Federal legislation of hemp may have finally made its long-awaited arrival in the United States, but obstacles still abound before the hippie-approved agricultural crop lives up to its hype.
Blame a little something called states’ rights—the same ones advocated by famed farmer (and president) Thomas Jefferson. Individual states still have decide how they want to regulate hemp, particularly since it looks and smells just like its more controversial cousin, marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law. Because both hemp and marijuana are derivatives of Cannabis sativa, the only way to distinguish the two is to measure their concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component that gets people high. To qualify as hemp under U.S. government standards, the plant must contain less than 3/10ths of 1 percent of THC.
“It’s still Cannabis, so every state, to be federally compliant, is going to have to enact some type of regulatory framework to regulate [the seeds and the crops] throughout the process,” said Mike Lewis, director of Thirds Wave Farms in Kentucky and one of the first private citizens to legally cultivate hemp, through a 2016 partnership with Patagonia, in decades. “And that can take some time.”