Hemp, (Cannabis sativa), also called industrial hemp, plant of the family Cannabaceae cultivated for its fibre (bast fibre) or its edible seeds. Hemp is sometimes confused with the cannabis plants that serve as sources of the drug marijuana and the drug preparation hashish. Although all three products—hemp, marijuana, and hashish—contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans, the variety of cannabis cultivated for hemp has only small amounts of THC relative to that grown for the production of marijuana or hashish.
The hemp plant is a stout, aromatic, erect annual herb. The slender canelike stalks are hollow except at the tip and base. The leaves are compound with palmate shape, and the flowers are small and greenish yellow. Seed-producing flowers form elongate, spikelike clusters growing on the pistillate, or female, plants. Pollen-producing flowers form many-branched clusters on staminate, or male, plants.
Cultivation And Processing
Hemp originated in Central Asia. Hemp cultivation for fibre was recorded in China as early as 2800 BCE and was practiced in the Mediterranean countries of Europe early in the Christian era, spreading throughout the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. It was planted in Chile in the 1500s and a century later in North America.
Hemp is grown in temperate zones as an annual cultivated from seed and can reach a height of up to 5 metres (16 feet). Crops grow best in sand loam with good drainage and require average monthly rainfall of at least 65 mm (2.5 inches) throughout the growing season. Crops cultivated for fibre are densely sowed and produce plants averaging 2–3 metres (6–10 feet) tall with almost no branching. Plants grown for oilseed are planted farther apart and are shorter and many-branched. In fibre production, maximum yield and quality are obtained by harvesting soon after the plants reach maturity, indicated by the full blossoms and freely shedding pollen of the male plants. Although sometimes pulled up by hand, plants are more often cut off about 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the ground.
Fibres are obtained by subjecting the stalks to a series of operations—including retting, drying, and crushing—and a shaking process that completes separation from the woody portion, releasing the long, fairly straight fibre, or line. The fibre strands, usually over 1.8 metres (5.8 feet) long, are made of individual cylindrical cells with an irregular surface.
Products And Uses
The fibre, longer and less flexible than flax, is usually yellowish, greenish, or a dark brown or gray and, because it is not easily bleached to sufficiently light shades, is rarely dyed. It is strong and durable and is used for cordage—e.g., twine, yarn, rope, cable, and string—and for artificial sponges and such coarse fabrics as sacking (burlap) and canvas. In Italy, some hemp receives special processing, producing whitish colour and attractive lustre, and is used to make fabric similar to linen. Hemp fibre is also used to make bioplastics that can be recyclable and biodegradable, depending on the formulation.
The edible seeds contain about 30 percent oil and are a source of protein, fibre, and magnesium. Shelled hemp seeds, sometimes called hemp hearts, are sold as a health food and may be eaten raw; they are commonly sprinkled on salads or blended with fruit smoothies. Hemp seed milk is used as an alternative to dairy milk in drinks and recipes. The oil obtained from hemp seed can be used to make paints, varnishes, soaps, and edible oil with a low smoke point. Historically, the seed’s chief commercial use has been for caged-bird feed.
Although only the hemp plant yields true hemp, a number of other plant fibres are called “hemp.” These include Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum), Mauritius hemp (Furcraea foetida), and sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea).
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family, which consists of three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
While hemp and marijuana are regularly referred to as “species” or “strains” of Cannabis, they actually do not qualify as either one. In fact, they couldn’t technically be considered as plants at all…
Hemp and marijuana are simply broad classifications of Cannabis that were adopted into our culture; however, they are not legitimate nomenclature for the Cannabis plant.
To clarify the difference between Hemp and Marijuana and clear the smoke on this frequently misinformed subject, let’s explore what each of these terms actually means and how they relate to Cannabis.
What is Hemp?
“Hemp” is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC content (by dry weight).
While the legal definition described above had not been legitimized until the Agricultural Act of 2018 had passed, “hemp” has generally been used to describe non-intoxicating Cannabis that is harvested for the industrial use of its derived products.
With evidence of its use recorded throughout history, including the discovery of material made from hemp over 10,000 years ago, many
believe that hemp was the first crop ever cultivated by mankind.
With the capabilities to produce crucial resources such as food, rope, clothing, paper, housing material, and more, hemp has been the catalyst for man’s earliest innovations.
What is Marijuana?
“Marijuana” is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain more than 0.3% THC (by dry weight) and can induce psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user.
While the use of this term is widespread throughout American culture, it presents a grossly inadequate misrepresentation of Cannabis. Most informed individuals and organizations in the Cannabis industry refuse to use the term and some consider it to be "racist."
In early American history, the term “marijuana” was non-existent and “cannabis” was the primary term used to classify the plant.
Between 1910 and 1920, nearly a million Mexicans migrated into the United States seeking refuge from the Mexican Revolution. During this time, anti-Mexican sentiment had begun to steep and the term “marijuana” arose as a negative correlation of its use by Mexican immigrants.
Soon after, rumors began to surface, warning Americans of the dangerous and homicidal tendencies caused by using "Mexican cannabis" or "locoweed," which lead to an even greater rise in anti-Mexican sentiment.
As the negative perception of cannabis intensified, the government began regulating cannabis more aggressively. By 1927, 11 states had passed anti-marijuana laws and by the 1930s anti-marijuana propaganda and the fear of “Reefer Madness” was in full swing. After the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which imposed heavy, unrealistic taxes on the possession, sale, and transportation of the plant, the federal government had effectively banned “marijuana,” paving the way for the next 80 years of cannabis prohibition.
The Confusion Presented by Hemp vs Marijuana
Based on the context used to describe Hemp and Marijuana, the defining characteristic between the two is based on a single factor––the amount of THC in the plant––or rather whether it will get the user high.
While the intoxicating properties of each plant is an important factor to consider, categorizing Cannabis as either hemp or marijuana based on a single characteristic presents a skewed portrayal of Cannabis which prevents users from fully understanding its diversity.
Categorizing Cannabis as either Hemp or Marijuana is akin to classifying all fruits in the citrus genus as either sweet or sour, without acknowledging the diverse characteristics of each fruit.
In addition, hemp and marijuana can often appear indistinguishable from one another.
This has already led to numerous issues of law enforcement officers making arrests and seizing hemp that is 100% legal because it looks exactly like “marijuana.”
The classification of hemp or marijuana absent of a true understanding of Cannabis presents a clear issue of function.
The obvious solution is for these words to have never existed; however, now that these terms have become deeply ingrained in our society, this problem will be difficult to reverse.
The only realistic solution is to re-educate our society over time.
In the meantime, it’s probably best to stay informed about what hemp and marijuana mean and how they are used in our society and legal system to know your rights and avoid any complications when using hemp or CBD products.
4 Key Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
As varieties of the same plant species, hemp and marijuana share many similarities and can even appear exactly alike.
With contrasting legal regulations and very different effects and usages, you definitely do not want to get these two confused.
To understand just how different these two are, consider these 4 key differences between hemp and marijuana.
Hemp vs Marijuana: Composition
The defining characteristic between hemp and marijuana is the chemical composition contained within each plant.
Both hemp and marijuana can produce high amounts of CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabis compound; however, THC is produced at very different levels.
While hemp can contain no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, marijuana can contain up to 30% THC content.
Hemp vs Marijuana: Legality
Due to the difference between their levels of THC, hemp and marijuana are regulated very differently under the law.
While hemp was previously regulated as an illegal substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, it was removed as an illegal substance under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which federally legalized hemp and hemp-derived products that contain no more than 0.3% THC.
