Future of Hemp Flower is Uncertain

Future of Hemp Flower is Uncertain

Hemp flower is under pressure in several states, with current or pending legislation threatening to derail this segment of the nascent hemp industry

Smokable hemp is impossible for law enforcement to differentiate from marijuana. It looks and smells the same, and there are no readily available field tests.  Hemp flower does not get users high, but is rich in cannabinoids like CBD.  There are no current numbers for the value of this market, but it is very popular with retailers.  Smokable hemp flower is also popular with farmers, having much higher margins than biomass.

Hemp legislation enacted in Indiana in May and effective July 1, makes hemp flower illegal.  A lawsuit was filed by Indiana hemp producers in June against Governor Eric Holcombe, in the US District Court for the Southern District of IN. Hemp producers contend Indiana is impermissibly redefining hemp in contravention to federal law and interfering with interstate transport of hemp.

In North Carolina, the legislature is debating two bills that will criminalize hemp flower, prompted by a memo issued to the General Assembly from the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The memo can be found here:

https://www.sog.unc.edu/sites/www.sog.unc.edu/files/doc_warehouse/NC%20SBI%20-%20Issues%20with%20Hemp%20and%20CBD%20Full.pdf

In South Carolina, smokable hemp flower was removed from store shelves by law enforcement this past weekend.  The state contends that only licensed producers may possess unprocessed hemp.  Law enforcement in these states believe that allowing smokable hemp will compromise any probable cause for future searches, essentially decriminalizing marijuana.

Typical field tests available to law enforcement test for cannabinoids, which are present in high levels in hemp.  A Swiss test developed for just this purpose detects THC components, rather than cannabinoids in general.  Florida law enforcement has adopted this test, proactively buying tens of thousands of units.  The Swiss company cannot keep up with demand.

Until law enforcement has tools to enforce existing laws, expect this issue to remain a problem for hemp producers in this market.

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