About a year ago, U.S. lawmakers legalized the growth and sale of hemp. But rule changes regarding the profitable crop have hemp farmers worried. The controversy over cannabis could be growing.
Hemp products come from Cannabis sativa, one of Earth’s fastest-growing plants. The words cannabis and hemp actually refer to the same thing—the plant. But to most people, “cannabis” refers to a drug used for recreation. “Hemp” generally refers to the non-drug version.
Thousands of years ago, hemp was one of the first plants to be made into fiber material. Today, hemp leaves, oils, and seeds show up in a variety of useful products, including cloth, rope, foods, paper, plastic, soap, and even paint.
All cannabis plants contain a mind-altering and addictive compound known as THC. Sunlight, moisture, soil—even timing of harvest—determine how much THC a plant contains.
Sadly, humans spoiled one of God’s good gifts. They figured out how to grow and harvest the cannabis plant with maximum THC levels. This product, called marijuana, causes slowed muscle reactions, anxiety, and paranoia. It also allows people to ignore problems and fulfill selfish desires. (Ephesians 2:3)
By law, non-drug hemp products may contain only tiny amounts of THC. Hemp also contains higher amounts of another compound called CBD. Touted as a health and wellness aid, CBD gets added to everything from beverages to pet treats. (It’s worth noting that researchers are still uncertain about CBD’s health claims.)
Hemp growers worry about the U.S. government’s new plans to test for the dangerous THC compound. Under the proposed rules, farmers must take samples from the top of the plant, where THC levels are highest. Crops that test above the limit must be destroyed. Growers must also harvest their plants within 15 days after testing—a window most hemp farmers say is impossibly small.
New rules could also require that THC testing be done in a government-approved lab. But growers complain there are too few of them. Some states have only one, which would have to serve hundreds of growers in that brief two-week harvest window. Growers could face steep fines for testing failures and repeat violations.
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials estimate that 20% of today’s hemp farms would fail under the new rules. If federal rules become too burdensome, a number of states might drop their hemp monitoring programs altogether. That will leave growers and businesspeople in a bind.