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The passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (a.k.a. The Farm Bill) is a game changer of epic proportions. I’m not one to sing the praises of politicians, but we owe Mitch McConnell a special shoutout. Without his support, we wouldn’t be celebrating the loosening of restrictions on hemp at the federal level. With hemp cultivation legal and licensed in several states already, the rise of federally legal hemp means everyone will be jumping on their tractor this Spring.

Challenge #1 With everyone planting hemp for CBD extraction, where will all those seeds come from? Unfortunately, many hemp farmers will plant questionable cultivars that wander over 0.3 percent THC. Because most will plant regular, not feminized seeds, there will be acres of co-ed hemp across the land. Mary Jane’s and Mary John’s side-by-side. What will happen when all those male plants flower and spread their pollen far and wide? Ask the pot farmers downwind! Did you know pollen can travel 3 to 5 miles?

Challenge #2 Learning curve. Most new hemp farmers don’t have previous experience growing marijuana. It’s a new crop to those used to growing corn, wheat, soybeans, etc. My advice? Read Jorge Cervantes book, “The Cannabis Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to Cultivation & Consumption of Medical Marijuana”. Your county extension agent won’t be of any help. My hope is that new farmers will do their homework, share notes with others, local or online, and strive to improve next year.

Challenge #3 Lack of harvest infrastructure. Growing hemp is easy compared to harvesting it. Every farmer scoffs and ignores my advice: “Plant only what you can harvest plus 10 percent in case you get lucky.” Ask yourself how you’re going to cut it, dry it, cure it and store it before planting 10, 20, 50 acres or more. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

 

“I DREAM OF THE DAY WHEN HEMP MILK IS AN OPTION AT STARBUCKS.”

 

If you don’t have an indoor facility that can maintain 60/60, 60 degrees and 60 percent humidity, you can’t dry your precious harvest correctly, let alone store it without mold and mildew ruining your crop.

The more you grow, the harder it is to harvest it all correctly. Better a smaller, high-quality crop than a large, poor one. Buyers will become pickier as the CBD market grows, and large processors will want uniform plant material to work with. This means fewer cultivars with consistent chemical composition. The only way to scale efficiently is standardization throughout the whole supply chain beginning with the raw hemp. Big Ag isn’t interested in multiple strains, only the ones they can grow in bulk and dial in, time after time. Big Ag customers don’t want to deal with a gaggle of small family farms.

If I win the lottery, I’m going to invest in hemp as food.

I dream of the day when hemp milk is an option at Starbucks. Why import Canadian hemp seeds to make hemp milk when farmers in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, et al. can not only supply our needs, but the export market too. Will we see USDA organic hemp farms? Let’s hope so. There’s no reason we can’t look forward to that familiar logo on a wide variety of retail products.

Access to banking services for the hemp ecosystem? It’s no longer Schedule 1 so why not?

My hope for industrial hemp in 2019 is that CBD-rich hemp will fill the void in states lacking access to recreational or even medical marijuana. When organically grown hemp is used to make whole plant a.k.a. full spectrum preparations, consumers and patients across the nation will finally have access to wholesome medicine.

A wide range of cannabinoids, even without delta-9- THC, is just what’s needed by so many who suffer in pain. Hemp to the rescue!

HOW THE LAW HAS CHANGED?

New federal definition of industrial hemp: cannabis sativa L. with less than 0.3 percent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol by dry weight. Not total THC, not even THC-A which is most of what the plant makes. Just delta-9-THC.

Hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act and therefore is no longer illegal under federal law. No more Schedule 1 status.

State laws will continue to define cultivation, but interstate commerce is a go!

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has “regulatory authority” over hemp used in food products or supplements, with the exception of hemp seeds, hemp seed protein and hemp seed oil. Hemp-derived products including CBD marketed as food or supplements or those making curative or therapeutic claims, will be regulated by the FDA.

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