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Frequently Asked Questions:
- Has hemp been grown in the United States in the past? — Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) was grown as a commodity fiber crop in the United States until the mid-1930s when it was banned. In 2014, Section 7606 of the U.S. Congress Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly called the “Farm Bill,” once again allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp within authorized pilot programs. The 2018 Farm Bill further decriminalized production of industrial hemp, designating the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to develop regulations for this “new” crop.
- What is the current interest in hemp? — Industrial hemp is an annual, cross-pollinating plant that exhibits rapid growth and significant biomass accumulation. Registered varieties of industrial hemp vary significantly in height and size. The two main current uses of industrial hemp are fiber and food. As well, industrial hemp seed oil, which is extracted from grain produced by the plant, is valued as healthy table oil, and it has many applications in cosmetics, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and functional foods. Without question, the primary driver in hemp is cannabidiol, or CBD oil. This is a high-value hemp product that is being advanced as a health supplement, although its perceived benefits need to be verified. Please visit the U.S Food & Drug Administration for more information.
- Is hemp fiber a useful raw material? — Fiber hemp products historically have included use in textiles, cordage and paper. Given increased interest from consumers for natural products, demand for the fiber could be strong. For example, the performance of hemp fiber as a raw material for a wide range of products has been explored (e.g., horticultural planting materials; biodegradable mulch; pressed and molded fiber products; paper and pulp products; and building-construction products), including innovative markets like fuels and chemicals. Work continues to evaluate the performance of hemp in today’s manufacturing processes and composite materials.
- Is hemp used as a seed or grain product? — Hemp seed contains 20 to 30% edible (fixed) oil; 25 to 30% protein, including eight of the essential amino acids for humans; 20–25% fiber, 20–30% carbohydrates, and a number of essential nutrients and vitamins. Humans have used hemp seed as food since ancient times. Nowadays, hemp grain is used in human health and animal food for its desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in hemp oil. It is not legal to feed hemp to animals in the U.S. Grain or oilseed hemp products include hemp seed, seed flour, seed protein, seed powder, seed oil, and hemp meal. Hemp seed oil is used in many cosmetics and as a substitute for other industrial oils.
- What are today’s primary hemp oil products? — There are three different oils that result from industrial hemp: cannabidiol (CBD) oil, essential oil, and seed fixed (fatty) oil. Cannabidiol oil is legal in many states and is being included in a wide variety of products from sparkling water to skin lotions. CBD is the second major cannabinoid compound in hemp, and unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it does not have psychoactive properties that may alter brain or physical functions or behavior.
- Is hemp different from marijuana? How? — Hemp is part of the cannabis species and is characterized by a low amount of delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) relative to the total dry weight plant material. THC is one of many chemical compounds the species produces to ward off pathogens and predators. THC can cause euphoric, psychotropic highs when consumed. Beyond the THC content, it is impossible to distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp, which explains the ongoing attention from regulatory agencies.
- How can I partner with The University of Tennessee to advance industrial hemp’s potential? — The University of Tennessee is home to research scientists with experience and interest in refinement of the value-chain for hemp. As such, there is extensive opportunity to collaborate with UT to address current challenges and barriers to achieve the potential of this crop. From contracts to generated specific pieces of information for producers and processors, to collaboration in competitive grant projects, mechanisms are in place to build beneficial partnerships. Contact Dr. Tim Rials (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the AgResearch office to identify approach researchers and discuss interests.
- Is industrial hemp production regulated? — Yes. Absolutely! Because of the potential for high-THC content plants, regulations remain in place. Not surprisingly, given the infancy of hemp production the regulatory environment is dynamic. Current information for Tennessee is available from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. (https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/hemp-industry/hemp/hemp-legalities.html)