The Future of Hemp Flower- Could it all go up in smoke? A Report From the Southern Hemp Expo.
This article was written by Kight Law attorney Philip Snow. He recently participated as a panelist on The Future of Hemp Flower at the Southern Hemp Expo, held September 5-8, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee. This is his report. -Rod Kight
The issue of hemp flower (a/k/a smokable, a/k/a unprocessed, a/k/a raw hemp) being sold to consumers is a topic at the front of everyone’s (including regulators’) minds in the hemp industry. The organizers at this years’ Southern Hemp Expo saw the need to address this issue and created a panel to hold a discussion on it. As a member of the panel I had the opportunity to discuss concerns related to the future of hemp flower. My co-panelists included Colleen Lanier- Executive Director of HIA; Clint Palmer- Senior Farm and Extraction Advisor, Bluhen Botanicals; Jason Amatucci- CEO, Virginia Hemp Coalition; and Mike Lewis- Third Wave Farms.
One of main areas of concern is which states are “getting it right”. Is it the states that permit smokable hemp, including the host state of Tennessee? Or, is it the states that have imposed a ban, such as Indiana, Georgia, and South Carolina? (North Carolina, in which smokable hemp is currently lawful but which has a ban in proposed legislation, is at the forefront and could go either way.)
The overall consensus among the panel members was that smokable hemp should be permitted in any state with an industrial hemp program. It provides consumers an alternative method to consume industrial hemp products, with many people choosing the smoking approach to obtain therapeutic benefits, including ingesting cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN). Given the recent health-related issues with vaporization and the impending ban on flavored e-cigarettes, smoking hemp flower might be how many people consume hemp in the future.
In addition to providing consumers a direct vehicle to ingest cannabinoids, smokable hemp also allows cultivators the ability to showcase some of their finest crops. As previously mentioned in this blog, smokable hemp is sought after for its aesthetic appearance in addition to the various strains’ desired effect(s). Much like a craft beer brewer, cultivators select specific and unique genetic characteristics when choosing to grow industrial hemp for smokable hemp as opposed to hemp that will simply be used to create oil. Often, these genetics produce more terpenes and have more distinguishing characteristics than strains cultivated for mass production.
All panelists agreed that smokable hemp needs to be a part of the rapidly growing hemp industry. The panel was asked about where the prohibitions on smokable hemp come from, whether they are well founded, and what can be done to address the concerns behind those seeking to ban smokable hemp.
As previously discussed in this blog, including here and here, the idea to ban smokable hemp is rapidly gaining traction. This generally stems from concerns expressed by law enforcement. Due to the fact that smokable hemp cannot easily be distinguished from marijuana, and a general unwillingness to use field tests currently in use in Europe, law enforcement is faced with the prospect of treating the cannabis it encounters as lawful industrial hemp or as a prohibited controlled substance.
The panelists agreed that the hemp industry should educate law enforcement agencies on the subtle, yet important, differences between hemp and marijuana. In addition to providing education on the differences, the industry should work internally to develop and offer testing methods that are reliable and cost effective for officers in the field.
There are growing pains in any emerging industry. By actively working with law enforcement the hemp industry can (and should) establish itself as an industry that welcomes appropriate regulation based on cooperation and education.
Discussing law enforcement and its reservations about the hemp industry also led the panel to discuss how the industry could potentially help foster the adoption of medical marijuana in the southeastern part of the country. Again, all the panel members agreed that any advancements toward legalizing medical marijuana would be a result of proper education and cooperation with law enforcement. Given law enforcement’s significant influence on legislators throughout the southeast, it must be involved in a positive fashion to establish successful medical marijuana programs.
The panel on the Future of Hemp Flower, held at the Southern Hemp Expo, was a very informative panel with keen insights from a variety of perspectives within the hemp industry. All panel members agreed that in order for the industry to progress, it must encourage meaningful interaction with law enforcement to create positive change.
Should you have any questions regarding this panel, the issues it discussed, or any other issues in the hemp industry, please do not hesitate to contact the hemp lawyers at Kight Law Office.
September 16, 2019
This post was written by Kight on Cannabis attorney Philip Snow. He works closely with clients to develop compliance strategies. Kight on Cannabis is a law firm founded by attorney Rod Kight that represents legal cannabis businesses. You can contact us by clicking here.