The United States remains the only industrialized nation in the world that does not permit hemp production despite its 5,000 year global history of cultivation and use. While over 30 countries produce industrial hemp today, commercial production remains banned at the federal level. We have begun to see law changes that will help accelerate a change; it is simply a matter of time before this ban is lifted. With over 50,000 uses, this versatile plant provides immense opportunity due to its potential for significant industrial disruption.President Obama’s signing of the Farm Bill on February 7th, 2014 allowed state universities and state departments to implement research and pilot programs for industrial hemp. Since then, 34 states have passed industrial hemp laws with 19 of those allowing for commercial production on US soil once again. The Farm Bill permits pilot programs to “study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp” if done properly and lawfully under the laws of the State. The legal definition of industrial hemp is ‘Cannabis sativa and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.’
The Farm Bill thus allows states to implement research programs for hemp use in industrial settings as long as the plant’s THC content is less than 0.3 percent.Section 7606 of the Farm Bill reads:An institution of higher education or a State department of agriculture may grow or cultivate industrial hemp if:
As required by the bill, all states that have implemented a pilot program have very strict regulations that include different licensing, registration and permitting procedures on the state level. Additionally, anyone conducting a research or pilot program must also register with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and agree to random inspections and testing of their product. Those who comply are setting the foundation for an American industrial hemp revolution.The number of licensed hemp producers in the top ten hemp producing states increased from 609 in 2016 to 1,211 in 2017. The resultant impact on acreage over the same time-frame was 250% growth from 16,000 acres of production in 2016 to 40,000 in 2017. The number of hemp producers in Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont more than tripled in 2017 while Minnesota, New York and North Dakota saw growth of 533%, 425% and 600% respectively.
Food: Hemp seeds are an excellent source of fiber, iron, potassium, zinc, amino acids and essential fatty acids for humans. Healthy proteins are also excellent for cats, dogs, pigs, cows and horses. Hemp milk is nutritious and causes no known allergies, while hemp tea can help with insomnia, anxiety, stress and chronic pain.Personal Care: Hemp-oil is non-toxic and is effectively used in candles, paint, body oil, cooking oil and other essential oils. With a fatty acid profile better than that of flaxseed and fish oil, hempoil is excellent for promoting skin elasticity and hair sheen and strength.Plastics: Plastics made from hemp are bio-degradable and can have a positive net impact on landfills. Hemp cellulose extract is used to make cellophane, rayon, celluloid and a range of related plastics. Due to their high strength, hemp composite bioplastics are currently used in products ranging from cars and boats to blenders and laptops.Paper: Paper made from hemp is more economical with a large environmental impact due to the reduction of cotton – the ‘world’s dirtiest crop‘, grown on 2.4% of global agricultural land yet user of 24% of global insecticides. An acre of hemp provides more paper than 4.1 acres of cotton; the word ‘canvas’ is itself a derivative of the word ‘cannabis’.Textiles: Textiles made from hemp are durable, versatile and biodegradable. Hemp fibers are also more resistant to weather and ultraviolet rays than cotton and silk, and can be mixed with other materials to create clothing hybrids that are both comfortable and fashionableConstruction Materials: A single residence can save 5,000-10,000 lbs of CO2 emissions using hempcrete instead of cement. Hempcrete is strong, lightweight, breathable, non-toxic, energy efficient and provides excellent insulation while being water and flame resistant.Hemp-derived CBD Products: US CBD sales alone are projected to reach $2.1 billion by 2020. This segment will continue to grow as consumers better understand and experience the benefits of CBD, much of which is derived from hemp.What can Hemp not do? While hemp has over 50,000 uses in our society, one thing it simply cannot do is get you ‘high’. That is a role only played by the cannabinoid THC in the cannabis plant.We are witnessing the very beginnings of what is destined to become a multi-billion dollar market. The implications that industrial hemp use has on so many aspects of our lives are best understood in the context of the combined industrial-governmental influence that has kept it out of American society despite a 175 year period (1631-1800s) of the government accepting tax payments in the form of hemp. The hemp market may well exceed the cannabis market as regulation, information and transparency work to drive greater adoption. Investors and entrepreneurs alike are well-served to pay attention to this opportunity.