The Farm Bill’s Hemp Legalization

The 2018 Farm Bill was not your typical farm bill. While it provided important agricultural and nutritional policy extensions for five years, the most interesting changes involve the cannabis plant. Typically, cannabis is not part of the conversation around farm subsidies, nutritional assistance, and crop insurance. Yet in 2018 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strong support of and leadership on the issue of hemp has thrust the cannabis plant into the limelight.

For a little bit of background, hemp is defined in the legislation as the cannabis plant (yes, the same one that produces marijuana) with one key difference: hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent of THC (the compound in the plant most commonly associated with getting a person high). In short, hemp can’t get you high. For decades, federal law did not differentiate hemp from other cannabis plants, all of which were effectively made illegal in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act and formally made illegal in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act—the latter banned cannabis of any kind.

It’s true that hemp policy in the United States has been drastically transformed by this new legislation. However, there remain some misconceptions about what, exactly, this policy change does.

Hemp is legal in the United States—with serious restrictions

Previously US law (2014 Farm Bill) allowed pilot programs to study hemp (often labeled “industrial hemp”) that were approved by both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state departments of agriculture. This allowed small-scale expansion of hemp cultivation for limited purposes. The 2018 Farm Bill is more expansive. It allows hemp cultivation broadly, not simply pilot programs for studying market interest in hemp-derived products. It explicitly allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It also puts no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law.

However, the new Farm Bill does not create a completely free system in which individuals or businesses can grow hemp whenever and wherever they want. There are numerous restrictions.

First, as noted above, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC, per section 10113 of the Farm Bill. Any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered non-hemp cannabis—or marijuana—under federal law and would thus face no legal protection under this new legislation.

Second, there will be significant, shared state-federal regulatory power over hemp cultivation and production. Under section 10113 of the Farm Bill, state departments of agriculture must consult with the state’s governor and chief law enforcement officer to devise a plan that must be submitted to the Secretary of USDA. A state’s plan to license and regulate hemp can only commence once the Secretary of USDA approves that state’s plan. In states opting not to devise a hemp regulatory program, USDA will construct a regulatory program under which hemp cultivators in those states must apply for licenses and comply with a federally-run program.  This system of shared regulatory programming is similar to options states had in other policy areas such as health insurance marketplaces under ACA, or workplace safety plans under OSHA—both of which had federally-run systems for states opting not to set up their own systems.

Third, the law outlines actions that are considered violations of federal hemp law (including such activities as cultivating without a license or producing cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC). The law details possible punishments for such violations, pathways for violators to become compliant, and even which activities qualify as felonies under the law, such as repeated offenses.

Ultimately, the Farm Bill legalizes hemp, but it doesn’t create a system in which people can grow it as freely as they can grow tomatoes or basil. This will be a highly regulated crop in the United States for both personal and industrial production.

Hemp research remains important

One of the goals of the 2014 Farm Bill was to generate and protect research into hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill continues this effort. Section 7605 re-extends the protections for hemp research and the conditions under which such research can and should be conducted. Further, section 7501 of the Farm Bill extends hemp research by including hemp under the Critical Agricultural Materials Act. This provision recognizes the importance, diversity, and opportunity of the plant and the products that can be derived from it, but also recognizes an important point: there is a still a lot to learn about hemp and its products from commercial and market perspectives. Yes, farmers—legal and illegal—already know a lot about this plant, but more can and should be done to make sure that hemp as an agricultural commodity remains stable.

Hemp farmers are treated like other farmers

Under the 2018 Farm Bill hemp is treated like other agricultural commodities in many ways. This is an important point. While there are provisions that heavily regulate hemp, and concerns exist among law enforcement—rightly or wrongly—that cannabis plants used to derive marijuana will be comingled with hemp plants, this legislation makes hemp a mainstream crop. Several provisions of the Farm Bill include changes to existing provisions of agricultural law to include hemp. One of the most important provisions from the perspective of hemp farmers lies in section 11101. This section includes hemp farmers’ protections under the Federal Crop Insurance Act. This will assist farmers who, in the normal course of agricultural production, face crop termination (crop losses). As the climate changes and as farmers get used to growing this “new” product, these protections will be important.

Cannabidiol or CBD is made legal—under specific circumstances

One big myth that exists about the Farm Bill is that cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis—is legalized. It is true that section 12619 of the Farm Bill removes hemp-derived products from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, but the legislation does not legalize CBD generally. CBD generally remains a Schedule I substance under federal law. The Farm Bill—and an unrelated, recent action by the Department of Justice—creates exceptions to this Schedule I status in certain situations. The Farm Bill ensures that any cannabinoid—a set of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant—that is derived from hemp will be legal, if and only if that hemp is produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, association state regulations, and by a licensed grower. All other cannabinoids, produced in any other setting, remain a Schedule I substance under federal law and are thus illegal. (The one exception is pharmaceutical-grade CBD products that have been approved by FDA, which currently includes one drug: GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex.)

There is one additional gray area of research moving forward. Under current law, any cannabis-based research conducted in the United States must use research-grade cannabis from the nation’s sole provider of the product: the Marijuana Program at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research. That setup exists because of cannabis’s Schedule I status. However, if hemp-derived CBD is no longer listed on the federal schedules, it will raise questions among medical and scientific researchers studying CBD products and their effects, as to whether they are required to get their products from Mississippi. This will likely require additional guidance from FDA (the Food and Drug Administration which oversees drug trials), DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration which mandates that research-grade cannabis be sourced from Mississippi), and NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse which administers the contract to cultivate research-grade cannabis) to help ensure researchers do not inadvertently operate out of compliance.

State-legal cannabis programs are still illegal under federal law

The Farm Bill has no effect on state-legal cannabis programs. Over the past 22 years, 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, and over the past six years, 10 states have legalized cannabis for adult use. Every one of those programs is illegal under federal law, with no exceptions, and the Farm Bill does nothing to change that. That said, many in the advocacy community hope that the reforms to hemp policy under the Farm Bill serve as a first step toward broader cannabis reform. (Although I would argue that a Democratic House majority alongside a president with a record of pro-cannabis reform rhetoric is the more likely foundation for broader cannabis reform.)

Even CBD products produced by state-legal, medical, or adult-use cannabis programs are illegal products under federal law, both within states and across state lines. This legal reality is an important distinction for consumer protection. There are numerous myths about the legality of CBD products and their availability. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, there will be more broadly available, legal, CBD products; however, this does not mean that all CBD products are legal moving forward. Knowing your producer and whether they are legal and legitimate will be an important part of consumer research in a post-2018 Farm Bill world.

Mitch McConnell, cannabis champion?

Many advocates applaud Senate Leader McConnell for his stewardship of these hemp provisions into the Farm Bill and his leadership on the legislation overall. That assessment is accurate. Without Mr. McConnell’s efforts, the hemp provisions would never have found their way into the legislation initially. And although his position as Senate Leader gave him tremendous institutional influence over the legislation, he went a step further by appointing himself to the conference committee that would bring the House and Senate together to agree on a final version.

McConnell understood much about this issue. First, he knows hemp doesn’t get you high and that the drug war debate that swept up hemp was politically motivated, rather than policy-oriented. Second, Kentucky—the leader’s home state—is one of the best places to cultivate hemp in the world, and pre-prohibition the state had a robust hemp sector. Third, the grassroots interest in this issue was growing in Kentucky, and McConnell knows that his role as Senate Majority Leader hangs in the balance in 2020, as does his Senate seat as he faces re-election that same year. McConnell emerges from the Farm Bill as a hemp hero, but advocates should be hesitant to label him a cannabis champion; Leader McConnell remains a staunch opponent of marijuana reform and his role in the Senate could be the roadblock to Democratic-passed legislation in the 116th Congress.




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!




Cannabinoids and the Human Body

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system identified in the early 1990s by researchers exploring THC, a well-known cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis.

Experts are still trying to fully understand the ECS. But so far, we know it plays a role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including:
• sleep
• mood
• appetite
• memory
• reproduction and fertility

The ECS exists and is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis.
Read on to learn more about the ECS including how it works and interacts with cannabis.

How does it work?
The ECS involves three core components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids
Endocannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules made by your body. They’re similar to cannabinoids, but they’re produced by your body.

Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:
• anandamide (AEA)
• 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

These help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.

Endocannabinoid receptors
These receptors are found throughout your body. Endocannabinoids bind to them in order to signal that the ECS needs to take action.

There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
• CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system
• CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells

Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The effects that result depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to. For example, endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain. Others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body’s experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders.

Enzymes
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function.
There are two main enzymes responsible for this:
• fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA
• monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-AG

What are its functions?
The ECS is complicated, and experts haven’t yet determined exactly how it works or all of its potential functions.

Research has linked the ECS to the following processes:
• appetite and digestion
• metabolism
• chronic pain
• inflammation and other immune system responses
• mood
• learning and memory
• motor control
• sleep
• cardiovascular system function
• muscle formation
• bone remodeling and growth
• liver function
• reproductive system function
• stress
• skin and nerve function

These functions all contribute to homeostasis, which refers to stability of your internal environment. For example, if an outside force, such as pain from an injury or a fever, throws off your body’s homeostasis, your ECS kicks in to help your body return to its ideal operation.

Today, experts believe that maintaining homeostasis is the primary role of the ECS.

How does THC interact with the ECS?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis. It’s the compound that gets you “high.”

Once in your body, THC interacts with your ECS by binding to receptors, just like endocannabinoids. It’s powerful partly because it can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

This allows it to have a range of effects on your body and mind, some more desirable than others. For example, THC may help to reduce pain and stimulate your appetite. But it can also cause paranoia and anxiety in some cases.

Experts are currently looking into ways to produce synthetic THC cannabinoids that interact with the ECS in only beneficial ways.

How does CBD interact with the ECS?
The other major cannabinoid found in cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t make you “high” and typically doesn’t cause any negative effects.

Experts aren’t completely sure how CBD interacts with the ECS. But they do know that it doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors the way THC does.

Instead, many believe it works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down. This allows them to have more of an effect on your body. Others believe that CBD binds to a receptor that hasn’t been discovered yet. While the details of how it works are still under debate, research suggests that CBD can help with pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with multiple conditions.

What about endocannabinoid deficiency?
Some experts believe in a theory known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). This theory suggests that low endocannabinoid levels in your body or ECS dysfunction can contribute to the development of certain conditions.

A 2016 article reviewing over 10 years of research on the subject suggests the theory could explain why some people develop migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. None of these conditions have a clear underlying cause. They’re also often resistant to treatment and sometimes occur alongside each other.

If CECD does play any kind of role in these conditions, targeting the ECS or endocannabinoid production could be the missing key to treatment, but more research is needed.

The bottom line
The ECS plays a big role in keeping your internal processes stable. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. As experts develop a better understanding of the ECS, it could eventually hold the key to treating several conditions.




Cannabinoids & Terpenes

Cannabis is made up of hundreds of active chemical compounds, over 60 of which are cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are naturally-occurring chemical ingredients that are found in the highest concentration in the female buds of the cannabis plant. These chemical compounds play an important role. They interact directly with the cannabinoid receptors found throughout the human endocannabinoid system. The medicinal benefits of cannabis can be attributed to the phenomenon of cannabinoids activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and body.

Terpenes are the compounds responsible for a plant’s scent and flavor. Unlike other botanical species, each strain of cannabis has a unique terpene profile. Terpenes and cannabinoids work together to develop a strain’s particular flavor and resulting high, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. Today, growers aspire to breed strains with high concentrations of both compounds due to their prized therapeutic effects.

Cannabinoids

What Are Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds derived from hemp and cannabis that interact directly with the cannabinoid receptors found throughout the human endocannabinoid system. The medicinal benefits of cannabis can be attributed to the phenomenon of cannabinoids activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and body. When CB1 and CB2 receptors are activated, we can improve how our body’s different systems and organs function.

Cannabinoids and terpenes develop in the resin glands, or trichomes, on the flower and leaves of cannabis plants. Many other plants produce cannabinoids, but they are found in the highest concentration in cannabis. The different compounds interact synergistically to amplify the benefits of the plant’s individual components. Essentially, the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts.

How Do Cannabinoids Work In The Body
The majority of medical cannabis research focuses on the study of cannabinoids. They are similar in structure to the neurotransmitters in our peripheral and central nervous system. When we consume cannabis, these compounds can communicate on a cellular level with these neurotransmitters, which we call “endocannabinoids”. The network of these endocannabinoids in our bodies is called the endocannabinoid system. When this nervous system falters, the compounds derived from cannabis can help our bodies regain their natural balance and stability. This concept is the foundation of cannabis as medicine.

You might have heard of the high CBD strain, Charlotte’s Web. It was developed for a young girl named Charlotte who suffered from Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. A tincture derived from this strain helped reduce the hundreds of weekly seizures Charlotte endured to only a few. This was an unbelievable feat that catalyzed the medical cannabis movement. It is also a prime example of how impactful cannabinoid therapy can be.

Most Common Types Of Cannabinoids
Different types of cannabinoids have different effects. Certain ones can provide pain relief while others have anticonvulsant properties. The benefits of these chemical compounds are diverse, but more scientific research is needed to truly understand their versatility and therapeutic effects.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THC-A) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. THC-A is the most abundant cannabinoid in raw cannabis. When THC-A is heated to a high enough temperature, it immediately converts to THC. This process also occurs naturally as fresh cannabis dries and cures.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known cannabinoid and the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Cannabinol (CBN) naturally occurs when THC is exposed to heat and oxygen. It’s typically found in amounts of less than 1%.

Cannabigerol (CBG) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in minimal amounts (less than 1%) in medical cannabis. CBG has indicated potential in chronic pain management.

Cannabidivarin (CBD-V) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid with significant anticonvulsant and antiseizure effects. It is being researched for its potential in treating epilepsy.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V) is a potentially potent psychoactive cannabinoid. Research studies are examining its effects upon certain psychological conditions such as PTSD. Limited studies have indicated that THC-V can decrease appetite. It may have anxiolytic-like (anxiety-reducing) properties and has also shown promise as an effective treatment for certain types of psychosis.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a versatile cannabinoid with multiple therapeutic effects. The non-intoxicating properties make it more applicable to those who need and want to stay clear-minded. CBD has antispasmodic and antiseizure properties, along with powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

In Summary
Understanding the different types of cannabinoids is essential to using cannabis as a treatment. Scientific research shows that the current proven medical benefits are vast. From pain relief to anti-inflammation to antispasmodic, it’s clear that the cannabis plant has many properties that can help alleviate a range of symptoms.

Terpenes
Understanding terpenes is key to navigating cannabis for beginners; they are as important as cannabinoids when it comes to self-medicating. Research shows us that we can no longer just consider the potency of THC and CBD in a strain. The concentration of terpenes can provide as many benefits as potency and cannabinoid content.

Terpenes are responsible for the scent and flavor of cannabis. Tangerine Dream and Super Lemon Haze have distinctive citrus aromas, while Blackberry Kush and Strawberry Cough have sweeter, fruitier notes. Take a whiff of Sour Diesel and you’ll see why people love strong, skunky buds. To date, researchers have identified over 100 different terpenes, but below is a list of the most common ones.

Terpenes or terpenoids are aroma compounds produced in the flower and leaves of the cannabis plant. Understanding terpenes is key to navigating cannabis for beginners; they are as important as cannabinoids when it comes to self-medicating.

Why Do Cannabis Plants Smell?
Terpenes are the primary elements of the essential oils in plants. They are responsible for the cannabis plant’s unmistakable flavor and aroma. Unlike other botanical species, each strain of cannabis has a unique terpene profile. Interestingly, many botanists and scientists believe that terpenes originally developed in plants as a deterrent to pests and animals. Some aroma compounds, like linalool, are even used in insect repellents. Though they were intended to be a protective mechanism, terpenes are ironically one of the most attractive aspects of the plant. Today, many medical cannabis patients rely on how their body gravitates to certain terpene profiles to help identify what strains may work for them.

What Exactly Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons that occur naturally in the essential oils of plants. Technically, terpenes are a combination of carbon and hydrogen. Though the names are used interchangeably, terpenoids are actually terpenes that have been altered through a drying process.

Terpenes are produced in the trichomes. Trichomes are the mushroom-shaped, crystal-like resin glands that cover the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. Terpenes are volatile and evaporate easily which is why the cannabis plant is so easy to smell. Many terpenes, like camphor and menthol, found in the botanical world have medicinal benefits. If you’ve ever had a cough drop, you’ve experienced the soothing properties of menthol. Though there are thousands of terpenes in existence, there are at least 100 aroma compounds that have been identified in the cannabis plant.

What Are The Main Functions Of Terpenes?
Cannabis terpenes are responsible for the physiological effects associated with the plant. For instance, beta-caryophyllene is the only known terpene that can bind to cannabinoid receptors, specifically CB2 receptors. This is what makes beta-caryophyllene such a viable treatment for gastrointestinal conditions and auto-immune disorders. The activation of CB2 receptors can also reduce pain and inflammation.

Considered to have a range of medicinal properties, these aroma compounds work with cannabinoids to provide therapeutic relief to patients. Together, they create an “entourage effect” which enhances the singular therapeutic properties of the plant. The entourage effect is key to medicating effectively with cannabis. Patients should embrace the phenomenon of cannabinoids and terpenes interacting synergistically – always pick products that exhibit robust and natural terpene profiles. Every cannabis strain has varying percentages of terpene content. Though each terpene has specific medicinal properties, a diverse terpene profile can create a unique and powerful sense of relief.

How Do Terpenes Alter The High?
The terpene profile of a particular cannabis strain drastically influences the type of high that a patient experiences. Like CBD, terpenes can alter the psychoactive effect of THC. This ability to mitigate the mental high may mean that terpenes can actually enhance the medicinal benefits of THC.

Different cannabis terpenes can affect your mood, your physical state and sense of relief. Have you ever experienced the uplifting effect of citrus? This is because of a terpene called limonene that is known to have mood-elevating and stress-reducing properties. If you’ve ever used lavender essential oil at night to help you relax and drift off to sleep, you’re already familiar with linalool. The more you experiment with different strains and terpene profiles, the more you will learn what works best for your symptoms.

Most Common Types Of Terpenes
Terpenes are integral to how humans experience cannabis. From anti-inflammatory to sedative properties, scientists have only begun to scratch the surface of the medicinal benefits of these aroma compounds. To date, researchers have identified over 100 different cannabis terpenes, but only a handful of them are found in high concentration in cannabis. Below is a list of the most common types of terpenes.

β–Myrcene may be used to treat insomnia and pain. It is unique because it allows chemicals to cross the blood-brain barrier more easily, allowing for cannabinoids to have a faster onset. Myrcene may also increase the psychoactive effect of THC, making for a more intense cerebral high. Myrcene is naturally occurring in lemongrass, thyme, and hops.

Limonene has an energizing, citrus scent. It can be used for combatting gastric reflux and heartburn. Limonene has antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be powerful for elevating mood and reducing stress. Limonene is often found in common cleaning and cosmetic products.

Humulene is found in abundance in its namesake Humulus lupulus, also known as common hops. It is present in ginseng, sage, clove, and basil. Used in ancient Chinese medicine, humulene can be an effective appetite suppressant. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties.

Ocimene can have an herbaceous scent, often with citrus or woody undertones. Ocimene has shown significant anti-inflammatory effects. Many believe that this terpene was developed as part of a plant’s defense mechanism. Interestingly, pests seem to be averse to strains high in ocimene similar to how mosquitos avoid geranium. While many other plants have some quantity present, ocimene can be found in hops, basil, bergamot, orchids, and pepper.

Terpinolene is present in many cannabis strains, but usually only in small quantities. This terpene has a multi-dimensional aroma that smells like pine trees, citrus, herbs, and florals. It has illustrated antioxidant and sedative properties. Terpinolene is naturally occurring in nutmeg, tea tree, apples, and conifers.

Linalool has a delicate, floral aroma and is found in hundreds of different plants. Linalool is present in lavender, cinnamon, birch, and coriander. It is an age-old remedy for sleep disorders and can be used in treating depression and anxiety. Linalool can be used as an analgesic and is a great all-natural insecticide.