Hemp vs Marijuana: Cultivation
Hemp and marijuana are harvested for different purposes so, naturally, they require different growing conditions. Marijuana varieties are selectively bred in controlled environments which are designed to optimize the breed’s characteristics and produce female plants that yield budding flowers.
To properly cultivate a marijuana or cannabis plant, a grower must pay close attention to the plant at each stage of its life cycle and maintain exact conditions in its environment, such as proper temperature, lighting, and humidity.
In contrast, hemp is grown to maximize its size and yield. To achieve this, hemp is typically grown outdoors and does not require the level of control and attention that is necessary to grow marijuana.
Hemp vs Marijuana: Usage
Hemp and marijuana each offer a range of usages which are unique to their composition.
As a powerful psychoactive agent, THC can directly bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the Endocannabinoid System, which induces the mind-altering, euphoric effects referred to as being “high.”
While marijuana is commonly recognized for its recreational uses, studies have revealed its potential in a wide variety of therapeutic applications.
In comparison, hemp is harvested to produce a wide variety of products including, but not limited to:
Hemp-Derived CBD vs Marijuana Derived CBD
When it comes to CBD and the case of hemp and marijuana, we are faced with yet another important subject that must be addressed. CBD can be derived from either hemp or marijuana, however, given the unique characteristics of each plant, one would assume that the CBD derived from each plant is different in some way.
Surprisingly, they aren’t. Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D., and Chief Scientist at Mary's Nutritionals says that “the CBD molecule and its associated pharmacology are the same, whether it was extracted from hemp or from marijuana. CBD is CBD, regardless of where it was originally derived from,”
So if CBD is the exact same at a molecular level, CBD should be legal whether it’s derived from hemp or marijuana, as long as it’s below 0.3% right? Not exactly…
This is where the law can get a little confusing, but let me explain.
Under the Agricultural Act of 2018, commonly known as the "2018 Farm Bill", hemp and hemp-derived products, including hemp-derived CBD, were legalized.
A common misconception about the 2018 Farm Bill is that it legalized CBD regardless of if it was derived from hemp or marijuana. This is not true.
Based on the guidance of the DEA, CBD is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance.
If, however, the CBD is derived from hemp which contains no more than 0.3% THC, it would not be regulated as a controlled substance and is federally legal.
The keyword here is “derived from hemp.”
The 2018 Farm Bill explicitly applies to “hemp and hemp-derived products.”
It does not include marijuana-derived CBD, which remains under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a controlled substance.
Even if the CBD contains 0.0% THC, if it is derived from marijuana, it is not legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.
To summarize and re-clarify:
Hemp vs Marijuana: Final Thoughts
While the subject can be a bit complex and quite confusing, I hope to have shed some light on this important subject and properly explained the difference between hemp vs marijuana.
Despite the dysfunctional use of the terms “hemp” and “marijuana,” these terms have become deeply ingrained in our culture and society.
There is definitely a need to re-educate America about Hemp and Marijuana, but to reverse this issue, it will have to take time.
Because these terms are used in a legal context, it’s important to understand what they mean, how they’re different, and how they relate to cannabis to understand your rights and avoid potential legal complications when using CBD products.
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been recently covered in the media, and you may have even seen it as an add-in booster to your post-workout smoothie or morning coffee. What exactly is CBD? Why is it suddenly so popular?
How is cannabidiol different from marijuana?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a “high.” According to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
Is cannabidiol legal?
CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status is in flux. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it. In December 2015, the FDA eased the regulatory requirements to allow researchers to conduct CBD trials. Currently, many people obtain CBD online without a medical cannabis license. The government's position on CBD is confusing, and depends in part on whether the CBD comes from hemp or marijuana. The legality of CBD is expected to change, as there is currently bipartisan consensus in Congress to make the hemp crop legal which would, for all intents and purposes, make CBD difficult to prohibit.
The evidence for cannabidiol health benefits:
CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases it was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking. Recently the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.
Is cannabidiol safe?
Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can increase the level in your blood of the blood thinner coumadin, and it can raise levels of certain other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does. A significant safety concern with CBD is that it is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. In addition, the product may contain other (unknown) elements. We also don’t know the most effective therapeutic dose of CBD for any particular medical condition.
The bottom line on cannabidiol:
Some CBD manufacturers have come under government scrutiny for wild, indefensible claims, such that CBD is a cure-all for cancer, which it is not. We need more research but CBD may be prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD is currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting. If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor — if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking.
Thought to be among the first cultivated crops in human history, hemp was a staple in America before being federally prohibited just decades ago.
Long before the cultivation of hemp was criminalized in the United States, the versatile and sustainable crop played a major role in the building of a new nation. One of the oldest plants to be cultivated by human civilization, hemp is a sustainable crop grown for food, oil, and fiber.
This week, we’ve taken a moment to look back on the long history of hemp in America. We also explore what brought about its eventual downturn before the valuable crop’s new resurgence in the United States.
Hemp’s Role in Colonial America
Hemp was already being cultivated by Native Americans in the New World when pioneers who had taken to the seas for a better life arrived. Hemp fibers are exceptionally strong and durable, and Native Americans grew the crop to produce hemp thread, hemp cordage, hemp clothing, hemp paper, and hemp food.
The first recorded use of hemp in America’s colonial years comes from 1632, as the Virginia Assembly mandated “that every planter as soone as he may, provide seede of flaxe and hempe and sowe the same.” Shortly thereafter, courts in Massachusetts and Connecticut passed similar hemp mandates and in the 17th and 18th centuries, encouraging farmers throughout the American colonies to grow and process the plant.
Hemp was exported to England where it was used for clothing, shoes, maps, books, ship’s rigging, parachute webbing, baggage, sails, and tents. For over 200 years, hemp was even considered a legal tender that could be used to pay taxes. As the relationship between Britain and the American colonies went downhill, homegrown hemp was used for products beneficial to ground troops and naval forces.
As the United States earned its independence from Great Britain in the late 18th century, hemp remained a staple for early Americans. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis on their plantations, and Benjamin Franklin started one of America’s first paper mills with hemp. According to some historians, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper.
Hemp in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries
America’s reliance on hemp increased throughout the 19th century. Production spread to more states, including Illinois, California, and Nebraska.
Congress passed a law in 1841 that ordered the Navy to purchase hemp from domestic farmers. Technological innovations including the Hemp Dresser and the Decorticator machine revolutionized the industry and improved the efficiency of harvest and manufacturing processes.
A Popular Mechanics magazine article published in February 1938 projected that domestically grown hemp could be worth $1 billion.
Downturn of the American Hemp Industry
Throughout the 20th century, individual states and the U.S. federal government began to criminalize all cannabis. Because of hemp’s familial relationship to marijuana and a lack of understanding about the plants’ differences, laws were implemented restricting or prohibiting all cannabis growth.
Domestic hemp’s dominance in the U.S. took a significant downturn in 1937 when, in an effort to regulate the intoxicating varieties of cannabis, the U.S. government passed the Marijuana Tax Act. While the law didn’t prohibit the growing of hemp, it did turn over the regulation of licensing hemp production to the Department of Revenue and added a $100 transfer tax on sales that significantly hindered domestic farmers.
Around the same time came the emergence of synthetic fibers. Cheap imports of lower-quality fibers became the norm for manufacturers and the demand for high-quality hemp fiber continued to decline.
Hemp’s Short Resurgence During WWII
With the United States entering World War II in 1941, the nation’s hemp cultivation efforts were resurrected. Japan cut off supplies of hemp from the Philippines, forcing the U.S. to turn to its own farmers for hemp production.
