternative, fibreglass. But hemp fibre is also used in animal feed, for example, and nowadays there are even reusable hemp mouth caps.
Local residents in Almere react differently to the presence of the hemp field. “When the wind is wrong, it is an unpleasant air, which is not pleasant when sitting outside. Sometimes you smell this, sometimes you smell that, but I hope it’s a one-off,” says a local resident.
In two weeks time the hemp will be uprooted and next year potatoes or onions will be planted in the field again.