Pinene has a fresh, pine tree fragrance. It has anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that it could be used as a bronchodilator and may be beneficial to those with asthma. Walk into a pine forest, take a deep breath and see how you feel. It also has antibiotic and gastroprotectant abilities. Pinene is most common in pine needles, rosemary, basil, and sage.

β–Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to directly interact with CB2 receptors. It has illustrated antibacterial and antioxidant properties, as well as promising results in pain management studies. β–Caryophyllene is naturally occurring in black pepper, rosemary, oregano, and cloves.

In Summary
Terpenes are an integral aspect of cannabis as a plant and medicine. From anti-inflammatory to chronic pain relief, the world of cannabis terpenes offers an impressive variety of therapeutic properties. These compounds define the flavor and aroma of our favorite plant, but can also alter the high from cannabis. Learn how to use terpenes to your benefit by experimenting with different strains and terpene profiles.




A History of Cannabis

Bhang eaters from India c. 1790It’s important, first of all, to differentiate between the different types of cannabis. There are four species within the genus. One is cannabis sativa L, and that’s what we call hemp. That’s what was grown in both the British colonies on the East Coast and by the French in Quebec. But hemp is less than one percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound that produces hallucinogenic effects, so you really can’t get stoned off of hemp. It’s fibers were used for bales and ropes and sometimes paper and the other species of cannabis are cannabis sativa (without the L), which is much higher in THC and has become much more potent over the years. Then there’s cannabis indica and … cannabis ruderalis, the last of which was discovered by a Russian scientist in 1923. But that one’s almost invisible.

The cannabis or hemp plant originally evolved in Central Asia and people introduced the plant into Africa, Europe and eventually the Americas. Herodotus described the Scythians—a group of Iranian nomads in Central Asia—inhaling the smoke from smoldering cannabis seeds and flowers to get high. Hashish (a purified form of cannabis smoked with a pipe) was widely used throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia after about 800 AD. Its rise in popularity corresponded with the spread of Islam in the region. The Quran forbid the use of alcohol and some other intoxicating substances, but did not specifically prohibit cannabis.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis or pot, has a long history of human use. Most ancient cultures didn’t grow the plant to get high, but as herbal medicine, likely starting in Asia around 500 BC. Hemp fiber was used to make clothing, paper, sails and rope, and its seeds were used as food.

There’s some evidence that ancient cultures knew about the psychoactive properties of the cannabis plant. Burned cannabis seeds have been found in the graves of shamans in China and Siberia from as early as 500 BC. They may have cultivated some varieties to produce higher levels of THC for use in religious ceremonies or healing practice.

In the 1830s, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor studying in India, found that cannabis extracts could help lessen stomach pain and vomiting in people suffering from cholera. By the late 1800s, cannabis extracts were sold in pharmacies and doctors’ offices throughout Europe and the United States to treat stomach problems and other ailments.

Scientists later discovered that THC was the source of marijuana’s medicinal properties. As the psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effects, THC also interacts with areas of the brain that are able to lessen nausea and promote hunger.
In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs with THC that are prescribed in pill form, Marinol and Syndros, to treat nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy and loss of appetite in AIDs patients.

Cannabis was being grown by the British East India company in Bengal and other parts of India. They encouraged its planting, taxed it heavily and exported it to Guyana, South Africa, and the Caribbean. Marijuana was brought to the Americas by the Portuguese, who took it to Brazil, and again by the British, who took it to Jamaica. In both cases, it was used to pacify slaves.

Chinese character for hempIt was sold in company stores in Jamaica well up into the 20th century where slave-like conditions persisted in the sugar cane fields. It became part of Jamaican culture, and in other places it was grown and smoked from the slave-era on. There were [also] large Indian populations in the Caribbean. Indentured Indian workers who worked alongside blacks were probably another vehicle by which smokeable, recreational marijuana was brought into the Caribbean at the time.

From the early seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, hemp could be found all over the American colonies and the fragile nation that emerged from them. Because it’s a fast-growing plant that’s easy to cultivate and has many uses, hemp was widely grown throughout colonial America and at Spanish missions in the Southwest.

As you can imagine, it was an important product in the New World as the American colonies were being established. In the early 1600s, the Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut colonies required farmers to grow hemp. Virginia passed a law requiring hemp to be grown on every farm in the colony. At the time, the crop was also considered a proper form of currency in Virginia, as well as Pennsylvania and Maryland. Prominent early sites of hemp cultivation included the Jamestown Colony and the Virginia farms of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

By the time Kentucky joined the union in 1792, the Bluegrass State was already the nation’s leading hemp producer. There, hemp was inextricably bound with the institution of slavery; not only did slaves perform the difficult and essential labor of harvesting and breaking the hemp crop, but the resulting rope and twine was used to tie bales of slave-produced cotton. The American hemp industry peaked before 1860 and declined with the loss of slave labor and the rise of metal baling clasps and new fiber crops after the Civil War. As new products were imported or developed to replace hemp—cotton was surely a welcome change to the itchy fibers of hemp shirts—the plant fell out of popularity.

But by the end of the Civil War, although the United States’ hemp production had passed its peak, a different version of the plant was on the rise. Marijuana was becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in medicines and tinctures.

Cannabis had made its way into the American pharmacopoeia by 1851, though its use in medicine was sporadic and ill-defined. Often referred to as “Indian hemp” or “cannabis indica,” most early cannabis drugs were imported from India via Britain. By the early 1900s, however, the US government began experimenting with the domestic production of certain imported drugs, including cannabis. Many of these agricultural experiments cropped up in the South, where the soil and climate were thought to be ideal for drug cultivation.

The drug use of cannabis reputedly started gaining traction in the U.S. in the 1910s after Mexican refugees brought marijuana with them as they fled the violence of the Mexican Revolution. But recent scholarship argues that the relationship between Mexicans and cannabis in the United States was far more nuanced than is typically suggested, and that its ultimate prohibition was driven by other factors in addition to racism. This scholarship also suggests that while Mexicans were clearly involved in the early American marijuana trade, their responsibility for “introducing” the practice of smoking marijuana was not as clear-cut as earlier works implied.

These Mexican roots of American smokeable cannabis are important, however, because it was known as a colored-people’s drug well into the 1960s. In the 1930s, it became popular among the hepsters, the black jazz community made up of “hep cats” like jazz singer Cab Calloway, who had a hit with his song “Reefer Man.”

In the 1930s, massive unemployment and social unrest during the Great Depression stoked resentment of Mexican immigrants and public fear of the “evil weed.” Prohibition was repealed in the middle of the Great Depression and straight-laced bureaucrats looking for another target turned their attention to marijuana, which, at the time, was mostly being used in the Mexican and black communities. They painted the drug—and the communities using it—as a threat to the already crippled country and began the process of banning it. Twenty-nine states had outlawed marijuana by 1931, and in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, essentially making the plant illegal in the United States.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first federal U.S. law to criminalize marijuana nationwide. The Act imposed an excise tax on the sale, possession or transfer of all hemp products, effectively criminalizing all but industrial uses of the plant.

Fifty-eight-year-old farmer Samuel Caldwell was the first person prosecuted under the Act. He was arrested for selling marijuana on October 2, 1937, just one day after the Act’s passage. Caldwell was sentenced to four years of hard labor.

Cannabis extract pills, McKesson & Robbins, pre-1937

Cannabis extract pills, McKesson & Robbins, pre-1937

In 1942, with the nation’s hemp supplies in the Pacific and Europe cut off by the Axis Powers when the Phillippines fell to Japan, the US found itself without a reliable source of rope and rigging for its Navy. In response, the government launched the Hemp for Victory program, propping up hemp prices and issuing thousands of licenses in accords with the Marijuana Tax Act. This was a stunning about-face that could only be rationalized in wartime: the government had spent the past six years urging farmers (and everyone else) to destroy all traces of cannabis; now it asked them to sow acre upon acre of it – 300,000 acres (about 120,000 hectares) in one year.

The Midwest would be the heart of wartime hemp production, but most of the seed would come from Kentucky and Tennessee. Iowa, which had no hemp acreage in 1942, set a goal of 60,000 acres by 1943. Indiana’s 1943 target was 20,000 acres, but Hoosiers only planted around 8,000 while Wisconsinites planted 31,000. After securing commitments from hundreds of local farmers, the US government built hemp processing plants in dozens of tiny towns across the rural Midwest. Unsurprisingly, the government found it far easier to grow hemp than eradicate it; the nation reportedly grew some 226,000 acres in 1943, making the Hemp for Victory campaign a resounding success.

In fact, the program was apparently too successful. The government had so much surplus hemp in 1943 that it had to pay American cord manufacturers to “absorb a portion of the domestic hemp supply.” As the end of the war drew near, the government tried to gradually reduce the nation’s hemp acreage and use every last bit of fiber it produced. However, having reaped the rewards of a humming wartime industry, many rural Midwesterners were not ready to watch hemp prices fall or see job-providing hemp plants shuttered. By 1944, War Hemp Industries, Inc. – the company that managed the government hemp plants during the war – expected “at least a moderate revival of the industry” and noted that “farmers and townsmen at 42 government hemp mill locations in the Midwest would welcome a return to a hemp growing program.” Company executives pointed to new machinery and production methods that would allow the US to “produce hemp cheaper than… any place else in the world.” In August 1945, veterans of the wartime hemp industry organized the American Fibers Industries, Inc., a cooperative dedicated to sustaining the industry in America. The group claimed hemp would bring $60 million in wages for “farmers, mill workers, and processors.”

Alas, the highly anticipated revival of the US hemp industry never happened. The government resumed hemp imports from Latin America and the Caribbean in 1944, and from the Philippines in 1945; meanwhile, domestic hemp prices collapsed with the removal of wartime price supports. And of course, there was the issue of all those hemp plants being possible sources of “marijuana.” In 1945, the US Treasury Department ordered Wisconsin hemp growers to “remove the leaves and flowers before sending their product to the mills.” Irate farmers protested, arguing that “such a process would not only injure the plant but would be so costly there would be no point in growing it.” To continue raising hemp profitably, the state’s farmers needed an exemption in the Marijuana Tax Act to allow “hemp to be transported tax-free to the mills”; they got no such modification, and the domestic hemp industry sputtered out.

In addition to illicit cultivators, authorities increasingly targeted so-called “wild marijuana.” This trend, which began after the tax act and would continue through the 1980s, was based on the largely incorrect assumption that any cannabis plants would or could be made to produce marijuana. Most of the “wild marijuana” authorities destroyed or worried about was either non-psychoactive hemp or feral varieties of marijuana that are far less potent than a cultivated plant. The Tax Act stipulated that producers of hemp birdseed must sterilize their product before it went to market, lest it sprout into harvestable “marijuana.” But in the three years prior to the Tax Act, the American oilseed industry imported some 193 million pounds of (unsterilized) hemp seed, ensuring that sterilization would not prevent birds and other wildlife from spreading hemp.

In 1972, a report from the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (also known as the Shafer Commission) released a report titled “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding.” The report recommended “partial prohibition” and lower penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Nixon and other government officials, however, ignored the report’s findings.

By the late 1980s, ramped-up state and federal enforcement campaigns made growing pot outdoors extremely risky. Accordingly, the nation’s marijuana growers moved inside, to cultivation “labs” with grow lights and other sophisticated equipment. Reports of indoor growing become extremely numerous after 1989, and they describe cannabis being grown in basements, aquariums, apartments, and greenhouses.

California became the first state to re-legalize marijuana for medicinal use by people with severe or chronic illnesses in 1996. Washington, D.C., 29 states and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico allow the use of cannabis for limited medical purposes.

As of June 2019, eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Colorado and Washington became the first states to do so in 2012. Adults also can light up without a doctor’s prescription in Alaska, California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Vermont and Oregon.

Marijuana’s side effects—both mental and physical—are partly responsible for its checkered legal status. Short-term effects can include euphoria or other mood changes, heightened sensory perception and increased appetite.

While many people experience a pleasant “high” feeling after using marijuana, others may experience anxiety, fear or panic. Negative effects may be more common when a person uses too much marijuana, or the cannabis is unexpectedly potent.

The amount of THC in marijuana—the chemical responsible for the drug’s potency—has increased dramatically in recent decades. In the mid-1990s, the average THC content of confiscated weed was roughly 4 percent. By 2014, it was about 12 percent, with a few strains of pot containing THC levels as high as 37 percent.

Cannabis is still illegal under U.S. federal law, and the evolving legal status of marijuana is a subject of ongoing controversy in the United States and around the world.




Hemp Cultivation Timeline

The average New England farmer is 58 years old. The average farm is 68 acres and produces just $64,000 in income. Hemp farmers could expect to make between $50,000 – $100,000 per acre depending on the quality of the Hemp that they grow.

Hemp and CBD oil extraction could prove to be a major boon for the current farmers of New England and help secure farming life in New England for many generations to come! We at New England Hemp Farm are proud to support local New England farmers.

For more detail on the origins of Hemp, see below!

World Timeline of Hemp
• 8,000 BCE: Traces of hemp have been found in modern day China and Taiwan. Evidence shows that hemp was used for pottery and food (seed & oil)
• 2,000 BCE – 800 BCE: Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda (Science of Charms) as “Sacred Grass”, one of the five sacred plants of India
• 600 BCE: Hemp rope is found in southern Russia
• 500 BCE: a jar of hemp seed and leaves were found in Berlin, Germany. Use of hemp continues to spread across northern Europe
• 200 BCE: Hemp rope is found in Greece
• 100 BCE: China uses hemp to make paper
• 100: Hemp rope is found in Britain
• 570: A French Queen was buried in hemp clothing
• 850: Vikings use hemp and spread it to Iceland
• 900: Arabs adopt technology to make hemp paper
• 1533: King Henry VIII, king of England, fines farmers if they do not raise hemp
• 1549: Cannabis is introduced in South America (Brazil)
• 1616: Jamestown, first permanent English settlement in the Americas, grows hemp to make ropes, sails, and clothing
• 1700s: American farmers in several colonies are required by law to grow hemp
• 1776: The Declaration of Independence is drafted up on hemp paper
• 1840: Abraham Lincoln uses hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps.
• 1916: USDA publishes findings that show hemp produces 4X more paper per acre than trees
• 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act placed a tax on all cannabis sales (including hemp), heavily discouraging the production of hemp
• 1938: Popular Mechanics writes an article about how hemp could be used in 25,000 different products.
• 1942: Henry Ford builds an experimental car body made with hemp fiber, which is ten times stronger than steel
• 1942: USDA initiates the “Hemp for Victory” program – this leads to more than 150,000 acres of hemp production
• 1957: The last commercial hemp fields in the US were planted in Wisconsin
• 1970: the Controlled Substances Act classified hemp as an illegal Schedule I drug, which imposed strict regulations on the cultivation of industrial hemp as well as marijuana
• 1998: The U.S. begins to import food-grade hemp seed and oil.
• 2004: Ninth Circuit Court decision in Hemp Industries Association vs. DEA permanently protects sales of hemp foods and body care products in the U.S.
• 2007: The first hemp licenses in over 50 years are granted to two North Dakota farmers.
• 2014: President Obama signed the Farm Bill, which allowed research institutions to start piloting hemp farming.
• 2015: The Industrial Hemp Farming Act (H.R. 525 and S. 134) was introduced in the House and Senate. If passed, it would remove all federal restrictions on industrial hemp and legalize its cultivation.
• 2016: A Colorado farm has earned the Organic certification from USDA for its hemp
• 2018: President Trump signed the Federal Farm Bill which Nationally legalizes the production of industrial hemp (defined as Cannabis sativa plants containing less than three-tenths of one present of THC).




What’s the real value of your farm’s carbon?

There is a lot of talk going around rural America about paying farmers and ranchers to sequester carbon. Given the current low commodity prices, more money flowing to rural America would be welcome. But, what is that carbon really worth? We decided to do the math.

Oil is approximately 85% carbon and it’s a commonly traded commodity, so let’s use that as a baseline to help establish value.

• The average price of crude oil on 1/23/20 was $53.25.
• A barrel of oil weighs approximately 300 pounds.
• Oil is 82-87% carbon and 12-15% hydrogen.
• 300 pounds, multiplied by 85% = 255 pounds of C in each barrel of oil.
• To get the cost per-pound of carbon in oil, we take $53.25 and divide that by 255 pounds, which comes to = $.209.

So, using this oil-based, carbon-value metric, one pound of carbon is worth 20.9 cents.

The question for every farmer and rancher should be, “How can I sequester carbon to capture that value?”

Plants: Your carbon-capturing partners
The atmosphere consists of approximately 0.04 percent carbon, and living plants have the ability to take that atmospheric carbon and through photosynthesis convert it to carbon-based compounds which they exude into the soil. This allows a farmer the opportunity to literally capture that carbon and bank it on their farm.

How much carbon a farmer can retain each year is based upon his/her management practices. The more plants capturing solar energy the more atmospheric carbon will be converted into soil-based carbon.

If producers are simply growing a monoculture cash crop, harvesting that crop, and then letting their land lay idle until the next crop, they are sequestering a small amount of carbon, perhaps just 300-500 pounds per acre per year.

However, producers growing a cash crop, inter-seeded with companion cover crops that grow throughout the growing season, producers will sequester much more, perhaps 1,000 or more pounds per acre per year. Add livestock grazing into a very diverse plant community, managed in a manner which allows for optimal recovery, and the amount of carbon sequestered increases significantly—to perhaps 2,000 or more pounds per acre. The more plants, the more diversity, the more carbon.

Using these conservative numbers here is what we find when we compare management practices:

Monoculture cash crop only: 500 pounds x .209 =$104.50/acre/yr.
Cash crop with diverse covers: 1,000 pounds x .209 = $209/acre/yr.
Diverse forages grazed by livestock: 2,000 pounds x .209 = $418/acre/yr.

The carbon sequestering impact these practices is not just theoretical. In our work, we are seeing producers who are using regenerative practices sequestering large amounts of carbon. Researchers on Gabe Brown’s ranch have documented 96 tons of carbon in the top four feet of topsoil on his ranch, which equates to $40,128 per acre. Talk about adding wealth to rural America.

Carbon value and beyond

Carbon is just one metric by which we can increase value through regenerative agricultural practices. For example, many farmers/ranchers pay for rural water. What if we were paid for the water we infiltrate and store in our soils?

Soil has the capability to store approximately 20,000 gallons of water per acres, per 1% organic matter. Gabe has regenerated his ranch’s soils to an average of over 6% organic matter. That soil has the capability of storing over 120,000 gallons of water per acre, which is the equivalent of four railroad tank cars of water per acre.

In Kansas, rural water is costing some users $9.00 per 1,000 gallons. At that cost, the water stored in Gabe’s soil is worth $1,080 per acre.

Add that value to his soil’s carbon value of $40,128 and we now have ecological services worth $41,208, per acre.

Changing the conversation

It is time we change the conversation in rural America so that farmers and ranchers are paid for ALL of the services they are providing to society. But even if we aren’t paid directly, these ecological services pay YOU through lower synthetic fertilizer costs, lower pesticide costs, improved plant and animal health, improved water cycling and resiliency.

The question you need to ask yourself is “How can I position my farm/ranch to capitalize on these ecological services?” The answer: REGENERATE!

Look for further conversation on this topic at www.Understandingag.com




The Role of Industrial Hemp in Carbon Farming

Role of Industrial HempRepublished from an article by GoodEarth
Resources, an Australian Eco Energy Consultancy

We submit that industrial hemp be seriously considered as a crop that can contribute significantly to the Australian Government’s aim to reduce global atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.

Industrial hemp has been scientifically proven to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop and is therefore the ideal carbon sink. In addition, the CO2 is permanently bonded within the fiber that is used for anything from textiles, to paper and as a building material. It is currently being used by BMW in Germany to replace plastics in car construction. It is therefore additional to what would otherwise be grown or sourced from oil. It can be constantly replanted and as such meets permanence criteria as defined by the Kyoto Protocol.

