Hemp, or cannabis sativa, to give it its Latin name, is the straitlaced cousin of cannabis indica, better known as marijuana. Hemp, the species of the cannabis plant doesn't have any psychotropic effect - it cannot be used to make a person "high." Unfortunately for hemp, being a near-relative and lookalike of marijuana has meant that it has always been tarnished by association and confused as a high-profit margin, cash crop.
Sales of hemp products in the US reached $1bn in 2018 with margin capital returns. Imports account for most of this figure, but the US Drug Enforcement Administration had allowed some pilot growing schemes under strict license since 2014. Current data suggests US sales of hemp products reach $2.6bn by 2022. At the same time, it predicts global hemp industry sales to jump to $5.7bn by 2020, from $3.7bn in 2018.
Sounds good, right?
The chemical compound in marijuana that makes a user high is called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Hemp contains a trace amount of THC, but not enough to make a person high. Cannabis plants are native to central Asia and grow up to 20ft, twice as tall as marijuana and thinner leaves than marijuana. While hemp can now be grown legally across the US without a license, marijuana can be cultivated only in about half the states, often just under license and solely for medical use. Soaring demand worldwide for a critical chemical compound called cannabidiol or CBD, which is found in the flowers of the hemp plant, is behind the growth. CBD - which is also present in marijuana, but does not make the user high - helps to treat epilepsy.
In the meantime, the boom in demand for hemp is good news for the US environment because the fast-growing and hardy plant needs very little water, and therefore requires far less irrigation than corn, wheat or soybeans in dry areas. Hemp plants can also be planted very close together, making it high yielding. And unlike marijuana, whose plants are half as tall and have bigger leaves, hemp isn't fussy about temperature and humidity.
China is currently the world's largest exporter of hemp products, but the US industry wants to change that. Within three years, American hemp production will eclipse China's crop. US hemp industry needs to build up its infrastructure Last year just 78,176 acres of land in the US was planted with hemp, compared with 47 million acres dedicated to wheat, and 90 million acres to both soybeans and corn.
Now for the rest of the story:
As what is happening with marijuana, over-enthusiasm in hemp cultivation may not generate true potential profits. Our Targeted Guessing algorithms predict negative returns by U.S. based cultivators, while exporters and branders of CBD oils for end-use products are more likely to succeed.