While it might not look like it, not all hemp is grown equally. Much in the same way that alcohol content can vary between beers and wines, so too can CBD and THC concentration between cannabis plants. Minute discrepancies between too much or too little THC and CBD can have a pronounced impact on how the crop is classified by the Federal Government. In some cases, a farmer may unintentionally grow a field full of “hot” hemp. But what does that mean?
What Makes Hemp Hot?
When the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills were passed, it opened the door for farmers and researchers across the United States to begin growing, processing, and selling hemp and hemp-based products like CBD. While these pieces of legislation created many new opportunities, it was also very specific in what it took for the plant to be legally considered industrial hemp.
The acts noted that hemp had to contain 0.3 percent or less THC to be considered hemp. Legislators argued that there are no psychoactive effects in response to that level of THC concentration, and as such many committees felt that there was no threat to public safety.
Hemp that has a concentration of THC higher than 0.3 percent is considered “hot.” To some, the 0.3 percent THC limit might seem like an arbitrary number pulled out of the air by ill-informed legislators. In reality, the number has a basis in previous research into hemp from the 1970s. In 1976, the research journal Taxon published the research of Canadian scientists Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist. Their work, which was distributed by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy, helped to create a standard distinction between hemp and marijuana. This research would eventually find its way into a wide variety of rules and regulations, including being adopted by the United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs.
What Happens to Hot Hemp?
The law is clear that cannabis plants with a THC percentage greater than 0.3 are not industrial hemp, and many state regulators consider it marijuana at that point. While industrial hemp is legal to grow in all 50 U.S. states, the same can’t be said for marijuana. As such, many states will require the farmer or agriculturalist to destroy their crop. If this isn’t completed in a timely manner, the state may take legal action and the farmer could face prosecution for growing a DEA Schedule 1 drug.
Conceivably, this “hot” hemp could be used for other purposes, like being made into fibers for fabrics or paper, but states are playing it safe and destroying these crops. This ensures that they don’t enter gray and black markets where farmers may be able to sell the THC-rich hemp for an illicit profit. Destroying an entire crop of hemp can be difficult for some farmers from a financial and mental standpoint. But even when burned or cut apart, hemp can be used as fertilizer for other crops.
Is There Any Value in Hot Hemp?
In short, not really. Because hemp and it’s derivatives like CBD still exist in a sort of gray area between state and federal law, many farmers aren’t willing to risk growing crops that they wouldn’t be able to sell. And for states with legal marijuana, it’s ultimately more profitable to grow actual marijuana. Due to the legal consequences, as well as the difficulties of farming in general, farmers aren’t willing to take the financial gamble of raising a crop of hot hemp.
Is CBD Derived from Hot Hemp?
If it wants to be legally sold on the market, CBD cannot be derived from hemp that contains more than 0.3 percent THC. Similarly, in many states, CBD that is sourced from marijuana is not legal. In order to be manufactured and sold nationwide, CBD has to come from legal industrial hemp. Additionally, the hemp must be grown by a properly licensed grower.
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