The federal government launched a pro-hemp campaign, which included the distribution of 400,000 pounds of seeds and the release of the film "Hemp for Victory" to encourage American farmers to grow as much hemp as possible for the war effort. A private company called War Hemp Industries was formed to subsidize hemp cultivation and new processing plants used the crop’s strong industrial fibers to produce products like rope, cloth, and cordage.
Between 1942 and 1946, American farmers from Wisconsin to Kentucky produced 42,000 tons of hemp fiber annually.
Unfortunately, hemp’s comeback ended nearly as quick as it started. Following the war, the demand for domestic hemp fiber was no more and many Midwestern farmers immediately faced canceled hemp contracts.
Laws on Hemp Today
Hemp only recently again became legal to grow and use in the United States under federal law.
In 1970, the U.S. government passed the Controlled Substances Act, a statute that regulates all cannabis, including industrial hemp. However, the definition of marijuana was lifted from the existing 1937 statute and adopted without any change. This definition excluded certain parts of hemp — sterilized hemp seed, hemp fiber, and hemp seed oil— from regulation.
In 2004, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration did not have the authority to regulate these specific parts of hemp under the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp could therefore still be imported and those parts of the plant used for products.
After nearly a century of prohibition on the cultivation of hemp, the versatile plant is starting to again take root in America. With the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, which
featured Section 7606, states became allowed to implement laws allowing state departments of agriculture and universities to grow hemp for research or pilot programs.
Then, the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill contains provisions that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, radically overhauling America’s relation to hemp and hemp products. The law made it legal for U.S. farmers to grow, process, and sell hemp commercially. It also legalized hemp nationwide for any use, including the extraction of CBD oil.
To date, over 40 states have passed legislation related to hemp cultivation and the nation’s hemp market was valued at more than $668 million in 2016. Hemp food products are considered a top 10 food trend for 2019, and the hemp-derived CBD market is on track to reach $22 billion by 2022.
Hemp is the belle of the crop ball in 2019, with farmers lined up for a chance to dance—but desire does not necessarily translate to know-how. From seed to harvest to processing, U.S. growers are asking a litany of hemp questions.
The year of hemp jubilee has arrived, roughly 80 years after Uncle Sam locked the maligned cannabis variety in the federal attic. American farmers can officially play the hemp game—so says the 2018 farm bill—and for prospective growers facing a chain of hemp management questions, invaluable answers are found in fellow farmers’ fields. Whether seed, fiber or cannabidiol (CBD), hemp growers share a colossal commonality: They are all learning on the go.
CBD Labor Pains
“Everybody wants to know how to farm hemp,” says Joseph Sisk, “but they don’t realize that everyone already growing hemp does it differently.”
Located in western Kentucky’s Christian County, Sisk, 45, grows 5,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat. For the last three years, alongside farming partner Todd Harton, Sisk has grown hemp exclusively for CBD, a highly desired extract of cannabis and present darling of the hemp industry. By 2022, the overall CBD market value is projected to approach $2 billion, according to New Frontier Data, with $646 million of the total exclusive to hemp-derived CBD.
The Kentucky duo grew 200 acres of hemp for CBD in 2018, and typically apply 125 to 200 lb. nitrogen, spread prior to planting and through an over-the-top application in July. “We’ve seen hemp’s fertilizer needs parallel corn, but I have to emphasize three years of data is not solid,” Sisk says. “Murray State University and the University of Kentucky are both looking hot and heavy at fertilizer use. Who knows the right amount? Nobody, yet.”
Planting typically falls between the third week of May and into the first week of June. (Sisk also cites an exceptional instance of notably late-planting on July 15 with no faltering of the crop.) Hemp clones are provided by an in-state processor (each season begins with an established processor contract) and transplanted into 40” rows on flat ground with multiple 4-row tobacco setters spread over a 10-day period. Planting population varies between 1,500-4,000 plants per acre, contingent on the variety requested by the processor. “This is all so young that we grow whatever varieties our processor wants. Right now we don’t need to choose on our own and get rejected in the end,” Sisk explains.
Hemp for CBD is a young crop with a younger market, and prices change by the month, sometimes by the week. “Marketing is done a thousand different ways. Some people buy their own genetics and find a buyer at the end, but most people are connected with a specific processor. It seems like everyone has a different deal,” he adds.
After planting, Sisk and Harton make sure the hemp has adequate moisture to set roots. They used drip irrigation during the first hemp season, but rodent issues required daily labor to walk lines and fix holes. “Hemp needs enough water to continue its life cycle, but you can’t push water to it as you would with corn,” Sisk notes. “When you’re pod-building in beans or finishing corn, moisture in soil is good, but that’s not the case with hemp. We only add water if the dirt really gets depleted. Hemp likes sunny, hot weather.”
Initially, Sisk believed hemp for CBD was conducive to any soil, even marginal ground.
Multiple years of experience have taught him otherwise: “It responds to better soils like any crop.” Once hemp starts, grower options are severely limited—no herbicides, insecticides or fungicides allowed. Weeding requires vigilance, with either row cultivation or hoes. “You have to get things right from the beginning, because there are no chemicals allowed, and if something goes wrong, all you can do is watch,” Sisk describes.
In general, the plants grow at an incredibly fast rate for the first 60 days. By the beginning of August, the varieties show distinct phenotype differences from short and squat (3’ wide x 3’ tall), to tall and fat (6’ tall x 5’ wide). Chopping crews combat weed presence. From pillar to post, hemp for CBD requires considerable labor, according to Sisk: “Across an entire season, this is incredibly labor intensive, even more so than tobacco.”
When the hemp reaches sexual maturity, vigilance is required to check fields for male plants. CBD production is strictly a no-males-allowed proposition. Even a few males in a hemp field can pollinate an entire crop, triggering seed production in females, diminished flower set, and a reduction in CBD concentration. “We have to pay attention and make sure there are no males with pollen sacs. We’ll pull them up immediately when we find them and get them out of the field.”
After 100-120 days, Sisk and Harton hope for a field of female plants heavy with CBD content stored in flowers and biomass, yet below the .03 psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) level to remain clear of regulatory violations. “There are so many different opinions about when to harvest according to maturity, but we rely on our processor to tell us when it’s finally ready. The department of ag pulls tissue tests to make sure the hemp is below .03, and then we harvest.”
Harvest crews need roughly five weeks to bring in 200 acres, and Sisk estimates one man for every five acres. By necessity, harvest is haphazard and a constant learning process without standards. Sisk equates hemp harvest to killing snakes: just go do it. “Nobody, and I mean nobody, has figured out the harvest process yet. Whatever works is currently the right way. At the point of harvest, nobody is doing it the same. We’re all trying to figure out the best way regarding labor and logistics.”
Sisk and Harton have built and experimented with several harvesting machines, but their labor crews hand-cut plants at ground-level with tobacco knives or shears. The plants are dragged down the rows to wagons or trailers, and hauled indoors for drying. At the drying point, variation between operations is even more diverse: Warehouse floors, dehumidifiers, fans, tobacco barns, sheds, greenhouse heat, racks, direct to processor, and mechanical dryers. Sisk believes mechanical drying will ultimately prevail as the method of choice: “Harvest and afterward is a total free-for-all and a puzzle needing a solution. As growers, we all share with each other to try and find out what works, but we’re all making it up as we go. There is no authority to ask.”
When weather cooperates and provides strong heat, plants are dried on racks in roughly two weeks. After drying, plants are stripped of all green material and run through a hammer mill. “Most processors want 10%-plus raw CBD oil. If you introduce the whole plant then your CBD percent drops.”
After three years, yields have jumped across the spectrum. The size and variety of the plants makes yield a tricky proposition: “A lot of people hope the entire plant weighs in excess of 1 lb. I’ve seen plants that were big and looked great, but it doesn’t really matter. Some processors pay by CBD content, plant material, whole plant, or pounds of oil. Again, it’s different everywhere.”
