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Millions of pounds harvested. Tons of CBD extracted. But the market might not be ready for so much industrial hemp.

There was no shortage of farmers ready to make the switch to industrial hemp after the Farm Bill passed at the end of 2018. Many were looking for a new cash crop that they could get in on to make some real money.

The beginning of 2019 and outdoor grow season was an exciting time for just about everybody involved. More states passed legislation over time establishing their own ground rules for industrial hemp, and farmers licensed up, cleared out their land and made the transition.

The Industrial Hemp Boom

The mass migration of farmers and traditional cannabis cultivators to industrial hemp led to a massive increase in production. Everything from hemp seeds and hemp flower to CBD extracts and the plant’s fibers were all the sudden in extremely high demand. So much so that just about every dispensary, smoke shop and even gas stations started selling CBD products on their shelves.

Sales exploded with more and more articles vouching for the medicinal benefits of CBD and the potential financial gains the industrial hemp industry could provide the country. On top of the media exposure, plenty of celebrities hopped on the CBD band wagon, with actors and athletes alike sponsoring and being sponsored by CBD companies, and some even creating their own.

CBD is the first real aspect of cannabis to break into the mainstream, and even be celebrated on a massive scale. Recreational cannabis pales in comparison to the international attention CBD has received just in the last 12 months. But with any new industry that takes off sprinting from the gate, there are going to be some trip-ups.

The Industrial Hemp Bust

While industrial hemp production was regulated on the state level, there is very little regulation in the way of CBD production, and barriers to entry were (and still are) extremely low. The lack of regulation allowed a lot of untrustworthy and potentially dangerous products out into the market. While the producers of these products made a pretty penny, the consumers soon started to learn of the risks of bad CBD products.

A lot of shady CBD manufacturers got in, sold their bad product made from poorly grown “biomass” and got out with their money. There was an industrial hemp seed deal in which the buyer was promised feminized seeds but received more than half male seeds, resulting in a multi-million dollar law suit.

As the hemp harvest season came to a close, a lot of farmers were hit with a massive reality check; too many people are growing hemp. Farmers brought their hemp to auction, some hauling thousands of pounds hundreds of miles in the hopes of getting a big chunk of change in return. Almost every single farmer at the auction left without a sale.

The overflow of product, both in biomass and CBD extract has led to a crash in the price as supply for outweighs demand. While the consumer may benefit from lower prices, many farmers who were hoping the industrial hemp would be the answer to their financial problems are starting to second guess their decision.

What Does 2020 Hold for Hemp?

The industrial hemp industry is due to have some fat trimmed. A lot of farmers are going to ditch hemp after an unsuccessful harvest and go back to their traditional row crops. As consumers learn about unreliable CBD products, the shady companies will drop off, and very few might step up and raise their standards.

Farmers with the right connections that were able to secure deals ahead of harvest made a lot of money this year, and it’s only going to increase in 2020. Hemp genetics and seed breeding is going to become more of a desired job title, and more cannabis breeders will begin adding hemp to their repertoire. 

Overall, while many did not have a successful year with legal hemp, just as many did. Industrial hemp will keep expanding into different forays of the plant’s abilities, like using its fibers to create concrete, clothing, paper and more. While some states have made a push against it, smokable hemp flower is also getting bigger as people look for a cannabis alternative that still provides medicinal benefits without the THC high.

Frankly, the possibilities of hemp, just like cannabis, are nearly endless. We can only look forward in excitement and enjoy the ride!

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