Hemp or Marijuana, the Similarities Bring Questions

Western Ag Vignettes

Feds allow research that could benefit pot crops.

Published on: February 6, 2014

In the January issue of Western Farmer-Stockman I included an editorial asking readers how they felt about the marijuana issue since two of the states we cover – Washington and Colorado – have legalized recreational use and production.

What happened was somewhat of a surprise, since only two responses came in from all of our readers asked whether we should cover production and research of the crop, should those matter become interesting to agriculture. You can view these letters in our March issue's "Your Say" column. Western Farmer-Stockman magazines are viewable on our website, www.WesternFarmerStockman.com, by clicking on "Magazines" at the bottom of the home page.

Now that Congress is ramping up hemp research in the new farm bill, the issue can be revisited on how we handle that crop.

Hemp is like marijuana since it  is the same species – Cannabis sativa – although different varieties are involved. It does contain some of the psychoactive chemicals.

What the new farm bill does is allow state ag departments and universities to research hemp in some states. Ironically, while Colorado is included, Washington isn't. Among the other states in the Western Farmer-Stockman coverage region, Montana is also allowed hemp studies.

While the economic value of hemp  in cosmetics, apparel, construction materials and even food is put at more than $500 million, the happy cousin is probably worth many-fold more.

An agricultural commissioner in Mendocino County, Calif., once included the estimated value of pot in his annual ag report, but the following year the listing was gone, along with the commissioner.

What the federal government's new interest in hemp brings is a rejoicing among potheads that national sanctions may be nearing. That would make a difference in Washington where some counties are not allowing the drug to be produced or sold until the fed's say  it is acceptable.