Industrial hemp is not marijuana. Industrial hemp is the name of the soft fiber from the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is distinguished from the psychoactive varieties by having low (less that 0.05) levels of the chemical THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). It has been developed to grow long fibers and in dense plantations thereby increasing the biomass.

Hemp can be grown on a widespread scale throughout Australia, on nutrient poor soils and with very small amounts of water and no fertilizers. Hemp can be grown on existing agricultural land (unlike most forestry projects), and can be included as part of a farm’s crop rotation with positive effects on overall yields of follow on crops. It can therefore comply with the Australian Government’s plans to increase employment and improve the economic position of remote areas. This is especially relevant to the holders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land.

A brief history of hemp
Hemp has been in cultivation for thousands of years, most notably for ropes for naval vessels and for paper. In the mid 1930’s there was the invention of nylon and the spread of plastics, and a general trend away from all things natural. At the same time use of marijuana as a recreational drug increased and hemp was included in the ban on cultivation of any plant of the Cannabis family. This view spread globally with political pressure from the US and since that time there has been a stigma attached to hemp cultivation.

Governments around the world have realized that this valuable crop is not a threat and have encouraged widespread planting of hemp as a means of absorbing CO2 and have issued carbon credits to farmers growing the crop.

Major producers include Canada, France, and China. In Australia the Department of Primary Industry is encouraging the growth of industrial hemp and is issuing licenses to companies and individuals that meet stringent criteria.

GoodEarth has been through the process and has been awarded a license to grow an industrial hemp crop by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

The science behind hemp as a carbon sink
HempcreteOne hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. It is possible to grow to 2 crops per year so absorption is doubled. Hemp’s rapid growth (grows to 4 metres in 100 days) makes it one of the fastest CO2-to-biomass conversion tools available, more efficient than agro-forestry.

Biomass is produced by the photosynthetic conversion of atmospheric carbon. The carbon uptake of hemp can be accurately validated annually by calculations derived from dry weight yield. This yield is checked at the weighbridge for commercial reasons prior to processing. Highly accurate figures for total biomass yield and carbon uptake can then be made, giving a level of certainty not available through any other natural carbon absorption process. The following carbon uptake estimates are calculated by the examining the carbon content of the molecules that make up the fibers of the hemp stem. Industrial hemp stem consists primarily of Cellulose, Hemicellulose and Lignin, whose chemical structure, carbon content, (and therefore absorbed CO2) is:

• Cellulose is 70% of stem dry weight. Cellulose is a homogeneous linear polymer constructed of repeating glucose units. The carbon content of cellulose accounts for 45% of its molecular mass.

• Hemicellulose is 22% of stem dry weight. Hemicellulose provides a linkage between cellulose & lignin. It has a branched structure consisting of various pentose sugars.

• Lignin is 6% of stem dry weight. Lignin is a strengthening material usually located between the cellulose microfibrils. The lignin molecule has a complex structure that is probably always is variable .

To summarise the above, one tonne of harvested stem contains:
• 0.7 tonnes of cellulose (45% Carbon)
• 0.22 tonnes of hemicellulose (48% Carbon
• 0.06 tonnes of lignin (40% Carbon)

It follows that every tonne of industrial hemp stems contains 0.445 tonnes Carbon absorbed from the atmosphere (44.46% of stem dry weight).

Converting Carbon to CO2 (12T of C equals 44T of CO2 (IPCC)), that represents 1.63 tonnes of CO2 absorption per tonne of UK Hemp stem harvested. On a land use basis, using Hemcore’s yield averages (5.5 to 8 T/ha), this represents 8.9 to 13.4 tonnes of CO2 absorption per hectare of UK Hemp Cultivation.

For the purposes estimation, we use an average figure of 10T/ha of CO2 absorption, a figure we hold to be a reasonably conservative estimate. This is used to predict carbon yields, but CO2 offsets will be based on dry weight yields as measured at the weighbridge.

The roots and leaf mulch (not including the hard to measure fibrous root material) left in situ represented approximately 20% of the mass of the harvested material in HGS’ initial field trials. The resulting Carbon content absorbed but remaining in the soil, will therefore be approximately 0.084 tonnes per tonne of harvested material. (42% w/w) (5).

Yield estimates are (5.5 – 8 T/ha) this represents 0.46 to 0.67 tonnes of Carbon per hectare (based on UK statistics) absorbed but left in situ after Hemp cultivation.

That represents 1.67 to 2.46 T/ha of CO2 absorbed but left in situ per hectare of UK Hemp Cultivation. Final figures after allowing 16% moisture (Atmospheric ‘dry’ weight) are as follows:
CO2 Absorbed per tonne of hemp stem 1.37t
CO2 Absorbed per hectare (stem) (UK) 7.47 to 11.25t
CO2 Absorbed per hectare (root and leaf) UK) 1.40 to 2.06t

Industrial hemp is a self offsetting crop
According to DEFRA (England’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), UK Farming emits a total CO2 equivalent of 57 millions tonnes in GHG’s. UK agricultural land use is 18.5 million hectares. This amounts to an average of around 3.1 tonnes of CO2 per hectare total embodied emissions. As a low fertilizer and zero pesticide/herbicide crop, with little management input, the carbon emissions of hemp cultivation is well below the average. Therefore we can assume the matter remaining in soils roughly offsets the cultivation and management emissions.

These figures do not include the additional carbon dioxide that is saved by substituting unsustainable raw materials, to end products derived from harvested hemp that effectively locks in CO2. Such products include, building materials, plastics, cosmetics, composite boards and insulation materials. According to Limetechnology Ltd, Hemcrete locks up around 110kg of CO2 per m3 of wall, compared to the 200kg of CO2 emitted by standard concrete. It also excludes the carbon savings of replacing tree-derived products and leaving trees to continue to absorb CO2.

For a crop, hemp is very environmentally friendly, as it is naturally insect resistant, and uses no herbicides. Hemp grows rapidly in Australia and matures in 90 days compared to traditional forestry taking 20 years. It therefore starts absorbing CO2 from almost from the day it is planted.

Industrial hemp needs limited maintenance and regenerates soil
Hemp grows in diverse soil types and conditions without the need for chemical inputs and improves soil structure while also protecting and binding soil. The long roots of the hemp plant help to bind soils and combat erosion. Hemp also is a natural weed suppressant due to the rapid growth of its canopy. Light is blocked out and weeds cannot grow underneath. Hemp also adds nutrients to soil by tapping into sub-soil nutrients other plants cannot access. It also destroys nematodes and other soil pests, resulting in improved yields of follow on crops. Hemp cleans toxins from the ground by a process called phytoremediation. It was used in Russia to remove radioactive elements following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Work undertaken in Germany (noted in Karus and Leson 1994) suggested that hemp could be grown on soils contaminated with heavy metals, while the fiber remained virtually free of the metals. Kozlowski et al. (1995) observed that hemp grew very well on copper-contaminated soil in Poland (although seeds absorbed high levels of copper). Baraniecki (1997) found similar results. Mölleken et al. (1997) studied effects of high concentration of salts of copper, chromium, and zinc on hemp, and demonstrated that some hemp cultivars have potential application to growth in contaminated soils. It is currently being trialed in NSW as a ‘’mop crop’’ to rehabilitate soils that have been contaminated by nearby sewage treatment plants. Where soils have become acidic due to acid rain planting a hemp crop restores the pH balance.

Industrial hemp replaces unsustainable raw materials
The vast quantities of hemp derived products and raw materials created by large scale cultivation could replace many oil-based unsustainable products and materials, particularly in construction, locking in captured CO2 and creating secondary benefits to the global environment. In particular, hemp could be used to replace significant quantities of tree-derived products, allowing reduced use of existing tree populations, thus maintaining their CO2 uptake.

Hemp also produces much higher quantities of stronger and more versatile fiber than cotton, and many other fiber crops, which often have very high chemical residue and water footprints. Extra processing required by hemp is also at least partially offset by its recycling potential. Industrial hemp has thousands of uses with virtually no waste. This proposal focuses on carbon capture, but it is worth emphasizing that hemp growers have a crop that is valuable and will be in increasing demand.

Conclusion
The cultivation of industrial hemp in Australia is vital in our battle to reduce pollution, conserve precious water resources and to improve soil quality.

Industrial hemp is unmatched as a means of sequestering Carbon Dioxide and binding it permanently in the materials it is manufactured into. The accreditation of industrial hemp as a generator of carbon credits will make its cultivation more attractive.

In addition, the fiber is robust and has a large variety of uses as paper, textile and as a biofuel. The seeds are a valuable source of protein for humans and for use in animal feed. This will stimulate a whole new industry and reduce reliance on imported goods.

The widespread cultivation of industrial hemp in Australia will give a much needed economic and sustainable boost to remote country areas and areas suffering high unemployment and hardship.




How Much Carbon Emissions Would 1 Acre Of Hemp Absorb?

If you use traditional farming techniques of plowing the ground and planting seeds, the answer is zero net carbon sequestration, but in the 21st century new soil science has been developed that drastically changes the answer.

There are 3 aspects you need to consider:
• Visible growth above the ground
• Hidden growth in the plants roots
• Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) exuded by the roots

Visible growth above the ground will likely be burned or allowed to rot within a few years and thus has no long term sequestration capability in my possibly naive understanding of hemp products.
Plant roots also decay within a few years and thus have no net sequestration capability.

SOCs exuded by the roots is the potential jackpot and that is where 21st century science kicks in. Prior to 1996 no one, and I mean no one, knew plants could exude SOC and have it build up for decades in the soil.

Hemp is on the list of mycorrhizal plants at http://www.rootnaturally.com/PlantListMycorrhizal.pdf
That means it can establish a symbiotic relationship with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF can be purchased as a low cost soil enhancer and Pennington Seed, as an example, just came out with a lawn fertilizer that incorporates AMF.

If a hemp farmer uses traditional plowing and tilling techniques the AMF in the soil will be killed and adding more via enhanced fertilizer will be a waste of time.

If the hemp farmer uses modern no-till planting techniques and targets enhancing the soil with AMF a healthy AMF population can be established. Because AMF lives on the roots of mycorrhizal plants and hemp grows very deep roots a deep healthy population of AMF can be established.

Everything I’ve written above was known prior to 1996, but to be honest no one really cared. AMF is ubiquitous globally. Who cares if farmland has a healthy population or not?

In 1996 something wonderful was discovered and it applies not just to hemp, but to all the 85% of plants that are mycorrhizal. But hemp can have roots as deep as 2 meters (6 feet) if allowed to grow for 2 years, that makes if far more capable of sequestering carbon via root exudates than most lawn grass as an example.

Glomalin was discovered in 1996. Since then it has been proven to be both the key to rich healthy soil and the key to carbon sequestration in soil. By weight, natural soil can have as much as 10% glomalin, but that is extremely rare in natural soil outside of perennial grasslands and tallgrass prairies.

Unfortunately farmland that is in active use tends to be 30–80% depleted in SOC relative to pristine grasslands and most of that depletion is caused by a lack of glomalin in the soil. You may be aware that farmers often leave their land fallow to allow the nutrients to build up for a year before growing a crop. During that year (or more) of the land lying fallow the soil nutrients build up, then the crop pulls nutrients out of the soil when it grows and the process is repeated. In soil low on glomalin, rain water also aggressively removes nutrients by dissolving them. Glomalin aids in forming soil aggregates that then form a protective barrier around the soil pore spaces that protects nutrients from being leached away by rain water. Instead they are trapped in these micropores like a sponge.

If you’ve ever heard of strip farming, it is a method of farming where the land is divided into strips. Only half the strips grow a crop each year and the other half lies fallow for a year. Thus only 50% the land is actually growing a crop each year. Strip farming is very common in some parts of the country due to the poor soil. My grandfather raised wheat in both Nebraska and Colorado. He used strip farming methods in both states.

With new knowledge gained in the last 2 decades, soil scientists now know how to permanently improve the health of degraded soil and allow 100% production from the land. One of the key steps is to stop plowing farmland.

It can take 2 or 3 years to build up enough SOC in the soil to eliminate the need for adding amendments such as manure or left over crop stalks via plowing them into the soil. Thus farmers need to be educated about this new no-till farming technique and a profitable use of their land needs to be found as it effectively lies fallow for 2 to 3 years as the SOC density is build-up sufficiently.

The method hasn’t yet made it into general use but we can pray it happens over the next decade or two because healthy soil can sequester carbon on a massive scale and it can build up the carbon storage amount in decades, not thousands of years as believed by soil scientists prior to 1996.

Now that it is legal in the US, growing hemp on the land during the first few years of converting the land from traditional plowed agricultural use to new modern no-till farming may be a profitable way to manage the transition as hemp is well known for growing well in degraded soil. And it can be harvested without killing off the plants.

So, if glomalin is the magic ingredient that healthy soil is built out of, where does it come from?
There is only one known source of glomalin, but by the grace of God it makes glomalin in huge quantities and then sloughs if off deep in the soil. If you don’t know the word slough, snakes slough off their skin as they grow. Dogs often slough off hair, but we call it shedding. Humans slough off skin continuously, but our skin isn’t durable after we slough it off so we don’t notice it.

Glomalin is extremely durable and lasts from 7 to 42 years in soil after being sloughed off before it deteriorates. When it does deteriorate it does so into extremely long lived molecules called stable humic polymers which can survive for centuries.

The only known source of glomalin is AMF (Arbuscular Mycorrhizae fungi). That is why establishing a healthy population of AMF in soil is important and hemp is excellent at doing so because of the deep roots it can grow if allowed to.

AMF in farmland is in general highly depleted because AMF is damaged by plowing the land. In our urban areas it is also damaged by leveling land, etc. Thus human natural tendency to control their environment depleted one of the most important biological species on the planet.

But, as I said before AMF is ubiquitous in undisturbed soil. Take a shovel out to a natural grassland and dig up some soil complete with grass and roots and you are likely to have at least some AMF.

So now we know how to establish a population of AMF in soil and how to plant hemp such that we don›t kill off the AMF in the process, but how much carbon can it sequester?

Let’s assume we start with farmland that is 50% depleted in SOC (such farmland is unfortunately readily available). For the first planting amend the soil the traditional way and plow in manure or other nutrient rich amendments, remembering we will never plow that land again.

As the hemp grows (and AMF incorporated fertilizers are used) a healthy AMF population is established, the AMF will take over the job of ensuring the soil is rich in SOC and other nutrients.

Soil weighs approximately 2 tonnes (metric tons) per cubic meter and there are about 4,000 square meters per acre. Since hemp roots of 2 year old plants extend 2 meters deep, that is about 8,000 cubic meters of soil for hemp to sequester carbon in. That soil weighs about 16,000 tonnes per acre.

6–8% soil organic material is a realistic long term goal for farmland. 50% of that mass is carbon, or 3–4% of the soil being carbon is a realistic long term goal. It turns out carbon declines in density with depth in a more or less linear way. Thus if the top 20 cm is 3–4% carbon, the overall percentage for the top 2 meters is probably in the 1.5–2.0% range. Thus, we easily get roughly 250 tonnes per acre of potential carbon sequestration, but remember it is only 50% depleted so about 125 tonnes per acre of potential additional carbon sequestration.

It will take about 30 years of no-till farming of hemp on a plot of land to raise the carbon content from roughly 2% to roughly 4% so we are looking at 4.2 tonnes per year per acre of potential carbon sequestration, or up to 15 tonnes CO2e per year per acre of carbon sequestration.

The US per capita carbon footprint is about 16 tonnes CO2e per year, so an acre of hemp grown with techniques optimizing carbon sequestration can offset up to 1 person’s carbon footprint.

If a portion of the hemp itself is used to make biochar, then that biochar added to the above system, then the biochar tonnes produced would be additive to the above carbon. However, if the hemp itself was allowed to rot as compost, it is a good amendment, but almost all would return to the atmosphere as CO2 or CH4.

If I scale this up to potential global cropland. I’ll start discussing the US first. There are approximately 1 billion acres of agricultural land in the US. Of that 300 million acres is used to produce a crop in any given year. That doesn’t include land lying fallow, failed crops, pasture, or range land.

Since the US has 300 million acres of cropland and 300 million people, regenerative farming as described above has the potential to 100% offset US C02 emissions. That doesn’t include range land. There are regenerative grazing techniques that could allow the US’s roughly 500 million acres of range land cumulatively to sequester roughly the same as farm land (not per acre), so the US has the potential to be very carbon negative by using regenerative agriculture.

Globally there are 4 billion acres of cropland and 6 billion acres of rangeland. Combined, they can easily transition the earth into a negative carbon emission scenario.

Some Facts To Consider
The 2007 US farm survey results don’t break down how land is filled, but the 2012 survey does.

1 billion acres of US agricultural land (10 billion globally), including pasture, range land, and timber
300 million acres of US productive cropland (4 billion globally)
100 million acres of US cropland is plowed/tilled traditionally (no idea globally)
100 million acres of US cropland is reduced tilled (strip or seasonal tillage)
100 million acres of US cropland is no-till (as of 2012, also 300 million globally as of 2010)
I found a separate reference that said 21% of US cropland (60 million acres) is under continuous no-till management as of 2017. I’m not clear what the difference is between that 60 million acres and the 100 million acres under no-till in 2012.

The UN 4 per 1000 initiative (www.4p1000.org) claims CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere can be 100% offset by increasing the carbon content of just the top 30–40 centimeters of soil. Thus 1/6th of the numbers I used above.




State of the Hemp Industry in 2019

It’s been eight months since the 2018 Farm Bill passed, which legalized the production of industrial hemp, and already, the market has changed considerably. The supply of and demand for industrial hemp skyrocketed thanks to a booming cultivation market, and now, hemp-derived CBD products appear on store shelves across the country – from cannabis dispensaries and smoke shops to supermarkets, big-box stores, and even gas stations.

Today, the demand for hemp-derived CBD products and other hemp products continues to grow as does the number of growers, processors, and other license holders. The team at Cannabiz Media is tracking 12,343 active hemp licenses as of September 1, 2019 in the Cannabiz Media License Database and more licenses are added all the time. Those 12,343 active licenses are split with 11,944 in the United States and 399 in Canada.

Hemp Cultivation Growth from 2018 to 2019

The biggest hemp-related story of 2019 is booming cultivation. As with most industries, the hemp industry is dependent on supply, which starts with seeds and cultivation. In 2019, supply is skyrocketing.

The Cannabiz Media License Database lists 544 active hemp seed licenses in the United States as of September 1, 2019 and 10,672 active cultivator licenses across 30 states. In addition, there are 1,323 active processor licenses.

The hemp cultivation landscape has changed significantly as the number of licenses has grown, and it will continue to change in the foreseeable future as farmers jump onboard what they believe will be a highly profitable crop.

For example, cultivation in Colorado in 2019 is expected to be more than double 2018, and in Oregon, it’s projected to jump by 225%. The amount of approved hemp acreage in Kentucky will triple in 2019, and in Tennessee, there will be more than 12-times the acreage in 2019 compared to 2018.

Overall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that by August 2019, U.S. farmers had more than quadrupled the amount of land they planted with hemp over the prior year.

According to data in the Cannabiz Media License Database, the 10 states with the highest number of hemp cultivator licenses as of September 1, 2019 are:
Tennessee: 2,913
Oregon: 2,534
Kentucky: 972
Colorado: 759
New York: 422
North Carolina: 396
Pennsylvania: 328
Vermont: 311
California: 291
Montana: 258

It’s important to keep in mind that some license holders grow more acres of hemp than others, but it will be interesting to see how the distribution of hemp cultivation looks when 2019 ends compared to 2018.

The 2018 U.S. Hemp Crop Report from Vote Hemp found that 23 states grew (or started to grow) a total of 78,175 acres of hemp in 2018. Among those states, the five leaders were:

Montana: 22,000 acres
Colorado: 21,578 acres
Oregon: 7,808 acres
Kentucky: 6,700 acres
Tennessee: 3,338 acres

Comparing those acreage numbers from 2018 to the number of active licenses in each state as of September 1, 2019 pulled from the Cannabiz Media License Database, the leader board could change significantly in Vote Hemp’s 2019 report.

