In the first two blogs of our three part series on CBD oil and industrial hemp [Part I and Part II] we discussed (mostly as it related to CBD oil) the legality of imported industrial hemp products, the legality of state-side cultivation, processing and distribution, and the nuances of the various types of CBD oil (including a differentiation between hemp seed oil and CBD oil derived from industrial hemp). We would like to finish this blog series with a deeper dive into the hemp industry pilot program under the 2014 Farm Bill and the plethora of other uses for industrial hemp beyond CBD oil.
The Farm Bill is a very large federal policy and funding bill that is passed (about) every five years which governs the affairs of the US Department of Agriculture. The most recent Farm Bill, the Agriculture Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill), took two attempts to pass causing longer than a five-year span.
The Agriculture Act of 2014 was passed by the House of Representatives on January 29, 2014; the Senate on February 4th; and signed into law by President Obama three days later. This was the result of the second attempt by Congress to pass a new Farm Bill. The first attempt, during the summer of 2012, Congress failed to pass a new bill before the 2008 version expired on September 30th. The most important programs were extended until Congress could reconvene and work on a new version.
The process for creating new bills begins in the Congressional agriculture committees, with their versions introduced to Congress. The 2012 version was first debated in the Senate, while the 2013 version was first debated in the House. Both chambers must pass the bill, negotiate any differences in a committee, and then vote on the bill again before it heads to the President. Programs are funded by the Appropriations committee. [i]
Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill created a federally sanctioned means for states, on an individual basis, to legalize a hemp pilot program allowing the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, and distribution of industrial hemp and industrial hemp products. It is the first place industrial hemp was defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” [ii] Industrial hemp was not fully legalized under this bill. The 2014 Farm Bill allows for each state to enact their own hemp pilot program which must have a research component working toward determining if hemp farming can benefit US farmers and businesses. In order for an individual or company to cultivate, process, manufacture or distribute industrial hemp and industrial hemp products, they must be certified by and registered with the state department of agriculture and they must be conducting research, or a pilot program, that is approved by said department. [iii]
It is important to point out that there is only about a year left for states to legalize and begin their hemp pilot programs, as it is unclear if the program will be extended in the next Farm Bill. Currently:
At least 16 states have legalized industrial hemp production for commercial purposes and 20 states have passed laws allowing research and pilot programs. Seven states – Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Virginia – have approved the creation of both pilot/research and commercial programs. Many of the states that have legalized hemp cultivation for commercial purposes specify that state law does not allow for violation of federal law. States including California, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana and Virginia have established a framework for regulating commercial hemp but still consider hemp illegal outside of research programs unless law changes. [iv]
In all, just over thirty states have developed some form of a state-administered hemp program and just shy of a dozen more states have versions of hemp initiatives to be voted on. [v]
Despite the 2014 Farm Bill emphasis on the need to research industrial hemp’s viability for agriculture and business, we already know much about the advantages and opportunities for industrial hemp cultivation and commerce. Hemp was a viable crop in the United States prior to the 1930’s mostly for fiber, but also fuel. It had a resurgence during World War II when US hemp imports were interrupted and was still seen as distinct from marijuana until the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. Like medical and recreational cannabis, industrial hemp has suffered multiple suppressions due to successful lobbying efforts by competing industries and political agendas. [vi]
If our own history of the efficacy of hemp wasn’t enough to support full legalization of industrial hemp, we have international examples of agriculturally and commercially successful industrial hemp programs. Programs that are predominately successful due to supplying raw, refined, and processed materials to the United States for consumption. It is estimated that the US makes up 60% of the sales market for industrial hemp consuming around $600Million in industrial hemp derived products. If global projections follow US projections, the total global market is projected to reach $3 Billion by 2020. [vii]
China is the world’s single largest hemp producing and exporting country, mostly of hemp textiles and related products, as well as a major supplier of these products to the United States. China reportedly produced nearly 80 million pounds on about 30,000 acres, accounting for about one-fifth of global production. […] Canada is also major supplier of U.S. hemp imports, particularly of hemp-based foods and food ingredients and other related imported products. […] Total production across all European countries is reported at nearly 250 million pounds on more than 70,000 acres, accounting for about two-thirds of the U.N.-reported global production. Most of this production is in Western Europe. The European Union (EU) has an active hemp market, with production in most member nations. Production is centered in France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Romania. Many EU countries lifted their bans on hemp production in the 1990s and, until recently, also subsidized the production of “flax and hemp” under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Most EU production is of hurds, seeds, and fibers. Other non-EU European countries with reported hemp production include Russia, Ukraine, and Switzerland. Other countries with active hemp grower and consumer markets are Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Egypt, Chile, and Thailand. [viii]
There are over 30,000 products that use hemp including:
- Food: hemp seeds, milk, and ice cream
- Supplements: hemp seed oil, CBD oil, and protein powder
- Body care products: soaps, lotions, and moisturizers
- Fiber: textiles, biofuel, building material, paper, cordage, and plastics
There are several advantages of growing and processing hemp compared to other resources:
- Hemp is naturally resistant to most pests and grows densely resulting in reduced use of herbicides or pesticides
- Hemp remediates and revitalizes the soil – it pulls toxins from the soil while also aerating the soil redepositing carbon dioxide
- Hemp grows in a variety of climates and soil types
- Hemp requires less water than most crops to grow
- Hemp fights global warming through the reduction of atmospheric CO2 at a rate four times faster than trees
- Hemp is superior to cotton, wood and concrete in strength, renewability and environmental footprint
- Hemp biodiesel is the cleanest ethanol to produce and burn [ix]
Hemp programs in the states are gaining momentum. Colorado and Kentucky are great examples. [x] [xi] As shown above, hemp is comparatively an easier crop to grow. We also know the plethora of applications for the plant. Yet, in order for the industry to take off, there is a significant need for new technologies, more processors, and new manufacturing capabilities. This provides further evidence that hemp can be a significant boon to the economy. Many articles quoting state-side hemp farmers, and our experience talking with hemp farmers, is that they need access to new hemp-specific farm equipment, they need more processing companies for an outlet for their crop, and they need more companies willing to invest in manufacturing technologies to produce more hemp products. [xii]
As suggested in the first two blogs of this series, pressure needs to be put on our elected officials to legalize access to the cannabis plant. It is not a plausible excuse to rebut that “we just don’t know enough.” When it comes to industrial hemp and CBD oil, especially, we know it is safe (when grown and processed using ethical practices). It is a result of special interest groups (industries and political posturing) that has made access to the plant illegal and/or bureaucratically cumbersome. Cannabis has the ability to lesson our reliance on scarce natural resources. It can lesson our reliance on pharmaceuticals that mask root causes vs. healing. Legalization of cannabis can drastically reduce incarceration rates. For our society, this is an amazing thing. For those making money in competing industries, it does not bode well for their coffers. We need to advocate for cannabis openly, regularly and with sound data. Many voices can compete against many lobbying dollars.