What is the history of hemp in the U.S.?

Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) was grown as a commodity fiber crop in the United States from the mid-18th century until the mid-1930s. As in many other countries, C. sativa was banned and was considered an illegal crop in the U.S. for several decades. In 2014, Section 7606 of the U.S. Congress Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly called the “Farm Bill,” allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp within authorized pilot programs for “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

The 2018 Farm Bill decriminalized cultivation of industrial hemp and designated the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to develop regulations regarding the propagation of hemp. At the time of this publication, the final guidelines for legal industrial hemp cultivation under the 2018 Farm Bill have not been finalized. Until these guidelines are established, all rules and restrictions must be followed per Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill.

What is the global importance of industrial hemp?

Industrial hemp is a temperate region crop and grows best in northern latitudes from the 42nd to 45th parallel, including growing  very well in the Pacific Northwest.

Industrial hemp is an annual cross-pollinating plant with rapid growth and development and its propagation and harvest results in a significant biomass accumulation. Registered varieties of industrial hemp vary significantly in height and size. The two main current uses of industrial hemp are fiber and food. As well, industrial hemp seed oil, which is extracted from grain produced by the plant, is valued as healthy table oil, and it has many applications in cosmetics, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and functional foods. 

How is hemp used in fiber? 

Fiber hemp products historically have included use in textiles, cordage and paper. China is the main producer of fine hemp textile fiber, which is often mixed with other natural fibers in the manufacturing of fine linens. Several European Union countries, Eastern Europe, Russia, and South Korea also are significant producers of hemp. With consumer preferences worldwide increasingly emphasizing natural products and as manufacturers seek to become more environmentally friendly, the market for textiles, fabrics, and clothing that include fiber hemp has increased significantly.

Fiber hemp also is used in horticultural planting materials; biodegradable mulch; pressed and molded fiber products, including those used in the automobile industry; paper and pulp products (such as hygiene products, bank notes, filters, art papers, tea bags); building-construction products (such as fiberboards and fiber-reinforced cement boards); insulation materials; animal bedding (made from the woody core of the plant called hurds); plastic bio composites; and compressed cellulose plastics. Due to its high biomass production, hemp fiber also shows promise as a bioenergy crop.

How is hemp used as a seed or grain? 

Hemp seed contains 20 to 30% edible (fixed) oil; 25 to 30%protein, including eight of the essential amino acids for humans; 20%–25% fiber, 20%–30% carbohydrates, and a number of essential nutrients and vitamins.

Humans have used hemp seed as food since ancient times. Nowadays, hemp grain is used in human health and animal food because of its desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega 3 fatty acids in hemp oil. It is not legal to feed hemp to animals in the U.S. Grain or oilseed hemp products include hemp seed, seed flour, seed protein, seed powder, seed oil, and hemp meal. Hemp seed oil is used in many cosmetics and as a substitute for other industrial oils.

How is hemp used as oil?

There are three different oils that result from industrial hemp: cannabidiol (CBD) oil, essential oil, and seed fixed (fatty) oil. Cannabidiol oil is legal in many states and is being included in a wide variety of products from sparkling water to skin lotions. CBD is the second major cannabinoid compound in hemp, and unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it does not have psychoactive properties that may alter brain or physical functions or behavior.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

The Global Hemp Innovation Center focuses its research, teaching, and extension on hemp, which is part of the cannabis species and has a low amount of delta 9 THC (under.3) in terms of dry weight plant material. 

What is THC?

The initials THC stand for tetrahydrocannabinol and is one of many plant metabolites the species produces to ward off pathogens and predators. It is only one of  more than 140 compounds produced by the plant. THC can also cause euphoric, psychotropic highs when consumed. 

What is CBD?

The initials CBD stand for cannabidiol and is produced by the plant to ward off pathogens. It also nurtures seed production and is being researched for its potential biological or medicial effects. IN 2018, the FDA approved CBD for treatment of two epilepsy disorders.