FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why do we grow our hemp on family farms?
Is our hemp grown sustainably?
Is our hemp organic?
Can you grow hemp in the United States?
No. The industrial hemp plant—although it contains little, if any, THC—has fallen victim to its close resemblance to marijuana. Other than a brief period of time during World War II (see: Hemp for Victory), hemp has not been grown in the US since the 1930s—with the exception of a USDA field grown in 1994 in Imperial Valley, California. This USDA-grown field was the product of the hard work of Christopher Boucher.
While permits to grow hemp are technically available from the US government, and certain states have passed laws allowing hemp to be grown as an agricultural commodity in those states, no permit to grow hemp has ever been issued by the DEA. The United States legally imports millions of dollars worth of hemp every year—with some estimates as high as $2 billion annually.
If you can’t grow hemp in the USA, how are hemp oil and hemp-based products legal?
Because the government considers hemp distinct from marijuana. Hemp finished products (like hemp textiles and hemp oil) have been permitted as imports to the United States for many years.
Our country’s Founding Fathers would likely be appalled to learn that the US government banned the cultivation of industrial hemp in America. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were all hemp farmers. It was even once mandated that hemp be grown, and one could even pay taxes with hemp.
In July, 2013 the Congressional Research Service compiled an excellent report on industrial hemp called, “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity.” Click here to read it [PDF].
Why Does The Government Consider Hemp To Be Different From Marijuana?
Many people use the terms “industrial hemp” or “commercial hemp” so it is clear that they are not referring to the “marijuana” variety of cannabis (since “hemp” is sometimes used as a slang term or marijuana). In very basic terms, marijuana is cultivated explicitly for drug production, whereas hemp is grown for fiber, seed and oil. Here is how the two plants differ.
Although they are both of the complex cannabis genus, the differences between marijuana and hemp are many, and start with the seeds: Marijuana strains have been bred to have elevated THC and low CBD hemp oil, whereas hemp is bred to be just the opposite.
The ways in which marijuana and hemp are cultivated vary greatly as well. Cannabis is a dioecious herb; marijuana growers will remove the male plants from the “grow” area, carefully cultivating only female plants for their flowers. These female plants are generally grown to be “bushy” to promote an abundance of flowers, which are what are harvested for marijuana.
Hemp agriculture is quite different. Male and female plants are grown very close together, and branching is discouraged, resulting in tall, thin plants more suitable for fiber, and allowing for easier wind pollination, which is what is needed to ultimately produce hemp seeds.
Finally, the federal government considers some parts of cannabis sativa L. “marihuana” (most obviously, the flowers of the plant) and excludes other parts from that definition (like the mature stalks, fiber, sterilized seeds and anything produced from those parts), which are generally called “hemp,” “industrial hemp” or “commercial hemp.” These distinctions between marijuana and hemp are why hemp milk, hemp protein, hemp oil, hemp seeds, and other consumer products made from hemp are freely available for purchase throughout the United States. We as a nation import over half a billion dollars of hemp products annually thanks to this important distinction.