The 2018 farm bill opened the door for crop insurance, but the details are yet to surface. Sisk emphasizes the risks of growing hemp for CBD. “You better look it right in the eye and no there is no guarantee financially. Your biggest consideration is finding someone reliable to work with on the processing end. If you’re the kind of farmer that can grow high-quality crops and actively manage labor, then you can get a leg up on hemp.”
Sisk urges prospective growers to start small and avoid business-altering acreage. “Begin with tiny acres and get an idea of scalability and processor reliability. Can you tolerate financial hiccups? In most ways, you’re gonna be on your own.”
Chris Adams, 31, farms a diverse crop roster on 9,000 acres: sugarbeets, hard red spring wheat, hemp, soybeans, and six varieties of edible beans. Adams works land on both sides of the North Dakota-Minnesota line in fertile Red River Valley soils, and was an early adopter of seed hemp in 2017, growing 300 acres. In 2018, he increased seed hemp to 750 acres, and made a test run at CBD hemp on his Minnesota ground.
“I jumped in with about three-and-a-half acres, regardless of the market. It’s so huge that I wasn’t worried about finding a buyer. I was more concerned with normal weather risks and making sure my product was under the .03 THC level—some varieties flirt closely with that number.”
Adams purchased clones in Colorado and prepared to plant in early June, spreading 100 lb. of nitrogen per acre and laying down 4’-wide plastic mulch strips every 6’. Spaced 5’ to 6’ apart in each row, Adams’ crew hand-deposited roughly 1,500 plants per acre. “We then came back with a tank and hose, and watered twice daily for four days in a row. Then we left them alone to grow. You can add nutrients and micronutrients but we just let the soil do its job.”
By mid-September, as the flowering plants reached 6’-7’ high with 2”-3” diameter stalks at the cusp of harvest, Adams found 2,000 impostors carrying pollen sacs in the field. His clone purchase in Colorado was fraudulent because half his crop was male—an absolute disaster in CBD hemp which requires all-female production. Boiled down, he lost an entire crop. (In addition, the CBD level of the plants was 1.5%, drastically lower than Adam’s minimal target of 15%.)
“I had 4,000 plants ready to harvest. Just say each plant produces a half-pound of flower material that’s 18% to 20% CBD. That gives you 2,000 lb. of biomass to sell. Sold at $100 per lb., that totals $200,000. Basically, my potential to sell went from $200,000 to zero.”
Undaunted, Adams intends to buy planting machinery in 2019 and plant legitimate clones on 20 acres.
(For more, see https://www.agweb.com/article/hemp-fraud-hits-farmer-clone-scam )
Seed Hemp: Perfect Planting
In the rolling hills of North Dakota’s Grant County, Clarence Laub grows 2,400 dryland (15” rain annually) acres of corn, hemp, soybeans, sunflowers, and wheat on predominantly sandy loam soil, alongside a 300-head commercial Angus operation. Despite an unsteady feel of isolation, Laub, 25, gathered what little information he could find and grew 10 acres of hemp for seed in 2016. In 2017, he ramped up to 240 acres, but after dealing with the whims of a capricious market, dropped to 60 acres in 2018.
Weather permitting, Laub plants hemp at the tail-end of corn, around May 20 to June 1. He used an air drill in 2016 on 10” rows, but experienced a significant amount of seed cracking, and seed depth irregularity beyond his .5” target. In 2017, the problems spurred Laub to switch to a no-till box drill on 6” rows that “worked great and provided accurate seeding depth.”
The tighter 6” rows were an improvement, particularly on a crop without herbicide options, according to Laub: “The close rows make it canopy so much faster and avoid weed issues. My planting population is 6 to 12 plants in a square foot—dense. That is really thick when you’ve got a 7’ crop a few inches apart.”
Laub hasn’t experienced plant disease or insect issues, and with few management angles, the stand is the story, Laub explains. “You need to try and get perfect planting. There are no chemicals to rely on, so what you’ve got is what you’ve got. At least in my experience, getting a good stand is the hardest part.”
In 2018, Laub planted a relatively small (5’-7’) Canadian variety, Hemp Genetics International CRS-1: “There was no blowover in the wind even with some 80 mph gusts. The stalks are seriously strong, kind of like flax on steroids. Once the field is harvested, you don’t dare jump down from the combine into the hard stalks without being careful.”
Laub harvests at the beginning of September when the plants are fairly green with the same equipment he uses for small grains: a draper head and a standard combine. In 2016 and 2017, Laub used a shredder and vertical tillage to take care of post-harvest biomass. However, he used a haybine in 2018 to cut biomass for baling, storage—and a market down the road.
Hemp seed prices have subsided, a downward trend Laub hopes will reverse. Seed brought $1 in 2016, he recalls; 50 cents in 2017; 40 cents early in 2018, but 30 cents closer to harvest. Laub’s seed yields averaged 1,500-1,600 lb. per acre. “We’re still learning, and I know the Canadians are getting 1,800-2,000 lb. per acre.”
Cutting is best at 18-20% moisture, according to Laub; lower moisture carries the risk of plants dropping seed. Laub benefits from the dry climate of southwest North Dakota, but says hemp seed is problematic for storage. “You can store at 9%, but 6-7% is even better. A grain dryer is definitely an investment to consider if you go with significant hemp acreage.”
And 2019? If the market moves up, Laub may jump to 400 acres of hemp for seed. No matter the market hitches, he will grow at least some acreage: “Even if prices drop further, I’ll still plant 20-30 acres so I can keep building and learning.”
“I don’t have many options for processing, and my best bet is contracting with the Canadians. We need infrastructure and people working together, because you always feel alone. As farmers, we have to be open, move forward together and share information.”
“Right now, hemp for seed is not a highly profitable crop, but it could be a great income source with infrastructure. For anyone starting, just go 20 acres or less and get to learning. When processing arrives, you’ll be ready for large acreage.”
Fiber: The Easiest Hemp?
Twenty miles northeast of Louisville, Ky., Steve Rutledge operates Professional Land Management as president and owner, and oversees corn, forage crops, hemp, soybeans and wheat on numerous operations. Over the past three years, four of Rutledge’s clients have grown hemp for either CBD, seed or fiber. Through trial and error, Rutledge has learned the ins-and-outs of fiber management. Hemp for fiber, with a 60-day turnaround, is similar to growing a forage from the standpoint of planting and cutting, but the complications begin soon after, according to Rutledge. Overall, he describes fiber as the “easiest form of hemp farming.”
Rutledge’s pre-planting protocol is light tillage behind soybeans from the previous fall. He prefers no disturbance to the soil, but says seeds fare better after preparation with a light disc. “I like no till, but the results have been mixed because the seeds don’t like compaction.”
After dropping a 75 lb. mix of NPK, he uses a no till drill on 8” rows to plant shallow at an eighth of an inch. With a 50-60 lb. per acre seeding rate, the soil shades quickly (herbicides are out) and weed suppression is not an issue, according to Rutledge. “We’re talking thick fields, with stalk sizes about thumb in diameter or a little smaller.”
Although Rutledge targets May 5-10, he’s never been able to plant before May 25 due to seed availability and import logistics. “It’s paperwork heavy and takes time. Seed stock genetics aren’t available to just go out and plant. You need the right variety at the right time and there’s lots of room for error dealing with foreign countries.”
Seed quality can be filled with trapdoors, and Rutledge has experienced the highs and lows of the spectrum. In 2017, he purchased seed advertised as 75% certified, but after testing, discovered the rate was significantly lower—60%. “We were down to 40 lb. per acre to actually germinate in the field. These things are a reality that growers must consider.”
