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One CBD firm talks about the current CBD supply landscape, both foreign and domestic, as well as sourcing challenges.
Hemp has been heralded as a miracle crop for thousands of years. From its practical uses for food and fiber to its significance in religious ceremonies, hemp has held an integral place in human history for over 10,000 years. And now, after decades of misguided prohibition, it’s re-emerging into the spotlight. With the growing popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), one of hemp’s primary derivatives known for its health benefits, this cannabis plant has reclaimed its spot as one of the world’s hottest crops. Yet, questions still remain about its legality and where it comes from.
The 2014 Farm Bill allowed for the growing and distribution of hemp through state-run research programs. However, prior to this bill, growing hemp in the United States was strictly illegal. Anyone who wanted to produce and distribute hemp was mandated to export it from abroad. During this state of prohibition, most hemp exports came from China, Canada, and Eastern European countries such as Russia, Hungary, and Romania. In fact, according to a recent Congressional Report on hemp, China remains the largest foreign supplier of raw and processed hemp to the United States. Canada, on the other hand, has dominated hemp seed exports.
Even with legal regulations, importing foreign hemp has its risks. The World Health Organization reported that 7.7 billion pounds of pesticides are used by farmers around the globe every year. The chemicals used in these products often cause a variety of environmental problems and health issues for both the workers who tend the crops and the consumers who may ingest chemical residue. Contamination is a concern even for farmers who don’t actively treat their hemp with pesticides or chemical-based fertilizers. Pesticide residue often drifts onto crops from neighboring farms, and one of the biggest issues with growing hemp is its propensity to absorb whatever is in the soil it’s grown in. This includes heavy metals, mycotoxins, and microbial contaminants like fungus. Companies who import hemp from overseas often cannot verify what practices were used to cultivate the crops or what harmful contaminants may be present in their extracts.
Likewise, shipping hemp from overseas is a rather unsustainable process. Between import and export taxes plus the additional resources required for transportation and storage, importing hemp is more costly in almost every sense-both economically and environmentally.
Now, with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp agriculture is federally legal for the first time in over 40 years. With this, many large CBD manufacturers are turning to domestically farmed hemp instead of international supply. Many regions in the U.S. are excellent for growing hemp; in 2016, Colorado, Kentucky, and North Carolina were the largest producers of industrial hemp.
The supply landscape in the U.S. is still muddled. There’s still some confusion about the legality of hemp, including on a state-by-state basis, which has led to occasional raids and crop seizures throughout the country. Most of these raids have been a result of mistaken identity; police have seized thousands of dollars’ worth of raw and processed hemp product thinking it was THC-laden marijuana. As the dust clears from the Farm Bill, hemp farmers and distributors are still working hard to clear up the gray area and push for sound legislation in all 50 states.
Regardless, the U.S. hemp industry is expected to soar in the next decade. The CBD industry alone is projected to reach a value of $22 billion by 2022, and that’s only the beginning. The battle for full legalization continues, and hemp advocates can join the movement by supporting organizations like the U.S. Hemp Roundtable and Hemp Industries Association. These dedicated organizations will keep you up to speed on the latest industry news and ways to demonstrate your support for hemp legalization.
Grace Kaucic is a digital marketing specialist at Bluebird Botanicals. Founded in 2012, Bluebird Botanicals specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of hemp extract supplements, cannabidiol (CBD), CBD vape oil, and more.