When you’re reaching for some California grown hemp flower from an in-store display, or clicking on the “BUY” button next to some hemp flower pre-rolls sold by an online merchant, do you ever stop to consider the source of that plant? Do you think about how and, more importantly, where that plant was grown? Both should both play a part in your selection process because they are related to the quality and purity of what you are about to purchase.
In the U.S., California is expected to be a major player in the hemp industry in the not-too-distant future. It is already growing a great deal of hemp, 95% of which is used for CBD-related products. California had a slow start due to regulatory restrictions, but is now ramping up its hemp-growing capabilities and powering past states like Colorado, Oregon and Kentucky, who have been growing hemp for some years.
There are some good reasons for choosing CBD products that use California-grown hemp. First, though, some background on hemp is in order.
A Brief History of Hemp
Hemp has been cultivated for tens of thousands of years. Archeologists have found evidence that hemp was grown as early as 8,000 B.C. and used to make shoes, ropes, clothing and a crude form of paper. Greeks living around 480 BC reportedly inhaled hemp seed smoke for both pleasure and ritualistic purposes.
Throughout history, manufacturers continued to develop new uses for the versatile plant, cementing its reputation as a valuable cash crop in many countries, including the United States. George Washington grew hemp. So did Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Franklin Pierce.
All parts of the hemp plant are useful. From the seeds comes oil, which is used in dietary supplements, personal care products, fuel and paint; seedcake that makes its way into items like flour, beer and animal feed and the hemp nut, which contributes its nutritional properties to food and protein powder. The stalks are used in the manufacture of textiles, insulation, rope, paper and fiber board and the roots provide key ingredients in medicine and organic compost.
The hemp flower is an increasingly popular consumable. Like the rest of the hemp plant, the flower has very low levels of THC. It is considered a full-spectrum CBD product, one which contains a wide range of cannabinoids. These are naturally occurring compounds, many of which are known for their therapeutic properties. Why do THC and cannabinoid levels matter?
THC and Cannabinoids
Industrial hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. In comparison with its horticultural cousin, the marijuana plant, hemp has much lower concentrations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – less than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis – and much higher percentages of cannabinoids. THC is what gives marijuana its psychoactive effects, like the “high” that users experience.
Other cannabinoids do not necessarily have psychoactive properties but are believed to cause a wide range of health benefits when they interact with cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body, in major organs, tissues, glands and the immune system.
Why California is Ideal for Growing Hemp
California’s rich soil is optimal for hemp cultivation. So is its mild, temperate climate. Although conditions in the large state vary, depending on proximity to the coast and elevation, the ocean influence keeps temperatures from the extremes, leading to relatively warm winters and cool summers. It’s one of the reasons hemp cultivation can take place year-round in California.
The Mediterranean climate that characterizes a large swathe of the state helps to make it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the word. Hemp, the newcomer, has joined the more than 230 crops which were already being grown there.
Organic Measures Work Well with Hemp
Hemp is a good fit for sustainable agriculture, which California growers have been adopting in increasing numbers. Part of that is due to the state’s chronic water shortage, which has been worsened by periodic drought conditions and overuse of groundwater.
Hemp doesn’t require as much water as many other crops. That is good news for farmers looking for ways to comply with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which took effect earlier this year. SGMA, which will be phased in over the next two decades, places limits on the amount of groundwater pumping farmers can do.
Hemp’s resistance to both pests and diseases also makes it a good candidate for organic practices. Using few or no pesticides or herbicides can help prevent the hemp plants from absorbing toxins from the soil into their roots – something the plant does efficiently. If weeds do emerge as a problem, crop rotation and the use of appropriate cultivation tools may help keep fields chemical-free.
Why is the kind of organic hemp farming techniques used by many California growers important? In addition to being good for the environment, it also reduces the chances of impurities being transferred from the hemp plant to the CBD used in the supplementals that are on your shelf.
Room to Grow
With its millions of acres of farmland, California can find room for the kind of hemp grown for CBD. It needs more acreage than the kind of hemp plant grown for things like textiles and building materials (up to 1,600 plants per acre as opposed to 400,000 per acre). Unlike cannabis, whose cultivators are only allowed to grow outdoors on ¼ of an acre of land, there are no legal limits on the number of acres farmers can grow hemp on, as long as the land is zoned for agricultural purposes.
Hemp offers growers a natural bonus, too. The acreage planted with hemp benefits from the plant, because the fallen hemp leaves return minerals and nitrogen to the soil.
Growing Hemp in California
California was not always a leader in hemp production. After hemp growing was legalized by the federal government in 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown took action on the state level, signing a bill permits the cultivation of industrial hemp by California growers.
Because hemp is a cousin to the cannabis plant, there needed to be mechanisms in place for how to include hemp in California’s agricultural portfolio. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) established an Industrial Hemp Advisory Board to help it develop a registration process, fee structure, regulations, and other administrative details surrounding the production of industrial hemp.
California’s Department of Agriculture approved a state-level licensing plan for hemp growers in 2019, but gave individual county agricultural commissioners the power to approve hemp growing in their counties.
Some counties have moved slowly on passing hemp ordinances, but others, recognizing the vast economic opportunity of the crop, have swung quickly into regulatory action. This has enabled the nation’s most populous state – and one with an enormous agricultural sector – to play catch-up in an impressive way. Some 230,000 acres of hemp were planted last year in California. Although inexperience with cannabis cultivation and some uncooperative weather did negatively affect some farm operations, many CBD product makers were able to make use of a considerable amount of high-quality California hemp, and are likely to use even more going forward.
THC testing in California
Another reason to use CBD products made with California-grown hemp flower is that the cannabis market is tightly regulated to ensure that the hemp grown there is below the legal limit in terms of its THC content.
Hemp cultivators must be registered with the state and must have their hemp crops tested for THC content. State regulations stipulate that samples must be collected under the watchful eye of a commissioner. These samples need to include all parts of the plant, including stems, stalks, flowers, leaves, seeds, and buds. Samples must be delivered to the testing laboratory within 24 hours of being collected. The testing laboratory must sign and send a chain of custody documentation to the commissioner so that there is no chance of non-compliant samples being switched with compliant samples. The state even specifies the type of testing method that must be used: postdecarboxylation, or a similarly reliable method.
If the percentage of THC is less than 0.3 percent, the hemp passes inspection. Farmers have to destroy hemp crops whose samples have a greater than allowed percentage.
Where Hemp Comes From Matters
It’s important to know where the hemp you buy was grown. As noted, hemp grown in contaminated soil can absorb toxins. With hemp grown in other countries, like China – which is a major producer of hemp – it is not always possible to determine what quality control processes were in effect, or to find out if independent laboratory testing was done to determine the purity of the hemp and, by extension, the CBD that was made from it.
Buying CBD derived from California hemp will allow you to have a greater peace of mind when it comes to what it is you are getting. Between the state’s growing conditions, increasing reliance on organic and sustainable growing practices and strict testing requirements, California’s hemp growers are producing a high-quality crop that. If you are considering buying a hemp flower or related product, you should take the trouble to check with the manufacturer or distributor and find out the origin of the hemp it uses.