Sessions’ marijuana antagonism spooks hemp industry, but some see silver lining

Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t have hemp in mind when he repealed Obama-era protections for state-legal marijuana businesses.

But his Jan. 4 announcement sent shock waves into the hemp industry, too, leaving entrepreneurs scrambling to reassure skittish investors.

It’s been a rocky couple of weeks for hemp entrepreneurs. That’s despite the fact that hemp’s legal status has nothing to do with Sessions’ announcement.

In fact, hemp producers and entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the attorney general’s decision as an opportunity to highlight hemp’s legal certainty, which now stands in even starker contrast to the status of its intoxicating cousin, marijuana.

Hemp production has been enshrined into law by Congress through the 2014 Farm Bill, meaning the Department of Justice can’t go after hemp growers or processors abiding by the terms of state hemp rules.

That didn’t keep the phones from ringing at The H. Hemp Company, a Boulder, Colorado, maker of CBD oils and topicals.

“I had investor conversations immediately, because it really spooked them,” said CEO Ashley Grace.

Hemp’s eternal association with marijuana, derived from the same plant, means that what happens to marijuana affects the public’s perception of hemp.

“The indirect negativity and antagonism of the government toward cannabis affects all of us,” Grace said.

“It’s creating confusion and anxiety in the hemp industry.”

Tougher to raise money?

On the downside, the Sessions announcement could make it harder for hemp entrepreneurs to raise money – even if hemp is not affected.

“I see the tremendous challenge businesses face trying to overcome that hesitation,” said Micah Tapman, a partner at CanopyBoulder, a Colorado business accelerator that funds ancillary businesses in the hemp and marijuana industries.

But Tapman and Grace are telling investors that hemp’s position may be stronger because of Sessions’ announcement.

That’s because hemp’s inclusion in the Farm Bill means its legal status can’t be usurped by an agency memo.

“I feel pretty protected because we have laws in place to support our (hemp) program,” said Will Tarleton, founder of Tennessee Grown, which cultivates and processes hemp products in Nashville.

The Sessions pronouncement should encourage hemp businesses to do a better job reminding consumers and investors that they’re not affected by marijuana enforcement, Tarleton said.

“Although we’re talking about the same plant, there’s obviously a big difference between hemp and marijuana, and we’ve got to keep talking about that,” he said.

“Once people understand that, people see hemp as an area that’s a little more comfy to operate in.”

Possible silver lining

In fact, some bullish hemp entrepreneurs believe the industry could even capitalize on Sessions’ antagonism to marijuana. That’s because it underscores hemp’s legal certainty.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the hemp industry, because hemp is the safe bet,” said Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp Inc., which grows and processes hemp and kenaf – a fiber plant related to hemp and jute – in North Carolina.

Already there are signs that may be happening.

A Canadian CBD manufacturer, Isodiol International, recently announced a licensing agreement with Level Brands of Charlotte, North Carolina, to develop CBD-infused tinctures, beverages and body care products under the Kathy Ireland Health & Wellness label.

Grace agreed that Sessions’ marijuana antagonism could bring the hemp industry new attention from investors.

“Those investors who are interested in cannabis aren’t going to be spooked by hemp,” Grace said. “They’re going to be more intrigued by it.”

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11 comments on “Sessions’ marijuana antagonism spooks hemp industry, but some see silver lining
  1. Brett Von Bergen on

    This is patently false, until the Supreme Court decides this case on Feb. 15th, ALL forms of Cannabis-whether hemp or otherwise- are considered ILLEGAL!!! Farm bill does nothing for protection, and the buck stops when the DEA still considers it ILLEGAL!!! If you think you’re safe you’re blowing smoke on yourself….

    Reply
    • Arthur Hombach on

      I think the DEA needs a federal warrant, requested by a federal prosecutor and issued by a federal judge to “bust” and state-legal MJ shop. They just can’t march in there and arrest everyone and confiscate the products and cash. That doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen, unless some federal AG wants to make a name for him or herself.

