A Minnesota tribe is constructing a campus to manufacture hempcrete, which, once complete, will grow hemp, process plants into the building material, and then build houses with it, according to a Grist report. The 20,000-square-foot complex is being built on the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation in southwestern Minnesota.

The campus will be the first of its kind in the nation: currently no facility in the U.S. is a vertically integrated hempcrete facility – meaning a site that grows the plants, processes them into the building material, and completes the construction, the report says.

The tribe is facing a housing crisis, with about half of the 1,124 enrolled tribal members in need of homes. Robert “Deuce” Larsen, the tribal council president, told Grist that “The idea of making homes that would last and be healthy was a no-brainer” but that the tribe “need to build capacity in the community and show that it can be an income stream.”

So far, the tribe has constructed two prototypes that are nearly completed. The tribal council used loans, government grants, and tribal funds to raise more than $6 million to build the processing campus and the two prototypes.

Jody McGuinness, executive director of the U.S. Hemp Building Association, called the project “fantastic,” adding that she is unaware “of any other fully integrated project like this domestically.”

The possible industrial applications for hemp, including for use in construction, have long been touted by Cannabis advocates as one of the long-term benefits of legalizing the plant, and prior to its criminalization, hemp had been used widely for ropes and fiber. While over the past few years the hemp industry has been focused mostly on extracting cannabinoids, projects such as this hempcrete campus could help mainstream industries recognize the plant’s potential.

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