× Legal hemp, CBD stir more farmers to grow unfamiliar crop
CLAYTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Dave Crabill and two business partners started small for their first foray into farming hemp, growing two strains of the now-legal cousin of marijuana on an acre along a dirt road outside the industrial city of Flint.
The endeavor wasn’t easy. Flooding from record rain stunted some plants. Crabill and others had to carefully walk the field and uproot 1,000 undesirable males, a third of the plants, to protect more valuable females. Some plants were stolen. And it’s still not clear whether they will make money from the effort, which Crabill likened to “planting $20 bills and hoping to harvest $50.”
“That’s why we did the 1 acre,” said Crabill, who runs a small marketing company and is among more than 500 people who registered this year as hemp growers in Michigan, many hoping to capitalize on the growing demand for the extract CBD. “Something manageable. We can make mistakes and it won’t kill us. … We’re all going to be smarter next year.”
The legalization of industrial hemp in the U.S. less than a year ago has sparked interest from both traditional farmers and newbies like Crabill. The early stages are proving tricky, but up for grabs is a lucrative market, one that could grow more than five-fold globally by 2025 — driven by demand for CBD. The compound, which doesn’t cause a high like that of marijuana, is hyped as a health product to reduce anxiety, treat pain and promote sleep.
The U.S. is the biggest hemp-importing country, and even before the cannabis plant was fully legalized federally, some states ran pilot programs under the 2014 farm bill. Last month, the U.S. government finalized an interim national regulatory framework that is expected to pave the way for the crop’s widespread commercialization starting as early as 2020.
In Michigan, farmers who participated in the state’s first growing season since World War II cover the gamut — including cannabis enthusiasts and large-scale operators who want to diversify beyond low-price commodities.
For attorney Keith Hagen and his two farmer brothers, branching out past sugar beets, wheat and dry beans was primarily a financial decision. They founded Hempure Farm in Ubly and grew 340 acres (140 hectares) of hemp, the most