Explained

Hemp, cannabis’ mild-mannered sibling

After discontinuing it cannabis derived edible line Auntie Dolores will only be producing CBD capsules and drops made from hemp. | Contributor / Getty Images

Hemp and cannabis are rooted in America’s history and politics, from the nation’s Founding Fathers, who promoted hemp farming, to “Reefer Madness” to the 1942 government film “Hemp for Victory” to the war on drugs.

And while cannabis is still banned federally, hemp, the non-intoxicating botanical kin of cannabis, was stripped of the government’s highest “controlled substances” status and legalized for industrial uses when the federal farm bill was signed into law in December.

Long touted for its versatility, hemp can be found in nutraceuticals, beauty aids, textiles and biofuel, among other products. Like cannabis, hemp contains CBD, or cannabidiol, the nonintoxicating cannabinoid that is, among certain consumers and adherents, nature’s version of the greatest thing since sliced bread, reportedly responsible for a range of remedies, from relieving anxiety and pain in adults and animals to easing epileptic seizures in children.

While hemp has carved a niche over the past three decades thanks to products imported from Canada and China, it’ll take a few years to develop hemp processing and manufacturing facilities to fully support a healthy American hemp industry. Before 2014, America had grown its last legal hemp crop in 1959. Industrial hemp has been grown in Kentucky, Colorado and Oregon under a federal pilot program since 2014.

In California, licensing for industrial hemp cultivation is rolling out this month. The Central Valley and the Imperial Valley are expected to be the state’s prime hemp regions. Financial analyst New Frontier Data predicts that the hemp-derived CBD market will be worth $1.3 billion by 2020.

But while hemp is now legal, the regulations surrounding its cannabinoid component CBD remain murky. In July, the California Department of Public Health declared unregulated CBD — CBD not sold in state-licensed cannabis stores — unfit as a food additive. Here’s what you need to know:

Ed Murrieta is a freelance writer.