The 2018 Farm Bill gave hemp the comeback it deserved. The new bill established federal regulation of hemp and legalized it nationally for commercial cultivation, removing hemp and hemp seeds from the DEA schedule of Controlled Substances where it had been listed alongside marijuana. The bill made hemp eligible for crop insurance and allowed for hemp to be moved across state lines. In short, it opened up the opportunity for hemp to be the strong agricultural product it was centuries ago.
This promising new bill has made hemp especially interesting to existing farmers and to those looking to get into cannabis or agricultural farming. It’s a brand new industry with almost limitless possibilities for the future, yet also one that has lots of history and stories of both success and failure. One thing is for sure, hemp is on the tip of everyone’s tongues and it’s quickly finding its place in the world of American agriculture.
A Brief History of Hemp
For centuries hemp was successfully harvested for its fiber, seeds, and flowers. Hailed as a plant with endless possibilities, hemp fiber can produce textiles, rope, clothes, paper, plastic composites, building construction materials, animal bedding, food, drinks, and agricultural supplies.
Hemp seeds can produce a number of items, including food, edible oil, personal care products, and industrial fluids. Hemp seed is often used for essential oils, pesticides, livestock feed, bird seed, and amazingly as fuel for cars and for bioremediation of soil containing heavy metals.
Hemp is one of earliest plants to be cultivated in the world and was a popular crop in early American history. Seeds arrived with the Puritans for the purpose of planting to cultivate strong hemp crops to use as they built up their settlements and repaired ships. Shortly thereafter, the British colonies in America were legally required to grow hemp as it was found to be particularly useful in maritime endeavours, largely because of its natural decay resistance and how easily it adapts to cultivation.
Even after the American Revolution, hemp continued to be an important part of daily life. Farmers felt it was their patriotic duty to grow hemp and were even allowed to pay their taxes with it. George Washington advocated for hemp and praised its usefulness in making rope and fabric, and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp and eventually improved on hemp varieties.
Hemp was a flourishing crop in America, however between the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and the popularity of synthetic fibers in the following years, hemp saw a dramatic decrease in popularity and the industry soon found itself in decline. In 1970 the Controlled Substances Act essentially ended the hemp industry in the United States by banning cannabis of any kind, including hemp.
Growing hemp is not as easy as following a list of instructions, unfortunately. Every grower uses a different method, often based on what type of function they need the hemp to perform and how well the plant grows in their local climate. Some farmers grow for hemp fibre, while some grow for CBD. The key is first determining what the end goal of the hemp plant will be.
Which month the farmer chooses to plant will very much depend on the climate of their farm and the local weather patterns, but overall most planting happens at the end of May or the beginning of June. Hemp is usually planted into rows on flat ground, with somewhere between 1,500-4,000 plants per acre.
After the plants are in the ground, the farmer must ensure that the hemp has adequate water reaching its roots. This is where it can get tricky. Hemp prefers hot and sunny weather, so it doesn’t like its roots to stay moist. This means a drip irrigation system like what is used for crops such as corn or beans just won’t work well for hemp. Instead, the soil must be allowed to become completely depleted of moisture before more is added. Using this process will help keep the plant healthy and pests and disease away.
Once hemp starts growing, options for treating the plant are extremely limited. Hemp growers don’t use herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides on their plants, so tending the plants is all done naturally or by hand. Even weeding must be done by hand. The key for growers is to do their best to avoid any issues beforehand, because once a problem presents itself there is very little chance of doing anything but just sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
The first 60 days of the grow cycle are impressive for hemp plants. They can grow as tall as 6’ and as wide as 5’ in a short amount of time. Soon after, the plants will reach sexual maturity and farmers growing for CBD must once again be alert to what is happening in their crop and ready to remove any male plants before they pollinate the area. CBD production comes only from the flower and biomass of female plants, so even one male plant in the field can trigger seed production in the females and decrease the number of flowers it produces and the overall concentration of CBD.
After just 100-120 days, the plants are ready to harvest. Because hemp is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and cannot legally contain more than 0.3% THC, the USDA must see test results from the growers that proves the THC in their plants falls below those levels before they are allowed to harvest. Once that test clears the regulatory process, the growers are free to move forward and harvest their crop.
