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The 21st Century’s Hottest Crop: A Beginner’s Guide To Hemp

a beginners guide to hemp

Thanks to the increased demand for CBD, hemp has quickly become one of the world’s most talked-about crops. Scientists, manufacturers, and farmers have high hopes for the many potential uses of this humble plant. In addition to its high CBD count, hemp shows great promise in fields ranging from paper and packaging to biofuel and beauty products. With so many proposed uses, it’s understandable why hemp has become such a hot topic.

Anyone who wants the 411 on all things hemp should keep reading. In this article, we’re going to share all of the essential points surrounding this wondrous plant. 

Clearing Up The Jargon: Hemp Versus Marijuana 

To better understand what hemp is, we first need to explore what it is not. Simply put, hemp is not marijuana. Yes, both of these plants are variants of the cannabis genus, but that’s where the comparison should end.

Legally speaking, the primary distinction between hemp and marijuana has to do with the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As you might already know, THC is the chemical that gets users “high.” Hemp has minimal THC (less than 0.3 percent), while marijuana has a lot of THC. Typically, hemp strains contain high concentrations of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). 

Although the 0.3 percent cutoff is somewhat arbitrary, the split between hemp and marijuana still holds great importance for cultivators. In addition to cannabinoid count, there are a few physical distinctions that are worth noting. 

For instance, hemp plants usually grow taller and have thinner leaves compared with most marijuana strains (especially indicas). Hemp leaves are also almost exclusively clustered around the plant’s top. By contrast, many marijuana strains have fat leaves that are spread fairly evenly throughout the stem. 

Hemp History, Human History: Man’s Oldest Plant?

Interestingly, this hemp vs. marijuana mix-up was a significant reason hemp cultivation stalled in the 20th century. Drug enforcement agencies placed hemp and marijuana in the same basket, so both “drugs” became classified as illegal substances.

Since hemp was only decriminalized with the 2018 Farm Act, it’s understandable why many people believe hemp cultivation is a new endeavor. True, growing hemp for CBD extraction is quite new; but industrial hemp cultivation has a history stretching back at least 6,000 years. 

People in regions as diverse as China, India, and Europe have put hemp’s fibrous texture to good use in clothes, canvases, and ropes. Many cultures have also used hemp seeds for animal feed and as a nutritious snack.

As more farmers look into this plant’s long past, we might “re-learn” the successful cultivation strategies once perfected by our ancestors.

So, What’s The Deal With Hemp Legality?

Confusingly, hemp has the exact opposite legal problem when compared with marijuana. While marijuana is still illegal under US federal law, hemp gained federal protection thanks to the 2018 Farm Act. On the flip side, each state can decide how it regulates hemp and marijuana. So, there are plenty of states where recreational marijuana is legal, but there are others that have stringent laws against hemp.

For instance, leaders in North Carolina are considering a law that would make hemp smoking illegal. Currently, Idaho only allows the sale of CBD products that have zero percent THC content.

As always, it’s crucial for customers to read the laws in their state before purchasing or using any cannabis-related product.

Side Note: Is Smoking Hemp A Thing?

Yes, smoking premium hemp flower is a genuine trend in the ever-evolving cannabis industry. Since there’s not much THC in hemp, there’s no chance users will get high smoking these “hempettes.” Some cannabis experts believe high-CBD hemp strains could be an extremely lucrative business in the next few years.

Fans of hemp smoking say they can fully enjoy the benefits of CBD and aromatic terpenes without worrying about the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Some tobacco smokers even claim hemp joints provide a healthful alternative as they try to overcome nicotine addiction. 

What Are Standard Hemp Cultivation Practices?

Because hemp was most often grown for industrial purposes, cultivators have always focused on quantity rather than quality. To reap the most substantial yields, industrial hemp farmers usually plant both male and female hemp seeds close together in large outdoor fields. Once harvest time rolls around, farmers collect the bulk hemp biomass and ship it off for various industrial uses.

With the increased interest in food-grade CBD products, however, some hemp cultivators are focusing on quality over quantity. Just like marijuana cultivators, these new hemp farmers only plant feminized seeds in well-controlled environments. Usually, these cultivators will place their hemp plants far enough apart and monitor their progress on a day-by-day basis. 

While there are many responsible hemp farmers out there, the hemp cultivation industry is a bit like the Wild West at the moment. There’s still no federal oversight on the production of many hemp-related products, including oils, lotions, and tinctures. Unfortunately, many farmers have been manufacturing CBD products using inferior industrial hemp biomass.

Because of the current lack of federal oversight, consumers must do as much research on hemp companies as possible. Official labels like the “USDA Organic” seal and professional lab results are two of the best indicators of a high-quality company. 

What’s The Future Of Hemp Cultivation?

There’s no sign that the demand for CBD will diminish any time soon. Indeed, business experts now project the CBD market will grow to about $20 billion within a few years. With such a high demand for this calming cannabinoid, more money will undoubtedly flow into hemp cultivation and research. 

As scientists better understand the uses and benefits of hemp, there’s a chance this plant could be a game-changer in multiple sectors. On top of its many industrial applications, hemp could be a lucrative option for farmers who are currently struggling with low tobacco sales. Although we don’t know precisely how hemp will change our world, it’s clear this plant will play a prominent role in the 21st century.

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