HEMP – THE BILLION DOLLAR CROP
All this buzz about CBD and hemp in the news is exciting for folks in the industry, but potentially confusing for those who aren’t in-the-know. One of the most common questions we get is also one of the most basic: what is industrial hemp?
Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products.
Hemp can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed. Hemp has been grown and harvested by humans for millennia. In fact, there’s ample evidence that hemp was the first crop.
What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Although marijuana as a drug and industrial hemp are both derived from the same species of Cannabis sativa plant and contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they are distinct strains with unique compositions and uses.
Industrial hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which decreases or eliminates the psychoactive effects of the THC. In short, hemp does not create the “high” associated with marijuana.
Right now, CBD is what has people asking about industrial hemp. CBD is a cannabinoid found in hemp that has potentially numerous therapeutic benefits.
Hemp seeds, aside from being planted to grow hemp, are also a rich protein source and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. You’ve probably started to notice more hemp-related products on the shelf at your local grocery store; if you haven’t yet, you will soon!
Hemp & the 2018 Farm Bill
You may be wondering why hemp just now seems to be everywhere. The reason is that hemp cultivation was mostly illegal in the US for the past few decades, until the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Hemp, previously listed as a Schedule I narcotic, was reclassified and taken off the list of prohibited drugs. It’s now a legal agricultural product, and large-scale organic, wholsesale production has skyrocketed across the United States.
In 2018, there were about 78,000 acres of industrial hemp grown in the US. The 2019 number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 285,000, a nearly four-fold increase in a single year. As more farmers devote larger acreage to hemp – not just for CBD, but for fiber, grain, and seed – experts predict these numbers to continue to climb!
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