In 2019, Illinois legalized the production of industrial hemp, joining the ranks with 46 other states in the country. And in just one year, according to hempindustry.com, farmers in the state harvested 73% of their yield. It’s a triumphant return to our country’s roots of growing hemp and speaks to the future of hemp production in the United States.
According to the same article in hempindustry.com, “most of the hemp harvested was for CBD production, including 1.48 million pounds of biomass and 595,128 pounds of flower.” In total, Illinois farmers produced around 2.3 million pounds of industrial hemp. But they faced the challenge of selling their crops to suppliers as a result of hemp overproduction around the country. So what does this mean for the future of hemp? Is it bleak or promising? Well, we can look to the past for answers.
Hemp’s history is American history. Farmers have grown and sold hemp in the United States since the country’s foundation. In fact, hemp was one of the country’s major resources before the introduction of cotton and nylon during the Industrial and Post-Industrial Revolutions. The crop’s versatility increased its value as you can use hemp for clothing, scribing, irrigation and other purposes. But its labor-intensive nature was outweighed by the invention of the cotton gin, which eventually became the United States’ cash crop. When the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, it obliterated the hemp industry. Despite its versatility and popularity, propaganda and industrial competition caused the crop to almost disappear from popular sale. Now, as the country has almost completely legalized industrial hemp production, we must consider innovative ways to utilize this crop to account for its abundance.
As an extraction service, we’re quite keen on the availability of hemp. More biomass means more potential to extract and create the products we all enjoy. But we must consider the possibility of oversaturation as well. In Illinois, most of the hemp yield was used to produce CBD products, but we know that hemp has potential to produce much more than that. And now that marijuana related stigma has subsided, it’s time to make the most of this plant.
We can use hemp to produce food, skincare, fuel, alcohol, fiber (clothing/apparel), medicine and much more. Retailers have already taken advantage of hemp’s versatile properties. Drug stores across the country now offer hemp lotion, toothbrushes made from the fiber of hemp plants, and hemp oil for a variety of purposes. What would happen if we invested more into producing those resources? One, it might decrease the oversaturation of CBD products in our market, leaving more room for consumers to identify the quality products they actually enjoy instead of choosing a product because of the overwhelming options. It would also answer the problem of over-harvesting. Sustainable clothing made from hemp might assuage our fears about the environmentally damaging effects of producing cotton and other fibers.
This country deserves the opportunity to take advantage of hemp in all of its forms. It has been an essential to the fabric of American history. We still have time to make it.