If you’re shopping for CBD products, you may notice that some are listed as including industrial hemp extract. Industrial hemp is the source for the CBD in all our products, too. But what does it mean for hemp to be “industrial?”
For the first Europeans who came to America, hemp was commonplace. It was used to make a variety of products, including cloth, rope, and paper. Hemp was a cash crop for the U.S., grown regularly until 1937, when the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed.
This act placed a tax on anyone who cultivated cannabis, whether it was hemp or marijuana. Hemp continued to be grown extensively during World War II, used to make uniforms and rope for the war effort. However, the tax significantly discouraged production of the crop after that time.
A further blow fell on hemp in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act reclassified hemp as a Schedule 1 drug. This reinforced the notion that hemp was a psychoactive substance like marijuana, though hemp does not cause a high and differs from marijuana in several ways.
It was still legal to import hemp, making it possible to find hemp products here in the U.S. But it wasn’t until 2014 that hemp began its comeback. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to develop pilot programs to grow industrial hemp, mainly for research purposes.
This is where the term “industrial hemp” becomes significant. As part of this bill, hemp was defined separately from marijuana, if it met an important qualification. To be considered industrial hemp, the plant must produce a product containing 0.3% or less THC, the psychoactive compound that marijuana is famous for. The 2014 Farm Bill also allowed product manufacturers to source and use CBD extracted from industrial hemp in a variety of products, including wellness supplements.
Last year, we saw the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This supported hemp even further, classifying industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity rather than a controlled substance. It also made it legal to grow hemp at the federal level. Industrial hemp products are still required to contain less than 0.3% THC.
The Farm Bills may have legally separated hemp and marijuana, but decades of prohibition have led many Americans to believe that hemp is no different from its psychoactive cousin. While they are both members of the cannabis family, they differ significantly in their composition and applications.
Here’s where the word “industrial” returns to play. Hemp is grown on a large-scale, commercial level and used for industrial purposes. This includes food, fuel, textile, and, of course, CBD production. It can be cultivated in many different environments, and grows into tall, thick stalks.
Marijuana, on the other hand, is usually grown indoors in a controlled environment. It yields small harvests and is used for recreational and medicinal purposes.
Both of these plants contain CBD and THC. However, marijuana is cultivated for its high levels of THC and usually contains low levels of CBD. Industrial hemp, when intended for CBD production, is much more concentrated in CBD. And, as we know, it can contain only 0.3% THC. At this level of THC, hemp-extract products are non-psychoactive.
Industrial hemp is quickly gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. The market for CBD is expanding rapidly, but more and more producers are growing hemp as a promising replacement for the less sustainable materials we’re currently using. These include:
Hemp is also being adopted by many smaller, family-owned farms. This includes tobacco farmers. The demand for tobacco has been steadily decreasing. Replacing it with hemp in their fields allows these farmers to stay in business.
One important use of hemp is as a method to detoxify soil. Hemp is a bio-accumulator and will absorb substances from the soil in which it is planted. This can be positive, as it can be used to clean up contaminated areas and still be used for industrial purposes. However, if the hemp is being used for food or supplements, it is important to know where it is grown to ensure it is produced in a safe way.