The Future Looks Bright for the Hemp Industry
Since the 2018 Farm Bill passed in December 2018, regulators have been working to develop federal and state rules for the industry. Hemp production rules from the USDA should come soon, and states will be required to modify their own processes and rules to comply.
Take note, the USDA rules might change between the time they’re released and the time they’re required to be final in 2020. That means state and local laws are likely to change more than once as well.

The good news is that hemp license holders are starting to see some positive changes across the supply chain. For example, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sent a notice in August 2019 reminding law enforcement that hemp is not a controlled substance and DEA registration is not required to grow or manufacture it. This should help hemp businesses that have had to defend themselves against legal confusion since the 2018 Farm Bill passed.

In addition, the USDA made crop insurance available to hemp growers that produce hemp for fiber, flower, or seeds for the 2020 season. The insurance provides coverage under the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program and cultivators who are part of state or university research programs will have access to it. According to Vote Hemp’s 2018 U.S. Hemp Crop Report, 40 universities conducted hemp-related research in 2018, and that number has gone up in 2019.

Beware of and Prepare for Potential Problems in the Future

Consumer demand for hemp-derived CBD and other products continues to rise, but there will come a point in time when supply will outweigh that demand. The result will be a significant drop in price. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, gave the following warning about hemp overproduction during an interview with Cheddar back in March 2018, “Farmers in the United States are so productive, they could crash this market before it gets off the ground.”

Bottom-line, basic economics always prevail, but what will be the tipping point in the hemp market? Only time will tell.

Key Takeaways for the Hemp Industry in 2019 and Beyond

Is hemp the biggest opportunity in the cannabis market? Possibly. While the prospects look extremely bright right now, there are still roadblocks that will make this industry a challenging one to operate in through the short-term.




What’s Coming for the U.S. Hemp Industry in 2020?

More than a year has passed since the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp farming, production, and sales legal in the United States again. During that time, a lot of farmers and entrepreneurs have jumped into the hemp industry, and with the release of interim hemp rules by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in late 2019, many people hope 2020 would be a huge year for hemp.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what’s coming for the U.S. hemp industry in 2020.

1. More Licenses, Less Acreage
One of the biggest hemp industry stories in 2019 was oversupply and subsequent plummeting prices. When hemp farming was allowed in many states, many farmers and entrepreneurs jumped into the industry without comprehensive business plans, sales contracts, or enough money to harvest, dry, and store their crops. As a result, prices plummeted as supplies eclipsed demand, and many crops were left unsold.

For example, in Vermont, more than 1,000 growers were registered with the state by October 2019 (double the number in 2018), and those growers covered 9,000 acres of land. At the same time, hemp prices dropped by 80% because there wasn’t enough demand. Farmers simply couldn’t sell their crops.

In 2020, expect states to issue more hemp licenses, but farmers will likely plant less acreage or forgo planting in 2020 entirely.

2. Consolidation and Integration
With the oversupply problems and money losses that many hemp farmers experienced in 2019, it’s highly likely that many people will exit the hemp industry in 2020. However, lost money isn’t the only thing that will force people out of the market or to consolidate with other industry players. New regulations will also force people out of the market.

As the USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) release new and updated rules in the coming year, compliance will become an expensive burden for farmers, processors, and sellers across the hemp supply chain. Businesses that aren’t well-funded won’t be able to keep up with the regulatory demands.

In addition, many industry players will take a closer look at vertical integration. In 2019, those hemp businesses that had vertically integrated their supply chains – growing, processing, and retail sales – often performed better than those that were not vertically integrated.

Bottom-line, expect small farmers and processors, as well as those entrepreneurs who entered the industry without solid business plans and funding, to either exit the industry in 2020 or actively seek consolidation and integration opportunities.

3. Confusion
The USDA hopes to finalize its hemp industry rules within the next two years. The FDA has yet to release any kind of hemp rules at all. The lack of regulations not only creates confusion for businesses and consumers, but it also limits the profits that companies in the hemp industry can make. This is something Charlotte’s Web, a leading CBD company in the U.S., made clear to its investors in November 2019.

Confusion will also be prevalent in 2020 as farmers work to meet strict testing requirements that leave only a very small margin for error. In fact, the USDA estimates that one in five lots of hemp will exceed the legal THC limits based on current rules and will need to be destroyed, which will cost farmers more money.

4. Investments
In order to reduce costs, streamline processes, meet testing requirements, and meet the changing needs of more educated consumers, hemp businesses will need to make significant investments in research, equipment, and technology. Many of these investments will be necessary in order to comply with new USDA and FDA regulations.

Not only will investments in technology increase in 2020 but also expect to see more innovative technologies in the hemp industry, particularly as businesses work to create additional opportunities to use hemp beyond CBD products.

5. Consumer Awareness
As hemp and CBD products become more mainstream, consumers are becoming more educated. Furthermore, as more news stories draw attention to CBD companies that aren’t complying with FDA rules or making false claims, consumers will start to understand that not all brands and products are alike. They’ll demand higher quality and proof of that quality across the entire supply chain.

As a result, expect to see many companies that can’t meet consumers’ quality requirements exit the market in 2020. Those who stay will make strategic investments to develop new products that meet the changing demands of more educated consumers.

Key Takeaways about the Hemp Industry in 2020

Based on the losses that many hemp farmers experienced in 2019 and the uncertainty surrounding federal and state rules, 2020 will be a “wait and see” year for many in the hemp industry. One thing is certain, those businesses that don’t have access to cash or a solid business plan will have a challenging road ahead of them.




Sowing Seeds: The Journey of Acadia Farms

Benjamin Morgan-Dillon

Benjamin Morgan-Dillon

My journey in the world of soil started at a very young age. I grew up on a farm in a small, rural community in southeastern Massachusetts, playing in our family’s garden beds. I enjoyed pulling up weeds and flowers alike, not knowing much but wanting desperately to help. We had large vegetable, herb and flower gardens, chickens, goats, a giant pig, cats, dogs, and various other pets. As I grew older, my experiences shaped me into a more aware gardener who loved to grow vegetables and fruits alike, but I never saw a career for myself in agriculture.

Creating my business, Acadia Farms, has been an adventure in learning and has been greatly influenced by my family. My mother is a writer, an artist, and an animal trainer. Her creativity and open-mindedness was a catalyst for my own. Her love for animals and devotion for their care was definitely a guiding principle in the development of our Harmony CBD pet product. My father was an auto mechanic, who ran his own business from the age of twenty. My father came from a family of blue-collar workers, salt-of-the-earth people who knew the importance of a day’s work for a day’s pay, which is where I learned work ethics. More importantly, he taught me to have a deep love of nature, a passion for environmental awareness, and a commitment to an organic and sustainable lifestyle. My grandfather was a dedicated Brown University professor, who loved his students. He has truly inspired my path as an educator. My grandmother was a teacher and an avid gardener. She kept an organic garden where we planted my first vegetables as a child.

I have always believed that a person should strive to be a benefit to the world, in ways both near and far. It is as important to avoid the use of pesticides in one’s own garden as it is to vote for politicians who will oppose the big pesticide companies. Think big and start small, as the saying goes. We are currently at a critical juncture for the well-being of our planet, and the way we live our lives is the tipping point. If we are to save ourselves and our world, we must immediately move towards more natural and sustainable methods. Not only must we embrace organic growing, but we must also seek out new methods of cultivation, and re-discover ancient ones. We must achieve our own health through holistic methods and the use of natural medicines, with the goal being to build a better world for our children than the one we currently inhabit.

In March 2014, my father was suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live. Having always been in peak health, strong, never ill, and eating exclusively organic food, it was a devastating shock. In the months that followed, I sought urgently for something I could do to be of some use. I was just twenty-three years old, and I felt that I didn’t know how to help. Dad detested going to the doctor and so I went to every appointment, treatment, and follow up to take notes, ask questions, and ensure his care. My father had always refused to take any sort of medicine, and now he was faced with an endless regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. Cannabis, however, had always been his friend and a point of bonding for us as I became an adult.

My interest in cannabis started not only with a teenage curiosity but more importantly developed with my interest in medicine and alternative therapies. I was in college in a pre-med program, maintaining a 4.0, but decided to put it aside in order to care for my father. I began to study and apply growing techniques in earnest. I was voracious for any material or knowledge I could find. I have always loved nature, and with my strong family background in education, I was determined to learn all I could. My interest in all aspects of cannabis cultivation, preparation, and use now had a specific goal – to help my father in every possible way. I spent the next three years refining my cultivation and working to mitigate Dad’s symptoms and conditions. Despite an initial expectation of under three months to live, my father led a vital and mostly symptom-free life for four more years until he passed on October 11th, 2018.

After his death, I knew I didn’t want to return to the traditional study of medicine. I had been very discouraged by many of the experiences I had with the medical industry. I decided to follow the course I had found myself on when helping Dad. I chose to enlarge the scope of my thinking from just cultivation to every aspect of the plant. I became increasingly interested in psychopharmacology – the way drugs interact with our minds and bodies. With scientific research and grassroots experimentation, from sophisticated laboratories to people’s backyards, the field of knowledge was exploding. I wanted to be a part of that, and I wanted to make Dad proud of my choice to leave a medical career behind.

A teenage plant after its first defoliation

photo courtesy Acadia Farms
A teenage plant after its first defoliation. We defoliate to promote bilateral branching, light penetration, and air movement through the canopy.

I set out initially to simply help each member of my family. My mother had a torn meniscus, which despite surgery led to acute arthritis in her knee. She was in constant pain, limping instead of walking, unable to stand up straight. Nothing short of opioids eased her pain, and those were not a good answer. My sister was diagnosed with acute, sudden onset of Bi-polar 2 with panic attacks and anxiety. My stepfather is a Marine with severe PTSD and crippling anxiety. My girlfriend has Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and anxiety. I dived into research and began to formulate mixtures for each of them and we started experimenting. To my surprise, we had immediate success! My mother was “able to walk free of pain and without a cane for the first time in three years”- Alexandra. My sister “had a complete mental-emotional turn around with no pharmaceuticals”- Madelin. My stepfather was able to reenter the workforce after years and rapidly rose back to his old position – he now is the chief jeweler and manager at a high-end, custom jewelry shop. My girlfriend has “been in remission from Crohn’s disease for almost two years now”- Amanda. This means her disease is no longer active and she is without symptoms. After these great results, the company grew in an organic fashion, expanding, from one person to the next via recommendations of ecstatic clients. We have since more than doubled our initial product lines, and have expanded into the field of cannabis education and consultation.

I never saw myself following in my grandfather’s footsteps as an educator, and I never saw myself as a cannabis entrepreneur, but I have embraced it all. After having been an avid student in this field for thirteen years, I have been repeatedly told that I need to begin speaking and sharing all that I have accumulated and learned. I have always had a natural way of forming deep and meaningful relationships with people, even in unconventional environments or short periods of time. I love to impart knowledge and experience to people and watch them grasp onto a concept and run with it. I excel at communicating complex or otherwise difficult concepts to people in very easily digestible terms. These skills have led me to where I am today, an international hemp/cannabis consultant who gets to spend his time both in the field and educating people on regenerative cultivation methods.

In Massachusetts, the industrial hemp program is still in its infancy and as such there have been many hurdles to overcome. The license is not very expensive ($300 for cultivation or processing, $500 for both) or difficult to obtain. They require you to submit an application providing the location and site maps (including GPS coordinates for the corners of each field) for cultivation and processing. Many farmers have used google maps for this, but some have been told the photos are not clear enough, that there is too much tree cover at the time it was taken, or it’s too old. To avoid all of these issues I find it best to hire a drone pilot for an hour or two and have up to date, crystal clear photos with geotagged GPS coordinates. Additionally, you can request the pilot provide you with a topographical map. This will show you the grade of your land, where the highs and lows are and by how much they vary. Your eyes can’t see a few inches difference over an acre, but water surely will and you may experience dry patches or flooding if not corrected. It is vital that any drone company you hire be legally licensed, trained, and insured and have substantial experience. In my area, the only company which meets these standards is Ocean State Drones. I have used them exclusively for years.

If you are leasing the land you must provide a signed form designating that you have permission from the landowner to grow hemp. You must also provide some personal information, a COA (certificate of analysis) as proof of the levels of THC (<0.3%) in the seeds, seedlings, or clones you will purchase, and what you plan to do with your final product. The entire process is nowhere near the level of intensity or difficulty of the application process for recreational or medical cannabis but is still far more than is required for any other agricultural crop. Once approved you may order your seed or seedlings and begin your season. You must submit a planting form when setting plants in the field to notify MDAR (Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources) of the numbers and variety. You then must also submit a harvest form to give them a window of time to come and sample your crops before harvest to ensure they are not “hot” (>0.3% THC). Then you may harvest, dry and process the material into whatever final form you chose.

A happy, healthy plant that has bushed out after the first defoliation.

photo courtesy Acadia Farms
A happy, healthy plant that has bushed out after the first defoliation.

As hemp farmers, we are limited in what products we are allowed to produce and sell. For instance, we are not allowed to sell raw flowers for consumption. Massachusetts has therefore indirectly stated that we must extract the oils from the flowers and then turn that oil into products that can be sold. To make it even more difficult, there is a new law that we can only create and sell products that do not fall into the categories of food, beverages, feeds, pet treats, dietary supplements, or vapes. This effectively limits our options to only topical applications. This decision was made and implemented halfway through the 2019 growing season after most farmers had already planted. Products for which farmers had received approval were now suddenly illegal, which has caused a financial disaster. MDAR has yet to correct this costly error despite having been present at numerous hearings where farmers (including myself) testified for hours on the detrimental impacts of their choice.

This leads us to another industry-wide misunderstanding of terminology and genetic makeup. What the federal government has chosen to call “Industrial Hemp” is actually two separate species of cannabis that they have lumped together. These two species are Fiber/Seed Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) and CBD Hemp (Cannabis indica ssp indica and Cannabis indica ssp afganica hybrid varietals with <0.3%THC). If the THC content is >0.3% (greater than 0.3%) the federal government classifies it as Cannabis and it is therefore federally illegal to grow. Fiber/Seed Hemp does contain some trace cannabinoids, however, they are in such minute volumes that they are not worth extracting. Due to this Fiber/Seed Hemp is used to produce food, lubricants, textiles, etc. Since CBD Hemp, not Fiber/Seed Hemp, is the primary source from which we extract CBD, for the purpose of our conversation we shall refer to it as “Hemp (CBD)”. Cannabis (the source from which we extract THC) shares the same two sub-species of the same genus and species as Hemp (CBD). Genetically, Hemp (CBD) and Cannabis (THC) are varietals of the same Genus and species Cannabis indica ssp. indica and Cannabis indica ssp. afganica, with the amount of THC present (<0.3%THC for Hemp (CBD)) being the determining factor of the categorization, rather than the genetic lineage. Fiber/Seed Hemp is extremely tall with a thin main stalk and very minimal bilateral branching or flower (phytochemistry) production. It is this morphology characteristic of long fibers which makes it ideal for textile production. Cannabis and Hemp (CBD) range from short and stocky to very tall and lanky, with lots of bilateral branching and flower production.

Hemp (CBD) and Cannabis are unlike any other crop that we cultivate in the world, from the way the plant grows to the care needed to express the most unique characteristics. There are over 20,000+ registered terpenes (essential oils present in all plants) in the world and more than 200+ of them have been recognized in Industrial Hemp and Cannabis. This means that this plant has more terpene diversity than any other plant in the world. When you combine them with the 400+ cannabinoids which may be present in the plant, you get the synergistic result known as the “entourage effect”, a compounding of the phytochemistry increasing the impact of each part. This benefit alone makes this plant one of the most versatile crops we can grow. When we consider that Fiber/Seed Hemp can be used to produce textiles, paper, hempcrete, food, lubricants, plastics, packaging, and nutritional supplements just to name a few, why wouldn’t we want to grow these amazing plants which are such a cornucopia?

A 40x zoom of the trichomes developing on the bract's of the apical cola

photo courtesy Acadia Farms
A 40x zoom of the trichomes developing on the bract’s of the apical cola

Another incredible characteristic of both Industrial Hemp and Cannabis is that they are bio-accumulators. They absorb toxins from the environment and concentrate them in their cells. This would mean any plants grown on contaminated land would extract and concentrate those pollutants, rendering them unsafe for use in and on our bodies. However, these contaminated plants can still be used for fuel, lubricants, and plastics. I see this as one more major benefit of this crop. We can use it to purify and remediate all the land which we have lost to microbial extinction as a result of conventional agriculture. We can save soils contaminated with heavy metals, over salinization, and even radioactivity just to mention a few. Therefore, I believe it is even more crucial to cultivate this plant in polluted ecosystems to begin to regenerate the natural ecology.

I have spent the past few years traveling the USA and parts of Europe, utilizing my fifteen years of experience to consult and educate on the cultivation of Hemp/Cannabis. The work I do ranges from helping new farmers get established and learn how to grow this incredible crop without the pitfalls of a novice cultivator, to guiding experienced farmers in a new regenerative methodology and crop, to soil detoxification projects and ecological regeneration. I have found it so inspiring to work with such dedicated and passionate people in their pursuit of a better way. Many farmers simply need to be educated on the needs and characteristics of the plant through its different stages of life. Others really want to dive deeply into the soil biology and its impact on plant growth and phytochemistry production.

I recommend that any farmer interested in growing starts with a basic knowledge of soil science and plant care. Additionally, having an understanding of the microbial world and how it directly ties to the crop you are trying to grow is very important. Learning methods of sustainability and conservation will help to provide you with a solid foundation when designing your farm or fields. We must remember that we are simply stewards of this amazing world and the better we mimic nature in our cultivation the more robust and balanced our system will be and thus more profitable and sustainable.

Conventional methods try to provide a specific NPK value that is based on an estimation of what the needs of the crop are to avoid nutrient deficiencies and maximize yields. The inherent issue with this method is that we cannot accurately predict exactly what the needs of a crop are and will be on a day to day measure of the season, so we apply a blanket approach hoping to hit the mark for most of the crops in the field. This, however, leaves large amounts of nutrients unused in the soil increasing salinity and reducing overall soil health. This also means that these excess nutrients are able to leach from the soil and contaminate water tables, wetlands, and rivers eventually draining into lakes and the ocean where they feed algae that grow out of control and cause “dead zones”. A “dead zone” is an area where algae or bacteria have grown so rapidly that they have used all dissolved oxygen in the water around them creating an area no other aquatic life can survive in.

Due to the issues one runs into with conventional agriculture methods, such as over salinization of the soil, increased pest and pathogen pressures, lack of organic options, fertilizer runoff, microbial extinction, plant rejection, and exorbitant costs, I implement a form of regenerative cultivation known as Korean Natural Farming. We focus on capturing naturally occurring indigenous microorganisms and cultivating large colonies which we use to inoculate the soil. The purpose of this is to maximize biological diversity and therefore plant growth and resistance potential. This provides indigenous microorganisms that have naturally evolved to thrive in your local environment to mine nutrients from the soil and provide them to the plant in exchange for sugars and carbohydrates. We also harvest wild plants and fruits which grow in your environment and extract their vitality and essence through fermentation. We then apply them both as a foliar feed and a soil drench to provide optimal nutrition to the microbes and plants, completing the cycle. Aside from these naturally occurring sources, we use nothing that could be classified as a fertilizer, herbicide, or pesticide. We have found through extensive research, trial and error, and evaluation that a balanced and biodiverse environment does not support pathogenic or pest incursions. In fact, there has been evidence to the opposite – using fewer interventions than we would in a conventional methodology, we have obtained superior quality and yields. Using these methods of soil stewardship I have been able to drastically reduce my farm inputs while increasing my plant’s health and overall production, by increasing the fertility and biodiversity of my soil. The reaction that the indigenous ecosystem had when I began to implement these methods is incredible. Pollinator populations increased, pest and pathogen pressures decreased, yields increased, as well as the overall quality of my crops. I have seen this not only in my hemp/cannabis but also in my vegetables, bushes, and fruit trees.

