Insight

Beyond Rope and Dope

The hemp industry emerges as a powerful global force in natural health care.

Hemp Industry
D. Rodney Kight Jr.

D. Rodney Kight Jr.

December 19, 2017 02:05 PM

Marijuana is mainstream. According to Marijuana Business Daily, almost 60 percent of Americans live in a state where some form of it is legal. Twenty-eight states have adopted reform laws, and it is one of the few political issues that seem to unite both Republicans and Democrats. (Well, sort of. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to wage an almost solitary war against legalization, but that’s another story.) I can’t walk into my local grocery store without seeing a glossy special edition of Newsweek, Time, National Geographic, or some other legacy news magazine dedicated to chronicling the marijuana revolution on sale in the checkout line. Yet, amidst vivid pictures of veterans protesting for the right to use medical marijuana, news releases of celebrities lending their names to emerging cannabis companies, and in-depth stories of the “green rush” and marijuana millionaires, a sleeping giant is awakening that very well may overtake the global cannabis economy.

I’m talking about hemp.

Specifically, I’m talking about hemp as a natural health care product. Most people are aware that hemp fiber has been used for centuries. Betsy Ross is famously believed to have sewn the first U.S. flag using hemp. Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. And Henry Ford’s first Model T was not only designed to run on hemp fuel, but was in fact largely constructed using hemp. (Henry Ford said that the Model T was “grown from the soil.” It had hemp plastic panels that were reputed to be 10 times stronger than steel.) Today, hemp is being used to develop high tech construction materials and super-powered car batteries.

Yet, despite all of these historic and new developments, hemp for health care is poised to be the economic powerhouse.

This is because of the unique and beneficial way that specialized compounds found in cannabis, called cannabinoids, interact with the human body.

The terms “hemp” and “marijuana” are mostly misleading. Both are the plant cannabis sativa and, in fact, are biologically indistinct from each other. The sole difference between them is their respective concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. This is the cannabinoid that “gets you high.” It also has a wealth of medical benefits. Because of its psychoactive effect, THC has become the primary distinguishing feature between marijuana and hemp. Marijuana has high concentrations of THC, whereas hemp does not. All cannabis contains at least trace amounts of naturally occurring THC, along with numerous other cannabinoids, though. The law is mostly geared to this distinction. Cannabis varieties with high THC levels are illegal, both federally and in some states. On the other hand (and speaking very generally), plant varieties with low THC levels, pegged at no more than 0.3 percent by federal statute and grown in accordance with a lawful hemp program, are legal.

Hemp is generally grown for its abundance of cannabidiol. Better known as CBD, this cannabinoid is not psychoactive and is responsible for a majority of the medical benefits associated with cannabis. Because of its almost ubiquitous health properties, even listing the medical issues for which it appears to offer benefits comes off as a snake oil medicine advertisement. Yet for over a decade, numerous studies have been written in peer-reviewed publications about CBD’s role in reducing pain, helping to relieve anxiety and PTSD, reducing seizures, as an anti-inflammation agent, and as neuroprotection that can aid victims of concussion, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s. Multiple studies have even confirmed that it reduces certain cancer cells. Big Pharma is rapidly developing CBD-based medication. Even the U.S. government holds a patent—number 6,630,507—on the use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD, to protect and insulate the brain from damage or degeneration.

Because of the enormous role that CBD plays in health, an entire industry has emerged to deliver CBD to people in the form of tinctures, vaping oils, topical applications, oral solutions, and in food and drink products. And although CBD can be derived from marijuana, its economic impact from this source is limited by marijuana’s federal illegal status preventing, among other things, interstate (and international) commerce. However, hemp is legal at the federal level. (This is an oversimplification: hemp’s legal status is complex, rapidly evolving, and in some respects “gray.” A large part of my practice involves advising my hemp and CBD business clients on how to stay on the correct side of the law.)

Being federally legal, hemp is not constrained by the same restrictions imposed on marijuana. This means that hemp-derived CBD can be transported, used, and sold across state and national borders. Numerous interesting legal issues are emerging from this sector, from federal regulatory oversight to banking and finance to marketing and labeling and quality control. But it is clear that hemp, marijuana’s relatively unfettered sibling, is poised to overtake the health industry, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Related Articles

The Green Rush: Cannabis Is a Growing Industry


by Justin Smulison

Connecticut announced it will legalize high-THC cannabis for adult use on July 1, making it the 19th state to do so in the U.S. As of June 2021, 38 states and Puerto Rico have legalized cannabis for medical use.

Cannabis Legalized in Connecticut

What Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Means for Indiana


by Rock Lee

What will marijuana legalization mean for business, past conviction, and beyond?

Legalizing Marijuana in Indiana

Alice Tseng - Toronto 2021 Lawyer of the Year


by Best Lawyers

Cannabis Law Toronto, ON

Alice Tseng

In the News: New England


by Best Lawyers

A roundup of relevant news for listed lawyers in New England.

New England Legal News

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some


by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Why Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Developed Its Own Legal Tech


by Best Lawyers

Juan Pablo Matus of Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos, 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award for Corporate and M&A Law in Chile, discusses his firm's joint venture with Cognitiva in creating Lexnova, a legal AI system.

Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Interview

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 16th Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™ and 1st Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™

Announcing the 2022 "Best Law Firms" Rankings


by Best Lawyers

The 2022 “Best Law Firms” publication includes all “Law Firm of the Year” recipients, national and metro Tier 1 ranked firms and editorial from thought leaders in the legal industry.

The 2022 Best Law Firms Awards

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch – The Future of Legal Talent Looks Bright


by Justin Smulison

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch is launching its second edition in the United States, and after talking with both a company leader and esteemed lawyers on the list, the importance of this prestigious list is evident.

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America 2022

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

How A Claim Can Create A ‘Class’ of Its Own


by Justin Smulison

One civil claim can help a victim recover, prevent others from the same harm and even save lives. Tom Connick has experienced this directly, having been at the ground floor of injury claims that have led to high-value class action settlements.

Fire Consuming Paper Money

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australia


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australi

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests


by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers


by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Australia.

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

Georgia Laws Taking Effect in 2022


by Gregory Sirico

Three new pieces of Georgia legislation aim to improve medical bill transparency, lower the sales tax on vehicles and enact further safeguards to protect children in foster care.

New Georgia Laws Enacted in 2022