In only a few years, hemp morphed from marijuana’s questionable cousin into something so harmless that even places like Family Home Video keeps it on their shelves. This flipping of public sentiment created a hemp frenzy, but what exactly does that look like? Is hemp set to be America’s next big crop? Or is this budding industry sitting on one big green bubble?
In 2007, two North Dakota farmers were granted the first state-issued (but not federally legal) hemp license in 50 years. A little over a decade later, hemp-friendly states issued 16,877 of those same hemp licenses in 2019. This growth, while lucrative, may just be the continuation of a trend. According to Vote Hemp, 2016 saw 15 states adopt hemp growing programs with 9,6490 acres being planted that year. Hemp continued its boom in 2017 with farmers planting 25,713 acres. In 2018, that number tripled 78,176 total acres planted. But in 2019, 511,420 acres have been set aside specifically to grow hemp — a staggering 455% increase from 2018. This giant upswing likely stemmed from the 2018 Farm Bill which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act making it just as legal as corn. In the wake of the Farm Bill, 46 states now have hemp farming programs.
All signs point to America padding its hemp supply as the federal government will take several more steps to boost the crop’s future. In 2020, hemp farmers will be eligible for crop insurance. Furthermore, the House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act (321-103) this fall which set out to protect legitimate cannabis businesses (a mostly cash industry) by ensuring their access to banking. While that provision is more impactful for state-licensed marijuana shops, the SAFE Act specifically outlines new protections for hemp and its derivatives. Additionally, an increasing number of hemp grows are earning USDA Organic certification. According to OneCert, the National Organic Program’s third-par