Industrial hemp production increased dramatically in the U.S in 2018, according to a report released last week by the free market hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp. Compared to the previous year, farmers are now cultivating three times as many acres of the crop.

Last year, farmers grew 78,000 hectares of legal hemp. In 2017, they cultivated about 28,000 acres and in 2016, the total was just under 10,000 acres.

State-level reform policies

These gains for commercial hemp cultivation are due to a growing number of state-level reform policies that expanded the pool of farmers licensed to grow hemp and universities authorized to research it under a Farm Bill passed in 2014.

This trend is expected to continue into 2019 after President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law in December, officially legalizing industrial hemp after decades of the crop being caught up in broader cannabis prohibition.

Hemp removed from CSA

The new legislation removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, shifts regulatory responsibility to the U.S. Department of Agriculture from the Justice Department, and allows hemp farmers to qualify for benefits like crop insurance.

These are policies Vote Hemp has advocated for and they expect their impact on production rates to be immediate.

“Sales of hemp products have been growing at a double digit pace for several years and demand for CBD has been phenomenal,” Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, told Marijuana Moment. “Now that hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act, we expect demand for American hemp to continue to increase and project that at least 125,000 acres of hemp will be planted nationally in 2019.”

Under the provisions on the 2014 Farm Bill, five states established pilot hemp programs last year, while most states that already had such programs in place saw their production increase substantially from 2017 to 2018. One such example is Montana which increased its output by 4,000 percent to become the nation’s leader in hemp cultivation.

Colorado had previously led the way in U.S hemp cultivation, and the newly-elected governor said last month that investing in the hemp industry will be one of his administration’s priorities.

“With our world class universities like Colorado State and Adams State, which are at the forefront of hemp innovation with the leading hemp manufacturers and cultivators already here, we want to seize on this opportunity under the most recent national Farm Bill to help make Colorado the national leader in industrial hemp production,” Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in his State of the State address.

The end of hemp prohibition means for Vote Hemp’s Steenstra that “it’s time to invest our energy in expanding hemp cultivation and the market for hemp products across the country so that all can reap the benefits of this versatile, historic American crop.”

View the report here.

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