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Industrial Hemp Facts

Industrial hemp is a form of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. However, hemp is genetically different and distinguished by its use and chemical makeup. Industrial hemp refers to Cannabis that is primarily grown as an agricultural crop. Hemp plants are low in THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana's primary psychoactive chemical). THC levels for hemp generally are less than 1 percent. Federal legislation that would exclude hemp from the legal definition of marijuana would set a ceiling of 0.3 percent THC for Cannabis to be identified as hemp. Marijuana refers to the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive Cannabis, which is grown for its high content of THC. THC levels for marijuana average about 10 percent but can go much higher.

Industrial hemp products, production, and markets

Some estimate that the global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products, including:

  • fabrics and textiles
  • yarns and raw or processed spun fibers
  • paper
  • carpeting
  • home furnishings
  • construction and insulation materials
  • auto parts
  • composites
  • animal bedding
  • foods and beverages
  • body care products
  • nutritional supplements
  • industrial oils
  • cosmetics
  • personal care
  • pharmaceuticals

An estimated 55,700 metric tons of industrial hemp are produced around the world each year. China, Russia, and South Korea are the leading hemp-producing nations. They account for 70 percent of the world's industrial hemp supply.

Canada had 38,828 licensed acres of industrial hemp in 2011. Canadian exports of hemp seed and hemp products were estimated at more than $10 million, with most going to the U.S.

Because there is no commercial industrial hemp production in the United States, the U.S. market is largely dependent on imports, both as finished hemp-containing products and as ingredients for use in further processing. More than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not allow commercial industrial hemp production. Current industry estimates report that U.S. retail sales of all hemp-based products may exceed $300 million per year.

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Source: Kentucky Department of Agriculture