With the federal government's full legalization of hemp, a previously marginalized industry is opening for free interstate commerce. What does that mean for entrepreneurs looking to get into the space, as well as those who could benefit from a wider availability of hemp-derived products? Here's a brief look at hemp's history in the U.S., as well as what its newly legalized status means for small businesses.
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Ten years later, the 2014 Farm Bill established pilot programs in which universities and state agencies could grow industrial hemp, defined as containing less than 0.3 percent THC, for research purposes. It would be the first time since the 1937 law was passed that hemp could be legally cultivated and harvested in the U.S. The commercial cultivation, harvest and processing of hemp, however, remained federally illegal.
One state, Indiana, has made it easier for consumers to find these COAs. Since July, all hemp-derived CBD products sold in stores in Indiana must include a QR code on their label that lets consumers download a product’s COA to their phone. All CBD products sold at Indiana locations of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a Midwest regional chain, now carry those codes, says Jonathan Lawrence, director of vitamins and body care at the chain. “It’s important for any consumer to know what’s in their product and what they’re taking,” Lawrence says.
In June 2018, the U.S. Senate passed its 2018 Farm Bill and in December 2018, President Trump signed the bill into law to make hemp legal for the first time since the 1930s. The bill removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively legalizing the plant federally and allowing it to be grown, processed, and sold as an agricultural commodity. Individual states will be authorized to draft their own regulations governing hemp cultivation.
Among the fans of JD Farms products is the dynamic chef Ignacio Mattos, of Estela and Flora Bar at the Met Breuer in Manhattan. “We are always pursuing new ingredients and flavors,” Mattos said in an email. “The leaves have quite a unique flavor profile, they’re grassy and sweet. The seeds are a bit nutty and sweet when they’re raw. The texture is quite fun when it’s toasted and a bit more savory when cooked.” He’s working on using the seeds in desserts and adding the oil to a tomato and mozzarella salad.
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Some CBD products also describe themselves as including or coming from “hemp oil.” In some cases, manufacturers use that term to mean CBD oil, which is oil rich in CBD made mainly from the leaves, resin, or flowering tops of hemp plants. But “hemp oil” more often, and more properly, refers to oil made from the seeds of the plant, and contains only very small amounts of CBD, says Lanier at the Hemp Industries Association. That oil is often included in hemp-based soaps, cosmetics, and similar products.