      Reply
      • Brett Von Bergen on

        Point is, and you’ve clarified it, you have NO federal protections! The process you outline is simple and assuredly any DEA agent would be happy to follow through with cooperation from the AG.

        Reply
    • Brett Von Bergen on

      Clarification: 9th District Appellate Court. Eventually, after what I assume will be a loss to the DEA, it will to the U.S. Supreme Court. Which to be honest, will probably lose there as well. Need congress and elected officials to make the real difference for the people. That’s why we should NOT vote in any more Republicans!!!

      Reply
  2. Mike on

    “its intoxicating cousin” Our own publications are shooting at our feet. Alcohol is intoxicating—you drink too much and it kills you. Alcohol is a toxin. Intoxication is correctly used for those drinking alcohol. Marijuana might be mind-expanding, but that doesn’t make it a toxin.

    Reply
    • Aubrey carter on

      If we are to discuss ” toxins” we should reevaluate pur tobacco industry. As nicotine is a very powerful toxin! It grabs ahold of peoples lives and slowly destroys it. I personaly use nicotine as an insecticide! Mainly for pot plants! Yet our over regulating government officials let cigarettes be sold with only warnings of its hazards. No where does it state that tobacco contains a powerful neuro toxin that if ingested in significant amounts will KILL you! Yet marijuana and its components have NOT been shown to be toxic at all! We should reevaluate our officials that have made the determination that marijuana is more dangerous than tobacco and alcohol! We should look at all the FDA approved drugs in the markets today that have several law suits on going over dangerous ” approved” drugs. Lots of which could be replace with safer marijuana based compounds.

      Reply
      • Aubrey carter on

        One foot note: If any one would like to test this issue go get a pack of any kind of tobacco product and eat it! You will immediatly gets very sick! Why ? Nicotine is a poison! Now go get all the “pot” you can and eat up! At the worst you’ll prehaps get hungry, feel more relaxed and generally in a better mood! Oh i guess one nad side effect you may gain weight!

        Reply
  3. Dr. Mark Burcaw. D.C. on

    The DEA that is the hand puppet of Big Pharma. This TURD of an agency should be abolished. In Columbia they earned the name Drug Enjoyment Agency for snorting coke with prostitutes. And J. Beauregard Sessions… his middle name says it all, ignorant, racist jackass. Intelligent Americans should not fear these insects, they should fear us!!! As the first A
    mericans said: Hang together or we will hand separately…remember American History, we are an nation of folks who fight to be free, do not tolerate oppression! As a physician, I assure you the reason for prohibition of MJ is that many industries do not want to compete with this miracle plant on an even playing field: Big Pharma, petroleum, fabric….

    Reply
  4. Mark on

    The discussion here is about hemp being a more desirable path industrially because of policy, regs and uncertainty of MJ industry.
    Bottomline, there is no clarity about either at this point to make it seems one wins over the other.
    Also hemp is not safeguarded beyond research culivation in many states where it was “legalized” and the farm bill has to be approved annually and hemp status could change anytime; and, the feds didnt give hemp green light for anyhting other than reserach for grow, use and POTENTIAL market and commericlization. There is unsteady footing for those state who alprovex direct to commerical industry; and though rhe DEA had no legal right to redefine CBD, it did and state AGs are gping after products in various states until further notice. Feb 15th will be intersting. But definitely wont be the conclusion of the confusion.
    Also as long as banking not a part of this industry, it true legitimacy will never be achieved and oppertunriy and investment will be the gamble that it currently remains.
    Today, the industry is large and growing; but SUSTAINABLE????

    Reply
  5. Laura on

    This dam country — all states should stand to gether and legalize recreational/ medical cannabis ALL AT THE SAME TIME !!!

    What would the feds do then ?

    Who are we (WE THE PEOPLE) that’s who !!!!

    Its time to stop this shit people get over yourselves and pull together and not a part. This is a win win for all people, whether you smoke cannabis or not !!!!! Besides, we push they will pass law, they will have no choice (talking about Capital HILL).

    Reply

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