With Massachusetts legalizing adult-use cannabis, and Vermont and Maine seemingly on their way to do the same, it’s a very exciting time for cannabis proponents in New England. However, what’s even more exciting about the Northeast right now, is the burgeoning hemp industry coming out of rural Vermont and Maine.
So, what is Hemp exactly?
It’s basically the same plant from which THC-based psychoactive marijuana is derived. The difference is that hemp is harvested before it exceeds .3 percent THC; therefore, it is not psychoactive and it has many medical and industrial uses, including:
- CBD-based pain relief products can be made from the extracted oil;
- Clothing can be made from the fibrous stalks and leaves;
- Rope and building materials can be made; and
- There are many other uses in oil and gas extraction, including the automotive industry and armored cars, to name just few.
Hemp is on its way to legalization at the federal level, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leading efforts as the plant’s most devoted supporter, but it hasn’t happened yet. Currently, states have varying laws on the use of the plant. In Maine, hemp was approved as a commercial crop in 2015, and licenses to cultivate it have started to increase since then. However, because hemp has been grouped together with cannabis for most of history, there are still many states that totally ban the use or cultivation of it, even though it’s proven to have no psychoactive effects.
During the midterm elections, one of the lesser-known bills on cannabis had to do with Colorado’s relationship with the plant. Luckily, the bill was passed to change the language of the way Colorado defines hemp to match the way it’s defined federally. This way, if (and when) hemp is legalized nationally, Colorado’s farmers will reap the benefits.
Recently, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to remove hemp from the controlled substances list, so there’s definitely hope that it will be available at the national level soon enough. If you’re curious about the trajectory of this plant, keep a close eye on the progress of the 2018 Farm Bill.