Growing Industrial Hemp: Laws, Benefits, and Risks

Growing Industrial Hemp: Laws, Benefits, and Risks

Industrial hemp is not marijuana. Even though medical marijuana, CBD oil, and hemp are in the news daily, it is important to make the distinction between the two. Both hemp and marijuana are from the same cannabis plant family. Industrial hemp and marijuana look very similar, which is why some people get confused. However, industrial hemp, as it is referred to in the cannabis industry, does not contain the psychoactive compound, THC. Strictly speaking, it contains less than 0.2%, which will not get you “high.” We take a look at what industrial hemp is used for and what are the laws, benefits, and risks around growing hemp.

What is industrial hemp used for?

There are literally thousands of potential uses for the hemp plant. It is one of the oldest crops known to man. People used hemp in the past to make fabric, ropes, even paper. Unfortunately, this changed when the Marijuana Tax Act passed in 1937. This strictly regulated the cultivation and sale of all types of the cannabis plant family. Further restrictions came in 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act categorized all forms of cannabis, hemp included, as a Schedule I drug. This made it illegal to grow hemp in the United States. However, the 2018 Farm Bill has changed the laws surrounding hemp once more. 

The legalization of industrial hemp

According to the Cannabis Industry Journal, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 ( known as the Farm Bill) “legalized the growth, sales, and transportation of industrial hemp across state lines.” However, as with medical marijuana, the laws are not always clear, and there are potential conflicts between the federal law and individual state laws. Farmers who want to rush out and add industrial hemp to their crop rotation will need to research all the laws before they plant their first seeds.

Industrial hemp: what are the benefits?

It is not often that a “new” crop comes along that has the potential to generate large profits for farmers. Estimates show that the total retail value of hemp products in the U.S. in 2017 was $820 million. This includes food and body products, clothing, auto parts, building materials, and other products. The hemp that is referred to in these statistics is hemp grown in countries outside the United States. It is understandable, therefore, why cannabis business owners and farmers are excited by the income potential from growing industrial hemp. 

The uses for industrial hemp

Besides the usual uses of the hemp plant for textiles, there are many other uses for hemp and its seeds. These include:

  • Medicines, including CBD products
  • Food and body products
  • Sustainable construction material
  • Biodegradable bio-plastics
  • Biofuels

Growing industrial hemp: what are the risks?

Even though the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp cultivation at a Federal level, farmers are not free to grow hemp whenever and wherever they want. There are many restrictions and contradictions depending on where you intend to grow the crop. Furthermore, this is a new market and while financial market profit reports on the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry may lure farmers in, the consumer base for all these hemp products is still uncertain. So the gains may be great, but so are the risks

How do you get a license to grow industrial hemp?

Growing industrial hemp is legal at the federal level. However, at the state level, each state is still working on legislation to establish industrial hemp cultivation and production programs. If you plan on growing industrial hemp, you will need to abide by the hemp laws by state. You will need to be licensed according to the rules and regulations of the state in which you plan to grow the crops. 

There is still a lot of doubt surrounding the growth and sales of industrial hemp. However, growing hemp offers farmers and cannabis entrepreneurs the opportunity to get involved in a business that is forecast to be insanely profitable for many. Opportunities like this don’t come around too often. 

Have you started, or are you planning, to grow industrial hemp? What are your thoughts about the benefits and risks for those who are just starting out in this business? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.


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