Industrial Hemp in North America: Production, Politics and Potential
1. This article discusses the movement towards a renewed U.S. hemp industry and touches on the social, economic, and political considerations that are impacting its growth.
2. Historically, hemp a plant that has been cultivated for thousands of years, was primarily grown for its source of fiber.
3. The distinguishing characteristic between industrial hemp and marijuana is the THC content. It is generally accepted that THC content of less than 1 percent will not produce any intoxicating effect, as such the U.S. and Canada have set the threshold at 0.3% THC to define industrial hemp.
4. It is believed that hemp was, quote – first brought to North America in 1606 – unquote, primarily grown for fiber in the U.S. and Canada by European settlers.
5. From 1840 to 1860, hemp farming, quote – thrived in Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois – unquote. After the civil war, Kentucky emerged as the primary grower.
6. The Canadian Opium and Narcotics Act of 1938 effectively ended cultivation of Canadian cannabis. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1938 did not prevent growing the U.S., but it did introduce a requirement of permission from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (USDEA).
7. Both the U.S. and Canada saw an uptick in production during WWII, but laws shortly following the war created a nearly complete prohibition.
8. In 1970, the U.S. introduced the Comprehensive Drub Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The, quote – ACT did create a distinction between marijuana and hemp – unquote, but the USDEA policies treated the two as one.
9. As of 1994 in Canada and 2014 in the U.S. each government was issuing limited licenses allowing for industrial hemp grows for research purposes.
10. Of the, quote – 50,000 uses claimed for hemp products – unquote, there are three primary uses: fiber, oilseed, and pharmaceuticals.
11. Fibers of interest are found in the stalks of hemp. Phloem fibers tend to be longer and more valuable than their xylem relatives which are shorter and more woody.
12. Hemp fiber has many building material uses due to its light weight and renewable nature including hemp-lime concrete, natural fiber insulation, and hemp-lime stucco.
13. Over the recent few years, the hemp fiber market has remained stagnant. Most other natural fiber sources are more economical, and their process chain is better established. Even with widespread legalization it is not likely that hemp fiber demand will grow significantly.
14. Hempseed oil has many uses throughout its 3,000 years of human cultivation: for human consumption, as livestock feed, as lighting oil, in soap making, and in varnish and paint production.
15. Hempseed oil is produced through expeller pressing, n-hexane solvent extraction and supercritical carbon dioxide extraction.
16. While hempseed oil is not economically competitive with other natural oils for manufacturing or an edible vegetable oil, its U.S. market has grown significantly in the past few years and is expected to continue.
17. Cannabis produces, quote – well over 100 different cannabinoids, … a relatively unique class of terpenophenolic compounds – unquote, including THC, cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabinol, (CBN), and Cannabidiol (CBD). The content of CBDs and THC is typically inversely related between different strains of Cannabis.
18. Cannabidiol (CBD) first isolated in the 1930’s has, quote – anti-anxiety, antipsychotic, and anti- depressant effects – unquote. It has also been shown to have potential as an anti-inflammatory agent.
19. Hemp cultivars bred for seed production have much more potential as a crop source of CBDs than those bred for fiber. CBDs are primarily located in the flowering portion of the plant, flowers which are much more prevalent in seeding varieties.
Industrial Hemp in North America: Production, Politics and Potential
20. Although there is not a single dominate cultivar in the U.S., Finola currently dominates the Canadian oil seed market. Finola is likely viable in the U.S. but may need continued breed refinement to fully adapt to the local climates.
21. Hemp soil requirements are very similar to that of corn: quote – well-aerated loams with high fertility and high organic matter – unquote.
22. Due to the risk of pest and weed buildup, it is recommended to grow hemp as one part of a four year crop rotation.
23. Early planting is suggested to extend the growing season. As day light begins to decrease in late July, most varietals will begin flowering.
24. Canada is the leading producer of hempseed oil.
25. Over the last decade, Europe has worked to develop a combined cultivar for both hempseed oil and fiber production. It has become clear that the combined cultivar is less efficient than either of the purpose grown varieties, so Europe is redirecting towards the hempseed oil market.
26. Hemp seed oil production is currently one ton per hectare, with the best varietals producing 1.5 – 2 tons per hectare. To compete with other oilseeds, growers will need to average 2 tons per hectare.
27. Canada’s hempseed oil dominance is threatened by the budding U.S. hemp production industry. Much of Canada’s current output is exported to the U.S.
28. Much of the Canabis sativa currently grown for the medicinal and recreational markets have been cultivated to increase THC content at the expense of CBD content. Hemp varietals typically have higher concentrations of CBD and may become the more valuable of the two as the market matures.
29. The market potential in Europe of, quote – CBD has a minimum (annual) market penetration potential of $27.4 billion – unquote, according to Bio-based News.
30. Hemp has potential as a biomass fuel source, but it does not produce significantly more biomass per acre than many other common field crops. Its biomass fuel also costs more to produce than several other common biomass fuels.
31. Politics of the last 100 years has played a significant role in hampering the hemp market. Outlawed due to its similar appearance to marijuana, regulations to promote growth have only recently been implemented. Twenty years of successful regulation and growth in Canada and Europe indicate the viability of a similar system in the U.S.
32. In recent years, support for industrial hemp legalization has been linked to marijuana legalization, but more and more those in support of hemp legalization are interested in the prospects of hemp alone.
33. Regulations allowing for hemp cultivation in the U.S. began as early as 1999. As of 2016, quote – 30 states have passed laws on industrial hemp – unquote. All states, other than West Virginia, classify hemp as having less than 0.3 percent THC content; West Virginia requires less than 1.0 percent.
34. There is significant risk of hempseed and hempseed oil over supply as the U.S. production expands state by state. Only niche demand exists for hemp fiber. While hempseed product demand is increasing, Canada and Europe are currently able to meet that demand. As U.S. production increases, the demand for hempseed products is expected to lag but eventually meet production.
35. According to the author of this paper, the most optimistic future for hemp production in the U.S. will involve hemp grown for oil production from the seeds and CBD production from the flowers.
Source: Cherney J, Small E. Industrial Hemp in North America: Production, Politics and Potential. Agronomy. 2016;6(4):58. doi:10.3390/agronomy6040058.
Review by: SP
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