Harvesting takes time and patience. Since this industry is new, there are little to no standards for the harvesting process. Harvesting time on a farm with hundreds of acres can take anywhere from 5-7 weeks and is done in a way that is often planned as the crop is being pulled.
As time progresses and the industry grows, as will the standards for harvesting. Being a brand new industry, the logistics are still being figured out, but with so many bright entrepreneurs in the game it won’t take long for the industry to find its process.
As the crops are cut from the field, they are brought down in wagons or trailers and hauled indoors for drying. Dying is another area where the process will vary greatly from grower to grower. Some choose to grow on a warehouse floor, or in tobacco barns or sheds. Some use dehumidifiers, fans, or mechanical dryers. The choices are many and overall up to the growers and the climate they live in and facilities they have available.
As long as weather cooperates, plants can be done drying in about two weeks. After they are fully dried, they are stripped of all green material and put through a hammer mill, which is a machine used to crush material into smaller pieces using the repeated blow of small hammers inside the machine. From there, the materials can be used for the CBD extraction process.
Hemp is a young industry with a turbulent past. While the future looks incredibly bright for it, it is still in its beginning stages and anyone joining the industry now can expect some ups and downs while it gets established. For instance, hemp grown for CBD is a young crop and prices for the plant can and do change by the month, and sometimes by the week. Eventually this may level out, but while the industry finds its feet hemp growers can expect a lot of unknown.
The best way to mitigate risk is to start small. Instead of buying up hundreds of acres of farmland to cultivate hemp, just start with a few acres. Use that as a starting point to get an idea of how the process works, how it would be able to scale, and what kind of profit to expect. It’s also a great opportunity to find a processor who is reliable, knowledgeable, and timely in their work. This is often an aspect of the process that growers overlook, but one that can make or break their business.
While the risks are many, the rewards can be equal. Not only is the industry blooming, it’s also a product that is doing actual good for the people and the environment.
Cannabis has been around for centuries, but it’s only been over the last decade or so that it’s become mainstream and commonly accepted as a product with strong therapeutic benefits. Some people are discovering cannabis for the first time, and some are coming back to it after years away. Marijuana is often experimented with at some point in a person’s life, however it’s common for people to react differently to it than their peers. Sometimes it’s a biological issue, and sometimes it’s simply that people are taking too much of it, resulting in less than optimal results.
While a person can’t overdose on cannabis, it is extremely common for users to feel the effects of the biphasic nature of cannabis when they take more than they should at any given time. This process is also seen in other substances, like alcohol for example. A person can have one glass of wine to unwind and relax, but if they drink an entire bottle they will find themselves stumbling and slurring. The biphasic effect of cannabis isn’t harmful or dangerous like that of alcohol, and can actually be used to benefit the user if they know how to do it.
Cannabis, especially products with THC like marijuana, are often used for therapeutic purposes. However, some people have noticed that while they can feel completely relaxed and calm after taking a couple hits from a joint, if they smoke the entire thing they will start to feel anxious and paranoid. This is due to the biphasic effect of cannabis. Simply put, low doses of cannabis create a very different effect than a high dose.
A compound that has a biphasic effect will relieve physical issues in small doses, but can actually intensify those symptoms if too high a dose is consumed. For cannabis, this is often seen in those looking to use THC to relieve their anxiety. THC has strong psychoactive potential and when too much is consumed, it can quickly send the user into fits of paranoia and heightened anxiety . This effect is less likely with CBD since it has no psychoactive potential. It’s common to find that a small dose of CBD can calm and clear the head, while a larger dose can make the user feel sedated and relaxed .
The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is an essential aspect of physiology. First and foremost, it’s responsible for maintaining the body’s state of homeostasis. When an interference happens in the body, the ECS steps in to correct and stabilize the systems and return the body to perfect homeostasis.
There are three primary elements that make up the endocannabinoid system:
Endocannabinoids: These are compounds that are produced naturally by the human body, but are very similar to the chemical compounds in cannabis, like CBD.
