From health elixir to fuel, a crop with many uses
Industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of the cannabis plant, can be used to make everything from food to fiber, biodegradable construction materials, and biofuels. One hemp byproduct, Cannabidiol (CBD), has skyrocketed in popularity as people discover CBD as a treatment for health issues like epilepsy, insomnia, arthritis, and anxiety, among other conditions.
Hemp is an ancient product whose uses have been known for thousands of years, but in the 20th century, growing and using hemp became illegal in the United States as lawmakers sought to curb the use of recreational cannabis. Now hemp cultivation is once again legal in the U.S., and it’s changing the face of agriculture and creating huge new economic opportunities. Here are three ways industrial hemp is changing the agricultural economy and how to take advantage of new opportunities.
1. Demand for Hemp is Changing Decades-old Laws
When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, the hemp industry was due for a major upheaval. In one of the most sweeping updates to agriculture policy in United States history, legislators removed most of the restrictions on growing and selling industrial hemp products. Hemp had been categorized under the same regulations that covered cannabis, hemp’s psychoactive cousin, since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. In 2018, congress explicitly approved the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. The bill also lifts restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products.
2. Farmers are Placing Big Bets on Industrial Hemp
Farmers are jumping at the chance to grow versatile industrial hemp. According to the advocacy group Vote Hemp, American farmers grew 78,176 acres of hemp in 2018, up from just 9,770 in 2016. The group estimates farmers planted more than 511,400 acres of hemp in 2019, an increase of 455% since 2018. Few industries are capable of that kind of growth, and it’s a strong indication of pent-up demand for hemp products across the nation. To meet that demand, the hemp industry needs more than just farmers. Just as critical are the small businesses that will launch new hemp products, government regulators to oversee production at all levels, and researchers to understand the effects of the plant on our health and economy.
3. Industrial Hemp & Cannabis are Creating New Careers in Farming, Sales, Research, and Oversight
Legalizing hemp farming is having a big impact. In 2019, the hemp industry grew to $1.1 billion in annual revenue, and it could reach as high as $2.6 billion by 2022, according to the research and advocacy group New Frontier Data.
Closely related to the hemp industry, the cannabis industry has also seen explosive growth in recent years, with states from California to Illinois legalizing the substance for recreational use. According to Leafly, a Seattle-based information website dedicated to the cannabis industry, the cannabis industry employs more than 211,000 full-time workers. Job openings in the hemp industry are expected to exceed cannabis, as hemp is even more broadly available and currently legal to grow in 41 states. In a report published by CNBC, “Hemp is going to dwarf marijuana for jobs,” predicted Joy Beckerman, president of the Hemp Industries Association, headquartered in Summerland, California.
States seeking to stimulate hemp cultivation face numerous regulations to comply with federal rules. Hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, and states must develop a strategic plan for overseeing hemp production and must gain approval from the USDA before farmers can begin planting crops. These stringent regulations will create a sub-industry for compliance specialists who can help hemp farmers stay within the legal guidelines.
It’s clear that hemp presents major opportunities for people with a wide range of skills, from cultivation to sales and marketing.
Unity’s online B.S. in Sustainable Business Management: Hemp Industry and Science combines traditional business education with a focus on sustainability. Through innovative courses like Law, Society, and the Cannabis, Hemp, and CBD Industry, you’ll get the skills to tackle challenges in this new and growing market segment.
Graduates of the B.S. in Sustainable Business Management: Hemp Industry and Science program will be well prepared for jobs in business development, marketing strategy, logistics, management, and more.