Utilizing Korean Natural Farming, I have also been able to return my land to a no-till/ low-till regimen which has increased microbe populations and stability, especially fungal colonies. Tillage is one of the most destructive practices of conventional agriculture, as it breaks microbial colonies and exposes subterranean microbes to the atmosphere and UV radiation from the sun. This change has allowed us to increase and maintain our microbial populations year after year as well as reduce the labor and equipment needed for field preparation each season. This subsequently increases our profit margins by reducing overall operational expenses. Using the plant fermentations that we create from indigenous thriving plants replaces the fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides used in conventional agriculture.

Korean Natural Farming fermentations extract the macro and micronutrients that plants growing in the area have gathered. One of the most common fermentations we make is a fermented plant juice (FPJ). We walk the property and local woods to find the most vigorous and healthy fresh growth we can, and then responsibly harvest some of the new shoots. One of the very best sources of fresh growth for an FPJ are those weeds that you’ve battled for years and are still growing strong (avoid poisonous or caustic plants). The plants that have adapted to the environment so well that they are thriving despite your best efforts, are the perfect food source for the crops you are growing in that same environment. We chop up the fresh growth (only one variety of plant) and mix it 50/50 by weight with brown sugar. Gently massage the mix together, slightly breaking the plant’s cell walls and evenly covering the surface area with sugar. Then place the mix in a mason jar, filling the jar full, and cover with a breathable barrier (cheesecloth or paper towel). If the plant used has high water content you may place a ¼ – ½ inch layer of sugar on top of the final preparation. This is called a sugar cap and is used to absorb excess water and reduce microbial activity. Place the jar in the dark, at room temperature, for 7 days to ferment. Then on the 8th day sieve the solids and retain the liquid, seal the jar and place it in a dark area to store until needed. This will later be diluted at a ratio of 1:500 with water and used in conjunction with other fermentations to feed the plants and microbes.

When we apply a foliar feeding or a soil drench of our fermentations, we are providing a plethora of nutrients, enzymes, fatty acids, proteins, and carbohydrates, which are a feast for the microbial colonies which directly feed our plants. Rather than guessing what we believe our plants will need or even worse reacting to a nutrient deficiency, we anticipate the next stage of growth based on the season and what the plant is telling us visually. Once a deficiency has visually presented itself the imbalance which caused it happened one to two weeks earlier and so trying to pinpoint a treatment becomes a tale of too little too late. Instead, we look at the growth stage the plant is entering about 2 weeks before it reaches that stage. We then treat the plant and soil with the fermentation regime for that stage of growth, providing the needs of the soil, microbes and therefore the plants. We do this to try and stay ahead of the curve and not be caught off guard by an unexpected nutrient deficiency. In general, even if a deficiency presents we look forward to what the next stage needs rather than trying to correct what has already gone wrong. We react by rebalancing the microbial network through an Indigenous Micro Organism inoculation and possibly a fermentation to provide a little extra vigor to them as they go about correcting the imbalances.

Having grown up on a small farm in Massachusetts, with a robust background in academics and medicine, my growing interest in hemp and cannabis cultivation led me to researching the current methods and best practices. With the personal experience of both my father’s cancer and the various ailments of several other family members, I became dedicated to finding better treatments. My involvement with Korean Natural Farming has revolutionized my approach to plant health and our gut health. As my knowledge increased, I decided to get involved in sharing with others. I have found my experience of learning from the soil and educating people to have been one of the most satisfying of my life. There is no greater gift than giving. The more we can educate the general populace on both holistic alternatives and sustainable agriculture, the more we can heal our ailing planet and ourselves.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”
-Picasso




Why Are Hemp Food Products Struggling to Break Through?

reprinted with permission from Foodprint

When Rye Matthews started growing hemp grain on his Vermont farm in 2015, he sold his harvest to food manufacturers for products ranging from hemp milk and cheese to protein powder and cooking oil.

Matthews hoped that the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed hemp cultivation as part of state-run pilot programs with strict regulations, would start to open the market for the once-verboten crop, driving demand for hemp grains and creating a robust domestic market.

The novice farmer was also optimistic that food manufacturers, once forced to import hemp grain and seed used in protein powders, snacks, milks and other products from farmers outside the United States — giving it a bigger carbon footprint — would be eager to source the ingredient from local farms.

“A lot of the row crop farmers who are growing corn and soybeans are well suited to growing hemp grain crops,” Matthews explains. “It should have been a good opportunity for farmers who wanted to diversify their crops and enter into the industrial hemp market.”

The 2018 Farm Bill further loosened the regulations, legalizing the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity and removing it from the list of controlled substances as long as levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the ingredient in cannabis that causes a high, were lower than 0.3 percent of dry weight.

The reclassification of industrial hemp, which includes both hemp grains and varieties used for cannabidiol or CBD, allowed farmers to grow the sustainable crop for the first time in decades and production is expected to explode. Hemp Business Journal estimates that the market for hemp foods, which was $137 million in 2017, is forecasted to top $212 million in 2022.

Anna Chanthavongseng, executive director for the National Hemp Association believes that the new laws could give manufacturers more options to source hemp from US farms but significant barriers exist to turning hemp into the next locally-grown superfood.

Developing a Hunger for Hemp Food Products
Attracting farmers has been one of the biggest issues. Although the end of federal prohibition on growing the crop led to a huge increase in the number of acres planted in hemp, most farmers have opted to pursue the more lucrative CBD market, which generates up to $150 per pound compared with as little as 50 cents per pound for food-grade hemp.

Market forces are also contributing to the decision to plant CBD varieties instead of food. Sales of CBD products are expected to top $646 million in 2022, which is more than triple the market for hemp-derived foods.

“We’ve had trouble attracting farmers,” admits Chad Rosen, founder and CEO of Victory Hemp Foods. “Farmers want to grow CBD because it’s far more lucrative; it’s hard to convince them to grow grain.”

There might be other reasons farmers are nervous about cultivating hemp. A South Carolina farmer made headlines when he was arrested for illegal hemp cultivation and his entire crop, valued at more than $1 million, was bulldozed due to what he claimed was a paperwork mix-up. In Washington State, thieves stole $70,000 in hemp plants from a farm thinking it was marijuana.

Without Hemp Grains, No Hemp-Derived Foods
Regardless of the reasons the crop is unpopular, the lack of available grains from US growers is cause for concern.

“We’ve positioned ourselves as having products made with US-grown hemp and we did that to attract the market and it’s worked,” Rosen says. “Our demand is going to outstrip our supply [of available hemp grains] pretty quickly.”

At Kentucky-based Victory Hemp Foods, sales of products like cold-pressed hemp oil and hemp protein powders doubled between the first and third quarters of 2019. Rapid growth led Rosen to purchase a food processing facility in Middlebury, Vermont, to bring production closer to processors in the Northeast. Although he contracted with farmers in Vermont, New York and Maine, he closed the facility after 18 months due to a lack of local hemp grain.

Matthews was among the farmers growing grains for Victory Hemp Foods. The economics led him to transition his fields to CBD varieties. As a managing partner for Northeast Hemp Commodities, he grows 300 acres of industrial hemp and processes it for CBD oil but he hasn’t ruled out a return to grains.

“There hasn’t been enough education and experience on the consumer side to understand that hemp is also a food and these products exist and taste great,” he says. “We need a large marketing push.”

Sending Stigma Up in Smoke
Hemp is a superfood that is chock full of nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium but major misconceptions about the powerhouse plant could also prevent the ingredient from reaching all-star status, according to Chanthavongseng.

“There are people who believe that there are traces of THC in hemp hearts and hemp seeds that might get them high or make them fail a drug test; it’s still scary to them,” she says. “We also have people in what I call the ‘CBD closet’ who are afraid to admit they use CBD-infused foods…We need a lot of education to steer away from that stigma and to reel in the public with the idea that it’s not a scary ingredient, it’s a beneficial, nutritious ingredient.”

Although manufacturers like Victory Hemp Foods, Nutiva and EVO Hemp are expanding their product lines and breaking into new markets, hemp-based foods continue to be niche products. Sales of hemp milk, for example, are projected to reach $454 million over the next five years but sales of almond milk exceeded $1.3 billion in 2019 and brands like Silk and Blue Diamond and Almond Breeze are already household names.

Getting Big Brands on Board
The longer it takes for hemp to catch on as a food ingredient, the harder it’ll be to convince farmers to cultivate the crop, which means food manufacturers will struggle to source local grains and continue importing them from international sources.

Rather than depending on so-called hemp food companies to capture market share, Matthews believes that getting big brands on board could take hemp from a niche ingredient to a mainstream superfood. The new laws are instrumental in making that happen.

“Now that it’s not forbidden, I think manufacturers are starting to realize its potential and, once formulators get hemp into their kitchens and start working with it and recognizing the benefits from flavor and nutritional perspective, it will start to break into the market,” Rosen says. “The changing laws could really unleash the potential of hemp and see the food industry using it across a variety of applications.”

This article originally appeared on FoodPrint, at www.FoodPrint.org




Sunsoil: Doing it Right Again in Hardwick

Sunsoil CBD

photo by Jack Kittredge
Alejandro Bergad & Jacob Goldstein pose in one of the Sunsoil CBD oil extraction buildings

The towns around Hardwick, Vermont, have become the center of a dynamic economy based on processed agricultural products. This fact has been noted in these pages before (Fall, 2012 issue). Enterprises like High Mowing Seeds, The Bee’s Knees Restaurant, Vermont Natural Coatings, Vermont Soy, Jasper Hill Cellars, and the Vermont Food Ventures Center all exemplify the vigorous small business activities that have grown here.

In the last few years a new addition to this activity has been that of a company developing products based on the medicinal properties of a certain crop, a plant recently exempted from a federal prohibition on growing if raised in specific ways consistent with the Farm Bill. That plant is hemp, and the company is Sunsoil.

In early 2016 Alejandro Bergad and Jacob Goldstein founded Green Mountain CBD (later to become Sunsoil) and bought a farm in Hardwick to grow hemp.

“Hemp was widely grown around here hundreds of years ago,” states Bergad. “It was so widely grown that the Fairbanks Scale Company here in 1830 was the one which developed the platform scale, a way to weigh the hemp crop without unhitching the cart. I think the heyday of hemp in this country was from the 1880s to the 1920s or 30s, until the federal law banned it (as a narcotic). It was primarily used for its fiber qualities, and paper was the industry that lost the most from the hemp ban.”

Both Goldstein and Bergad grew up in Skyview Acres, a “cooperative community” about 20 miles north of New York City in Pomona, established in 1947. The two knew each other growing up, and credit Skyview for their “shared set of values,” which could be defined as progressive.

The younger, Goldstein, went to Vermont for the mountains and ended up studying geography at the University of Vermont. Alejandro farmed out in Colorado in the hemp industry. While there he saw opportunities to make a lot of efficiencies that current farmers and manufacturers were not doing, both in growing and in processing the product.

Planting is one of the more mechanized farm tasks at Sunsoil

photo courtesy Sunsoil
Planting is one of the more mechanized farm tasks at Sunsoil

Of course, as Jacob points out: “In Colorado you were not seeing traditional hemp agricultural practices being used. Those places came out of the marijuana industry, not hemp.”

Although hemp and marijuana are derived from the same plant, they are bred for different kinds of oil production. Hemp’s medicinal qualities come from CBD oil (Cannabidiol), not the psychoactive THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol )which marijuana provides. There is hemp that is bred for fiber as well, but mostly the goal is oil.

A strict requirement of hemp is that it contain less than 0.3 % of THC so it has no psychoactive qualities. Cannabidiol, which is the true name of CBD oil, is one of more than 100 naturally occurring cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant.

When it became legal 20 years or more ago for American companies to import hemp as an ingredient, American farmers felt discriminated against and they recently got it into the Farm Bill that states could authorize the growing and sales of fiber hemp. Now the state has to approve it and the feds will sanction it.

According to Bergad, “It is a federal law which opened up state programs and allowed them to do what they want. New Hampshire, for instance, decided to let anyone grow hemp like any other crop. But something raised in New Hampshire would not be legal to sell nationally because it was not grown under the federal seal. Here in Vermont we are functioning under a federally sanctioned program, so we can sell nationally. Besides, the soil here is awesome. It really is amazing. I have nothing against Colorado, but it’s like farming in a dessert out there. Here you have lots of clean water and a well versed farming community with generations of experience.

weed whacking weed

photo courtesy Sunsoil
Weed whacking the crop for good photosynthesis is an important part of maximizing yield

“The USDA is still refining its rules,” he continues, “it is still an industry defining itself, at a young stage. There should be a market for artisanal products in this industry, just like any one. But people have to find and develop it, similar to maple syrup and how that developed. Mostly it is a commodity but there is room for quality small producers. Until then it is backyard farmers selling at farmers markets and there is still a good profit margin there. I would just encourage growers to know how they are going to sell it before they start to grow it, test it, harvest and dry it.

“It all needs to be sorted out.” He concludes. “We have both a grower’s permit and a processing registration here in Vermont. This year we paid Vermont $25 for the license. Next year it will be $3000. It is based on acreage and their costs for inspection. I think it is $100 for the first half acre, and $300 for the next. We want to keep it possible for the small farmer to raise it.“

Bergad and Goldstein are among the early leaders in an industry that has grown from sales of $108 million in 2014 to $813 million in 2019, just five years. Statista, a provider of market and consumer data estimates that the CBD market will grow to $1.8 billion by 2022. Bergad feels that number is way too low and the figure is likely to be closer to $6 to $8 billion by then.

In this burgeoning industry, Sunsoil is the country’s third largest CBD manufacturer, growing 100,000 hemp plants in 2019. Those plants produced about 40,000 kilos of hemp. The company expects to increase their production and is looking for additional locations. Their fields and drying operation have been certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers.

Another indication of Sunsoil’s intent to be a responsible industry leader is its commitment to employees. It provides health insurance, retirement benefits and an ownership stake to all 30 full-time employees, and offers a starting wage of $20 per hour for part-timers. The number of employees working for Sunsoil is not insignificant, either. The company employed over 200 different Vermont farmers during the crop season.

Besides its rapid growth and organic certification, Sunsoil is also distinguishing itself on efficient production methods. Given Bergad’s conviction that ultimately CBD will be a commodity grown on a wide scale, he feels that competition will ultimately be based on price. In such a market, the most efficient win the day.

One example of such efficiency is having total control over both growing and extraction operations.  Many CBD manufacturers outsource either their agricultural operation and/or extraction process (with some leading, US-based CBD companies even sourcing their hemp from overseas).

But Sunsoil is vertically integrated, from seed to tincture bottle, unique among CBD companies, according to Bergad.

Many hemp growers will grow a crop from available seeds and then test grow plants for THC content, ever mindful of the 0.3% limit. While effective, this is obviously a laborious process and involves destruction of the part of the crop over the legal limit. Alejandro and Jacob, however, from their work in the industry, had an advantage.

plants drying

photo courtesy Sunsoil
Drying in Vermont’s humid and cold climate takes lots of space and energy

“We knew from the seed how a plant would turn out, more or less,” says Alejandro. “The seeds can be analyzed on a gas chromatograph, allowing us to check the ratios of THC to CBD. Thus we were able to accelerate our breeding program by spotting those indicators within three weeks of the seed popping and not needing to wait for maturation.”

The pair bought a gas chromatograph that same winter they bought their land, going out to Los Angeles to the manufacturer and studying how to use it. They did their first seed crop downstairs in the Hardwick farmhouse they bought.

The methods of producing hemp are not obvious to many farmers. Instead of buying seed, Jacob and Alejandro breed their seeds in January,

“It is only when we grow for seed,” relates Bergad, “that we pollinate and thus get flowers with seeds. In the field we are not pollinating so there is no seed. They are all female plants. It is just flowers without seed. We just use male plants in our breeding operation. Being a dioecious plant, certain stressors can make a female plant produce male flowers. We use the pollen from those to make seed. Technically it is a female flower in that the genetics are all from the female plant. But it looks and acts like a male flower, just has no Y chromosomes. We are constantly selecting stock for breeding: refining, testing, etc.”

They then use the gas chromatograph to choose their stock going forward so it will be under the hemp limit of 0.3 percent THC.

“The gas chromatograph can measure the levels of cannabinoids and terpenes in the seed we are producing,” explains Alejandro. “We measure ratios and can spit out stuff we don’t want early in the process. A backyard operation can’t do this, and just has to buy seed. That is still somewhat sketchy, not many traditional seed companies sell hemp seed. But it is sorting itself out. There are a lot of new entrepreneurs in this industry. There are a lot of companies doing what we do in Vermont, but not on our scale.”

Growing hemp is not like raising many crops. First, it is a heavy feeder. Hemp pulls everything out of soils and uses up lots of nitrogen. Sunsoil goes through a lot of chicken manure which they purchase from chicken farms in New York.

Jacob and Alejandro plant their greenhouses with seed by April 15 or 20, and transplant those seedlings out in early June for a harvest in 100 to 130 days in September to late October. They plant about 1000 seedlings to the acre.

breaking them down

photo courtesy Sunsoil
Breaking down the crop to process the parts containg CBD oil is another job done by hand

“Twenty-five plants within one foot of each other are going to grow up tall and thin,” Bergad points out. “But if you give one plant 25 feet, it will grow large and thrive. You want lateral branching in the plant, to provide air drainage and plenty of flowers for oil. They will take up the sun that they have.

“You can grow hemp for fiber or oil,” he continues, “just give it space to flower and make lateral development for oil, and make it grow tall for fiber. I think there is some money in growing hemp for fiber, but not a lot. For textiles you need to have big mills and process it, and those are very expensive.

“We use cultivars here that have a little bit broader leaves than those in Colorado,” he concludes, “and they are meant for a little less sun. Colorado leaves are much thinner and designed for less exposure to the sun.”

To grow hemp the way Sunsoil does is a lot of handwork. They produced it on 100 acres last year with harvest crews as big as 120. Using machinery with the plants would be easier on manpower, but a lot rougher on the plants.

Although some producers shred their crop green and bale it, Jacob and Alejandro wait as long as they can for ripeness and maximum oil content.

“We know when it is ready to harvest,” says Bergad. “It’s like looking at a banana tree! The hairs start to turn color. In Vermont we only have so much time until winter comes. It has to get all the growth it needs, once planted out, in about 100 days. That is 1% growth per day. If it gets too cold it can set the plant back 5 to 7 days, which is hard to get back in yield. ”
“So much goes into raising these plants,” stresses Jacob. “It’s a labor of love. From the greenhouse to extraction of the oil to making the final product. We shoot for an efficiency of over 80%, which means capturing 80% or more of the oil in the plants we raise. We had about a 10% loss this year because of climate problems – flooding, and then when you think of extraction efficiencies it can fall to 80% or below. We’re always looking for ways to make it more scaleable, more efficient.”

One of the most trying aspects of raising hemp for Sunsoil is drying the crop.

“In year one we built our first drying building,” says Bergad. “In year two we built an exact replica of that building except we put in attic trusses to have more space. In year three we lifted the roof of the first building up to have room for our extraction equipment and built a third building around the side of it. Last year, our fourth season, we built yet another drying barn. Each building has been retrofitted and refurbished, already. There is a lot of construction necessary to dry and process the hemp.

“These are not like tobacco barns,” he insists, “with slats open to the outside air. These need preheated air, which makes it excellent for quickly drying the plants. We have huge fans in those buildings to move the air in for preheating and out to carry the moisture away. It has to be late enough in the season that the ambient air is cold and dry.

“We dry the hemp,” he concludes, “and keep the dried buds and leaves and some of the smaller branches for the extraction process.”

To extract the CBD oil from hemp Sunsoil uses a unique extraction method, called lipid extraction. Lipid extraction uses a lipid (fat or oil), along with heat, to extract the CBD. In the case of Sunsoil, that lipid is either MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil (for their tinctures) or organic coconut oil (for their capsules and salve).

