Hemp, CBD, and What to Make of SB57
On July 30, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law Senate Bill 57, which decriminalizes hemp in the state of Ohio, making it legal for farmers to crop and process the plant.
The Senate bill was made possible by the 2018 Farm Bill, signed into federal law on Dec. 20, 2018, which removed industrial hemp (or simply just hemp) from the list of federally controlled substances, opened up federal funds to go toward hemp research and crop insurance, and gave states the ability to initiate and regulate their own hemp programs.
Up until December, hemp farming was restricted to research and pilot programs. Now, Ohio is getting in on the emerging cannabis industry, which is estimated to be worth $42 billion by 2022.
SB57 will create a hemp program administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, where farmers interested in growing hemp and individuals interested in processing it can eventually acquire a license. The ODA estimates Ohioans will be able to acquire a license and cultivate the crop by spring 2020. Of course, the details of the program have yet to be determined, but Ohio lawmakers and the ODA could look to states like Kentucky, whose existing program has been lauded by folks in the hemp industry.
Cannuka, a Columbus-based beauty and skincare company, has been using hemp in its topical products since its founding in 2014. Founder Michael Bumgarner wanted to build awareness around industrial hemp and saw the brand as an opportunity to educate people on what cannabis really is, and what it isn’t.
Hemp is the non-intoxicating cousin to marijuana, meaning that while both hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, they differ in both genetics and usage. According to the USDA, hemp must contain less than 0.3% of THC, the chemical responsible for getting people high.
With SB57, Bumgarner — who is originally from Mechanicsburg, a rural town 40 minutes west of Columbus — is interested in delving into the farming portion of the industry. He’s no stranger to farming, he says, and sees hemp as a huge opportunity for towns like his. Hemp is actually an easily-produced crop and environmentally-friendly. (It requires much less water than other crops and no pesticides.) Hemp has the potential to be extremely profitable for farmers.
“I think there is a need to create more opportunities for maybe the smaller, what I call the family farmer,” he says. “The ability to generate more wealth through [the] land that they currently own.”
Bumgarner will definitely turn to hemp farming.
“It was very important to me that my family and I — we’ll hopefully be one of the first hemp farms in Ohio — start to really provide opportunities for people in my hometown,” he says.
But farming isn’t the only opportunity that could arise out of Ohio’s industrial hemp industry.
Hemp in its various forms can be incorporated into thousands of products. Hemp seeds have been used in bread, cereals, and milk, and hemp seed oil is used in fuel, paint, dressings, and cosmetics. Hemp stalks and fibers are used in clothing, shoes, construction materials, carpet, paper products, and more. Cannuka uses the CBD from hemp in its line of creams, cleansers, bars, and balms.
Any hemp-based edible, cream or infused product must go through a cannabis processing facility. There are still just a few cannabis processors in Ohio, producing products that are overwhelmingly THC-based, but with this legislation, many new hemp and CBD-based products will make it onto shelves in the next few years. Raw hemp materials will also be more affordable for these processors, in turn making their products more affordable for consumers.
“The demand for these ingredients is only going to increase,” says Bumgarner, “ultimately putting us in a really good position where we’re going to need more supply of industrial hemp and, you know, CBD and some of the other by-products that industrial hemp creates.”
Because Bumgarner works in the beauty space, a subject that he hears come up a lot is the idea of wellness and what that word truly means. He points out that someone who is having trouble making ends meet or putting food on the table doesn’t have time to think about wellness. That is a luxury for many people in the state and the country.
The opportunity to participate in the industrial hemp industry opens the door for many Ohioans to yield new sources of income, generate wealth and eventually have the capacity to consider wellness and more abstract needs.
He’s optimistic about where Ohio’s hemp industry is headed.
“It’s going to come down to putting the framework together to then allow people to actually start the cultivation process. And make improvements, you know, if and where there’s opportunities to,” says Bumgarner. “But nothing but excited for the entire progression of this cannabis movement, industrial hemp movement, et cetera.”
For more information on SB57, visit the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website.