In his first year of hemp for fiber, Rutledge paid $7 per pound for seed—an amount that doesn’t allow for profit. “It wasn’t affordable; you can’t survive in hemp for $7, but seed costs have gone down and I’m hoping they settle at around $2 per pound.”
If a grower gets field conditions, variety and seed quality in sync, post-planting management is minimal, he explains. “If you’re low in nitrogen, you can top dress, but after planting, you pretty much watch the field until it’s ready to cut. That’s why starting right is crucial.”
The plants grow rapidly, and approximately 60 days after planting, the hemp for fiber is ready for harvest. (As soon as flowering starts, preferably before forming seed, the hemp needs to be cut, according to Rutledge.) After officials from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture test and ensure the THC level is below .03, harvest kicks off—and complications thicken.
Rutledge was advised to use traditional hay equipment, but he says the tough, fibrous nature of hemp makes it an entirely unique harvest beast. “Use any machinery with rotation, pickup heads, or rolling bearings, and hemp can easily wrap to the point where you’ll have to cut or burn it out,” he warns.
After a haybine produced weak results, Rutledge switched to a disc mower, but the hemp balled on the ends. He found a solution by cutting hemp with a sickle bar mower and leaving it on the ground to dry for 30 days (drying allows the fiber to separate easier), and flipping it with a rotary rake. A round baler with knives in the chamber is used to prepare the hemp for storage, prior to shipping to a processor via flatbed trailers. “The key is to get as much baled as possible, but you’re always going to have some field loss with broken hurd (fiber). Other countries in the world have this down to a science, but we don’t in the U.S. Equipment is expensive and not readily available anyway, because we’re not yet at the point where scale merits such investment.”
Due to seed availability issues and weather vagaries, Rutledge hasn’t experienced an ideal growing season in any of his three years of hemp production, but has hit yields between 1-2.5 tons per acre. His ultimate goal is 5 tons per acre. “There have been test trials showing 5-ton yields, but we don’t have access to those proprietary varieties.”
Despite the yield variation, hemp for fiber must pencil out to be economically viable. “Payment ranges from 7-11 cents per pound, or sometimes a minimum guarantee per acre, whichever is larger,” Rutledge describes. “Also, you can try to negotiate a deal with your processor to share in seed costs. Another thing, we believe we’re seeing a yield response in grains behind hemp, but we’re still looking and need more time for data to pile up.”
Rutledge highlights three major hemp-for-fiber considerations. One: Nail down the processor and the payment amount. Two: Identify the source and quality of seed. Three: Make sure the right equipment is available to handle the crop.
“There is a big, big learning curve, and you have to start getting educated by talking to people in hemp and going to field days, and then seeing what you learn on your own ground at a small scale of about 10 acres.”
Rutledge also urges caution whether a grower is planting hemp for CBD, seed or fiber: “There is so much misinformation out there and you have to be careful. Hemp farming of any kind is trial, error and observation—classic learning on the go.”
The Manufacturing Process
Cultivation and harvesting
Hemp is an annual plant that grows from seed. It grows in a range of soils, but tends to grow best on land that produces high yields of corn. The soil must be well drained, rich in nitrogen, and non-acidic. Hemp prefers a mild climate, humid atmosphere, and a rainfall of at least 25-30 in (64-76 cm) per year. Soil temperatures must reach a minimum of 42-46°F (5.5-7.7°C) before seeds can be planted.
Hemp fibers are tested for tensile strength, fineness (fiber diameter), and the color is recorded. Moisture content is recorded during every stage of the growing and production process. The THC content of the plant is also contiguously tested to make sure that the level does not exceed the 0.3% mark. Research is still being conducted on the effects that hemp would have on the industry. Set standards are constantly being altered and changed.
The harvested hemp not used is burned. During fiber processing, the core fiber is saved and usually used to make paper, horse bedding, or construction materials. Most hemp producers recycle the core fiber by removing dust, then baling and packaging. The dust can be pressed into pellets used for fuel. The dirt and small chips of core are also used as a high nutrient soil additive.
Where it is legal, the hemp industry has been growing at an annual growth rate of 20%. Other potential uses are being developed. For instance, hemp meal has demonstrated it can be used as a food ingredient for aquiculture farms, specifically freshwater fish and shrimp. Even hemp beer has entered the Canadian market, though it is expected to remain a small part of beer sales. Composite materials for the building industry are also being investigated.
Using hemp as a source of food may become the largest application, since hemp seeds have much nutritional value. The seed contains essential fatty acids, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B, C, and E. Hemp seed can be made into oil or flour and can also be eaten whole, since it tastes similar to pine nuts or sunflower seeds.
The outlook for hemp in the United States is uncertain since it is still illegal to grow it. There are 10 states that passed legislation in 1998 to allow growing hemp for research purposes—Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Virginia—and a number of other states are considering it. However, federal law still prohibits growing industrial hemp. The Drug Enforcement Agency will have to change its mind before any market can be developed in the United States. Once that happens, hemp could become a billion dollar crop if there is enough investment and interest, prices are competitive, and high quality products can be made. Processing technology also needs to be upgraded for higher value-added products.
How to extract CBD oil - The extraction process & how CBD oil is made:
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a compound that has shown promise in a variety of medical applications, from pain relief to relieving anxiety, and many other ailments in between. A major benefit to CBD is that it doesn’t contain THC, which is the compound that makes users high, so this makes CBD an ideal medication for children. Below you will find a step by step outline of how cbd oil is made.
Extract CBD oil from cannabis or hemp.
There are many ways to extract the oil from the plant and make cbd oil. Apeks CO2 extraction systems use CO2 as a solvent to extract the oil. The solvent is considered a cleaner, purer form of extraction because there is no residue after extraction.
To isolate the individual compounds (CBD being one of them), the extracted oil needs to be distilled after extraction. The first step is a process called Winterization, followed by Short Path Distillation.
Winterization is the process to remove undesirable elements that were extracted from the plant, for example fats, waxes and lipids. This process is only needed when the oil was extracted at high pressure/high temperature (supercritical) because this intense extraction pulls everything from the plant, including material you don’t want in the final product. The extracted oil is effectively crude oil, which needs refining.
Once extracted, the mixture is combined with 200 proof alcohol and stirred vigorously until completely mixed. It’s then placed in a deep freezer overnight. In the morning, the mixture looks cloudy and is ready for filtration. One way to filter out the fats, etc. is to run it through a filter paper into an extraction jar. A common piece of equipment for this is a Buchner Funnel. Once it’s been filtered to satisfaction and the undesirable elements have been removed, it’s time to remove the alcohol. This is done using heat. The extraction is warmed and as its warmed, the alcohol evaporates since the boiling point of alcohol is lower than the oil. The removed alcohol can then be reused on a different batch of crude oil.
Short Path Distillation
To further refine the extract, and to isolate the CBD, the oil goes through Short Path Distillation. This works in much the same way as Winterization in that the extract is heated and each compound is then separated because each one has a different boiling point. In this way, each compound is isolated and can be used by itself.
Benefits and Uses of CBD
Research is showing that CBD has a huge potential in the medical market. It eases symptoms of anxiety, reduces pain and inflammation, helps prevent seizures, and many more. Because it’s a natural extract, there are few, if any, side effects. The extract works with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is the system’s method of regulating processes, like pain, mood, appetite, and memory. CBD works with the natural system rather than being an unnatural substance, so the body doesn’t try to reject it. CBD extract can be sourced from cannabis or hemp, most typically from hemp, which is naturally high in CBD. Cannabis can also be bred to have low THC levels and high CBD levels, but it’s possible that the THC will get concentrated and included in the final product.