Cannabinoid Receptors: These are found on the surface of cells throughout the body. The endocannabinoids the body produces, and any cannabinoids ingested from cannabis plants will bind to these receptors. The action of binding allows them to communicate with different systems in the body, helping the ECS maintain an equilibrium in each of the specific systems.
Enzymes: After the endocannabinoids attach to the cannabinoid receptors and achieve stabilization in the body, they start breaking down the endocannabinoids to avoid a possible overcorrection. Each type of endocannabinoid has a specific enzyme that works at breaking it down effectively.
In regards to the endocannabinoid system and the biphasic effects of cannabis, it all comes down to how the ECS processes cannabinoids. Within the ECS is an equation called the endocannabinoid tone. The endocannabinoid tone includes the total number of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes it takes to metabolize the cannabinoids. Research has uncovered that if the receptors are oversaturated, the body actually turns them off, releasing an increased number of enzymes into the blood to metabolize the cannabinoids. Once homeostasis is again achieved, the receptors will turn back on. The goal of any new medication or treatment plan is to find that sweet spot, or the exact point of homeostasis .
How to Deal With It
In general terms, biologically humans are all the same. However each person has their own unique brain chemistry. This makes it difficult to know what each person will feel when trying new medication or new medicinal substances like cannabis.
No one wants to amplify the symptoms they are trying to treat, so the easiest way to ensure none of those adverse effects are felt is to start slowly when beginning a new cannabis treatment — or any new treatment for that matter. Start with the lowest dose of cannabis possible and then wait until the effects are felt. If there is still room for more relief without negative results, add more or try a larger dose next time.
Taking small doses of therapeutic compounds is called microdosing and is a popular method for those who want to get the benefits of a particular therapy, but don’t want to risk the intoxicating elements. Users commonly report a better mood, less anxiety, and reduced pain after microdosing , making it a great alternative for those who need the benefits and none of the psychoactive effects.
Microdosing has been a somewhat underground method of medicating for years now, but as cannabis starts to take off recreationally in many states across America, more people are learning about the power of this process and how it can benefit their health. There are a handful of basic steps to take when beginning a new microdosing routine. They are as follows:
Obtain the cannabis product, be it marijuana or CBD. If residing in a state where recreational cannabis is legal, this is as simple as a visit to the local cannabis store. If a person is located in a more restricted state, they may need a prescription from their doctor first.
Take the initial dose. Start small on the first day. It’s generally recommended to start with a small percentage of a normal dose while introducing the body to this new substance.
Pay attention to the body. If possible, it’s best to just sit back and relax and observe the overall body feel after the initial dose. Users should note how close this first dose is to relieving the symptoms they’re experiencing. It’s sometimes helpful to keep a journal or written log about the results during the early stages of microdosing.
Adjust the dose. If the dose doesn’t seem to be doing what it’s meant to do, either because it’s too much or too little, adjust the next dose accordingly.
Make it a routine. Once the sweet spot for dosage has been found, make it a daily routine. Users will likely start to build a tolerance to the cannabis product over time, so it is advisable to revisit the treatment plan and microdosing schedule if results diminish over time.
An important note for THC: Even though very small quantities of cannabis are being consumed, it can and will still be detectable in a blood or urine test. Trace amounts can be found in the system as long as 30 days after the last dose.
As with any new medication, users should speak with their doctor before adding it into their routine. If they’re concerned about the possible biphasic effects of cannabis or THC, they should start with small doses and be ready for some trial and error experiments as they work out what dosage works best for their needs. Even if someone feels their tolerance may be higher than others, it’s still a good idea to start slowly to make sure there are no surprises.
Always remember that what works for one person may not and probably won’t work for someone else, and vice versa. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time to find the best treatment plan. Instead, enjoy the journey of finding that perfect dosage and treatment plan that works specifically for one specific person’s body and needs.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that occurs after a person has experienced a scary, shocking, or dangerous event. It’s totally normal for someone to feel fear whenever they find themselves in a hazardous situation. That feeling of fear is what triggers a human’s natural fight-or-flight response, or their immediate decision in the face of danger to run away or stay and fight. This reaction is deeply embedded in humans and has been an important part of survival for thousands of years. What triggers concern for PTSD is what occurs after a traumatic event takes place.
