Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that is grown for industrial purpose. The emphasis here is placed on industrial. Unlike marijuana, a cannabis plant used for recreational and medical purposes, hemp has many—you got it—industrial uses, including paper, textiles, plastics, construction, food, and fuel.
Hemp also contains low levels of THC, the infamous psychoactive compound. Instead, hemp is bred to have high levels of CBD, a legal and non-intoxicating compound. Many people take hemp-derived CBD oil as a daily supplement to support a balanced endocannabinoid system and to target specific concerns without a high.
To better understand the versatility of the hemp plant, let’s dive into the basics of hemp: how it’s grown, where it comes from, and how it’s used.
Growing industrial hemp
Hemp appeals to farmers because it grows rapidly (maturing in 8-12 weeks), calls for less water than other crops, and does not require pesticides. This renewable source also receives praise for its benefit to the environment. Hemp draws in CO2, prevents soil erosion, and provides nutrients to the soil after harvest.
Additionally, hemp is a bio-accumulator, meaning it pulls substances from the soil. This gives hemp the unique ability to detoxify soil, which has been taken advantage of in areas such as Chernobyl, where agricultural land was contaminated by a nuclear disaster.
Where does hemp come from?
Hemp can be grown in most of the world and hemp companies source from different locations.
For many years, Europe has been considered the leader in hemp production. Many European countries lifted the bans on hemp production in the 1990s, which has provided farmers with decades of experience growing hemp. This experience has equipped farmers with the knowledge of best practices and, as a result, Europe has set the standard for hemp quality. Still today, many reputable manufacturers source exclusively from European countries due to the quality of the product.
Why not source domestically?
For a time, hemp was only legal in the United States if it was imported. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which made it illegal to grow hemp in the United States. However, hemp could be imported from other countries, provided it contained less than 0.3% THC. This prohibition marred the industrial uses of hemp and made hemp legally unidentifiable from marijuana.
This changed when the 2014 Farm Bill was passed.
About every five years a farm bill is passed to create and reauthorize federal programs. In 2014, the farm bill included an amendment that permitted states to pass industrial hemp pilot programs and research.
The amendment defines industrial hemp as separate from marijuana if it produces a product with less than 0.3% THC. It also gives institutions of higher education and state departments of agriculture the authorization to regulate and conduct hemp research and pilot programs, if it is in a state that has legalized hemp cultivation.
Currently, at least 27 states have laws that allow for the creation of industrial hemp research or pilot programs. Of those 27, nearly 20 states allow hemp production for commercial purposes. This means hemp can be sourced by manufacturers for commercial use from these states.
The 2014 Farm Bill made it legal for manufacturers to source hemp-derived CBD from the United States. The passing of this amendment has, and continues to, benefit U.S. farmers and businesses.
Since 2014, United States hemp production has begun to flourish. Now in 2018, U.S. farmers have had several years to acclimate to the crop. As the quality of domestic hemp increases, we are finding more manufacturers moving toward domestic sourcing. Over the next decade, we predict that the United States will become a leader in hemp production.
Application of Hemp
Hemp also contains active compounds called cannabinoids, such as CBD. In the past several years, there has been an influx of personal testimonies and research promoting the benefits of CBD. With this information, we are learning that hemp is even more than its industrial application.
The versatility of hemp has been recognized for centuries. For a period, the benefit of hemp was overshadowed by marijuana. In the past decade, however, there has been a resurgence in the hemp industry as the stigma of cannabis begins to dissolve. As the recognition of hemp expands, we expect to see an increase in the application and research of hemp.