The Entourage Effect
Despite the benefits of CBD as an isolate, there is much to be said for providing patients with all the compounds in the plant, not as separate isolates. Patients can still use the oil without getting high, as long as the THCa has not been heated, which converts it into THC, which is what makes you high. The Entourage Effect is the effect that all the compounds of the plant have on the body, as a whole.
Hemp and cannabis oil extraction processes and techniques.
Andy is on a panel of experts, answering questions from the community. We compiled a collection of questions and answers below, about hemp and cannabis oil extraction processes and techniques.
What are the safest and most effective ways to extract and produce CBD-rich cannabis oil? CO2, oil, or ethanol?
What are the safest and the most effective ways to extract and produce CBD-rich oil? CO2, oil, or ethanol?
Thanks for the great question! There are really 2 questions here, so I’ll try to answer them separately.
First question: What are the safest ways to extract? When it comes to extraction, safety is an important issue and has multiple areas to consider. The list below represents some of the major areas that need to be addressed with the popular solvents being used in the cannabis industry today.
Design – The extraction equipment needs to be designed to handle the solvent being used.
Purpose – The equipment needs to be constructed for its intended use.
Facility – In addition to the equipment considerations, the facility must also be appropriate for the extraction solvent.
Human Consumption – The solvent should be safe for consumption by humans.
So the answer to the question about safety really doesn’t have anything to do with the solvent, rather the equipment chosen and the facility where the extraction is performed determine safety. The solvents commonly used in extractions today all have pros and cons, and all can be operated safely as long as proper guidelines and regulations are followed.
I addressed the safety question in the first part of the answer, in the second part I’ll address the efficiency question: What is the most effective way to extract CBD-rich oil?
A major problem facing the cannabis industry today is a lack of commonly accepted standards – as evidenced by the question referring to “CBD-rich”. Does “CBD-rich” mean 40% CBD? 99% CBD? And CBD in what form, CBD, CBD-A or some combination? There are groups that are working towards creating standards, such as FOCUS and ASTM, but they have not been widely accepted yet. Without standards, quality becomes difficult to determine because the only standard is personal subjectivity.
That being said, there are some generalizations about extraction methods that can be made. Keep in mind – every extraction method has pros and cons. Each method will shine in certain applications, and perform poorly in other. No method is great at everything.
Long before you plant your crops, you should know where to sell your industrial hemp biomass.
Where exactly you end up selling your hemp biomass will fundamentally come down to the type of crop you’re growing: grain, fiber, or CBD.
Most American farmers jumping on the hemp bandwagon in the wake of the 2018 Farming Bill are focused on the incredibly lucrtive CBD market. This is an especially important focus, due to China and Southeast Asia having the grain and fiber market pretty well sewn up.
So, in the US, there are basically two options for where to sell industrial hemp biomass. You can either go directly to a processing and extraction company or you can work with a broker.
Having a middleman – a broker – can result in complicating a situation, though that’s not always the case. But with this in mind, if you are personally able to create the network and establish the connections to sell your hemp biomass directly to a CBD processing and extraction company, you’ll be better off.
However, you’ll want to be careful.
In today’s market, where investors are diving in on the CBD market and new companies are popping up all over the place, things can get dicey when the time comes to sell your harvest. The best thing to do is to work directly with an experienced, established company that is able to accurately assess the value of your crops based on CBD test results and give you a deposit to secure the transaction as soon as possible.
Selling directly to a buyer will usually give you a lot more room to negotiate deals, as well as the potential to build a relationship that can lead to future contracts and field profit-sharing deals.
One such direct purchasing company, based in Illinois, is Revolution Enterprises, which consists of a dispensary and medical marijuana cultivation facility. They also press CBD oil. Revolution Enterprises told Farm Progress that they will not be contracting with farmers at this time due to price volatility, but expect to still be providing a competitive outlet for farmers to sell hemp biomass.
Revolution Enterprises is just one of a number of processing and extraction companies willing to buy hemp biomass for CBD production. In a worst-case scenario in which you are struggling to find a buyer and don’t want to deal with a broker, it’s possible to create a post searching for hemp biomass buyers on the National Hemp Association's website.
But in the ideal situation, you’ll have the chance to work with a cash-in-hand buyer when you’re looking for where to sell industrial hemp.
Despite the serious investment by large corporations in CBD oil products and assets, it can still be difficult for you to determine where to sell industrial hemp biomass come harvest time.
This is when a hemp broker can step in and make all the difference — if they’re good at what they do. The primary concern many farmers have when working with a broker is dealing with someone who is either new and incompetent or someone who is downright dishonest.
However, the hope is that the broker will use their established network and relationships to connect your product with a buyer in a way that is mutually beneficial to everyone involved.
Unlike dealing directly with a buyer, when working with a broker, it’s possible that they won’t immediately have funds available to secure your contract. Additionally, there are some out there that might simply be making promises they cannot keep. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean a broker is a bad fit for what you need.
A novice CBD broker usually doesn’t have the infrastructure necessary to expand their brokerage business beyond just a handful of clients. However, they will have sales skills and be able to help build bridges between you and the marketplace.
Though they rely heavily on non-disclosure and non-circumvention agreements before making introductions between you and a buyer, such paperwork is fairly standard for any broker.
These agreements are designed to prevent the buyer and seller from working directly with each other and cutting the broker out of the deal. A novice broker is just more dependent than an experienced broker on these documents being signed first thing because nearly all the value they bring to the transaction is introductions.
The key aspect to understand about an expert hemp brokers is that they have a deep knowledge of the hemp and CBD industry. Because of this, they are able to create value for your hemp biomass beyond introductions and sales pitches.
Until the CBD market settles down — and there is less volatility in the market — working with an experienced broker can make all the difference. They will bring a holistic view of the market, as well as an understanding of week-to-week changes in trends with regards to supply and demand. This means that they will not only know where to sell industrial hemp but when to sell it.
Then, there are simply brokers who give the rest of the profession a bad name. Such brokers are either dishonest — trying to scam farmers to get rich fast — or just don’t care enough to put together a real business.
These brokers are usually charged with chasing "unicorn deals", which are basically deals that are too good to be true. If you feel like you’ve accidentally fallen in with such a brokerage company, it’s time to hit the brakes and do some real research to see if your fears are justified.
Where to sell industrial hemp as an American hemp farmer is something you should fully understand before designating any of your field space for the booming cash crop. As the hemp industry continues to grow in the United States, there is the possibility of the development of stronger domestic grain and fiber markets. However, as it stands, CBD is where Americans are making their money.
If you are able to develop relationships via social media or by other means directly with buyers, you’ll most likely be able to strike the best deal for both of you that way — there is a reason that people try to cut out the middleman.
However, if you aren’t able to directly connect with a buyer, an expert hemp broker who can help you navigate the tricky marketplace and add value to your crops via their own understanding of the industry is the next best thing.
No matter which direction you go, you’ll fundamentally want to be working with the best seeds and clones possible in order to have a high-value yield to bring to market.
Talk to the experts about what seeds and clones will be best for your hemp farm.
Within the next five years, the global hemp-derived CBD (referred to throughout as “CBD”) market is expected to bring in a colossal $760 million, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.7% between now and 2024. As a naturally-occurring ingredient that boasts a plethora of reported uses in the medical, pharmaceutical and health/wellness industries, CBD can be integrated into just about every lifestyle.
In order to take advantage of this global movement, you need to know how to properly and legally market and sell your CBD products online. After all, competition is fierce, and with an increasing number of people choosing cannabis as a treatment for widespread illnesses, ailments and medical conditions, staying ahead of your competitors is key.
So, if you are contemplating ways to sell CBD online, keep reading.
