The euphoria from the burgeoning prospects of U.S. hemp, grown as an alternative to mainstream crops caught in a trade war, has turned to caution.
In the first year of widespread commercial cultivation, hemp planting quadrupled as growers sought a profitable alternative to crops such as soybeans ensnared in the U.S.-China trade dispute. The hemp-derived compound cannabidiol, known as CBD, has a non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient at the center of a wellness trend sweeping the nation, showing up in everything from beauty products to dietary supplements.
While Congress approved hemp cultivation, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t cleared CBD yet for use in food and drinks, and the murky regulatory environment has limited expansion in the processing sector. Delta Separations, a Cotati, California-based manufacturer with booming sales of extraction machines used to make CBD, estimated that as much as US$7.5 billion in hemp may rot on farms.