Thanks to a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is no longer a federally illegal controlled substance in the Unites States. The passage of the Farm Bill allows farmers and cultivators to grow the once demonized cannabis plant and even restart long forgotten operations.
As it turns out, legally allowing farmers to grow the plant and sell it to processors is having a massive effect on employment in the United States, across multiple sectors. The hemp industry took in $1.1 billion in revenue in 2018 and is on track to more than double that in 2022, with $2.6 billion in revenue, according to New Frontier Data.
The effects of the hemp boom will be felt far from the agriculture fields and even the hemp processors, with job growth expected in the form of “accountants, lawyers, compliance officers, government regulators, IT specialists, financial and insurance experts, transporters, researchers and lab technicians, marketers, CFOs, CEOs and various retail employees,” according to CNBC.
“Job creation is going to happen in every economic bracket,” said the executive director of the DC-based National Hemp Association, Erica McBride Stark.
“The hemp industry will create high-skilled management jobs, labor-type jobs and everything in between. It’s going to touch all of society.”
Stark recently returned from the 6th annual NoCo Hemp Expo in Denver, Colorado. More than 225 exhibitors and 10,000 attendees were present—twice the size of last year’s gather.
Indeed, the online job listing search engine, reported an increase in job openings in hemp-related industries this year and HempStaff has seen hemp related jobs double in the last year.
And while hemp is federally legal in the United States, only 41 states allowed the cultivation of hemp as of February and only 24 states had farmers actually growing it last year, which means there is plenty of room for growth and expansion. According to NBC, “Total hemp acreage in the U.S. was at 78,176 acres, up from 25,713 in 2017,” with the average increasingly considerably over the next few years.
It should be noted, too, that despite hemp’s new federal status, the Farm Bill stipulates that individual states can choose to establish their own agriculture and commerce programs, or not. As of February, 41 states allowed cultivation of hemp for commercial, research or pilot programs, although only 24 states had farmers actually growing hemp last year.
While hemp can be used for a wide variety of things including textiles, building materials, and food, the primary focus and most trending use of the plant is for producing CBD oil. CBD oil is made from the flowers, buds, and seeds of the hemp plant.
CBD oil is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid found in cannabis plants. It has been shown to aid users in treating anxiety, arthritis, pain, depression, and more and is being used with increasingly frequency to relieve pain associated with cancer and cancer treatment and in an attempt to treat the cancer itself.
In 2018 alone, CBD-containing products generated $390 million in sales in the U.S. and that number is predicted to reach $1.3 billion by 2022.
Presently, an epilepsy drug called Epidiolex is the only CBD product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration even though a wide array of CBD products are available online and over-the-counter at mainstream stores like Walgreens, CVS, and Bed Bath and Beyond. The FDA is still finalizing regulations associated with those products and has a public hearing scheduled for May 31 in Silver Spring, MD.
According to the FDA, the agency is “concerned” about the rapid increase in CBD-containing products “marketed for therapeutic or medical uses.”
“The agency has and will continue to monitor the marketplace and take action as needed to protect the public health against companies illegally selling cannabis and cannabis-derived products that can put consumers at risk and that are being marketed for therapeutic uses for which they are not approved. At the same time, FDA recognizes the potential therapeutic opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds could offer and acknowledges the significant interest in these possibilities.”
Despite the FDA’s concern, all signs point to a continued booming of the hemp industry, with CBD products leading the way. “Whereas legal marijuana is expansively regulated — from seed to sale, as they say in the cannabis world — hemp will enjoy less stringent oversight, since its no longer classified as a drug, potentially attracting a much wider variety of established and start-up companies,” reports NBC.
Joy Beckerman, president of the Hemp Industries Association, predicts:
“Hemp is going to dwarf marijuana for jobs. There are so many companies looking for people right now with industry experience and talent.”
“Hemp is here to stay,” said one farmer who transitioned 40 acres of his tobacco farm to hemp, “This is not some fad.”