Published: Wed, November 7, 2018 5:00 AM

Industrial hemp market boosts economic development in rural areas

Q: Medical marijuana and industrial hemp have recently been legalized in Oklahoma. How are these two plants different?

A: Hemp and marijuana can be thought of as very different cousins. Both are varieties of the cannabis sativa plant, but industrial hemp contains low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient in marijuana which gets people high. Industrial hemp must have less than 0.03 percent THC, effectively eliminating the ability to get high by consuming it. Hemp grown in Oklahoma for seed and fiber will be used for things like textiles, insulation, plant-based plastics or even concrete.

Q: Is industrial hemp used in medicine?

A: While industrial hemp oil or cannabidiol (CBD) oil can be used for medicinal purposes and as an ingredient in pharmaceuticals, it does not contain high levels of THC like medical marijuana. CBD oil is more like a dietary supplement or vitamin. CBD can be used as a natural alternative to manage pain, anxiety, epilepsy and more. However, it is not FDA approved for any ailments.

Q: How can industrial hemp impact Oklahoma’s economy?

A: In 2017, the industrial hemp market generated $820 million in product sales. Oklahoma farmers and entrepreneurs can take advantage of this significant cash crop’s return and boost economic development in rural areas. Industrial hemp is a fast-growing industry, expected to reach more than $1.9 billion in sales per year by 2022.

Q: How can hemp benefit Oklahoma farmers?

A: Oklahoma farmers grew and produced hemp before World War II, so we know the environment is right for growing the crop. Industrial hemp uses less water than corn and alfalfa and is an ideal rotational crop, putting more nitrogen in the soil than soybeans. Additionally, revenue per acre is generally higher than alfalfa and other crops, making hemp a lucrative option for family farms. There is also a lot of flexibility for farmers because opportunities exist for indoor grow facilities and outdoor grow locations on irrigated and non-irrigated land. Hemp can be another cash crop for our farmers which will help strengthen Oklahoma’s economy.