At the turn of the 20th century, there was a sudden shift in the nation’s attitude toward hemp. American farmers had been cultivating the plant since the 1600s; but when the recreational use of marijuana — a different strain of cannabis — was discovered, it incited a flood of research that linked cannabis to deviant behavior and violence. Those perceptions were cemented by the Marijuana Tax Act, which made cannabis illegal in 1936, and gave way to anti-cannabis propaganda like Reefer Madness. The infamous movie portrays a group of teens faced with an “Eve and the apple” dichotomy: when tempted with the fateful joint, they fall from Americana one by one into addiction and madness.
Almost a century later, the stain left behind by the 1930s marijuana craze is finally starting to lighten. The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized the cultivation of hemp in the United States, and removed hemp’s Schedule 1 drug status on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances (some other Schedule 1 substances include heroin, ecstasy and LSD).
What Does the 2018 Farm Bill Mean for Hemp?
The Farm Bill means there’s a rush of farmers uprooting their pumpkins and squash to cultivate hemp instead — and their efforts could potentially pay off in a big way. They are tasked with fulfilling a high demand for CBD: a derivative of hemp that is widely believed to help ailments such as anxiety, arthritis pain, and even chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis.
CBD has no psychoactive properties, so it can’t make you high, which is another determining factor in its popularity. CBD is a far cry from the dreaded joint and the snake-like smoke curling around the arms of its victims in Reefer Madness.
Blue Forest Farms in Colorado charges $35 to $40 per pound for the hemp it grows for CBD extraction. The profits are staggering in comparison to the profit from the farm’s other produce, kale, which sells for $1 per pound.
This new venture for farmers doesn’t come without risks. Growing hemp isn’t like farming tomatoes or corn. Unlike crops that have been cultivated for decades, hemp is fickle. Even healthy hemp plants don’t always result in a CBD rich harvest. When it comes to cultivating hemp, there’s still a lot to learn, though that’s not the only barrier these ambitious farmers face.
Another factor that hinders the CBD market is the fear of legal repercussions. Although the DEA has said it won’t go after businesses over hemp products, some companies, retailers and consumers are still apprehensive about the murky legal water surrounding the production and selling of hemp products. It’s hard to know exactly where the government stands.
However, an overwhelming number of consumers have taken the 2018 Farm Bill as a green light.
Get Ready for a CBD Boom
The lingering fears seem small alongside the projected success of the CBD market. It’s predicted to reach $20 billion in sales by 2024.
“We’re witnessing CBD maturing from a cannabis subcategory into a full-blown industry of its own,” said Roy Bingham, the founder of BDS Analytics. “Our growth forecast for the CBD market, across all distribution channels, predicts a compound annual growth rate of 49 percent by 2024.”
CBD has taken North American industries by storm. It can be found in cosmetics, gummies, granola and even dog food.
The Reported Benefits
Because of hemp’s long-standing Schedule 1 drug status, CBD and its possible benefits haven’t been researched thoroughly. However, the studies that have been conducted are encouraging. A study by BMC Neurology found that CBD may help reduce spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis. Another study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that patients with epilepsy, psychotic disorders and Parkinson’s disease felt relief from some of their symptoms while taking CBD.
Those findings are only the beginning. Now that the cultivation of hemp is legal and the stigma surrounding cannabis since the 1930s is fading, new research will without a doubt be conducted. CBD has already defied our expectations with its overwhelming popularity, however, the lack of research suggests we’ve have not fully uncovered the potential of this chronically misunderstood plant.
Laura Reid is a freelance writer and journalist with a passion for the Cannabis and CBD Industry. She is fascinated by the growing trend of legalization and the emergence of a budding industry that inverts conventional thinking.