Holy Hemp: As One of the Most Politicized Crops in History, CBD Makes Farming Great Again
Hemp production is having a major moment. U.S. farmers have been licensed to grow over 500,00 acres of marijuana’s non-intoxicating cannabis cousin this year—a 455 percent increase over 2018 levels —according to Vote Hemp’s annual survey of state agriculture departments. That’s up from over 78,000 acres grown last year, over 25,000 acres in 2017 and approximately 10,000 acres in 2016, the group reported.
Brittany Carbone, founder and CEO of Tonic, a leading CBD brand, owns and operates her own organic hemp farm in upstate New York. Carbone says, “The decision to start our own hemp farm was based around the desire to make quality, intention and transparency the driving forces behind TONIC. Growing our own organic hemp flower allows us to dictate the cultivation practices, genetics, and overall quality of the plants that ultimately become your TONIC products.” I also witnessed the lack of women on the cultivation and extraction end of the supply chain, which fails to represent the cannabis community as a whole. When we get women involved in both ends of the supply chain we can ensure that the evolving narrative around cannabis keeps its strong sense of femininity and inclusion.”
According to Brightfield Group, a leading market and consumer intelligence group for the legal CBD and cannabis industries, hemp production is experiencing a seven-fold increase over last year. CBD is tracking to grow to $23.7 billion through 2023. In line with health, wellness, and anti-pharma trends, demand for CBD is being fueled by consumers who have a hefty appetite for products featuring CBD from ingestible edibles and oils to topical pain and beauty products and even pet treats.
Carbone continues, ”As we are hand-cultivating our own hemp flower, extracting our complementary herbs in-house in small batches, hand-pouring every blend, and now opening up our own extraction facility in 2020- we are in charge of the quality and intention infused into TONIC products from seed to shelf, which is of the utmost importance to us and our customers. Through the use of purposeful, synergistic plant-based ingredients, TONIC’s original botanical blends elevate the benefits of CBD.”
Hemp is believed to be one of the oldest industries on the planet, dating back more than 10,000 years. Archaeologists found a remnant of hemp cloth dating back to ancient Mesopotamia approximately 8,000 BC. Hemp helped shape the modern existence of Western countries including the United States. North America was first introduced to hemp in 1606. Ever since, American farmers grew hemp that was used for many products, such as paper, lamp fuels, and ropes. It was so fundamental to America’s foundations that its image appeared on money. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic.
In the 1930’s, hemp became highly politicized resulting in its prohibition. Companies with interests in petroleum based synthetic textile companies, joined by titans from the textile and newspaper industries, perceived hemp as a threat to their business’ and began a propaganda campaign. In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. Tax and licensing regulations of the act made hemp cultivation difficult for American farmers. The chief promoter of the Tax Act, Harry Anslinger, began promoting anti-marijuana legislation around the world.
World War II brought a short-lived resurgence in hemp production. The Japanese invasion of the Philippines shut off “manila hemp” fiber. The USDA produced a film called “Hemp For Victory” to encourage U.S. farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. The U.S. government formed the War Hemp Industries Department and subsidized hemp cultivation. During the war, U.S. farmers grew about a million acres of hemp across the Midwest as part of that program. After the war ended, the government quietly shut down all the hemp processing plants and the industry faded away again.
Until the late 60s, the U.S. government understood and acknowledged that industrial hemp and marijuana were distinct varieties of the Cannabis plant. This powerful plant had over 25,000 diverse uses ranging from paint, textiles, varnish, canvas and building materials. However, in 1970, the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) brought a lack of official recognition that hemp was distinct from marijuana. This is despite the fact that a specific exemption for hemp was included in the CSA under the definition of marijuana. The recent federal court case HIA vs DEA has re-established acknowledgement of distinct varieties of Cannabis, and supports the exemption for non-viable seed and fiber and any products made from them.
Hemp’s proper classification has opened endless possibilities for the powerful plant to re-establish itself as a resource for a wide range of products as well as holistic medicine.