Hemp is poised to become an agricultural crop this year. It may not only offer more revenue for the agricultural industry in the U.S., but also open the doors for more research and refinement of high-quality CBD oil for those looking for more natural and safe alternatives to traditional medicine.
Hemp farming has long been grown and used to create a variety of different products for centuries. In fact, it's one of the oldest known domesticated crops and has long been used to make items like textiles and paper.
Over the past few years, hemp has also been used to extract CBD (cannabidiol), a potent cannabinoid found in the hemp plant that has been shown to provide a host of different medical benefits. Plenty of studies have already shown that CBD products have incredible healing properties, nevertheless, the research continues.
But even though hemp seed has a long history of use and cultivation in the U.S., it has been illegal to grow the plant for commercial purposes for nearly five decades since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was enacted. This act classified hemp as a Schedule I drug, which made it illegal to grow it in the U.S.
That said, the 2014 Farm Bill or Agricultural Act introduced during the Obama era has allowed hemp products to be legally cultivated across the country.
Since the bill was passed, dozens of states have approved laws that allow the legal cultivation of industrial hemp, and some have even passed laws that permit commercial production of hemp, which has been hugely advantageous for farmers who grow industrial hemp. Given the growing legality of hemp for commercial cultivation, growers are hopeful that hemp just may be the next major crop.
And given the plentiful benefits that hemp-derived CBD has in the medical field, millions of Americans stand to benefit from the increased growth of hemp.
What is Hemp?
Cannabis is often thought of as being a plant with psychoactive properties, which is what gets users stoned when they consume it. Cannabis, however, comes in a variety of types. Hemp is one such variety and specifically comes from the Cannabis sativa L plant. It does not have any psychoactive properties because it is usually void of THC, or at least has an extremely small traceable amount (0.03% or less).
Although hemp and marijuana stem from the same species of the cannabis plant, they are different in terms of how they are used, their chemical makeup and how they are grown.
Why is Hemp an Attractive Crop to Cultivate?
Farmers like the idea of growing hemp for a number of reasons. Hemp is a great rotation crop and as it grows, it breathes in carbon dioxide, purifies the soil, eliminates soil toxins and helps hinder erosion of soil. Once the harvest is cultivated, it breaks down and provides rich soil nutrients.
Hemp also does not need as much water or any pesticides to grow into healthy crops. This cuts down on labor and money, and is much safer for the environment. It may just be the fact that hemp requires such little water to grow and thrive that excites hemp farmers the most. Hemp plants can grow as high as 20 feet in three months without the need for much water, which is especially beneficial for drought-prone areas.
Is Hemp The Next Major Crop Among US Farmers?
After decades of cannabis and all variations of the plant being illegal to grow across the country, the stigma attached to cannabis that includes non-psychoactive variations like hemp continues. This long-term ban on the plant has caused people to forget about the industrial uses of hemp that it had for centuries.
That said, the 2014 Farm Bill that has permitted states to pass their own legislation regarding industrial hemp growth for research--this has given hemp a new breath of life. And with ongoing clinical studies surrounding hemp-based products like CBD, we are continuing to understand more about how helpful CBD can be for our health--without the side effects of pharmaceuticals and without the 'high' that would normally accompany the use of THC-laden marijuana.
In 2017, hemp harvesting in the U.S. was more than double what it was the year before. This is the direction that hemp farmers and hemp-derived CBD enthusiasts want it to continue towards. But there's still quite a way to go. At approximately 50,000 acres of hemp harvest, that number pales in comparison to the cultivation of alfalfa, which boasts a harvest of 16.5 million acres in the country. Yet as each state continues to loosen the laws surrounding growing hemp plants and if federal prohibition of the cannabis plant is rescinded, farmers will be free to grow hemp crops in great quantities.
Hemp industry could become the next major crop in the near future with legislation that fully legalized it as an agricultural crop. If law is eventually passed, it would get rid of all legal obstacles against growing hemp products.