Immediately after the event, almost everyone will experience some sort of emotional response, yet most will naturally recover from those feelings on their own over time. The people who are unable to rebound from those devastating feelings, however, may find themselves experiencing long-term emotional problems and ultimately find themselves diagnosed with PTSD. Those who suffer from PTSD often find themselves feeling stressed or frightened over the course of a normal day, when there is no actual danger presenting itself to them. Or they could be easily triggered by things that are seemingly unrelated to the previous trauma, or very closely related. This can obviously have debilitating results on a person’s ability to lead a comfortable life.
Signs and Symptoms
Anyone can suffer from PTSD after a traumatic event and it’s important to look for the signs if PTSD is suspected. It’s also crucial to realize that a person doesn’t have to suffer from a dangerous event to be susceptible to PTSD. Events like the unexpected death of a loved one can also cause someone to experience short-term or long-term PTSD. Some common symptoms of PTSD are:
Staying away from things that are reminders of the traumatic event
Avoiding thoughts related to the traumatic event
Being easily startled
Trouble remembering the traumatic event
Negative thoughts about the world or oneself
Distorted feelings of guilt
Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within a few months of the bad event, but occasionally the symptoms won’t present themselves for years, surprising a person with emotions they didn’t know were sitting dormant. In general, the symptoms must last more than a month and be distracting enough to interfere with daily life for the condition to be considered post-traumatic stress disorder. Most people recover from PTSD within 6 months or so, however some may find themselves suffering for much longer. When that happens, PTSD is considered chronic and extended treatment options should be explored.
Anyone can experience PTSD at any age, including children. It’s found in people who are veterans of war, and those who have been through physical assault, abuse, accidents, or disasters. In fact, about 7-8% of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives . It is a condition that can take over a person’s life and cause extended periods of distress and emotional turbulence. Finding relief for this condition is an important endeavour. Recently, scientists have been exploring how the body handles PTSD and what chemical processes might be involved. That has led them to dig deeper into the physiology of the endocannabinoid system.
The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is an important part of the human body. It’s responsible for maintaining the body’s homeostasis and managing the processes that go along with that. If some sort of disruption is introduced in the body, the ECS will activate and control the situation to make sure all systems it controls remain at an optimal level. This is an important function of human physiology. All the internal systems need to be in a state of equilibrium to work effectively.
There are three primary elements that make up the endocannabinoid system:
Endocannabinoids: These are compounds that are naturally produced by the body, but are very similar to the chemical compounds in cannabis, like CBD.
Cannabinoid Receptors: These receptors are found on the surface of cells throughout the body. The endocannabinoids the body produces, and any cannabinoids ingested will bind to these receptors. The action of binding allows them to communicate with different systems in the body, helping the ECS maintain an equilibrium in each of the specific systems.
Enzymes: After the endocannabinoids attach themselves to the cannabinoid receptors and the ECS has achieved stabilization in the body, enzymes start breaking down the endocannabinoids to avoid a possible overcorrection. Each type of endocannabinoid has a specific enzyme that works at breaking it down effectively.
One of the endocannabinoids produced naturally by the human body is anandamide. This compound is also known as the “bliss molecule” because of its ability to cause humans to feel euphoric for short periods of time while it’s activated. It is only a short-term molecule, however, because quickly after it has been activated, it is broken down by a fatty enzyme that is released at the same time as the anandamide. However, as scientists have found, if that enzyme isn’t activated, it won’t be able to attach itself to anandamide and would obviously be unable to remove the “bliss molecule” from doing its work. This means humans could potentially be able to feel good for longer periods of time.
The study mentioned above concluded that anandamide plays a role in the human process of fear extinction, which is what helps our brains forget trauma . To support this, researchers decided to investigate what would happen if anandamide was restricted in test subjects. They found a chemical that reduced production of anandamide enough to test what would happen when the naturally-occurring cannabinoid was depleted dramatically. The researchers then tested behavior in mice with normal levels of anandamide and in those with reduced levels. They noticed that mice with restricted levels of anandamide experienced much more stress than the mice with normal levels of the endocannabinoid. The mice with lower anandamide levels also held onto their conditioned fear for much, much longer than the mice with normal levels.
