As of February 2019, land dedicated to hemp production in the US totalled over 31,000 acres, with a steady increase predicted. Many states are now farming and producing hemp, but what is it used for, and what makes Colorado the pioneer of hemp production?
A Brief History of Hemp Farming in the US
The farming and production of hemp, for a multitude of uses, has existed in the US for hundreds of years. The first permanent English settlement in America, Jamestown, grew hemp as far back as 1616, in order to produce ropes, sails and clothing. During the last century, laws were enacted across the US to restrict the use of cannabis and because of confusion about the difference between hemp and marijuana, the use of hemp, unfortunately, was often also restricted. Until 1970, hemp was farmed commercially and used in applications from food to textiles. However, the Controlled Substances Act classified hemp in with marijuana and made it an illegal Schedule I drug and imposed strict regulations on the cultivation of industrial hemp.
In 2014, the signing of the Farm Bill by Congress allowed States and research institutions to once more put in place programs to pilot industrial hemp farming. and in December 2018, a new Farm Bill was passed by Congress that removed the hemp plant and its CBD-containing extracts from the federal Controlled Substances Act. While some State laws are still catching up, across almost all of the US hemp is now treated just like any other agricultural product and there has been dramatic growth in use of hemp-derived products.
What is Hemp?
Industrial hemp is a strain of the plant species Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis as a drug (also known as marijuana) and hemp, both derive from the same species of plant but differ significantly in the active compounds they contain. The psychoactive component of marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the component that can make you high. Hemp plants are characterised by having very low or undetected levels THC, so hemp lacks the mood-altering effects commonly associated with cannabis. Many hemp plant types (cultivars) also contain much higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) an interestingly, CBD can counteract the psychoactive effects of THC. The breadth of uses for hemp is incredibly broad. From food and biofuel, fibre for clothing and a multitude of purified extracts used in pharmaceuticals and an ever-expanding range of wellness and cosmetic products.
Why has Hemp Production Risen?
Hemp is an incredibly fast-growing and resilient crop, the benefits of which are quickly apparent to farmers who can see high yields and a new source of revenue. Compared to crops like corn, the plants require less water, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, making it a truly sustainable crop from an environmental perspective. Combined with its multiple industrial, health and culinarily uses, hemp has been coined as an eco-friendly, organic solution to many current global environmental issues.
Why Does Colorado Have the Best Hemp?
The State of Colorado is found landlocked in Western America. Hemp is a relatively easy crop to grow, and the climate and purity of Colorado agree well with it. Even before the signing of the Farm Bill in 2014, the Mountain State has been ahead of the curve in terms of hemp production and use. In 2012, the state set up its own legal framework under which farmers could legally grow the plant. This resulted in the early development of an exciting new industry and market for all kinds of novel products, putting Colorado way ahead of other parts of the USA and the rest of the world.
A further reason to trust Colorado’s hemp farming abilities comes from its extensive Seed Certification Programme, set up by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The programme’s stringent criteria mean certified seeds are of high quality. Seeds must first be approved by the Variety Review Board, which is made up of members of the Colorado Seed Growers Association and is according to Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) standards. Testing and genetics are then carried out to ensure THC levels of 0.3% or less. Seed packages are tagged with ‘CDA Approved Certified Seed’. The availability of these seeds to commercial farmers allows for a higher quality product in a state that has a viable and structured market.
Furthermore, in a nod to Colorado’s dedication to the plant, it became the site of the nation’s first hemp producer to be granted organic status by the US Department of Agriculture. Such a first is seen as a major event in the hemp growing industry.
A versatile product in a growing industry, hemp is now used to make a range of extracts containing CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes, and these are rapidly increasing in popularity. With an increasingly widespread production and developing research in the US, hemp and CBD related products are on the rise. For more information on our products, including CBD oil, take a look at our website.