CINCINNATI — Hemp could be a hot new commodity for Ohio farmers in the near future.
In June, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) succeeded in including the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 in the Senate’s 2018 Farm Bill. The bill would remove hemp from the controlled substance list and enable it to be grown and cultivated as an agricultural commodity.
“[The Hemp Farming Act of 2018] could provide a new opportunity for Ohio farmers in an exploding industry,” said Robert Ryan, president and co-founder, QC Infusion (brand name Queen City Hemp) of Cincinnati. “Hemp protein, CBD (cannabidiol) and fiber are all potential options for a vast supply chain. Looking at Kentucky’s leading example, people are looking for a new crop to replace current rotations that are becoming less viable like tobacco.”
The Senate and House farm bill versions will soon go to the Senate-House Conference Committee, where the differences between the two bills will be addressed and resolved. The current farm bill expires September 30, 2018. If the proposed hemp legislation passes through the final farm bill, then states will have the option to implement hemp programs.
“The way the McConnell amendment is written, the state gets that option to have that primary regulatory authority,” said Peggy Kirk-Hall, associate professor and director, OSU Agricultural and Resource Law Program.
Hall said the added provision in the farm bill amendment would allow the United States Department of Agriculture to license producers in states that didn’t choose to exercise a hemp program. “That is very favorable to farmers,” said Hall.
ER Beach, Owner, Hemptations, Planet EveryWear, and Tohi Spa in Cincinnati, said that he wasn’t surprised when the 2018 Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was included in the Senate Farm Bill.
“The industry has proven in the states legal to grow over the last four years that this is a viable, non threatening crop that every farmer should have the choice to sow,” said Beach.
The 2014 Farm Bill (or the Agricultural Act of 2015) included a section that allows for industrial hemp to be grown in certain circumstances.
“With the 2014 Farm Bill passing the US is growing thousands of acres across the country. The CBD industry is helping with this, as well,” said Beach. “Selling hemp goods that were grown and processed in the US is something we take a lot of pride in these days.”
Similar legislation as the Hemp Farming Act has been proposed in the past, but has gained little traction. Hall said that the legislation has a better chance of being passed since it’s in the Senate’s version of the farm bill.
“Just in the CBD space alone, there is incredible opportunities. CBD is described as the “white hot” ingredient right now for it’s perceived health benefits,” said Ryan. “We are only beginning to understand the positive implications Hemp can have on our health and well being.”
Hemp is not marijuana. This is the most common misconception, according to Ryan.
“I am unsure who would be against hemp in this day and age, except those uneducated on the subject,” said Ryan. “Some people still think Marijuana and Hemp are the same plant. This is why 90 percent of my focus is education.”
Hemp and marijuana stem from the same species of plant (Cannabis sativa L.). However, hemp does not have the “high” or psychoactive effects of marijuana. Marijuana typically contains 3 to 15 percent of the psychoactive ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry-weight basis, while industrial hemp contains less than 1 percent, according to Ohio Rights Group website.
Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids, and cannabinoids are found in cannabis plants. CBD comes from hemp and does not have the psychoactive “high” that comes from marijuana, or THC.
“The industry is currently plagued with misunderstandings in regards to the intent of the 2014 farm bill,” said Ryan. “Since Marijuana is considered a controlled substance, Hemp has been lumped in even though the legislative intent of the 2014 farm bill was to separate it. I am hopeful this new version will pass and some of the pitfalls the industry is currently facing will be put behind us.”
Hemp as a crop
“Farmers need all the support we can give them as they have one of the most critical roles in our country,” said Ryan.
According to Beach passing the Hemp Farm Act of 2018 would provide an opportunity for Ohio farmers to add hemp to rotation without needing chemicals.
“There are no known pests that effect the [hemp] crop when its being grown for grain or fiber. It tends to grow so quickly that weeds are choked out,” said Beach. “Hemp has a long tap root system and has also seen promise for phytoremediation. As a nitrogen depleting plant it would be rotated appropriately, say in place of soy.”
Phytoremediation refers to the technologies that use living plants to clean up soil, air, and water contaminated with hazardous contaminants.
“Small farming is becoming more alluring these days and even a couple of acres of hemp grain could add to the regenerative idea, providing a livestock feed, human feed, and product to sell to the public,” said Beach.
Other uses of hemp include protein, medicine, fiber and grain. Beach said that hemp “can be woven a smooth as silk or as rough as burlap.”
Beach also believes that hemp could replace cotton, which he said, “uses a huge amount of chemicals from seed to sale and its water consumption is also enormous. Hemp could wipe that out with a superior end product.”
Hall said from the legal side, hemp could offer farmers another opportunity to diversify their farms, which she said is important with where the farm economy is today.
“Let’s look at this [hemp] as a crop, as a commodity, and not as a drug,” said Hall.
“There are those who believe CBD should be treated as a drug and only approved through the FDA. I believe we need both cannabis derived pharmaceuticals as well as dietary supplements and food,” said Ryan. “Our food supply has been devoid of natural cannabinoids, which research is indicating that may be the reason our country isn’t as healthy as it can be.”
Ryan said that there are several potential benefits of hemp including but not limited to:
1) Limiting the side effects associated with THC consumption (CBD modulates the receptor site where THC binds);
2) Acts as an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). It delays the reuptake of serotonin increasing the availability in the synapses which can improve mood and reduce anxiety;
3) Can directly bind to CB receptors to produce the anti-anxiety effect; and
4) Directly acts on TRPV1 receptors which mediate pain perception and inflammation (Anandamide also binds to this receptor).
The 2014 Farm Bill included a section that allows for industrial hemp to be grown in certain circumstances, such as research purposes or if state law permits the growing of industrial hemp.
According to an Ohio State blog written by Written by Ellen Essman, Sr. Research Assoc., Agricultural & Resource Law Program, “The federal law only permits hemp to be grown, cultivated, studied, and marketed under the guidance of institutions of higher education located in the state or the state department of agriculture.”
Since the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill 26 states have implemented legislation allowing for industrial hemp research and pilot programs. Ohio is not one of these states.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture website, the term “industrial hemp” “includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of such plant, including seeds of such plant, whether growing or not, that is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a THC concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
Queen City Hemp
QC Infusion manufacturers hemp based CBD products including tinctures, vape products, topical salve and infused seltzer water under the brand name Queen City Hemp.
Ryan and his team source most of their hemp from Colorado and Kentucky, both states that have opted into permitting hemp pilot programs since the 2014 Farm Bill.
Ryan works on the research and development side of the business, his primary role product formulation, research and education.
QC Infusion is the only hemp product manufacturer in Ohio. They operate with seven employees out of the Findlay Kitchen in Cincinnati, about a 120-square-foot space. However, they plan to upgrade to a 3,000-square-foot space by this November.
For more information visit: www.qcinfusion.com
For more information about Hemptations visit: www.hemptations.com
For more information about industrial hemp visit: www.ohiorightsgroup.info/industrial-hemp