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If you scan the internet you would think – Hemp is a can’t lose situation. Everybody is making money --- from farmers, suppliers, retailers and especially to investors.

From our analytics it’s not true; 59 percent of the noise on the internet is just that – “noise.” As for hemp, the number is closer to 67 percent.

Why the misinformation? (a kinder word)

Human nature plays a major role. People want to be informed, be part of the discussion and seek out new ideas. But in general, people lack the inclination to fact-check. The reality, as Hitler disreputably said, "If you tell a lie enough times, it becomes the truth.” Like “alternative facts” the internet is a breeding ground for misinformation, and hemp is a rock-star unless you carefully listen to the sound and connect the notes.

Hemp is gaining questionable momentum with each fake story; the underdog fabulously making good, like the 18th century California gold rush, nine million showed up while less than 100,000 walked away rich. Hemp is the new gold rush. And in the end, only a very will walk away with the prize.

Who gets in next to last makes all the money. J.P. Morgan's response in 1903 when reminiscing after the consolidation of the railroads and steel industries. Indeed, railroads and steel were magical words 100 plus years ago. "Buy [rails and steel] and you’ll be rich,” preached Benjamin Harrison who served as the 23rd President of the United States. "You only need to touch it."

Go ahead, “touch” hemp and you too will be rich, barks the internet. Hemp is a risk-free investment with unlimited potential. Sure, the financial media chimed in with similar conclusions.

Touching hemp without the facts is like tapping a live shark on the nose. In an instant, a new reality emerges.

There’s a few example of the noise:

  • Don’t miss out on the next big industry to develop since the .COM boom in the 90’s. The green markets are growing, globally, at an alarming rate with analysts projecting the industry to grow by nearly 700% by 2020 valued at an estimated $2.1 billion dollars. With the incredible benefits for anyone from family pets to children gaining mainstream attention, this industry is set to disrupt a multi-billion dollar industry. This means incredible potential for investors looking towards companies in natural-based product development. With these natural products capable of changing multiple industries, do not miss this opportunity to capitalize on well-timed investments in this emerging market.

  • Hemp-Based CBD Products Taking the Marketplace by Storm. The return of industrial hemp has farmers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and innovators scrambling to make the most of this massive opportunity. Many investors are weighing their options for getting in on the action. Analysts’ estimates of market potential for hemp-based products vary widely, from a conservative $1.3 billion by 2022 to an astonishing $22 billion by 2022. One of the biggest areas of growth is in wellness products that contain hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD). From cosmetics and skincare creams to dietary supplements, CBD is rapidly gaining popularity among consumers.

  • The economic impact of hemp has been increasing at a steady rate. Estimates from Vote Hemp show the total retail value of hemp products in the U.S. in 2017 was $820 million. The Congressional Research Service states that hemp imports to the U.S., consisting of hemp seeds and fibers, totaled $67.3 million in 2017

The irony: Hemp has the potential to make investors rich. But not now.

Timing is everything. For hemp, patience is more important. In our opinion hemp is still identified as an emerging commodity. Until it can create infrastructure as a major component of its business model, hemp cannot be classified as an industry or command respect as a viable investment category. Add to the dilemma -- the political and legal environment. Hemp as a stepchild to marijuana has quasi-illegal statues. If CBD, a naturally occurring compound of hemp, is above 3 percent it became marijuana by federal definition. When it happens, hemp becomes the scourge of federal jurisdiction and subject to irradiation by any means.

The truth about hemp.

North America was first introduced to hemp in 1606. Ever since, American farmers grew hemp that was used across multiple different products, such as paper, lamp fuels, and ropes. In the 1700s, farmers were even legally required to grow hemp as a staple crop. Hemp fabric is made from the long strands of fiber that make up the stalk of the plant. These fibers are separated from the bark through a process called “retting.” These fibers are then spun together to produce a continuous thread that can be woven into a fabric. Hemp and marijuana are, taxonomically speaking, the same plant; they are different names for the same genus (Cannabis) and species. ... The difference is that hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent (by dry weight) of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance found in marijuana. The plant's flowering tops and leaves contain the psychoactive elements and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content we've come to recognize as marijuana. Alternatively, hemp uses seeds and fibers — primarily from the stalk — and contains low levels of THC and high levels of cannabidiol (CBD). Federal policies, tightened by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, virtually banned the production of industrial hemp during the war on drugs. According to an industry group, "the 1970 Act abolished the taxation approach [of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act] and effectively made all cannabis cultivation illegal". As of 2019, there are 10 States where Cannabis, including both marijuana and hemp, are completely legal for recreational and medicinal use. These states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Hemp is legal in the United States—with serious restrictions.

The allowed pilot programs to study hemp (often labeled “industrial hemp”) that were approved by both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state departments of agriculture. This allowed small-scale expansion of hemp cultivation for limited purposes. The 2018 Farm Bill is more expansive. It allows hemp cultivation broadly, not simply pilot programs for studying market interest in hemp-derived products. It explicitly allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It also puts no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law. However, the new Farm Bill does not create a completely free system in which individuals or businesses can grow hemp whenever and wherever they want.

There are numerous restrictions.