This discovery itself is very specific, but also very important as it is the first study to explore the idea that reducing anandamide levels has a negative effect on emotional behavior. It also provides some insight into how PTSD develops, possibly because people who are susceptible to it do not produce enough anandamide to keep their emotions balanced, especially in regards to trauma. It would also suggest why people with severe PTSD experience such visceral flashbacks; they lack the correct molecular balance to forget those memories.
CBD and PTSD
Since endocannabinoids and cannabinoids from cannabis plants are so similar chemically, it’s possible for cannabinoids like CBD to attach themselves to the receptors in the same way the naturally occurring endocannabinoids do. CBD has the ability to bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Once attached, CBD acts as an antagonist, or blocker, binding to receptors and dampening their signals.
When cannabinoids are introduced to the CB1 and CB2 receptors they prompt the system to produce neurotransmitters that help promote happiness and memory. For example, CBD works to inhibit the FAAH enzyme which specifically breaks down anandamide. Since anandamide produces a calming, or euphoric feeling, keeping the enzyme from destroying this compound produces a naturally therapeutic effect that should be felt immediately and have lasting therapeutic benefits .
Along those same lines is the idea that CBD will increase the amount of time anandamide stays active at increased levels in an attempt to help those suffering from PTSD have some relief from their chronic emotional distress. The theory is if the anandamide levels in a person with PTSD are increased, the likelihood of them experiencing the benefits of that cannabinoid should be enough to help them recover from their PTSD symptoms. Research has found that the cannabinoids help those with PTSD by preventing traumatic memories and nightmares, while also helping boost emotional wellbeing .
Along with most other therapeutic uses for CBD, it is a new area being heavily studied and every day we’re seeing new information released to the public. While the research is still relatively new, the possibilities are exciting and are giving those suffering from PTSD optimism for their future.
The 2018 Farm Bill, or Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, was a huge turning point for the hemp industry in the United States. The bill established a hemp regulatory system under the US Department of Agriculture. For hemp farmers and the industry as a whole, this opened up opportunities for individuals to start growing industrial hemp to sell commercially. The regulations set in place are meant to oversee the cultivation, processing, and marketing of hemp products in the wake of CBD’s increasing popularity, along with other increasingly popular hemp items.
Under the Farm Bill, hemp is now eligible for federal crop assistance in times of need, and also allows hemp and hemp-derived products to cross state lines as long as the hemp was farmed legally under the USDA restrictions.
The 2018 Farm Bill also removed hemp and hemp seeds from the schedule of controlled substances, legalizing it federally. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had previously listed hemp along with marijuana as a schedule 1 narcotic. An important rule of the new hemp regulatory restrictions requires hemp to be analyzed and certified as having less than 0.3% total THC on a dry weight basis in the product. THC is the cannabinoid that holds all the psychoactive properties of cannabis, so by limiting this compound the intoxicating effects will also be stifled.
Current Testing Regulations
Because the Farm Bill legally restricts hemp THC values to less than 0.3%, hemp farmers must have their products analyzed by accredited laboratories to ensure those numbers are factual and that no products that could potentially cause intoxication are sent out to consumers. Since the Farm Bill was passed, farmers have been using local laboratories to run these analyses and produce Certificates of Analysis (COA) to prove their products follow the necessary guidelines.
Hemp farmers are also required to dispose of any product that tests higher than 0.3% THC. While the farmers specifically cultivate their crop to stay below this limit, there is a chance that weather conditions or other factors could affect the THC level in hemp, thereby creating hemp products that have an illegal level of THC. When that happens, the farm must properly dispose of the product to make sure it is not ingested. Currently farmers may use the following methods of disposal, which are considered legal and compliant by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
Plowing Under – this method rotates the soil and buries the crop underneath.
