Compared to the previous year, the number of acres of hemp grown in the United States in 2018 more than tripled, according to Vote Hemp’s 2018 U.S. Hemp Crop Report. In 2018, there were 78,176 acres of hemp grown across 23 states, compared to 25,713 acres of hemp across 19 states in 2017. In addition, there were 40 university-conducted research studies, and 3,546 state hemp licenses issued in 2018, compared to 32 studies, and 1,456 state licenses in 2017. While 23 states cultivate hemp, 41 have enacted hemp legislation to remove barriers for its production.
The passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, that included Section 7606, “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research,” allowing pilot programs for research purposes, played a huge role in the rapid growth of the hemp market. Now, even more roadblocks have been removed with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December, and its hemp farming provision, redefining hemp as distinct from marijuana, removing it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and putting hemp under the jurisdiction of the USDA.
“Now that we have lifted federal prohibition on hemp farming, it’s time to invest our energy in expanding hemp cultivation and the market for hemp products across the country so that all can reap the benefits of this versatile, historic American crop,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, in a press release. Product applications for hemp are numerous. Vote Hemp cites hemp seeds as one of the fastest growing categories in the natural products industry due to their nutritional value, specifically their fatty acid content.
Hemp extracts rich in the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) have also gained substantial recognition from consumers, though remain somewhat controversial from a regulatory standpoint. FDA will not approve CBD products as supplements because CBD was studied as an Investigational New Drug by GW Pharmaceuticals (Cambridge, UK) to treat epilepsy. Later, their CBD drug Epidiolex was approved by FDA. Hemp-derived CBD products remain popular however, as more consumers have become aware of the benefits cannabinoids provide, though many manufacturers avoid making any claims on their products to stay out of FDA’s crosshairs. According to Vote Hemp, hemp is also showing a great deal of potential in product applications outside of food such as environmentally-friendly packaging material, and bio-plastics.