Selling CBD online is perhaps the easiest way to market the popular product (note CBD is not legal in all 50 states), which can be transformed into a wide range of products, including:
People aren’t hesitant to pay for CBD. Sales of CBD and hemp oil products in the U.S. reached $238 million in 2018 – that’s a 57% increase from the previous year.
While shoppers tend to purchase CBD more often in brick-and-mortar stores, the ease of shopping online is sure to increase the popularity of CBD ecommerce in the future.
Just like with any other online business, selling CBD oil and other CBD-infused products online presents a few obstacles that must be overcome prior to launching a website and kick-starting the marketing process.
What are those obstacles, you ask? From the legalities and rules that encapsulate the CBD industry to the keyword research, SEO-optimized content and link-building that is required to stand out in this already-saturated market, it is well worth brushing up on your knowledge.
A well-informed marketer can feel confident about embarking on a digital journey that is sure to be as lucrative as it is enjoyable, so allow some time to further enlighten yourself on the ins and outs of how to sell CBD online.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, widely known as CBD, is a popular natural substance reportedly used to help with a wide range of conditions — from the common cold to chronic pain. It is added into tinctures, edible foods like gummies, oils, and body products like balms and lotions.
Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the primary mind-altering substance contained in cannabis, CBD is non-psychotropic.. The cannabinoid can be extracted from both the hemp and marijuana plants, with industrial hemp plants proving to be the most popular for CBD extraction.
Miraculously, the human body is equipped with something called an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This complex system produces its very own cannabinoids and is responsible for achieving homeostasis through the receiving and transmitting of signals sent by cannabinoids, like CBD. Cannabinoids work by binding with receptors scattered throughout the brain and immune system.
Numerous scientific studies have successfully demonstrated the way in which the ECS reacts when a dose of cannabinoids like CBD is administered. For example, this study published in the journal Neurotherapeutics suggests that CBD may actually inhibit or activate compounds found in the ECS.
A prime example of the way CBD may benefit the body is through stopping the absorption of anandamide. The plant may also trigger a number of other immune system responses, according to this study on The Profile of Immune Modulation by Cannabidiol (CBD).
Consumers Are Loving CBD
More consumers are trying CBD than ever before, but if you’re researching how to sell CBD online, chances are you already know this.
As of July 2019, 33 U.S. States and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis in some form. Plus, with Canada having legalized the plant on a national scale under the ‘Cannabis Act’ (Bill C-45), North America’s cannabis consumer demographic is always increasing.
The North American cannabis market constituted 42.50% of global CBD market share in 2018. The global CBD market is forecasted to grow from $1,453.81 million in 2018 to $17,345.80 million by 2026; growing at a CAGR of 36.3% between 2019 and 2026.
Let’s take a look at some other reasons why Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Gen Z’ers across the U.S. are much less reluctant to purchase CBD-containing products than they used to be:
1. Availability and diversity of CBD is attractive to buyers.
Based on a report by Rolling Stone, the CBD industry will reach $20 billion by 2020.
CBD’s diversity in application contributes to its significant valuation, not to mention the fact that it has made its way into the mainstream market. Hemp-derived CBD is a big one. From CBD-infused drinks to CBD-laced dog treats, hemp-derived CBD is fast-emerging as a multibillion dollar business opportunity.
Since 2014, worldwide cannabis industry sales have tripled. Over the course of the next five years, sales could quadruple. What is most interesting about this prediction is the fact that the projected future is non-inclusive of retail and pharmaceutical sales. Moreover, there are various types of CBD available to potential customers, including:
2. Consumers have easier access to CBD.
One of the main motivators that encourages an increasing number of consumers to try CBD is the increased access to hemp-derived products following the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, A.K.A. the “2018 Farm Bill,” that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.
A forcefield of unbiased research is solidifying CBD’s entry into the mainstream market and has even made it possible for patients in cannabis-friendly states to obtain plant-based medicines with a physician’s recommendation.
Hemp-derived CBD products were given a break when the 2018 Farm Bill amended the Controlled Substances Act to expressly exclude hemp, including all of its derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids containing not more than 0.3%THC, from the definition of “marijuana”.
3. Negative stigma surrounding cannabis is dissipating.
Since the 2018 Farm Bill was signed, hemp production has ramped up and more companies have jumped on the CBD bandwagon. In order to properly understand how to sell CBD online without facing backlash from the long arm of the law, it’s up to you to stay updated with the latest news in both cannabis and hemp industries. This will open your eyes to the growth that is occurring in this ever-changing industry.
Cannabis legalization is favored by an increasing number of Americans:
Understanding the Legal Status of CBD
Legality is obviously a big part of CBD marketing and failure to follow the rules could result in significant penalties. Classification of the cannabis plant as a Schedule I narcotic has hindered progress in the legal department. FDA regulations pose a concern for marketers and if you are hoping to start selling CBD online, you may be wondering what your options are in regards to advertising and marketing.
Let’s answer some questions that may be on your mind.
Is CBD Officially Legal Now?
The answer to this question totally depends on the state in which you reside, whether you want to start selling CBD online that has been extracted from the marijuana or hemp plant, and what products you intend to sell. Only hemp-derived CBD products may be sold online.
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill did not alter or change the FDA’s authority to regulate food, drug, cosmetic, device, pet food, and dietary supplement products. Many states amended their state drug law to remove hemp from their state controlled substances act while adopting the FDA’s position on the sale of hemp-derived CBD products. Certain states prohibit the sale and consumption of CBD. Other states limit the types of CBD products that may be sold in state or require a specific license.
If you are selling, or planning to sell, CBD products online you must have systems in place to ensure that you are fully compliant with each state’s laws around CBD. Implementing product-based shipping restriction rules on your store will help you stay within safe shipping zones.
Can I Legally Sell CBD?
What is your purpose for selling CBD online? For most marketers, the purpose involves assisting consumers in treating some kind of ailment — however, it is essential that you refrain from making disease and health claims that cannot be backed up by reputable sources.
Since the federal government has not yet legalized marijuana and removed the plant from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), research remains limited. Hemp-derived CBD-containing products, including any food, drug, device, or cosmetic marketed or sold in interstate commerce are subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and must be labeled and marketed in accordance with the FD&C Act, as well as other relevant laws. There are different requirements under the FD&C Act depending on whether the hemp-derived CBD product is a food, cosmetic, device, or dietary supplement.
Regulatory clarity may not emerge for at least five years. However, soaring demand for CBD oil and other cannabis-containing products has prompted the FDA to assess options that will enable a resolution to be met in the near future.
Methods to Legally Selling CBD Online
Don’t fall into the trap of advertising CBD without understanding what the repercussions might be, should the platform on which you advertise not permit ads of this kind. A number of platforms are at your disposal, as well as a number of services that can be carried out by your team or outsourced as a means of saving time.
Let’s dive straight into the top methods for legally selling CBD online.
1. Focus on SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tried-and-tested method of growing your online CBD business. Since the Internet’s very existence, brands have been enticing their target audience with SEO in mind. This organic method of traffic-building can help teach your audience about CBD, the properties it possesses and exactly how it can fit into their lifestyle.
Pay attention to the strategic keyword optimization you include in meta tags and content. Combined, on-page SEO, technical SEO and local SEO will help search engines (and customers) to find your website more easily.
Once you’ve set up a good SEO plan, elevated traffic levels will convert to leads, sales and a healthy profit. SEO can be integrated into website design, content, meta tags, titles and much more. With the correct usage of target keywords and phrases, users can find your website, blog or online CBD store with ease and swiftly determine whether or not the content on your site addresses their specific search query.
