A new U.S. Farm Bill legalizes hemp agricultural pilot programs. But what does that mean?
Nestled within the many pages of the new U.S. Farm Bill is a provision authorizing hemp agricultural pilot programs. Insignificant as it may sound, the provision is a likely first step towards U.S.-grown hemp products.
Right now, 100% of U.S. hemp products are imports, but the benefits of growing hemp, for nutritional purposes alone, are perhaps too great to still ignore. In fact, hemp oil, seeds (hemp hearts), and protein are all enjoying good market status on their own.
The provision for hemp pilot programs allows these programs to take place, under state or university management, in the nine U.S. states where hemp cultivation is legal: California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia. Pilot programs can study the growth, cultivation, and/or marketing of industrial hemp. And it turns out that Canada’s now-thriving hemp business started in much the same way.
“The legalization process here in Canada started with agricultural research trials,” says Mike Fata, CEO of the hemp products brand Manitoba Harvest. “Data sourced from the trials, and the associated comfort levels of the farmers involved, were essential in convincing the government to legalize industrial hemp on a national level. We’re encouraged the same will be true for the United States.”
If a domestic hemp market does one day take place in the United States, it will realistically be years in the future-and it will require new legislation (to legalize production). Until then, and still after, manufacturers eager to sell hemp products will likely rely on established hemp companies in places like Canada. GFR Ingredients (Barrhead, AB, Canada) is one company happy to benefit.
“This opens up huge economic opportunities for GFR Ingredients as owners of infrastructure and processing technology to manufacture HempSol-65 hemp powder, which has the highest concentration of protein available in the market,” says GFR president Richard Pierce. “GFR Ingredients is well-poised to realize the market opportunities as hemp expands into the mainstream."
Industrial hemp should not be confused with marijuana. They are different varieties of the same Cannabis sativa plant. To make the distinction clear for consumers, the Farm Bill defines industrial hemp as the plant Cannabis sativa L., and any part of such plant, that contains no more than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-a compound that may induce munchies.