When Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the “Farm Bill,” New York farms rejoined. The law uprooted lowly hemp from the controlled substances list and approved it for industrial growth in all 50 states. Within six months later, hundreds of licenses to grow and process the newly-legalized plant — otherwise known as Cannabis sativa L — have been distributed to eager growers throughout New York State. Before the green light for industrial growth, hemp growing was restricted to academic research institutions and the black market. Indeed, Hemp is the most lucrative cash crop farmers have seen in decades, with the industry projected to grow 18.3 percent each year over the next decade.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound found in cannabis plants. It can be extracted as an oil and infused into food, used topically to treat pain and injected as medication. It is different than THC, which is a psychoactive compound, found in trace amounts in hemp and high volumes in marijuana. CBD has people saying adjectives like “miraculous” and decades-old family farms flying the coop from other crops into hemp.
Larry Smart, senior researcher from the Cornell AgriTech facility, said, "hemp will become a major money crop and a savior for New York farmers. Changes in federal political leadership” in 2018 made all the difference." Smart has worked at the Cornell AgriTech facility in Geneva, the Agriculture and Life Science School of Integrative Plant Science, for ten years; two of those years on hemp. His team’s task is to develop the perfect New York State hemp plant; breed for grain and fiber yield, disease resistance, high CBD content, and low THC content.
However, heavy restrictions are still in place to prevent farmers from growing marijuana — if more than 0.3 percent of the high-inducing compound is found, the whole crop must be destroyed, according to the USDA. One of the most significant obstacles in the way of hemp research is the lagging speed of other industries in response to the crop’s legalization.
“When I try to purchase seed from suppliers, very few of them are willing to process the transaction with a credit card, even still,” Smart said. "Banks and other associated industries still have not caught up with the times, which is frustrating when investors and entrepreneurs are lunging at the prospect. .
THE PLANT: Seedlings begin their growth cycle inside greenhouses. New York’s seasonal temperature changes mean humidity-loving hemp can be grown in greenhouses for the majority of the year. The plant is one of the fastest-growing in existence, and under the right conditions, can grow as quickly as four inches per day. The intent is to send out plants that are six to eight inches tall so that they already have a healthy, stable start.
THE ‘MIRACLE’ EXTRACT: CBD-based products to remedy all kinds of ailments. Hemp enthusiasts had been waiting “forever” for national legalization, while the stigma against the “hippie stoner culture” of cannabis derailed progress for decades. The difference between the two types of Cannabis sativa L lies not in their appearance, but their function. One is high in THC, which is marijuana, and one is high in CBD, which is the hemp. The difference in chemistry gives cannabis its high-inducing effect and hemp its calming effect. Inside the human body, CBD and THC both act on receptors of the regulatory Endocannabinoid system, but elicit different internal responses — CBD produces no psychoactive effects.
Customers — ranging from stressed students to senior citizens with crippling chronic pain — frequently return to the store to find relief in cannabidiol extract. Currently, New York state stores are sourcing their product from Colorado. The rapid growth of New York state hemp farms will change these dynamics. CBD Store are reaping profits with increased demand for oils to treat symptoms of mental health issues and other conditions, including anxiety, pain, insomnia, and inflammation. Mental health reforms including access to psychotropic medication management services are on the horizon. Whether those medications will include CBD products is currently unclear. However, if pharmacies do decide to stock CBD oil, they may require sourcing from local New York state licensed vendors.
THE FUTURE: There are thousands of documented uses for hemp, including plastic, textile fabric, and medicinal oil. Our proprietary Subjective Probability + Game Theory Model (SP+GTM) algorithm concludes that New York state is ramping up hemp research as a “test drive” for when marijuana is legalized. Hemp looks like a marijuana plant, smells like a marijuana plant. The only difference is that the primary content that’s extracted is CBD and not THC. There are trace amounts;-- fractions of a percent. It’s so similar that you can build an operational model for the cannabis process and translate it.
The controversial nature of hemp as a commodity allows for confusion, misinformation, and room for regulation. Hemp is a new adventure. Time will tell whether the thin-leaved, bright green plant will live up to its high expectations. Moreover, the hemp industry will continue to grow in lockstep with Cannabis sativa L’s typical growth rate, and became an essential component for a multi-prong business model.