America’s burgeoning hemp industry faces significant barriers that can only be torn down by the full legalization of this potentially lucrative crop.
Hemp was once one of America’s essential crops, grown by presidents and cash croppers alike, and wars were fought over access to this valuable commodity. It became illegal to grow hemp in the United States with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The federal law bans all forms of the cannabis plant, even though industrial hemp has very low levels of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis that’s grown for recreational or medicinal use.
The 2014 Farm Bill reopened the door to legal hemp cultivation by allowing states which had legalized industrial hemp to license farmers to grow the plant for research purposes, including market research. But many aspects of federal regulation and law surrounding hemp remain “opaque” and confusing, according to John Ryan, founder and director of Ananda Hemp. A subsidiary of the Australian hemp company EcoFibre Industries, Ananda Hemp is growing hundreds of acres of hemp in Kentucky and Tennessee.