By: Thomas Farmer
Hemp in History
The name of our company, Second Century Ag, captures the story of hemp in America. Nearly a century ago, hemp grew legally around the country and had many industrial uses, including much-needed goods, like rope, for the WWII effort. Despite that, the federal government prohibited hemp production during the war on drugs in 1970.
It was a classic case of guilt by association. The government outlawed hemp because it was a genetic relative of marijuana. But—they’re significantly different. Marijuana has high levels of THC — the chemical that gives users a high. Though hemp does produce some THC, it is not enough to produce any psychoactive side effects for the user. Hemp’s primary byproduct is CBD, which can be processed into an oil for a growing list of medicinal and commercial purposes.
A Rallying Cry for Hemp
The country’s views on these topics have changed dramatically in the past decade, and now government policies have evolved. Several key states blazed the path forward, and now the federal government has caught up. In 2014, Washington spurred on the hemp industry by allowing pilot projects. Four years later, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp nationwide. The Georgia General Assembly followed suit during its 2019 session, and Gov. Kemp signed into law a bill that opened the door to reignite the Georgia hemp industry after a 100-year absence.
There’s no doubt that competitor states got a head start on Georgia, but we’re rapidly catching up. This spring, the state Department of Agriculture began issuing licenses to grow and process hemp, and numerous businesses throughout the state are kicking into high gear, ready to plant their first Georgia crops this summer for harvest this fall.
Georgia’s law provides for strong regulations and state oversight to ensure that producers don’t use the law as cover to grow marijuana — which looks very similar. In fact, state inspectors will destroy an entire crop if they’re found to have THC levels above the legal limit of 0.3%. And there’s more policy work to accomplish. There is additional legislation moving through the General Assembly now that is strongly supported by hemp industry leaders. This legislation will require further legal guidelines and clear up some of the current loopholes of the hemp production process. This bill has already passed the House and was before the State Senate when the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the session. With legislators set to go back to work in June, it’s unknown as to whether they’ll take up any bills beyond the 2021 budget. But if they do, we feel confident in passage.
Fortunately, the industry isn’t depending on this legislation to move forward — and moving forward we are. At the moment farmers across south and middle Georgia are signing up with Second Century Ag to plant the clones we provide them, and we’re preparing our processing facility in Ocilla to turn out a Georgia Grown CBD oil this fall. With the demand for CBD oil growing exponentially throughout the country, Georgia grown hemp will contribute to job growth in rural Georgia.
For Georgia hemp, its second century is looking even better than its first.