Joy Beckerman, president of Hemp Ace International, a Seattle-based consulting firm, teaches a class for law students on “The Curious Legal Status of CBD and Industrial Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids.” An industrial hemp entrepreneur and advocate for the past 25 years, Beckerman recognizes that cannabidiol has played a key role in jump-starting the creation of new infrastructure for hemp’s vast oilseed and fiber industries. Simply put, huge interest in CBD’s medicinal potential is the main reason why industrial hemp is growing again in the United States. “I see the revenue that can be immediately generated by the hemp CBD market as leading to the funding of an extensive domestic infrastructure for processing hemp fiber and seed into tens of thousands of natural and manufactured products, as well as CBD oil,” says Beckerman.
Project CBD applauds the fact that cannabidiol has helped to liberate industrial hemp from the confines of the drug abuse paradigm. Catalyzed by CBD, today’s industrial hemp revival in the United States is a major step forward that bodes well ecologically and economically. But it also highlights ongoing problems related to cannabis prohibition.
CBD has undoubtedly helped to loosen federal law with respect to industrial hemp. But current federal law prohibits American farmers from growing high-resin CBD-rich drug plants that narrowly exceed the 0.3 percent THC limit, even though these high-resin cannabis plants are much better suited for extracting CBD-rich oil than low-resin industrial hemp. Cannabis oil should be safely extracted without using toxic solvents and it should be formulated into high quality products with no artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives, poisonous thinning agents, or corn syrup.
If a large CBD-rich oil yield is the goal, then it makes little sense to decide whether a plant qualifies as a worthy source of CBD on the basis of THC content. To be clear: The best source of whole plant, CBD-rich oil is high-resin, CBD-rich cannabis—regardless of minor THC variations—that is sustainably grown without the use of pesticides or plant growth regulators. Bottom-line economics, however, may argue in favor of massive acres of seed-germinated, machine-harvested industrial hemp with 3.5 percent CBD, rather than a much smaller number of high resin cannabis plants, grown from clones, with 20 percent CBD by dry weight. Unlike with medicinal cannabis gardens, there are no plant limits for industrial hemp.
For many hemp farmers around the world, CBD oil is actually a co-product or byproduct of industrial hemp grown primarily for another purpose. Farmers can make additional money if they sell their unused hemp biomass to a business that wants to extract CBD from the leftovers. This ‘dual-use’ practice is widespread among large-scale hemp growers in Canada, for example, but it’s technically illegal, entirely unregulated, and the hemp biomass sold via underground channels is often tainted with pesticides and requires toxic solvents to extract the CBD. (Definately NOT a place we would ever source from!)