First, as noted above, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC, per section 10113 of the Farm Bill. Any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered non-hemp cannabis—or marijuana—under federal law and would thus face no legal protection under this new legislation.

Second, there will be significant, shared state-federal regulatory power over hemp cultivation and production. Under section 10113 of the Farm Bill, state departments of agriculture must consult with the state’s governor and chief law enforcement officer to devise a plan that must be submitted to the Secretary of USDA. A state’s plan to license and regulate hemp can only commence once the Secretary of USDA approves that state’s plan. In states opting not to devise a hemp regulatory program, USDA will construct a regulatory program under which hemp cultivators in those states must apply for licenses and comply with a federally-run program. This system of shared regulatory programming is similar to options states had in other policy areas such as health insurance marketplaces under ACA, or workplace safety plans under OSHA—both of which had federally-run systems for states opting not to set up their own systems.

Third, the law outlines actions that are considered violations of federal hemp law (including such activities as cultivating without a license or producing cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC). The law details possible punishments for such violations, pathways for violators to become compliant, and even which activities qualify as felonies under the law, such as repeated offenses.

Ultimately, the Farm Bill legalizes hemp, but it doesn’t create a system in which people can grow it as freely as they can grow tomatoes or basil. This will be a highly regulated crop in the United States for both personal and industrial production.

Hemp research remains important

One of the goals of the 2014 Farm Bill was to generate and protect research into hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill continues this effort. Section 7605 re-extends the protections for hemp research and the conditions under which such research can and should be conducted. Further, section 7501 of the Farm Bill extends hemp research by including hemp under the Critical Agricultural Materials Act. This provision recognizes the importance, diversity, and opportunity of the plant and the products that can be derived from it, but also recognizes an important point: there is a still a lot to learn about hemp and its products from commercial and market perspectives. Yes, farmers—legal and illegal—already know a lot about this plant, but more can and should be done to make sure that hemp as an agricultural commodity remains stable.

“Hemp farmers are treated like other farmers,” said the federal government.

Based on the events to date, we think not.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill hemp is treated like other agricultural commodities in many ways. This is an important point. While there are provisions that heavily regulate hemp, and concerns exist among law enforcement—rightly or wrongly—that cannabis plants used to derive marijuana will be comingled with hemp plants, this legislation makes hemp a mainstream crop. Several provisions of the Farm Bill include changes to existing provisions of agricultural law to include hemp. One of the most important provisions from the perspective of hemp farmers lies in section 11101. This section includes hemp farmers’ protections under the Federal Crop Insurance Act. This will assist farmers who, in the normal course of agricultural production, face crop termination (crop losses). As the climate changes and as farmers get used to growing this “new” product, these protections will be important. Cannabidiol or CBD is made legal—under specific circumstances

One big myth that exists about the Farm Bill is that cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis—is legalized. It is true that section 12619 of the Farm Bill removes hemp-derived products from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, but the legislation does not legalize CBD generally. As I have noted elsewhere on this blog CBD generally remains a Schedule I substance under federal law. The Farm Bill—and an unrelated, recent action by the Department of Justice—creates exceptions to this Schedule I status in certain situations. The Farm Bill ensures that any cannabinoid—a set of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant—that is derived from hemp will be legal, if and only if that hemp is produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, association state regulations, and by a licensed grower. All other cannabinoids, produced in any other setting, remain a Schedule I substance under federal law and are thus illegal. (The one exception is pharmaceutical-grade CBD products that have been approved by FDA, which currently includes one drug: GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex.)

There is one additional gray area of research moving forward. Under current law, any cannabis-based research conducted in the United States must use research-grade cannabis from the nation’s sole provider of the product: The Marijuana Program at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research. That setup exists because of cannabis’s Schedule I status. However, if hemp-derived CBD is no longer listed on the federal schedules, it will raise questions among medical and scientific researchers studying CBD products and their effects, as to whether they are required to get their products from Mississippi. This will likely require additional guidance from FDA (the Food and Drug Administration who oversees drug trials), DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration who mandates that research-grade cannabis be sourced from Mississippi), and NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse who administers the contract to cultivate research-grade cannabis) to help ensure researchers do not inadvertently operate out of compliance.

State-legal cannabis programs are still illegal under federal law

The Farm Bill has no effect on state-legal cannabis programs. Over the past 22 years, 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, and over the past six years, 10 states have legalized cannabis for adult use. Every one of those programs is illegal under federal law, with no exceptions, and the Farm Bill does nothing to change that. That said, many in the advocacy community hope that the reforms to hemp policy under the Farm Bill serve as a first step toward broader cannabis reform. (

Even CBD products produced by state-legal, medical, or adult-use cannabis programs are illegal products under federal law, both within states and across state lines. This legal reality is an important distinction for consumer protection. There are numerous myths about the legality of CBD products and their availability. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, there will be more broadly available, legal, CBD products; however, this does not mean that all CBD products are legal moving forward. Knowing your producer and whether they are legal and legitimate will be an important part of consumer research in a post-2018 Farm Bill world.

.... next week's article.

PART II - Requirements to cause hemp to be a core investment.

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