For those outside the cannabis circle, an important first lesson is that not all cannabis is created equal. Some cannabis is bred to be psychoactive; often called marijuana, this cannabis is illegal at the federal level (and at most state levels, too) and sold with the express purpose of getting users high. However, there is another type of cannabis called hemp, which doesn’t deserve the dangerous reputation often associated with it.
In 2018, the United States legalized farming industrial hemp — that is, non-psychoactive cannabis used for seed, fiber or CBD — and many states have taken to the practice. Here are the current top producers of industrial hemp, and why Florida isn’t up there in the rankings.
Colorado was among the first states to adopt a progressive policy toward cannabis in all its forms, and it just so happens that the Centennial State also boasts one of the best climates for growing cannabis. High in altitude, dry and sunny for most of the year, Colorado also has a five-year-old industrial hemp program and clear, reliable rules that allow industrial hemp farmers to flourish.
Though Kentucky has only just legalized CBD oil — and no other cannabis product for recreational or medicinal use — the state is opening its doors wide to industrial hemp. Tobacco farmers throughout the state are looking for alternatives, and hemp is proving an easy transition, especially thanks to Kentucky’s hemp infrastructure, which allows for processing and manufacturing in-state.
Perhaps surprisingly, Oregon produces more hemp than any other state. Like Colorado, this is largely thanks to the state’s longstanding pro-cannabis culture, but Oregon’s Department of Agriculture is also incredibly hemp-savvy, helping new and old hemp farmers alike learn best practices for cultivating, manufacturing and selling their hemp products.
Some experts project that North Dakota could easily overtake other states and one day become an unparalleled producer of hemp. The climate and terrain is almost identical to where cannabis first evolved. Unfortunately, North Dakota has a number of natural enemies of hemp, not least of which is the state’s legislation, which severely limits how farmers can grow, harvest and manufacture their crop.
During World War II, Minnesota farmers provided hemp to the U.S. military for use as rope, cloth, cordage and other products. After the war, hemp cultivation was outlawed, and many farmers allowed their cannabis to grow wild. The state began allowing hemp cultivation once again in 2016, and though legal confusion and processing delays have hampered profits, the success of wild hemp plants demonstrate the possibility of hemp cultivation in Minnesota.
Though New York’s hemp cultivation program is new, it is incredibly promising. Hemp farms in most other states are permitted to sell their products beyond state lines, but New York only permits hemp products grown from farms in state. That regulation and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s commitment to making New York more 420-friendly should spur the growth of the Empire State’s hemp market.
Why Florida Doesn’t Work
Much of Florida is agricultural, a haven for citrus, sugarcane, tomatoes, cotton and more. Though Florida doesn’t have the wide, flat prairies that make so much of the South and Midwest arable, it has an amenable climate and fertile soil. So why isn’t Florida growing hemp?
Humidity is a major factor. While plenty of plants love a moist climate, cannabis evolved in the dry, chilly Eurasian Steppe, and the crop doesn’t take well to incessant wetness. Though cannabis is naturally resistant to mildew and mold, its roots start to rot if the soil is kept too moist. Unfortunately, Florida’s high humidity for most of the year makes it difficult for excess moisture to evaporate, which makes growing healthy cannabis crops difficult in the region.
Another obstacle to industrial hemp cultivation in Florida is the law. Though the 2018 Farm Bill authorized states to legalize hemp farming, Florida did not vote on such legislation until 2019, and it wasn’t enacted until 2020. Even then, an extremely limited number of permits were awarded to Florida farmers, and given the short time span afforded them and the climate working against them, most have not found great success.
The United States offers a number of outstanding places where cannabis grows with abandon — but Florida just isn’t one of them. Thankfully, Florida can still benefit from the cultivation of industrial hemp via CBD products and textiles grown and manufactured elsewhere in the great U.S.