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What about Hemp?

In the wake of the easing regulations on marijuana for public consumption, at least one farmer has taken it upon himself to grow hemp in agricultural, if not industrial, quantities. The hemp, classified when growing the same as other types of marijuana, is legal to sell in the US once harvested and made into fiber. While it’s still growing, or before processing, it’s still illegal under federal law.

According to reporting on Fox News, Ryan Loflin, a Southeast Colorado farmer, is one of a couple dozen farmers who have planted hemp. At 55 acres sowed with the “weed,” he’s still under supplied. Loflin has been turning away buyers.

Other farmers are paying attention. It’s a wonderful chance to increase profits on land that would otherwise be under production for crops with less demand, or fields that might remain fallow. Hemp is fairly easy to grow, although Loflin’s first year’s crop was described as “scraggly.”

Still to be determined is whether or not the demand can be sustained, once the novelty wears off. There is no accepted figure for how much hemp can be absorbed by the market. The economic potential can’t be reliably estimated because final prices influence demand, and the fiber has serious competition with other types, both natural and artificial. Besides fiber, hemp can be grown for plant oils by processing the seeds, adding another potential market. The distinctive difference between hemp and “smokable” cannabis is the level of THC in the hemp variety, usually less than a percent by weight.

According to Fox News, Ron Carleton, a Colorado deputy agricultural commissioner who is heading up the state's looming hemp licensure, said he has no idea what hemp's commercial potential is. He's not even sure how many farmers will sign up for Colorado's licensure program next year, though he's fielded a "fair number of inquiries.


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