Pure MCT oil is made in the lab by combining medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil, palm or other oils. The lengths of medium- and long-chain triglycerides represent how many carbon molecules are attached. Medium is better than long because MCTs (6 to 8 carbon molecules) are digested more rapidly. Long chains (10 to 12 carbon molecules) take longer to metabolize and will get stored as fat in the process.

“We have 1500 gallon water tanks in the extraction room,” offers Alejandro. “They are part of the toasting process where we mix water and coconut oil, with the water providing a buffer for the process to prevent overheating. In these big tanks the product is being cooked and every drop of the oil is being squeezed out with hydraulic presses. (Photos were not allowed when I toured as some of the exact techniques were proprietary) The oil goes through filters to make sure it is pure.”

Bergad and Goldstein have developed their own process by adapting equipment available off-the-shelf in other industries, like brewing and fermentation, to their purposes. Some of the filters, for example, are manufactured for use with biodiesel and cooking oils.

“The extracted oil goes in barrels,” reveals Jacob. “Then it is tested for purity and CBD content. A barrel can contain oil from as many as 100 to 500 plants, but 300 to 400 is a common range.”

He notes the Sunsoil process fuses hemp with other oils in decarboxylation. They had to find the right temperatures and pressures to use in working with hemp.

Jacob says: “It looks high tech, but you move the material from one stainless tank to another with shovels!”

According to Alejandro there is oil from an average of 280 plants in each barrel. It takes 16 of those barrels to make a batch of product.

Being organic is one more thing they can to do improve quality, and it also goes along with the most efficient practices. If you think of feeding your soil, being holistic, even being cost effective, organic makes the most sense. It is a huge quality differentiator. In an industry which is unregulated, to show that you have gone through that process is a plus, too.

According to Bergad, the customers reaching out the most for CBD products are those dealing with anxiety, sleep issues and inflammation.

“We’re not allowed to make medical claims,” he reminds, “but we have done surveys of our users. Nationwide the three biggest groups who are buying CBDs are those dealing with anxiety, needing help for sleep, and for inflammation. Those are the things that most folks buy it for. Many also feel it relieves arthritic pain.”

Sunsoil is now sold in over 1000 stores nationwide, including 572 Vitamin Shoppe locations. For a company that started the year at 250 stores, that is rapid growth indeed!

Of course that kind of rapid growth takes significant money. As Alejandro puts it: “This is what happens when a small artisanal farm does it right at the right time. Now we are becoming a big farm. But we didn’t start with big money, at all. And we were profitable as a small operation, so we didn’t need capital investment. Investors came to us and we turned down some that weren’t right. The ones who we went with we met through a mutual friend.

The investment he is speaking of is one made in November 2018. Sunsoil received a $7 million infusion of capital from Raleigh, North Carolina-based One Better Ventures, a venture capital firm led by John Replogle, who had executive management history with Unilever, Burt’s Bees, and Seventh Generation. They made the investment to fuel scalability and the kind of growth that is happening now. Bergad says the duo accepted the money because they realized they would need such capital to get to the point where they could bring the cost of CBD down to a reasonable amount.

Currently, Sunsoil sells its CBD oil at a retail price of 5 cents per milligram. This compares favorably to an industry average of 8 to 14 cents.

“We raised capital,” Alejandro points out, “for the purpose of driving down the price of CBD, our own product, to increase accessibility. We’re trying to find increased efficiencies in the farming, processing, manufacturing, and distribution of the product. We don’t want to spend unnecessary marketing dollars for the company to be successful. We’d rather make a great product at a great price point and let folks come to us!”

“So we are building efficiencies into our profit margin now,” he continues, “so we can sustain it when the price drops. We really did find a better way to make CBD. We took an age old process that has been done on stovetops using butter to pull cannabinoids out of marijuana and we scaled that process. We took it to a level where we realized great efficiencies. Now we can come right out of the gate at a very low price point, more so than any of our competitors. And we’re offering a very unique product that we think is of a higher quality. It is a whole plant extract.”

He is talking about Sunsoil’s process to coat the whole plant with cocoanut oil and extract the cannabinoids that way. They had to figure out how to scale it, though, as they are in a different league from the folks who were doing in on the stovetop.

“Drying the crop is also critical for us,” Bergad adds. “It takes so much space to do it, and the space is expensive to build, we have to move the crop through the drying stage very quickly. We have over a hundred people on hand to break the plants down, once dry, into food grade bags and bring a new batch in. We fill the drying rooms with new plants every other day! We do 100 acres in two buildings. Those are 7-day weeks for us. It is incredibly labor and resource intensive.

“We have industrial fans,” he continues. “use lots of propane, design our air flow carefully. That is all critical to our success. A lot of this we have figured out on-site. There are not a lot of knowledgeable resources on this yet.

“We’re going to continue to work to find a way to make CBD more affordable,” he concludes. “We just did a 2¢ per milligram refill program. You bring your bottle and we refill it. That represents the lowest price anywhere in the country for a full spectrum hemp extract, manufactured right here in Vermont. We’re going to scale that out so other folks in the US can benefit from that, you won’t have to be local to get your refill.”

Sunsoil’s goal, according to the partners, is to see CBD on the shelf next to aspirin, for the same price. That won’t happen until they are more efficient than they are now, but they see paths to do that. They feel that the efficiencies are already pretty much there in the plant and extraction. But there is more to be gained scaling the work force and in production. “Tightening all the screws and bolts,” as Alejandro says. “We would rather make half as much money and serve twice as many people.”

No matter how efficient the operation is, however, CBD production in Vermont is costly.

“It is a labor intensive, and a resource intensive crop to grow well,” Bergad stresses, “as in high output per acre. For instance we heat our greenhouses to 72˚ in April. We need to grow our plants there in 4 inch pots and get them a good head start before they go in the ground. Another resource-intensive part is our drying process. We built brand new facilities for that from the ground up with no pressure-treated wood, no galvanized nails, everything is very clean. Those cost a lot of money. And we have to dry very fast because the crop has an expiration, we have a window when it is ready, when it is at its peak to when it starts to degrade.

“We dry the crop down to about 5% humidity,” he continues, “and then store it in food grade plastic bags. In order to do that we use something like ten million BTUs of energy in a 10,000 to 20,000 square foot space. We fill that space multiple times. Vermont air is more humid than Colorado, so we have to use more energy to get humidity out of the crop. In Colorado you can get away with tobacco barns for drying. Not Vermont. Your crop will start to mold.

“We’re not using chemicals or solvents to pull CBD out of the plant,” he concludes, “so we’re really conscious of keeping everything clean. Both our product and our processing facility are certified organic. We might not have the answers. We are a small company that has found a way to scale a high quality product. But we use a lot of hand methods. Maybe there is a way to use mechanized equipment and still get adequate product quality. That may be an economy or efficiency that gives us an advantage.”

One of the areas where Sunsoil has done its homework is in meeting government marketing regulations for sales as a supplement under the Food and Drug Act.

“We are building out a CTMP compliant processing operation,” Bergad states. “CTMP is a high compliance standard for dietary supplements. It is what big retailers look for. It involves testing and meticulous record keeping to insure the highest standard, as well as building design and redundancy. We already have CTMP compliant manufacturing.

“When you get into commercial viability,” he continues, “there is quite a responsibility on the part of the producer. We are investing literally millions and millions of dollars to be compliant with the quality standards – we test for mycotoxins and heavy metals, and others folks don’t. We own every single step of the supply chain and take responsibility for the product all the way along it.”

Jacob stresses this point. “We do a lot to make our process traceable – every bag of hemp plants, every barrel of oil, we know where it came from, how it was used, what was made from it. What field it came from, what greenhouse, when it was harvested. That is important in today’s market.”

When asked what they foresee in the future of hemp oil production, Bergad returns to a single word.

“When you think about hemp and the future of it,” he insists, “we are moving toward commoditization, as we have done with corn. Hemp is not a hard crop to farm. It is going to take a few years for the industry to get caught up agriculturally, but it will do so.

“When I started in Colorado,” he continues, “I saw hemp go the first year for over $1000 a pound! What was common was $40. This year I hear of people selling it for as low as $8. That’s dried biomass. But agricultural oversupply is a common phenomenon for a lucrative crop. It can happen fast. It is just supply and demand. Those vacuums get filled pretty quick. I think the US grew 8 times the amount of CBD it needed this year. On that side of the supply chain I think it is going to get more and more commoditized and most manufacturers contract for their hemp, whereas we grow our own.

I asked what was the future for small farmers in such a business. Is there any way they can make a living competing against corporate operations the size of Sunsoil or others? Could the small farmer raise hemp and sell it to them for a decent price? Alejandro was skeptical, and cited the reasons.

“In order for us to maintain quality standards,” he says, “if we do contract with small farmers in the future, depending on what our total footprint is, we would have to institute a division of our company which would be dedicated almost full time to that. I love the idea of partnering with other folks instead of just employing them. But when we look at the actual business model we have to be in a situation where we have some legs under us and then those relationships would be a plus. It’s too soon for us to just get into it. We would have to invest in greenhouses and drying facilities if they weren’t able to. And for our standards we’d have to go from scratch. And it is really expensive.

“We’re constantly filling our drying houses,” he explains. “We farm about 100 acres but can only fit about 5 acres of crops in our drying facilities. They are 20,000 square foot buildings. We only have two of them. We need a drying facility for about every 50 acres or so. We know how many greenhouses we need, and know what it costs for the labor. It is quite an investment. For us to partner with somebody it would have to be the right scenario.”

Perhaps hoping not to sound so pessimistic, Jacob offers: “It has been on our radar, though.”

“It has,” Bergad replies. “But in relationships with other farmers they will have to grow our cultivars so we can have consistent product. Plus our products are certified organic. We’d need certified organic biomass. We see regulation coming and want to be ahead of the curve.

“I wish there was more I could suggest for the small farmer,” he concludes. “If I were to start over again maybe I’d start selling seed, because there is a demand there. If you do something unique and well, you are going to stand out.”




Understanding Cannabis

Canopy shotMarijuana, Hemp and Cannabis are commonly talked about in the news everyday. A new multi-billion dollar a year industry is springing up like a weed (pun intended). I find that much of the information available is inaccurate, steeped in emotion and rarely giving the whole truth. I hope to dispel some commonly held myths about this amazing plant and maybe help some future cannabis or hemp growers to see a path forward.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis sativa is a fast growing, dioecious annual originating from Central Asia. It is now commonly found growing in all regions of the planet that can support flowering plants. It is photosensitive and requires shorter days to produce flowers and seed. Being a dioecious plant some seeds will give you a male plant and some will give you a female plant. The female flowers are what we are after when using it for medicine. The stalks provide the fiber and cellulose for other products,

Artifacts of cannabis use date back to the earliest human history. Scientist have found remains of the cannabis plant in some of the oldest human archaeological sites. We have formed a relationship with this plant that I and others feel is critical to our success as a species. But more on that later….

In the course of its evolution it has been spread across the globe by traders who have realized its importance for fiber, fuel, food and medicine. Depending on the region where it is grown, it can exhibit many different shapes, sizes and characteristics.

In Southeast Asia plants tend to exhibit a narrow leaf structure and grow in excess of 10 ft tall. The effects of this type of plant tend to be very uplifting and stimulating, even bordering on psychedelic. This region is where the Thai sticks of the 60’s and 70’s originate. This is also where a lot of “Hemp” varieties come from.

Plants that come from the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and Pakistan tend to be short and squat with very large wide fan leaves. The effect from these plants are very sedating and lead to “couch lock” or the feeling of sinking into your seat and not being able to get up. This is the classic “Kush” and is a dominate gene line in many cannabis varieties today, also these types of plants are known for hash making.

The first references to cannabis use dates back to 6000 BC when the seeds were used as food up until about 2700 BC when Chinese medical manuals talked about its use as medicine. From there it spread all across the globe with its many uses being displayed in different cultures. The Egyptians used it for papyrus, in India its was used as medicine and around 800 AD the first instances of using it as a intoxicant arose.

It is believed to be brought to the Americas by the Spanish around 1500. They wanted to grow hemp for rope. Most rigging on sailing ships were made of hemp. Hemp rope is among the strongest, longest lasting and most mold resistant fibers on earth — perfect for sailing ship rigging. It was also used for clothing and other textiles. Hemp was such an important crop it was grown by many of the founding fathers and considered a very important staple crop. The access to hemp was so important Napolean’s invasion of Russia was partly about access to Russian hemp.

The seeds of the cannabis plant are little power houses. They contain all the essential amino acids needed for life in the perfect ratios. They are rich in healthy fats and essential fatty acids. They have a ideal 3-1 ratio of Omega 3 and omega 6 and 25% of all calories are in the form of protein. The oil from the seeds also has many therapeutic and industrial uses.

It’s many uses include rope, cordage, textiles, fabrics, fiber, pulp paper, art canvas, paints, varnishes, lighting oil, biomass for energy, medicine, food oils, proteins, building materials and leisure consumption. There are few other plants that are so versatile and beneficial for the planet and mankind. It is also a perfect crop to include in a rotation as it is known to improve soils.

Legality

Throughout history many cultures have put regulations and restrictions on its use as an intoxicant. In the US, many states put restrictions on it throughout the early 20th century, mainly based of false assumptions. There were many studies during this time that document the false claims made about hemp by the government and financial interests. It wasn’t really until The Marijuana Tax act of 1937 that cannabis was criminalized across the country. The reasons for this were not altruistic. This was just another corporate influenced action carried out by the government for the betterment of a few. Before this time cannabis tinctures and extracts were commonly available to people for a range of different ailments and it was a common medicine.

The Tax act of 1937 didn’t specifically make cannabis illegal — there were many laws written in the years after to do that. But the tax act effectively made cannabis undesirable by putting such a high tax burden on the farmer that it made it cost prohibitive to grow.

In 1935 the first working hemp decorticator was built. Before that separating the fibers from the pulp was a very intensive process that held hemp back in the emerging world of synthetic fibers and processes. This was the same time Dupont created a patent for Nylon, making plastic from petroleum and developed a new process to make paper from wood pulp, William Randolph Hearst was cornering the paper and Newspaper markets and the financier Andrew Mellon was backing the whole thing.

The availability of a machine to easily take hemp and turn it into raw materials for the production of paper, textiles and medicine was about to affect the bottom line of big business and we all know what happens when big business gets involved. They saw from the early 1930’s how hemp could affect their business and started making steps to hinder the hemp market.

Andrew Mellon while Secretary of the Treasury appointed his wife’s nephew Harry J Anslinger as head of the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1931. Hearst starting in the early 1900’s was using “yellow journalism” to sway readers to believe things that were not true, so it was easy to convince the public that “lazy Mexicans smoking marijuana” were a problem. He used his influence to tell lies about cannabis and its users. This was the same for African American’s, Jazz players and Chinese immigrants. Marijuana is a traditional Spanish term for cannabis. In the US at that time the term was co-opted by the powers that wanted to make it illegal. The term “marijuana” has racist origins and there is a big push currently in the US cannabis industry to refer to medicinal and adult use “marijuana” as cannabis and the fiber/seed type of cannabis as “Hemp”. For the purposes of this article going forward I will refer to medicinal/adult use as cannabis and all fiber and high CBD varieties as hemp.

The Difference Between Cannabis and Hemp.

Both hemp and medicinal/adult use cannabis are from the same plant, Cannabis sativa. Over the course of this plant’s history humans have selectively bred for different traits, some for fiber/seed and some for the resinous flowers that are used for medicine. All types of cannabis contain Cannabiniods. With THC (Δ 9- tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidol) being the most common Cannabinoids. They were both isolated in the late 1960’s by Israel biochemist Dr Raphael Mechoulam. Dr Mechoulam is the world’s foremost researcher on the medicinal use of cannabis and has also isolated many other novel cannabinoids that are showing great medicinal value.

I would argue that the cannabis plant has had the highest level of manipulation compared to many others. It exhibits so many different traits depending on what its use is. Many claim that today’s cannabis is much stronger that that of the 60’s-70’s and there is some truth to that. Cannabis used to be a mix of THC, CBD and other lesser cannabiniods but through careful breeding much of the CBD has been bred out, leaving a stronger product. CBD is somewhat an antidote to THC. It mellows its effects and can be used if someone is having a bad experience with too much THC.

Breeding And Cannabis Today

The 60’s and 70’s were the heyday of cannabis varieties being transported across the world. This is before many growers started growing Sinsemilla and plants were chock full of seeds. Many of these seeds and seeded flowers were transported around the globe leading to many different types of cannabis being grown. One of the regions of the world that is fantastic for cannabis growing happens to be in what is called the “Emerald Triangle’ that consists of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties in Northern California. This was a hotbed for surfers and world travelers who went to different valleys and mountain sides across the world searching for novel varieties to bring back home to California. Many of the seeds being spread were also from military soldiers traveling through war torn regions. These today are called “landrace” strains.

A real advancement came to the US after the book “The Primo Plant: Growing Sinsemilla” by Mountian Girl was published. Sinsemilla is the practice of removing the male plants from the area where the females are and was used in other parts of the world. This causes the female flowers not to be pollinated and produce seeds, so more plant energy can be used to make the compounds that we are after.

This was the beginning of the narrowing of the genetic gene pool for cannabis. By the early 1990’s the cannabis world started to change rapidly. Through selective breeding some growers were enticing out some really novel characteristics, like really pungent aromas and dried flowers that looked really pretty. This caused a huge change in the cannabis market. A lot of people got rid of these special strains from different regions of the world to replace them with “hype” strains that are pretty but are missing the special characteristics of “landrace”strains. Unfortunately many of the regions that these landrace strains come from are no longer able to grow cannabis. The US war machine stretches far and wide and so does the war on drugs. This has led to the cannabis gene pool narrowing even more. It is possible that some cannabiniods could have been lost all together due to bad breeding practices looking for only certain traits and the loss of traditional cannabis growing regions.

At this same time California started to crack down on the peaceful cannabis growing communities that were developing. All they wanted to do was their best for the planet around them and to have access to the plant they felt a connection to. Most were organic farmers and really cared about the land. The war on drugs was in full swing and we all know how the government feels about peaceful people trying to do their own thing. This led to the communities being broken up and the start of a very lucrative black market. The amount of money that could be made was incredible because of the supply and demand aspect and the war on drugs stifling supply. This allowed gangs and people who were not peaceful to dominate the market and start this industry on the dirty destructive path it has been on since.

Luckily today voters have created change in many states. Now 33 states have a medical cannabis program and another 11 have a adult-use cannabis program. While many claim it to be legalization, I prefer to call it regulation. There are strong corporate influences that pour money into politicians’ pockets to influence the way regulations will go. Many regulations are not founded in reality but only serve to restrict people’s abilities to provide themselves with their own cannabis and line corporate shareholders pockets. It is not free and open as if we were growing a tomato or even brewing beer. There are many, many rules that people need to abide by that force people to buy from the very corporations that are paying to have the rules written in their favor.

WeedOwning a small medical cannabis shop in Maine I see everyday big money coming into the state to influence law makers. There are at least 3 very active patient and business advocacy groups that are pushing back against “big cannabis”. Much of this money is coming from the tobacco and pharmaceutical companies. There are also large investment firms getting involved. Former congressman John Boehner who was adamantly opposed to any cannabis bills when he was the speaker of the house, now sits on the board of directors of one of the largest publicly traded cannabis companies in the world.

The amount of oversight and regulations that they are trying to impose on us makes it hard to stay viable being a small family run business. Once again most of these regulations are not based in any sort of reality and are only there to protect corporate interests in this $60 billion a year industry. It is quite common in states that have adopted adult-use to disband their medical programs, which is not good for patients. The care and thought that we put into our products can not be rivaled in a corporate dominated industry. Profit should never take precedent over people and planet, but that is what the corporate influence in the industry is causing.

The important take away here is that if you are interested in this industry or patients’ availability to access plant medicine that changes their life for the better, then please get involved. Whether it is in your own town or at the state level there is always a constant push by big cannabis to dominate the market just like many other industries. There are great advocacy groups in every state that are pushing for common sense policies that help maintain the integrity of the medicine and people’s access to it. After seeing first hand the power of this plant to get people off of pharmaceuticals that are hindering their lives, I feel it is of the upmost importance to fight the corporate take over of cannabis.

