In 2018, the global hemp market grossed approximately $3.75 billion in retail sales, with a 15%
annual growth rate. Although these sales figures may be impressive, we shouldn’t be too surprised with hemp’s success on the global market due to its high level of usability across a plethora of consumer products: textiles, paper products, food, medicines, construction, and et cetera. 
As hemp’s market share continues to increase, the question of whether or not to produce hemp becomes the prevalent one for those looking to dip their toes into agricultural production. In this post we will go over a few of the pertinent questions one should ask local hemp growers to get a better idea of the climate and nuances of hemp production.
What is hemp and how does it differ from marijuana?
Hemp is a member of the genus Cannabis — a genus which also contains the psychoactive genetic variation of the cannabis plant commonly referred to as “marijuana.”  The major point of difference is the ratio of THC to CBD, growing methods, and the overall purpose for production.
Cannabis, as we commonly refer to it, has a much higher percentage of THC in comparison with hemp (less than 1% versus upwards of 25-30% THC).
Furthermore, industrial hemp plants are often planted closer together, roughly four inches apart. This tightly-packed planting method helps to discourage branch and leaf growth.
Is hemp legal?
The 2018 Farm Bill, which was officially signed into law by the Trump Administration in late December, 2018, removes industrial hemp from the parameters of the Controlled Substances Act. As a term, “industrial hemp” encompasses any form of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC.
That being said, the question of regulations is still a grey area. Currently, the USDA is working out what these regulations might look like, but we most likely will not see any concrete federal rules rolled out until 2020’s planting season.
So, I can just grow hemp anywhere?
The U.S. government’s recognition of hemp as an agricultural commodity doesn’t necessarily make growing it legal at the state level. For example, Georgia, Texas, and Mississippi have yet to recognize industrial hemp production as a legal activity.
In addition, hemp growers are required to acquire a commercial license from the proper state authority. It can be said that growing industrial hemp still has certain limitations which range from state to state.
The successful passing of the 2018 Farm Bill is a cause for celebration for hemp growers across the United States. Receiving legal permission from the U.S. government, which still classifies cannabis as an illegal substance, is a big victory for the cannabis industry as a whole.
There are still many questions that have yet to been answered. What shape will the USDA’s regulations take? Will questions of regulation and legal authority be left to the states?
Only time will tell.
- Small, E. and D. Marcus. “Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses in North America”. Trends in New Crops and New Uses, Winter 2002, pp. 284-326. https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html
- Lash, Robin. “Industrial Hemp: The Crop for the Seventh Generation”. American Indian Law Review, vol. 27, no. 1, Winter 2002, pp. 313-357. https://digitalcommons.law.ou.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1197&=&context=ailr&=&sei-redir=1&referer=https%253A%252F%252Fscholar.google.com%252Fscholar%253Fhl%253Den%2526as_sdt%253D0%25252C48%2526q%253Drobin%252Blash%2526btnG%253D#search=%22robin%20lash%22
Photo courtesy of The Verge