International vs. Domestic: A Tale As Old As Hemp
When it comes to hemp, home is where the demand is. Well, sort of.
In the United States, hemp crop production more than doubled in 2017 with 18 states combining to grow some 23,346 acres of hemp as opposed to 9,649 acres across 15 states in 2016. And even those numbers pale in comparison with the rest of the hemp-growing world. Our Canadian brothers and sisters to the north planted roughly 140,000 acres of hemp in 2017, up about 80% from their 2016 acreage of 75,000. In 2016 alone, Europe produced more than 81,000 acres of hemp with the majority of that production coming from the Western part of the country. Even with these impressive numbers, none of these countries come even close in comparison to China’s hemp cultivation — roughly 250 million pounds on just 30,000 acres —which accounts for about ⅕ of total global production. China has utilized hemp as an industrial cash crop for centuries, with archaeological records showing that hemp cultivation spans some 5,000 to 6,000 dating back to the Qin and Hah dynasties (221 B.C to 220 A.D.).
While international markets produce the most hemp, that does not necessarily mean it is the best. The rules and regulations overseeing the hemp industry vastly differ between the United States and the rest of the world. In order to be certified in the U.S. to grow hemp, farms must either work directly with federally-funded universities or go through a lengthy licensing and certification process with the state department of agriculture. International laws are much more lax, with much fewer restrictions on acreage and production methods. It is much cheaper to ship hemp internationally than it is to oversee domestic growth and production at every level. By having the opportunity to oversee the production of hemp starting from seed germination to plant harvesting, companies are able to maintain a watchful eye through every step of the process. And since there are so many fish in international CBD waters, production quality can take a significant hit. With so many question marks with international hemp, why not support domestic production that helps local businesses while also increasing the efforts to educate those in opposition of hemp production.
Although purchasing hemp from international sources can be notably cheaper, companies who import from foreign farms lose some transparency and quality control. While companies can label their products as all-natural and additive-free, the lack of capable inspection along every step of the process leaves plenty of room for error. International sources can claim to be growing their hemp with certain techniques, and by simply importing it without any inspection, domestic companies are playing a guessing game when it comes to what additional additives may be present. When companies can’t track their products from growth to production, they can never truly know exactly what is going into their products or how they are grown. This is why buying domestic-grown hemp products from reputable companies makes the most sense for providing customer peace of mind. When it comes to personal health and wellness, there is no need to chance any risks.
This is where the U.S. hemp market stands to make some significant growth in the near future. The U.S. is currently the single biggest importer of hemp at about $300 million each year as of 2015, with the market pushing about $600 million per year. Now we don’t claim to be Einstein-esque mathematicians, but common sense tells us that the U.S. stands to make some significant cash — if only they would fully legalize industrial hemp. The opportunity to change the stigma that surrounds industrial hemp as a common crop has been long overdue. The history of hemp in America truly dates back to beginning of colonization. Hemp was already being grown by Native Americans, and early manuscripts indicate that the Virginia Assembly required every farmer to grow hemp to export back to England. Even Thomas Jefferson and George Washington famously grew hemp, while Benjamin Franklin established one of the country’s first hemp paper mills. The demise of hemp from everyday use in America began in 1937 when the government passed the Marijuana Tax Act. This didn’t outlaw hemp production, but vastly hindered it by taxing farmers who simply couldn’t afford it and making the process much more difficult. Hemp resurged during World War II with the federal-government supported pro-hemp campaign that encouraged American farmers to grow and produce hemp for the war efforts. Once hemp was no longer a government necessity, the Nixon-era administration deemed all forms of cannabis, including hemp, illegal with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act. And from that date forward, America has failed to recognize the significant importance of a plant that has the power to directly affect a wide range of industries.
With just 0.3% THC, industrial hemp has over 25,000 uses from food to biofuel while emitting none of psychoactive effects. By selectively legalizing hemp state by state, the U.S. is missing out on a massive cash crop that is quite literally raking in the cash. But, as states who legalized hemp growth are quickly realizing, the potential to make money while minimizing the economic footprint is plentiful. When companies grow, process, and produce their hemp right here at home, they are able to keep a watchful eye on their products from seed to shelf. Companies who forgo internationally shipped hemp and instead buy from their own backyards are able to ensure that they know precisely what goes into their products. Although many companies provide third-party testing, there is no better way to know exactly what’s in your products than to see every step of the process. This provides companies and customers with the utmost peace of mind in an industry littered with fraudulent producers who are simply looking to make a quick buck.
By buying and advocating for domestically grown and processed hemp as opposed to internationally imported hemp, we are giving our own economy to opportunity to reap the rewards of such a versatile plant. The fact that hemp remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug — the same classification as heroin — simply tells us that those signing the papers and banging the gavel up on Capitol Hill are archaically behind the times. This classification came back in the 1970’s with Nixon’s War on Drugs, which is clearly an old mindset on a new commodity. Public education and interest has increased immensely about the potential for hemp as an everyday product. It doesn’t begin and end with health and wellness, hemp has the power to influence vastly different industries while making a huge economic impact. It’s high time Congress joins the rest of us in this century and twists a new tale towards hemp legalization.