Cannabis as Medicine

One benefit of “legalization” it the ability for research to be done in a clinical setting. Now it is common knowledge in many countries (not in the US yet) that we humans all have a endo-cannabiniod system. We have chemicals closely resembling phytocannabiniods that are found in cannabis in our bodies. These chemicals affect special receptors that everyone has. This system is in every cell of their bodies and for reasons not yet completely understood, some peoples systems don’t work as well as others. Luckily cannabis is here to help. Some common diseases such as Crohns Disease, Fibromyalgia, Macular degeneration and others are greatly helped with cannabiniods when a lot of modern medical treatments fail. I do not know of any definitive research why cannabis works so well with so many issues but there is a lot of great research being done and hopefully soon we will have a much better picture.

There are many different ways to consume cannabis. Most common are smokable flowers. This is great for a rapid onset and relief of some symptoms. Along with this are concentrates (hash). Concentrates take the glandular trichomes that contain the active compounds and strip them off the plant. There are a few ways to make this happen with some being more pure then others.

Next would be tinctures and capsules. I feel these are the most medicinal way to take cannabiniods internally. You can dose them at different dosages and it is easy to make different ratios of THC:CBD. We have had great success at out little store using different ratios of cannabiniods. Patients report back that they have decreased or completely stopped using many pharmaceuticals.

Then there is topical application. Cannabiniods are effective when used right at the site of an ailment. It’s not only effective for pain issues but also skin issues.

Cannabis contains over 700 beneficial compounds including phytocannabiniods, terpeniods and other secondary plant metabolites. There are about 50 that are produced beyond a trace amount. They all work together synergistically with each playing a role in the final effect.

THC is the main cannabiniod present in most cannabis. It is responsible for the “high” that most people associate with cannabis use. It is neuro-protective, reduces inter-ocular pressure, muscle tension and spasticity. It also exhibits analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities not to mention anti-cancer/tumor properties. There have been breeding projects in the past couple of years to increase the CBD in proportion to THC in certain strains to provide different medicinal benefits.

CBD is the main cannabiniod in hemp. It is also found in cannabis varieties to varying degrees but it has been bred out in search of a more potent cannabis flowers. In industrial hemp CBD concentration tends to be quite depending on the cultivar, there are breeding projects to increase the CBD content of the plant for extraction, to make CBD products. CBD’s benefits include anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and analgesic properties. It has also great for but not limited to anxiety, stress and irritability. CBD by itself is great for pain but it is really about the synergy between itself, THC and other lesser cannabinoids.

With CBD gaining such a buzz in the past few years it is everywhere. Gas stations, drug stores, everywhere!!! Buyer beware. Just as with our food it is best to know the source or risk ingesting who knows what. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there just trying to profit off of the buzz. Full spectrum is best. Legal hemp has to have under .3% THC but often has other cannabiniods that aid in the effect of the medicine. Try and stay away from products that use isolates. Isolate is a refined CBD product that contains only CBD. Studies have shown isolate to be much less effective than a whole plant medicine. The 2018 Farm bill allows for the hemp to be grown at the federal level and many New England states have had hemp programs for a few years so finding CBD products from locally grown hemp should be fairly easy. As with anything, know your source.

There are other notable cannabinoids that are showing promise for a variety of different ailments and conditions such as tumor reduction and anti-cancer abilities. They are Tetrahydrocannabivarian (THCV), Cannabindvarin (CBDV), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabinol (CBN) and Cannabigerol (CBG) plus more that are still being discovered and researched.

There are also aromatic compounds that have a strong effect on the medicinal properties of cannabis. Many of the same terpenoids and secondary plant metabolites that provide the therapeutic effect in traditional herbs are present in cannabis. It is said that the cannabinoids are the gas pedal and terpenes are the drivers of effect. Some dominant terpenes are aplha-pinene (Found in pine it is an anti-biotic and has anti-tumor properties), Limonene (found in lemons, antidepressant, increases THC/CBD effect), Myrcene (Found in hops, muscle relaxant, analgesic), Beta-caryophyllene (Found in black pepper, strong anti-inflammatory), Linalool (found in lavender, calming, anti-anxiety) and terpinolene (reduces the cognitive effects of THC). There are many more terpenes that play a role in modulating the effects of cannabiniods even at trace levels.

The big thing to understand is that whole plant medicine is always better then isolated extracts. Any one of these compounds will have an effect on their own. The greatest effect is when they are used in conjunction with each other. There are different ratios of CBD:THC that are very valuable for different effects. The interesting thing about cannabis medicine is there are no set rules. Through trailblazers using trial and error throughout prohibition we have a rough guide and with more research happening everyday we are starting to get a better understanding. Another variable is the fact that everyone processes cannabiniods at different rates. A dose that one person will not feel will affect someone else very differently. Same with smokable cannabis. Some strains will give many people an elevated, anti-anxiety feeling, while others will feel down and may induce anxiety.

So a note here. I am not a doctor and always recommend that people who are on pharmaceuticals should consult with their doctor before starting a cannabis regimen. Many doctors are much more open to the idea than they were a few years ago. There are some interactions when taking cannabiniods with drugs that are reliant on the P450 liver enzyme. It is best to talk to a doctor if you are taking one of these drugs and want to start a cannabis regimen.

For now we are left with some simple rules to follow based on what we do know. Cannabis is not for everyone. I do feel that many people could benefit from its use, whether it is CBD, THC or both. We do know we have evolved with this plant since early human history. It has been a source of food and medicine up until the early 20th century. This has caused us to develop an endocannabinoid system that is self regulating. Everyone has a different number of receptor sites that adjust to the amount of cannabiniods we are consuming. The recommendation is always “low and slow”. Start with the lowest dose and then slowly over the course of a week or so increase the dose until you notice the desired effect. After a week, increase the dose some more but if you notice no addition benefit then you go back to the dose that had the best effect. You can not fatally overdose with cannabis. You can overdose and have a bad experience but that will fade in a few hours. Many overdoses lead to a good case of the munchies and a good nap. If the experience becomes difficult simple breathing exercises are very helpful.

Taking more than your therapeutic dose will cause your system to down regulate and decrease the amount of receptors that your system has. This will cause a decrease in medicinal benefit. This is why novice adult-use cannabis users only need a small puff on a joint to receive a strong effect and more seasoned users can consume a lot more to reach the same effect. Our mottos at the store are “Low and slow” and “less is more”. To reset your endocannabiniod system all that is required is to take an abstinence break. Completely abstaining from all cannabis use for 4 or more days should be sufficient.

After seeing first hand in our shop the wide range of benefits that cannabis medicine provides, it is just astounding. It’s amazing to see people take their health into their own hands, try something different and receive great benefit. It is about trial and error, keeping track of dosage and effects. It’s not as cut and dried as a doctor telling you to take a pill at a certain time everyday. There are so many variables to this field of medicine it requires a little bit of diligence but from everything I have seen it is worth it.

My Path

I personally have been using cannabis for 20 years and this plant has been my companion ever since the beginning. Shortly after I started consuming cannabis I found the book written by Jack Herer titled “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. This book blew my mind wide open!! It is a great reference for anyone wanting to know more about this wonderful plant and its history. It also opened up my eyes to many of the other derailments of truth that are present in our world today.

I have been on this journey growing cannabis for over 18 years. I started in a small closet with a friend using a two part chemical nutrient “designed” for cannabis. There are a lot of myths in the cannabis growing community, which is understandable due to its illegal underground nature. Even with legalization the world of cannabis research is still in its infancy. But times are changing for the better and that is a good thing.

Traditionally, before legalization, cannabis was grown in a controlled indoor environment with high intensity discharge light (metal halide, high pressure sodium) using hydroponics or an inert medium (peat or coco coir) and feeding with regular applications of chemical fertilizers that are tailored to cannabis. Typically they will contain very high levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. The common thought being Nitrogen in vegetative state and very high P and K in the flowering stage. I know many of you know the issues with only focusing on these three nutrients. Not to mention the amount of toxic runoff you get using these principals. The streams in northern California are lined with salt deposits from countless growers using unsustainable practices. Also included are harsh pH adjusters, growth hormones and whatever else a nutrient manufacture wants to put in there. As you would guess all of the unbalanced nutrients, chemicals being applied and an environment without natural predators lead to a situation that requires constant application of fungicides and pesticides.

Another huge issue with the industry is its reliance on plastic bottles. Many “advanced” nutrient lines use 6-10 different types of bottles. Many of these are redundant, further increasing the toxic run off into the water supply. The industry as a whole has such a huge carbon footprint. I don’t blame people for thinking this way is the only way. Research and information were forced into the far corners of the internet where anonymous personalities would spread what they have learned through trial and error. Fortunately there is a better way, and Acres USA helped to lead me in a better direction.

Luckily for me after my first grow I wound up working for one of the first indoor garden shops on the east coast. We sold the classic chemical nutrients but also focused on organic practices. The best part was the store owner was an advocate for the principals put forth in Acres USA magazine and had been to a couple of conferences. He had an awesome collection of books that would later show me the way to sustainable cannabis. I was 19 when I was turned on to Dr. Elaine Ingram, Phil Callahan, Charles Walters, Hugh Lovel, Rudolf Steiner, and other great Acres authors. After that “Teaming with Microbes” by Jeff Lowenfels came out and I started digging through the Acres book list. In that time I moved to Western Ma and found NOFA/Mass.

I attended the 2011 NOFA summer conference and made it in time for the first class. It was Dan Kittredge’s class and it blew my mind. Here was this guy threading together all these different works I was reading into conscious thought. Not only was he talking about factual nuts and bolts farming but also about energy agriculture and esoteric thoughts. I thought “Wow, I am in the right place.”

That next January the first Soil and Nutrition Conference was right in my town. That first day with John Kempf opened my eyes even more. He started talking about terpenes and secondary plant metabolites, I knew I was in the right place. So hearing someone talk about ways to boost plant health and increase the medicinal value of plants was music to my ears. I attended the next few Soil and Nutrition Conferences and dug into the work of Graeme Sait, Carey Reams, William Albrecht, Steve Soloman, Arden Anderson and the whole biological mineral balancing world. It did feel a little odd to be one of the few cannabis growers there gleaning ideas off of broad scale agriculture and trying to bring those ideas into my little basement set up.

Eventually I found my way to ICMAG, an online cannabis forum with members world wide which had a great organic section. When I joined a new thread was started talking about using “living soil” and people talking about cation balancing, microbe, mulches, worms and cover crops all for indoor growing. One of the major things was the inclusion of No-till methods. I was already on this path of reusing my soil and playing with biodynamic methods so felt right at home. Luckily these methods are really starting to catch on in the larger industry. What was once an obscure group of people using these methods has now grown into the preferred method of cultivation to produce the highest quality flowers with the least impact to the earth. Probiotic is a buzz word recently taken up by advanced conscious cannabis growers utilizing microbes and ferments to achieve healthy plant growth and clean runoff from cannabis farms.

Many of the same practices put forth by NOFA and the organic/regenerative community are being followed by the indoor cannabis community. In fact I would argue that it is expanding the organic message even faster than the traditional farming community. I have seen time and time again growers who were using chemical cannabis growing practices switch over to organic nutrient dense, probiotic practices after seeing what it does to the quality of cannabis. From there they will see the light of how valuable organic farming as a whole is and start to change their eating practices and how they live their lives. It is a really great spring board for the younger generations to get involved in where their food comes from. I was surprised at the last Soil and Nutrition Conference how many cannabis growers were there gleaning ideas, to bring back to their gardens.

Fermentation farming practices are gaining momentum in the cannabis industry as well. The use of facultative microbes such as lactic acid bacteria and EM are common practice. Korean Natural Farming is bringing a whole new dimension, allowing growers to produce their own nutrients utilizing the plants that are around them and scraps from fruits and vegetables.

Currently the base of my soil is about 10 years old and only gets better. I have fostered a thriving soil food web in my pots utilizing diverse cover crop species and different types of mulches. When I pull back the mulch layer you can find red wigglers, millipedes, centipedes, sow bugs, shredder mites, rove beetles, Stratiolaelaps scimitus, and other friendly organisms. Recently I started using a combo of buckwheat hulls and pine shavings and have brought in naturally colonized soil and now there are flushes of Leucoagaricus leucothites mushrooms when the conditions are right.

Getting Started With Living Soils

Starting with a good soil base is the first place to start no matter the scale on which you plan to cultivate. I personally follow the standard Cornell mix that contains 1 part long grain sphagnum peat moss and 1 part aerator. The most common aeration inputs are perlite, pumice and rice hulls. From there I add 20% high quality worm castings, compost or a combo of the two. This is the most important part, it needs to be of the highest quality. There needs to have a thriving soil food web, as this is what makes it all work so well. The same processes that are at work in healthy field soils are at work inside pots.

Next would be to add amendments to provide the food for the plant to grow. I personally rely on a Ca dominant very diverse mix. I am fortunate to live fairly close to FEDCO where they have all the goodies I use. Also the Bionurtient Food Association has a mineral depot where a lot of these amendments can be sourced as well. My mix contains soft rock phosphate, gypsum, wollostonite, zeolite, sul-po-mag, Tennessee brown rock phosphate, Shrimp meal, fish bone meal, kelp, basalt, granite, dry humates and biochar. I have created this mix based on the work of Albrecht and Tiedjens, shooting for a Ca saturation of 75% while balancing other minerals as well.

Mineral balancing in peat based soils is tricky. My mix is balanced based on the atomic weight of the elements in each amendment. I do not take into account some of the addition minerals coming from the compost or peat. I have found that providing a balanced base mix and then allowing a thriving soil food web do the rest of the work, works quite well. Soil testing peat based mixes is tricky and not a lot of labs do it correctly.

Other problems with testing peat based soils is most labs rely on the fact that traditional field soil is 2 million lbs per acre. Peat base potting mixes are much, much lighter. I know that many labs use a volumetric scoop instead of actually weighting the sample. This results in an inaccurate test result. There are some agronomists who are working with cannabis who are trying to change this. I do know that Logan labs and Spectrum are the go-to for peat based soil testing in the cannabis community. They will give you a rough snapshot but I do not rely heavily on soil tests. Another issue with testing peat based mixes that have had Calcium carbonate amendments added to them is they tend to over report Ca. To solve that and get a better picture is to do an AA 8.2 soil test just to see what the Ca levels are more accurately, while also doing a M3 test for everything else. I personally am not looking for perfect test results. I look to plant health and quality of final product to guide most of my decisions. Once again it is exciting that cannabis is being more accepted and we can start to venture into plant sap testing and more tangible metrics other than how a plant looks.

There are a lot of different ways to achieve a good soil mix. With a simple search on the internet you can find a few different recipes that you can mix on your own. There are also a few great companies out there selling living soil mixes. I know locally Coast of Maine has some mixes focused towards cannabis growers. Their lobster compost is also my preferred compost for building new soils.

In an outdoor, field or greenhouse situation many cannabis growers use a mix similar to one I described in pots. This is not what I would recommend. Just as any other crop it prefers to go directly in the ground. There are many cannabis and hemp growers that are very successfully testing field soil and amending accordingly utilizing the principals of nutrient dense farming. Still many growers are stuck in their ways and use pots or a bed. I always suggest a thick ground covering in pots or in the ground. Most of the biological activity happens in the top 6” of the soil so keeping that moist is essential. I prefer a diverse mix of living cover crops and a thick mulch of either hay or I really like pine shavings/buckwheat hull mix. Other cannabis growers are using ramial wood chips with great success. It is always a good idea to go out into the forest or other area with really healthy soil and take a few handfuls and add it to the surface of the soil. Diversity is key in this system of growing.

Cannabis is just like any other annual with a few twists. One big difference is that it is photosensitive. Cannabis requires 12 hours of complete darkness to flower indoors and will start flowering in July- August depending on cultivar. During this time the plant switches in to the flowering cycle and will put on a lot of growth fast. In indoor cultivation we call this the “stretch”. Some strains will double or triple their size in a few short weeks before slowing vertical growth and starting to build flowers. At this time male plants will make themselves known and should be cut down to prevent seeding (unless you are growing hemp for seeds).

Other than that it is about as different as tomatoes are from lettuce. Usually the plants require support to deal with the heavy flowers depending on the variety you are growing. Some require a shorter season and will be done in the end of September and some need a much longer flowering time stretching into late October, early November.

Strain selection is one of the most important things when growing in the shorter New England climate. Looking for something that is done by mid October is ideal. If the plant has to go much more than that you run into issues with mold and potential frost. Cannabis can take a bit of frost especially if you have a very healthy plant with high brix. Powdery Mildew (PM) and Botrytis or bud rot are two of the major issues when flowering a long season plant in a short season like we have.

The fall is the ideal time for PM to really take hold and decimate a crop. Using biological foliar sprays you can help keep PM at bay even in the prefect conditions for it. Compost teas (when properly brewed), Effective Microorganisms (EM), Lactobacillus, various ferments and Bacillus sp. are some common preventive sprays that can help establish a healthy microbiome on the phyllosphere. I like to focus on plant health when thinking about disease and pest problems. I have found that staying away from raw N sources and from using too much postasium helps greatly. Using only amino acids and focusing on Ca/B/Si relationship during stretches when Ca is a limiting factor is very important to building strong cell walls that will defend against pests and diseases. There are also some emergency sprays that can cut down a PM outbreak if it happens. Potassium bicarbonate, milk and baking soda are some common products that can help. There are also a few commercially available organically certified products to help with mold issues.

One note. Never spray a flowering plant. Spraying the flowers can have all sorts of harmful effects. From damaging the flower and slowing growth to ruining the medicine that you worked so hard to grow. I have found in emergency situations regular sprays of water are effective for PM and pest issues but not Botrytis.

Botrytis or the dreaded “Bud Rot” is a growers worst nightmare. It is very common in New England due to the warm moist days, cool nights and common fall rain showers. There is no cure for Botrytis. Prevention is key. Keeping the plants out of the rain in fall is a good step and if that is not possible trying to dry the plants after a rainfall is a good plan. Once it sets in, removal of infected buds is the only way to control the issue. Many growers wind up harvesting before the plants are truly ready to keep from losing everything. Fall is a stressful time for outdoor cannabis growers.

Some common Cannabis insect pests are Spider Mites, Thrips, Aphids and less commonly in New England Broad mites and Hemp Russet mites. There are other pests that can cause issues but these are the most common. As with any pest as soon as it takes a strong foothold it is hard to control with out the use of more toxic rescue chemicals. A solid Integrated Pest Management system should be on the forefront of every growers mind.

Using beneficial insects is my preferred method of dealing with pests. There are some great companies out there that sell beneficial insects at smaller quantities for the home gardener and many have experience working with cannabis growers both indoors and broad scale. Things to look for are ship dates and where they are located in the country. Many predators require next day shipping as manufacturers can only put so much food in the shipping containers and when the predators run out of food they tend to eat each other or just die. All larger insectaries harvest the predators on Monday and ship to the middlemen sellers for them to ship to the customer and hopefully have growers receive them by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. Immediate release is vital. Beware of companies that ship every day of the week, they will most likely not have fresh stock, many will be dead and it will be hard to establish a beneficial population.

In my indoor environment I release predators on a monthly basis. Constant application is key. Many of the beneficials need very specific environmental factors to reproduce. It’s best to do some research before just applying beneficial insects. Also understanding the life cycles of the insects that you are trying to control is very helpful to determining the proper course of action. There are many pests out there and fitting the proper predator with the targeted pest and environment is important. Reputable companies will be more then happy to help.

I put out a few different types of predators monthly targeting Thrips, Spider Mites and Aphids.