2. Grow content.
Successful SEO requires a content marketing strategy. After all, the content you post needs to be optimized for Google and other search engines to crawl your site and rank it accordingly. Setting up and updating a blog with regular content is a useful technique to driving traffic to your online store.
Since CBD advertising is not currently allowed on the major ad platforms, content creation will be your best friend at this time. Tell your audience everything they need to know about CBD, who is using it and why and how they can, too (just make sure to what you are saying is compliant with the law)!
Content marketing also helps your brand communicate its value proposition and overall messaging in a way that resonates with your target market. From “how-to” articles that educate consumers about how they can start integrating CBD into a daily routine, to studies and research pointing to the facts about CBD’s chemical compilation and potential uses, the content deliverable options are endless.
3. Attend CBD industry trade shows.
In-person marketing will always be a valuable tool in terms of CBD advertising and marketing. Broadening your reach and positioning yourself as an expert in the industry is entirely feasible after attending one or two trade shows. Examples of some well-known annual trade shows in the cannabis space include the NoCo Hemp Expo, CannaGrow Palm Springs and MJBizConINT'L.
These types of events are always happening and as you continuously build contacts in the CBD industry, you will begin to attract a larger market of which you can forge business relationships with, present your product to, increase brand awareness and educate. Most importantly, trade shows give you a chance to analyze competitors and bring something different to the table.
4. Establish a network of affiliates.
Did you know that approximately 15% of revenue poured into digital media advertising is spent on affiliate marketing? With a team of affiliate marketers working on your side, albeit behind the scenes, you can relax in the knowledge that your brand is being promoted on an ongoing basis.
Statistics show that affiliate programs generate 15%-30% of sales for marketers and advertisers. Among the hundreds of affiliate networks out there, some of the most well-respected include CANNAFFI, RevOffers and CJ Affiliate.
Affiliates receive a percentage of commission for every sale that is finalized as a result of their efforts. With over 50% of affiliate-referred traffic being sent through mobile devices, this tactic is highly valuable for marketers who are keen to sell CBD oil online.
5. Hire an influencer to market your product.
If you are active on social media, you have probably engaged with an influencer’s profile or sponsored posts. A whopping 61% of social media users claim that they interact with influencers on a daily basis, while 87% say they felt inspired to make a purchase after seeing an influencer promoting a product.
The influencer marketing industry is expected to be worth $5-10 billion by 2022. With an influencer’s help, you can drive high traffic to your online CBD ecommerce store. Establishing influencer partnerships will enable you to get your brand seen by a sizeable audience without being overly pushy. An influencer can simply post a picture of them holding or using your product and tag your page for phenomenal results. Of course, you will want to make sure any influencers you compensate comply with FTC guidelines regarding conspicuously disclosing their connection to your brand.
6. Use email marketing.
For anyone who wants to market a CBD brand or product online, it is imperative that the content is compliant with state and federal regulations. CBD advertising restrictions on social media platforms and search engines like Google mean that marketers must be extra careful about the claims they make and the way their content is displayed. Moreover, paying to advertise CBD on social media may be challenging. This has pushed many CBD marketers in the direction of email marketing, which is a safer and more effective route to go down.
Statistics show that as many as 59% of B2B marketers believe email to be their most effective form of lead and revenue generation. Plus, 80% of retail professionals claim that email marketing aids them with customer retention better than any other form of marketing. Offer rewards to your customers through email marketing by presenting them with opportunities to sign up for your weekly newsletter and redeem coupons, discounts and deals that are not to be missed.
Try playing around with the subject lines, as well — a report by Experian suggested 56 percent of brands that used emojis in the subject line of their email had a significantly higher open rate.
Although email marketing is a less risky alternative to advertising CBD on Facebook, Twitter or Google Ads, marketers must still abide by state and federal rules when executing an email marketing campaign. Refrain from sending out emails or marketing that claim CBD is a “cure-all” product. Making health claims presents a risk that the FDA will find your product to be an unapproved drug.
7. Attract ongoing traffic with keyword research and link building.
To ensure the content on your website matches the keywords and queries typed into search engines by customers, keyword research is absolutely imperative. Including inbound and outbound links to authority sites in your content (e.g. on your website pages and blog) will act as the building blocks of a successful CBD marketing campaign. Consider submitting your content to online article directories for amplified traffic levels and visibility in the online world.
8. Monitor progress with analytics and metrics tools.
Analytics and metrics are a critical facet of any online business. Measuring the performance of your CBD-focused campaign with quantifiable measure indicator tools will aid you in your quest to assess what works, what doesn’t and what areas of your advertising strategy need tweaking. Tools like Google Analytics make this possible by analyzing the source of all Internet traffic directed to your website. By understanding where the vast majority of your traffic comes from, you can adjust a marketing campaign to ensure web visitors keep flooding in.
9. Determine your payment provider.
Once again, federal restrictions on cannabis make it tricky to collect payment for CBD products, due to the fact that cannabis banking services are not yet available. Payment processing merchants like PayPal and Stripe have not yet made it possible for merchants to utilize their services for the sale of CBD-containing products. Since popular payment processing merchants depend on the big banks to do business, products with varying legal status’ are currently not permitted.
High-risk processors are an alternative choice. These payment processors can do the job, but will take a bigger percentage of your sales in return. Fortunately, support for the SAFE Banking Act is growing; a bill that would safeguard licensed and regulated businesses by providing them with access to the banking industry.
Selling CBD Online with BigCommerce
CBD brands and suppliers are putting their confidence in BigCommerce to properly market their product and reach a wide audience, so why not do the same? Our platform is SaaS (Software as a Service) and it merges everything you need to run an online store. You won’t need to worry about arranging payments and best of all, you can customize your very own CBD store.
BigCommerce takes out the guesswork through combining everything you might need for an online business to thrive, from the branding and design aspect to marketing and optimization. We provide payment gateways for simple online transactions, outstanding support and a mobile-friendly design. What’s more, the BigCommerce platform allows CBD marketers to easily manage returns when selling their product, which can be featured on numerous websites.
“BigCommerce by far has the best solution for selling CBD products online. Their platform, coupled with our FDA compliance solutions for regulated products has proven to be a success for dozens of Vaping websites and has in-turn attracted numerous CBD companies to the platform. Simply put, BigCommerce is light years ahead of other platforms when it comes to preparing you with everything you need to sell CBD online.” – Brian Antczak, CEO – IntuitSolutions
Approximately 64 million Americans admitted to trying CBD in the past two years. Statistics like this, combined with the fact that legalization is spreading further across the U.S. map, means that brands can tap into a huge target market when they start selling CBD online.
To find success with selling CBD online, you will need to stay current with industry updates and news – like the legalities of CBD and marketing.
Your level of industry knowledge will have a direct impact on how successful you are with CBD marketing – as you’ll need to make sure you stay compliant since CBD products are still very tightly regulated by the FDA.
There are a number of states called Green States that have legalized both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana as long as you meet the minimum age requirement. The following are Green States:
Amber States are those states that legalized medicinal marijuana only, requiring you to obtain a medical marijuana card and a prescription from a medical marijuana doctor. The following are Amber States:
Amber-Red States are those states that do not allow marijuana for any reason except for CBD products used for specific reasons unique to each state. For example, in North Carolina, CBD oil is legal for severe epilepsy sufferers, and can only come from a hemp plant (not marijuana). In Alabama, under Leni’s Law, only those who have a medical condition that causes seizures or those who participate in a state-sponsored clinical trial studying the effects of CBD would have access to it. You should check with your state’s specific conditions if you live in an Amber-Red state.
The following are Amber-Red States:
Red States do not allow cannabis products in any form to be purchased or consumed for any reason. The following are Red States:
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