Mulching or Composting – this involves cutting the crop and then blending it with manure or another biomass material and leaving it to decompose naturally.
Disking – named after the attachment used on the tractor, this method levels the field and destroys the crop, leaving it there to feed the soil below.
Bush Mower or Chopper – this process uses a commercial lawn mower to shred and mix the crop.
Deep Burial – fields would be trenched and the crop and surface soil are buried at least 12” underneath.
Burning – this process involves using a controlled fire to burn the field or a pile of crops.
In October 2019 the USDA published an interim final rule (IFR) that upset the hemp industry; the new rule requires hemp producers to only use laboratory testing facilities that are registered with the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The rule also requires hemp production facilities to dispose of non-compliant plants by using a DEA-registered reverse distributor or law enforcement rather than the methods they’d previously been using for disposal.
The hemp industry immediately cried out with widespread criticism of the new rule. The main concerns being the likelihood of bottlenecks causing dramatic delays as hemp producers from all over the country were forced to send their product samples to only a small number of approved laboratories. These DEA approved laboratories are often located in a different state than the hemp farm, sometimes as far as two states away. With specific deadlines for sample testing and a high risk of backlog at each laboratory, hemp farmers predicted a catastrophic result.
The potential risks included not only the delays and supply interruptions for current farms, but also made entering the industry more difficult in general. If entry is seen as too risky, fewer entrepreneurs and agricultural professionals will choose to enter the market, one that is potentially very lucrative for individual business owners and the country as a whole.
Currently there are only 47 laboratories in the United States registered with the DEA, with many states not having a registered testing facility at all. This would mean law enforcement agents would be responsible for moving these products over state lines within 15 days to get them to the DEA registered labs for testing.
Another concern caused by the new rule is in regards to the disposal limitations. Again, just like with the DEA-registered laboratories, using only the limited number of DEA reverse distributors or law enforcement will not only delay the disposal process, it also adds a substantial cost to the farmer and government entities.
With the entire industry crying out that the timing wasn’t right, the USDA decided to delay its new rule. Stating that they fully understood the potential problems that could come with running a high volume of samples out of a small number of laboratories, they decided to postpone this decision in order to allow more labs in more states to get registered with the DEA in anticipation of the booming industry and future regulation restrictions. In the coming year the DEA will encourage states to work with their laboratories to ensure they are able to get the proper DEA certification for the 2021 crop year.
The USDA also decided to delay the disposal restrictions, allowing farmers to continue using the previously approved on-farm methods that don’t require specially registered facilities or law enforcement. Farmers are still required to document and report their disposed plants by filling out a disposal form and submitting it to the USDA.
While the delay helps hemp farmers this year, there is no guarantee about what will happen next year or the year after that. The USDA has officially put a deadline on the delay of October 31, 2021 or until the final rule is published, whichever comes first. Without knowing what the final rule could entail or even when it will go into effect, hemp industry professionals are doing their best to plan their businesses around whatever regulations might be proposed.
This current iteration of hemp production is very new, after being considered illegal for decades. This means it’s going to take everyone involved an undetermined amount of time to work out how to regulate or restrict this product. This can be nerve-racking for those already inside the new hemp market, or those looking to enter. As with any new industry, if limitations present themselves it can be hard for a business to be successful.
The USDA has stated these steps are temporary while they work to draft a final rule and figure out a way for regular enforcement. And as such, they are planning to reach out again in the fall of 2020 and get more comments from those in the industry about plans for the upcoming year and input about the most recent production season.
While there are sure to be many changes to the industry going forward and the USDA is able to change the testing and sampling requirements as part of their agency power over the regulation of hemp, they are unable to change the other aspects of the rule, such as the 0.3% THC testing limit that came with the 2018 Farm Bill. The only way that number can be changed is by the U.S. Congress.
One thing is for sure, the federal government understands that Americans are interested in hemp products and want to keep consuming them, especially CBD. In a new industry that is already proving extremely popular, the regulators are struggling to keep up pace with the demand while trying to work out the best possible way to manage the industry safely and fairly. This will be a process that takes time and patience from those within the industry and those in the government who are trying to find a way to responsibly regulate it.