For years, Ben Droz, alongside hemp trade association Vote Hemp, extolled the benefits of hemp along the streets of Washington, trying to rally enough support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would legalize hemp cultivation and production. Their message was simple; hemp is not the same as marijuana. They may come from the same plant species, but unlike marijuana, hemp contains minuscule levels of THC, the compound that gives users a psychoactive high when smoked or ingested.
Over time, they were able to sway Former Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Ron Wyden, and Rep. James Corner to their cause. Their most significant victory, perhaps, was when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got on board after seeing hemp as a major economic opportunity for farmers in his home state and elsewhere. His support led to the addition of an amendment to the 2014 Farm Bill, which permitted states to run hemp pilot programs.
According to Droz, he wasn’t surprised to see hemp legalized, but he was unprepared for how quickly things evolved. Now, hemp lobbying is booming, and where there were only one or two certifications for hemp lobbying, there are now tens of them, some of them big, established corporations. Names like Walmart, Conaga, and Patagonia now walk the hemp lobbying streets. Last year, hemp appeared in 87 certifications, and this year it has so far appeared in 72.
Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, a hemp trade association that has worked to legalize the crop since 2005, says that the lobbying is a sign of the economics behind hemp trade,” The fact that there are so many people involved tells you that there’s business happening there, and that’s a good thing.” The US Roundtable, which represents over 85 companies, is the biggest spender of all upstart hemp trade associations, with over $325,500 in lobbying expenses since 2017.
A few universities have also joined the fray. Oregon State University and Cornell have all cited work concerning hemp research, and Cornell was awarded $500,000 by Congress in August to facilitate the establishment of a hemp seed bank. Tobacco company Pyxus Int. signed a recent research agreement with Cornell that would focus on hemp production and CBD.
Estimates put the value of the U.S. hemp industry at more than $26 billion by 2025, propelled mostly by the rapid increase in demand for CBD products. Despite being legalized, there are very few regulations for the hemp industry, and all these lobbyists are united on one front; to push the federal government to write rules that encourage the growth of the so-far unregulated sector.
Experts think hemp industry actors, such as HTC Extraction Systems (TSX.V: HTC) and Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD), hope that all this lobbying bears the desired fruits of creating an enabling environment for the sustainable growth of the hemp industry.
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