Hemp - Background and Regulations
Hemp is an ancient crop, important for both food and fiber 10,000 years ago. It used to be widely cultivated in the U.S., even by our founding fathers. During World War II, the U.S. government encouraged farmers to grow hemp to produce rope and canvas for the war effort. But cannabis in all forms, including harmless hemp, was made illegal in the U.S. under 1970’s Controlled Substances Act).
Hemp is used to make a variety of consumer and commercial goods including beauty products, apparel, food, car dashboards, and building materials. Hemp can grow nearly anywhere in the world, in many types of soil — even in short growing seasons or in dry regions — and helps purify soil as well as kill some types of weeds. Hemp is also high-yield crop: one acre of hemp produces twice as much oil as one acre of peanuts, and nearly four times as much fiber pulp (for paper) as an acre of trees. Hemp has the strongest (and longest) plant fiber in the world, resistant to rot and abrasion, and was in long use before DuPont patented nylon in 1937. It was used for ship rigging, military uniforms, parachute webbing, baggage and more. A hemp composite material (with limestone and water) forms a type of concrete (hempcrete) that can be used for home building, at 1/9th the weight. It also acts as insulation and repels some vermin. In 2012, the U.S. hemp industry was valued at an estimated $500 million in annual retail sales and growing for all hemp products; in 2017, that number was $820 million. With the monumental shift in the law, hemp production and consumption is expected to rise into the billions over the next few years.
Hemp is a historically important plant which has a myriad of uses ranging from fiber and fiber products to human consumables such as flours, oils and meals. A new use of high interest and demand is for cannabinoids (CBDs). The plant produces over 100 different CBD compounds, loosely called CBD oil, which are reported to have wide-ranging human and animal health benefits. Much of the interest in growing hemp locally and across the U.S. is for CBD oil.
The best source of CBD oil is organically grown, high-resin, CBD-rich cannabis not low-resin industrial hemp because the more resin in the plant, the more CBD there is to extract.
Jeff Lake, who works with a company that partakes in Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program, told the panel of Texas lawmakers in April 2019 that his company, Elemental Processing, pays from $3,000 to $5,000, plus a bonus, for an acre of hemp, compared with $350 to $400 for an acre of corn in a good year.
Considered a low-maintenance crop, hemp plants typically reach between 6 to 15 feet in height. Depending on the purpose, variety and climatic conditions, the period between planting and harvesting ranges from 70 to 140 days. One acre of hemp can yield an average of 700 pounds of grain, which in turn can be pressed into about 22 gallons of oil and 530 pounds of meal. The same acre will also produce an average of 5,300 pounds of straw, which can be transformed into approximately 1,300 pounds of fiber.
As one hemp young plant grower stated: “Farmers now have a choice, grow corn at $1,000 an acre or hemp at $10,000 an acre.”
Oregon authorized hemp cultivation in 2009, but the state’s Department of Agriculture didn’t license the first hemp growers until 2015. Since that time, the Oregon hemp market (thanks to CBD) has exploded. In its purified distilled form, CBD oil can fetch thousands of dollars per kilo. In the first year (2015) that Oregon offered hemp licenses, only 12 were issued. In 2017, Oregon issued:
- 233 hemp growers licenses
- 170 licensed hemp processors, called “handlers”
- 119 licensed producers of viable hemp seeds
- Over 3,500 land acres were licensed for cultivation.
Few comprehensive production resources are available.
At least six states - Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey and Oklahoma - enacted legislation in 2018 establishing hemp research and industrial hemp pilot programs.
There are 33 states with laws regulating Hemp including: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
There are 24 states that have defined industrial hemp as distinct from other strains of cannabis and removed barriers to its production.
As of early 2017, 14 of these regulated 33 states legally produce hemp seeds. The federal designation indicated hemp could be grown for industrial or academic applications. These 14 states (CA, CO, IN, KY, MA, MO, ND, OR, SC, TN, VT, VA, NC and WV) are producing hemp seeds for industrial use. While regulations and agricultural standards are still developing in America, European sourced is still the ideal choice for the consumers.
In 2017, 19 states grew a total of 25,713 acres of hemp in the U.S. However, laws vary greatly even among hemp growing states.