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Cannabis: New Wonder Crop or One More Disappointment?

One feels the excitement about cannabis at conferences and workshops everywhere today. The relaxation of federal rules on raising hemp, incorporated in the 2018 Farm Bill, have stimulated far-reaching activity throughout the private sector. Investors see a chance to put their money to use where it can do good –– alleviate pain, sequester lots of carbon, provide another healthful grain for human nutrition. Businesspeople see a chance to provide needed goods and services –– quality seed, processing equipment, marketing services. Consumers hope for lower cost benefits from this wonder crop finally legal –– new therapies, durable materials, useful products from the dozens of new cannabinoid and terpene molecules it produces. Farmers dream of finally raising a crop with which they can earn a reasonable living.

This issue explores this new energy, looks at the history and botany of cannabis, how it impacts the human body, talks with farmers raising it and businesspeople making and selling cannabinoid products, reprints various points of view about what the future of hemp will bring, and leaves the reader, hopefully, better informed about what to expect from this resurgence.

On this, as on every issue, there are the enthusiasts and the doubters. The former have often already taken the dive into hemp cultivation and are learning about it the hard way – by making many mistakes. The latter are eyeing the situation carefully, calculating what can be realistically earned from a good crop or saleable product, and how much it will cost. The optimists see the potential value in the many uses hemp has and how it can improve human life. The pessimists see that, but point out the history in agriculture for useful crops to become commodities, grown by many more farmers than they can reasonably support, and predict a dramatic fall in finished prices. In that case, as in so many others, it is not the farmer but the middleman who profits, buying the crop cheap and selling the salve or oil or pills made from it dear.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and learn from it. There is no question that hemp will provide many opportunities for farmers and others, and we hope this issue helps you find your proper place in that development!