What I have found effective for my space is the application of delayed release Amblyseius cucumeris sachets, Orius Insidious (Minute Pirate Bugs), Phytoseiulus persimilis, Neoseiulus californicus, Mesosiulus longipes and Aphidus Colemani. There are also a few beneficial predators in the soil mainly coming from bringing in different types of mulches and duff from forest settings and healthy soils. Stratiolaelaps scimitus, Rove beetles centipedes and predatory nematodes inhabit the soil helping to keep any pests that reside in the soil at bay. Fungus gnats are a common nuance that are controlled by soil predators.

Sachets are little bags of predators, eggs and a food supply that slowly release predatory mites over the course of 3 weeks to a month. Cucumeris is mainly targeted to 1st instar thrips but they are also a general predator that can consume spider mite eggs.

Orius Insidius is a general predator that is focused on adult Thrips. They can also eat spider mites, their eggs, and are known to help control aphids as well. Phytoseiulus persimilis, Neoseiulus californicus, Mesosiulus longipes are specific to spider mites and the three have different attributes that make them better suited for different situations.

Aphidus Colemani is a predatory wasp that is only for the control of aphids. They are a tiny, tiny wasp that injects a living aphid with a egg of its young. Over the course of a week the egg hatches and starts to consume the aphid from the inside. As they grow the aphid becomes a “mummy” and at the right time a new predatory wasp emerges and continues the cycle. It’s really cool to watch.

There are organic sprays on the market to help take down an out of control outbreak. My preferred one for most issues is Insecticidal soap and if the problem is a thrip outbreak then you can use Beauveria bassiana. Once again never spray anything on a flowering plant.

Harvest.

Now you made it through the season and you have beautiful flowers that are rich in terpenes and cannabiniods and you want to preserve the quality of your harvest. This is where many people go wrong and ruin a great harvest. The key is a long, slow drying over the course of 10 days to a week. Many highly volatile compounds can be lost with improper harvesting, drying and curing. There are many ways to get to a finished product but following a few easy rules will maintain quality.

My preferred method is to harvest the plant and break it down into smaller manageable branches. From there I take off all of the fan leaves that do not contain any trichombes. Then I hang then in a room that is kept at 55-60% humidity and at 60˚ F. This is an ideal situation and not everyone has that ability, but keeping it as close to that as possible is key. Terpenes start to easily burn off over 75˚ F and if the environment is too dry then the flowers will dry too fast leaving you with a harsh taste and loss of terpenes.

Once the stems are dry enough for a small flower to be broken off the stem it is time to trim off the excess leaf material and store the trimmed flowers into a storage container that is kept around 60% relative humidity. Leaving a loose fitting lid on helps and you should open the jar once a day for a week to allow the flowers to “breath” a little. If the jar is sealed right way and forgotten about they tend to pick up a stale aroma. If stored while still wet it is very possible and likely that you will form Botrytis and ruin you medicine.

Getting Into the Industry.

Now this is an exciting time. The emergence of a $60 billion a year industry with the projections only expected to rise! The sad truth is this market is dominated by corporate goons that are trying to take away access from people who really care about this plant and what it can do for mankind. They only see dollar signs. Getting into the industry requires a lot of hurtles to jump over.

First you have to have financial backing. This is hard seeing the federal government still considers Cannabis to be illegal so no banking institution will help. Not only can you not get loans but because the Feds consider profits from the sale of cannabis to be “drug money” no bank will even allow you to have a bank account. This sets up the market for predatory high interest loans, but also the take over of smaller startups that are having a hard time competing with corporations that benefit from the economy of scale.

Then you get into over-regulation. Many states have adopted a seed to sale trace program. While I understand that there needs to be a way to track products in case of a contamination issue or other unforeseen situation. I do not know why growers need to keep track of every leaf that comes off a plant. This adds a tremendous amount of overhead to a smaller business. From the person hours it takes tracking all of these different metrics to the high cost of tracing systems that are required to report daily to state governments, it is all too much for a smaller business owner with the odds stacked against them.

The main reason governments claim they need seed to sale tracking is because they worry about diversion to the black market. First off the black market is what paved the way for the legal market. This industry would be nothing without the rebels who bucked the unfair system of prohibition and fought for legal access to this wonderful plant. Now their efforts have been co-opted by big money interests.

One part of the legal industry that I do agree with is testing procedures. I would love to see all cannabis tested for pesticides, mold and heavy metals. This part is a real shame. Limiting growers access to the legal market is fueling an unregulated black market that the legal market wants to stop. It all makes no sense. We need a commonsense approach, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem likely.

I wanted to get out of the shadows when I started to have children and the risks of growing in the black market exceed what I was willing to sacrifice. Unfortunately we had to leave our wonderful little community in the Happy Valley of Western Mass. Luckily we found our way to Maine which has had a strong patient advocacy group since they stated their medicinal Cannabis program in 1999. My wife and I opened Lovelight Medicinals in the spring of 2018 and what a ride it has been. Advocacy groups here in Maine are fighting harder then ever since adult use has come into play. Big money interests are flexing their muscles putting forward many bills that will limit patient access and hurt the 2000+ independent small caregivers that are in the state providing great medicine to patients in need.

As you can see it is an uphill battle to get into the cannabis industry at this time. A much easier market to get into is the hemp market. There is a lot less oversight and licensing is very approachable. In Maine all that is required is a simple license from the state. State inspectors will come around and test your crop to make sure it isn’t “hot” or over the legal limit of .3%THC. A hot crop has to be disposed of so selecting proper hemp genetics is vital. There are a few varieties out there that will not go hot, the Wulf variety being one that I have worked with. But just as the Cannabis market is being influenced so is the hemp market. New rules being imposed in many states have lowered the threshold on how the .3% THC is being tested, which affects farmers across the country.

In the hemp market at least there are a variety of end products depending on the grower’s goals. You can grow for the CBD market growing resinous high CBD containing flowers, for the fiber market, or for seeds. Seed selection is import for the final outcome. Different types of seeds are bred for different purposes. Know your seed supplier is key.

Closing

I hope that this has been helpful to people with only a trivial knowledge of this plant, its uses, history and benefits. This plant was put here, as many plants are, for the betterment and success of the human race. We would do much better if we were to drop the fear that has been instilled in everyone of us over the past 100 years and embrace all the Cannabis plant can do for us. Fiber, Fuel, Food and Medicine what more could you ask from a plant?




Growing Cannabinoids on a Cranberry Farm

photo courtesy Canna Cran Farm Bobbie Mangini harvesting clones

photo courtesy Canna Cran Farm
Bobbie Mangini harvesting clones

Good Day from Canna Cran Farm LLC, in Carver, MA. I am a second generation cranberry grower, whom purchased half the farm from family in 2018. The farm consists of 26 acres, 11 of which are cranberry bogs, a series of water holes totaling appx 10 acres, and now, 2 acres of CBD hemp.

After working in other industries, namely in power plants, excavating, various trades, and starting another engineering services small business, I found myself most passionate being in the great outdoors farming the Earth. Plus you get to play with trucks, loaders, tractors and other farm equipment as part of making a living, not bad!

Once a very fair and lucrative cranberry industry thrived in Massachusetts with old timers even squeezing in acreage in their backyards, planting in a cedar swamp, or accompanying a bog around a kettle pond, just to get growing. Fast forward many years, most growers, other then large growers who inherited large family farms generation after generation, have been forced to have a second job, or business to sustain. Prices dropped drastically over the last decade forcing some out of the industry. This has also been caused by greed in the corporate world that governs pricing, a drop in demand by consumers, and oversupply coming from Wisconsin and Canada fueled by the deceitful acts of said “corporate world.”

When my wife, Holli, and Phil Nardini, a friend from Vermont, heard of the legalization of hemp, they started conversation and inspired me to try growing Organic, CBD hemp. At this time a year or two ago hemp biomass was fetching $30-$65 per pound @ 10% CBD content. I became very interested as this was another way of diversifying the farm, being in the great outdoors, helping others heal, and ultimately generating more revenue from the farm to help pay the bills. After significant research, a lot of work and due diligence, I grew an acre of CBD hemp for the 2018 season.

I was lucky enough to own trucks and equipment to help build the fields and make things easier. My advice to newcomers is to not just look at growing hemp and associated costs on paper and think you will necessarily profit that much. Consider it a starting point into a new venture that could reward you over the years to come.

I know many farmers are struggling in other industries too, which I totally get. However, try not to develop the “green rush” mentality, as nothing good comes without significant work and dedication. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you sow any Organic CBD hemp seeds. It is a rigorous grow cycle and requires a solid amount of care and TLC.

I would recommend starting small and be realistic with your expectations. Legislation is changing daily on hemp, as are state rules and regulations, etc. Be mindful and proactive.

Our first year was fairly successful considering it being the first year and market challenges that came about mid season. We are fortunate to have a contract moving forward, which I also HIGHLY recommend. If you do not have a contract, your only other means of selling is to make your own products for sale.

As for the future, we will be continuing to cultivate hemp. Genetics in seed are very important and research should be done if you are thinking of growing. The last two important challenges I see moving forward as a cultivator are finding DEA labs locally to test our plants and harvesting at the proper interval in order to get the max CBD level without going hot, above 0.3% THC.

Probably the most rewarding part of entering in the CBD hemp industry has been working alongside other growers and industry personnel who are working together to ultimately create an established and sustaining industry. You just don’t find that in other industries. People are willing to help and one should do their part. It is very rewarding. Not to mention, your final product could be helping someone with pain, anxiety, sleep problems, cancer, opioid dependency, Parkinson’s, seizures, and the list goes way on.

In conclusion, the hemp industry will have to undergo the growing pains of ANY industry. CBD hemp products have made a huge cannonball into the pool of the United States market. Only time will tell when supply and demand massage themselves out and growers, processors, politicians, and industry personnel continue their efforts to mold a CBD hemp market that is stable and profitable. We would love to hear from you and can be reached on Facebook @ Canna Cran Farm and www.cannacranfarm.com.




A Hemp Grower’s Tips

Drying Room at Wilson Herb Farm

photo courtesy Brenden Beer
Drying Room at Wilson Herb Farm

For those who have fallen under the spell of the cannabis plant, it may not be hard to transport oneself deep into mid August in the rolling hills of the Northeast, walking down a dirt path adjacent to row upon row of vibrant electric green growth. The warm summer wind is testing the sturdy base of these three month old annuals whose growth is impressive to even the most seasoned farmer. A trained eye might look further into the future and see, even smell, the inflorescence begin to take true form in only a month’s time as the unpollinated bracts swell, and the air becomes saturated with complex essential odors.

For those who haven’t experienced this, and are considering the introduction of this plant into their farming system, you will without fail become equally enthralled. For all that the plant can do, for the earth, the body, and the industrial world, the one thing it cannot is answer the simple, most frequent question; “Can you make money?” For the four years I’ve been a licensed Hemp grower in Vermont under various circumstances, there is no simple answer.

Cannabinoid research has been progressing since the first isolation in the 1940s, with continued investigation into the effect of synthesized cannabinoids in the United States until 1970, when its classification as a Schedule I narcotic thus compromised extensive private and public research within US borders. Elsewhere discovery continued, mainly focused on the psychotropic uses and effect of the cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC”. While other cannabinoids were recognized, it was this particular one which scientifically and socially defined the plant throughout the 60s and 70s.

In 1992, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system opened up a new understanding of the physiological interaction between cannabinoid molecules and the human body. Recent years, and a steady beat of the normalization drum have produced countless cannabinoid studies connecting an abundance of therapeutic uses to the “minor” and major cannabinoids produced within the cannabis plant.

While many consumers and farmers are still developing an intimate understanding of the major cannabinoids relevant to the market, the “hemp” industry continues to writhe in development of its value chain and informed standards. Be assured that all cannabinoids both minor and major, will continue to forcibly diversify an immature but promising agricultural market.

So how does the farmer sort out these pharmacological complexities of this plant? To be clear, you cannot simply look at a cannabis plant and differentiate its constituents, or prevalence to a single cannabinoid of production. This makes navigating basic selection of cultivars, the laws surrounding propagation and cultivation, and ultimately the market far more challenging than most crops currently in production.

The simplest principle to understand is that “hemp”, or cannabis sativa l., is delineated as material under .3% THC by weight. I hesitate to insert “by dry weight” because the National and State programs are still developing the specific language which will govern testing. Knowing the protocols surrounding the procurement and harvest of samples that will ultimately certify a crop as “hemp” is paramount. The expression of cannabinoid production is also determined by a number of genetic and environmental factors.

Growing cannabis adheres to the basic principles of standard crop production, with nitrogen requirements similar to corn by acre, and demand of potassium and phosphorus increasing during the late flowering stage, in addition to calcium, notably. For field growing, fertility can be approached similar to other cash crops with preparation of organic material and corrective dry amendment based on soil tests adequate for proper growth. Irrigation will greatly supplement the rate of growth, and over saturation of the soil could stunt. While the demand for nitrogen decreases into the flowering period, it is still required and the availability of nutrients to forage in the flowering stage is crucial, otherwise the potential for reduced yields exists even in light of a successful vegetative period of growth.

hemp in field

photo courtesy Brenden Beer
A six-food spacing is important to give hemp enough room to get plenty of sun

Propagation takes place through seed, either regular or feminized. Clonal propagation is another option, requiring healthy “mother” plants to be vegetatively mature enough to yield desired cuttings. Transplanting in June after the last frost is recommended, although most varieties seem cold tolerant even at this stage, given prior acclimation. Most maintenance beyond transplant is focused on weed management, or cultivation. While the plants will easily outcompete most weeds, a reduction of airflow and available nutrients can impact crop quality and production. Elective pruning is monumentally time consuming based on scale, but can better manage growth and airflow, again impacting crop quality and production if executed strategically.

Typically, varieties will begin to mature in late August with males flowering a couple weeks before females are prepared to receive pollen. While this event doesn’t destroy a crop, especially if identified early, fertilization will redirect energy and potentially stall the flowering cycle. Consider the flowering fruits of various tomato varieties: different sizes and shapes, qualities to the taste, resistance to disease, maturity times. Cannabis is similar in its varied expression of fruit, or inflorescence, even within a relatively stable seed progeny. That can be true also for the rate of maturity, and ultimate harvest date which for the sake of simplicity can be seen as peak potency of both phytocannabinoids and production of discernible “secondary metabolites,” in this case terpenes.

As harvest approaches, all facilities must be in place to successfully execute within a narrow window. This means personnel, space, and desired market outlet which will drive conditions and efficiencies of process. In Vermont, 70% of growers did not have a contract in place before the growing season. If looking to enter into the spot market with a raw commodity crop, consider how important it is in identifying the ultimate purpose of the production. Later this will be explored more, but consider the simple elemental fact that heat is a transformative property. Using heat to dry, even small amounts, is often a requirement in the potentially cold and rainy days or nights of the Northeast. If you dry a crop within a 24 hour window at heat in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you have forever solidified the quality of that crop based on the constituents either lost or preserved, in lieu of a slower more moderate process that allows continued metabolic activity and enzymatic conversions within plant tissue, and conservation of valuable volatiles. This delineation will potentially define the crop’s value and flexibility in the market, and also the labor needed and space required.

The next stage in the value chain, beyond a direct use of the raw material, is extraction. For farms and companies looking to manufacture value added products, they may contract an extractor and receive back either raw extract or a formulated dilution for use. If you are a grower, an extractor may be your market. In both instances it’s important to understand the basic process in relation to the plant.

Cannabis is covered with a number of resinous glands of varying anatomy called Trichomes, typically abundant based on location of the plant. They are present throughout growth but multiply greatly during flowering, acting as a defense through various methods of repelling and attraction protecting the reproductive cycle and fertilization. These glands are where most secondary metabolites and phytochemicals are produced in quantity, and are the sought after component of the plant. Various extraction methods are utilized to essentially separate these glands, and potentially isolate the constituents therein. Some of these methods value the presence of terpenes, while others seek to isolate in quantity and purity distinct phytochemicals.

It is important to understand these considerations in approaching harvest and the marketplace, as their presence and preservation will distinguish price and value. To say there is fluctuation or uncertainty in the current hemp landscape may be an understatement. With national laws and guidelines still in development, harvest equipment at scale still in prototypical stage, and seed varieties still not in a deepened stage of development or mass consistency there is still time before an equilibrium is achieved.

Lindsay at harvest

photo courtesy Brenden Beer
Lindsay harvests hemp in the field

For those smaller growers looking to put quality before massive scaled enterprises focused on commodity, we are still subject to a young consumer market with understanding and education required before more informed differentiation can be achieved. Consider a mature commodity market like horseradish, that can still be cultivated in one’s backyard for personal use; Virginia Cooperative Extension describes condiment makers working on a “contractual basis with larger scale growers”, with “…Grower/processor relationships generally [having] a long history, with the processor used to a certain quality of root, which can vary greatly among varieties and the farms that raise them.” It also describes markets as difficult to enter as a result, and farmers being protective of their long standing relationships

My wife Lindsay and I operate Wilson Herb Farm in Greensboro, Vermont and only last season registered our farm for Hemp production. We grew about a 1/2 acre for slow drying, and I entered a wholesale contract with a nearby farming friend to slow dry 1 acre of his crop and process it, splitting the gross. We hand trimmed a small quantity of the 1/2 acre for sale to a local company sourcing flowers from local farms and using specialized packaging for distribution. The remainder was processed carefully by hand to keep the percentage of CBD by dry weight over 15% and terpenes intact, for another contract at $125 a pound. Finally, we have done some small direct sales to small manufacturers or herbalists at a variety of pricings based on weight. What this amounted to was a range in price from $46 dollars a pound for the biggest volume based contract with lowest standard on CBD percentage, to $350 a pound for hand trimmed material. For comparison, we sold processed product of 1000 pounds at the first price, and sold roughly 25 pounds at the second. Only one of these contracts had a written agreement, and staying nimble with all outlets was always on my mind.

I was lucky enough to have been growing and networking for a couple years prior, and through demonstration had gained the trust and built relationships for these small market outlets. The key to our success this year was a very conscious calibration of effort directed toward each market outlet, and reservation in scale. All wholesale, the two larger contracts were in the “Biomass” category, desiring a level of quality but ultimately setting price based on the phyto content of the material. Hand processing this material ranged from a rate of 1 pound to 5 pounds per hour, per person. Hand trimming material equated to 1/8 to 1/3 pounds per hour. A farming friend found labor at scale was around 8 workers, 6 days a week, four weeks straight at a total yield of around twenty thousand pounds.

If entering into the open or spot market, identifying where you hope to fit in the value chain and budgeting focus and expense accordingly will ensure the opportunity for success. Early in the season, we started around 40,000 seedlings for an outfit who provided the seed and had clients lined up for their own sales. We were paid a price per cell started, and this was not only a rewarding experience but a great financial boost early in the summer. That said, we had no contract in place and the value of the starts and farmers in waiting was enough to lose sleep over, even if confident with the propagation process.

Another project I was involved in was a collective farm model, where a retail brand contracted a group of growers to supply their manufacturing needs. I was hired as a consultant to the farmers, in identifying the sex of plants, fertility management, harvest considerations, and general support. The price per pound was set at a premium with crop standards including organic certification. At the close of the season however, farmers are still struggling to achieve consistent payment as the financial structure of the contracting company changed.

I have both directly and indirectly been involved in a multitude of conversations, models, contracts predicated on brokers, buyers, and extraction entities set to be open “just after harvest”. Vermont is spotted with fields of un-harvested Hemp, and surely barns filled with un-processed material. Identifying specific goals in production and targeted market share will be important, and remembering that if everyone is rolling the dice, it can only land on a couple numbers. Being conservative might be the best road to success instead of immediately scaling without an outlet, or because of a contract placed in one’s lap. Make sure to understand the best one can about the structure of said deals, and whether maybe the price or payout for the farmer is predicated on the current market price of extraction, cannabinoids, or unsure future investment.

There is no contention that this crop will grow in its consumer demand, or fluidity of its commodity value chain over time. Knowing the physical and phytochemical implications of the Cannabis plant on price, as well as lawful production, is required for success. Finding a niche in this expanding global market is surely the challenge. Growing the plant with respect to its powerful properties and universal purposes will undoubtedly be rewarding, and payment in itself.