For years, hemp and marijuana have been lumped together legally and also in the minds of many individuals. The two substances are different, however, and are now being treated as such under United States law. In December, the US Congress passed legislation legalizing hemp and hemp products. While some restrictions may still be enforced by the FDA, the new law opens up the market for hemp expansion and promises an increase in the production of CBD oil, a substance that is used to treat seizures and is said to be effective for a number of health conditions. Marijuana has also been increasingly legalized across the country, greatly reducing any lingering stigma, but now hemp has an acceptance that cannabis has yet to achieve. Hemp is no longer the crop of the future but rather takes its place firmly in the present.
People sometimes confuse hemp and marijuana, but they are two distinctive plants – both with a number of varieties. Hemp does look similar to marijuana, but its leaves are narrower and the plant itself is skinnier with a lack of branches beneath its upper portion. Hemp plants are usually between 6 to 15 feet high and require little care to thrive. Depending on the soil and climate conditions, the growing cycle is somewhere between 70 to 140 days. Hemp is also an abundant crop. Just one acre of hemp may produce 700 pounds of grain. Some people still think you can get high on hemp, but that is rarely the case. Legal hemp contains much less THC than marijuana – approximately .03% compared to 15 – 40%. That means that hemp CBD oil contains little of the psychotropic qualities caused by THC. It gives patients the benefits of marijuana but without the mood-altering effects.
In addition to CBD oil, hemp can be used for a number of products, including rope, clothing, soap, paper and protein powder. Many people consume food and beverages that contain hemp seed or simply snack on them alone. For years hemp production was limited by legal issues and negative public perception. The change in US law promises to remedy these problems and encourage greater hemp production and use.
While hemp offers excellent profit opportunities for farmers, it also comes with challenges. Even with the new legislation, government regulation will still be present. For instance, hemp has to be tested to make certain that it does not contain more than the 0.3% legally allowed. Currently, there is no standard way to test crops for THC, which causes problems for some farmers. Experts also warn that differing state laws could still impose limitations on hemp production. Confusion around CBD production and sales is still being resolved. Users of the oil claim that it can cure or mitigate almost any condition, including cancer, but those claims have not been confirmed by the FDA. State policies toward CBD oil also widely vary, which means farmers have to do careful research on their particular state’s law. Like any crop, hemp fields can be damaged or even wiped out by weather events such as drought, wind storms and fires. California hemp and marijuana crops suffered huge losses in 2018 due to devastating wildfires. Hemp can also be damaged by a number of pests, including the hemp borer. The future for hemp growers looks bright, but farmers need to protect their investment with crop insurance, just as they would their corn and soybean crops.
The new legislation makes it much easier for hemp farmers to protect their crops. The legalization of hemp removes many of the difficulties that marijuana farmers still have when trying to buy crop coverage. Hemp farmers may be new to the world of crop insurance, so they need to understand the basics. Buying insurance means that their crops have a level of protection against weather and other threats. Some farmers forgo purchasing this insurance, preferring to gamble that their crops will thrive – a risky choice that can have severe financial repercussions. Crop insurance may provide coverage only for hail damage or it may be multiple peril crop insurance (MPCI) that protects against weather, disease, drought, flooding, etc. Now that hemp is legal, farmers will have more choices for crop insurance, including both government-supported and privately-issued policies. Certainly, more companies will get into the hemp specialty insurance market since the demand is bound to explode. For years, hemp production was limited by the crop’s legal status and its association with marijuana. Now hemp has been accepted as a legitimate agricultural product and given legal status in the United States. In addition, much of the stigma of marijuana has disappeared as well. Hemp is poised to become a standard crop raised by farmers all over the country. Hemp products are already in great demand, with CBD oil being of particular interest to the healthcare industry. Since farmers can now openly grow hemp just as they would their other crops, they need to treat it like their wheat or corn, which includes buying crop insurance. No farmer can afford to invest in a crop and then lose it to pests or severe weather.