Kentucky CBD: A Brief History of Hemp in the Bluegrass

The hemp industry is once again on the rise in the United States. Hemp has played a key part in this country’s history, from being grown by Founding Fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to creating critical materials for the troops fighting during World War I. Hemp has had its glory days and low points in our nation’s short history, and we are now coming out of one of the low points.

One of the greatest benefits of this new age of the hemp industry is the provision of CBD oil as a natural remedy for many common ailments. As we start to see the hemp industry revitalize in the United States–especially in the natural health realm–you can’t help but notice that amongst all of the states that grow hemp for CBD, Kentucky is in the top ranks for hemp production.

Most commonly known for horse racing, bourbon and fried chicken, Kentucky actually has a very rich history with hemp that goes back to the very roots of our country. Today, Kentucky is one of the top three states–including Colorado and Tennessee–that has the most acreage devoted solely to growing hemp.

As you are looking at different CBD products, you may ask yourself, “Does it really matter where the hemp was grown? What’s so special about Kentucky CBD?”

Kentucky CBD: A Brief History of Hemp in the Bluegrass

Kentucky Has Been Doing This For A While Now…

Farmers have been growing hemp in Kentucky since the 1700s. In fact, Kentucky was the greatest producer of hemp in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries, providing 75% of the hemp fiber needed across a young country.

In his work Kentucke and the Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone, John Filson talked about how perfect Kentucky lands were for growing hemp, with the first hemp crop being planted near Danville, Kentucky. Central and Northern Kentucky’s particular climate and soil are ideal conditions for growing hemp, and the counties that have been most successful in their crops have been in the “bluegrass region” with farmers either near or on the Kentucky River.

Senator Henry Clay was considered a “hemp pioneer” and was widely known as the “strongest advocate” of Kentucky hemp. He grew hemp on his Kentucky estate Ashland, brought over a new hemp seed from Asia, and advocated before the Senate in favor of requiring the Navy to use domestic hemp exclusively for ship’s rigging.

Kentucky hemp field - Kentucky CBD - Kentucky hemp history
Postcard of a Kentucky hemp field. Kraemer Art Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, n. d. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

Hemp production in Kentucky began to decline during the Civil War. Although some hemp was still grown in Kentucky at the time, the cotton industry of the deep South had taken over the market of cordage and bagging, and farmers started looking for crops that would be more marketable.

However, during the Spanish-American War, hemp made a comeback, and after World War II as well, with the help of some Federal programs.

Kentucky hemp production reached a peak in 1917 at 18,000 acres but soon started to wane due to the economic climate change that came in the wake of World War I. Other sources of fiber started to be introduced into the market, and this hurt the hemp industry significantly. But in 1943, a Federal program reintroduced hemp for wartime needs in Kentucky and some other states to help the efforts of World War II. This added 52,000 acres of land to hemp farmers, giving the hemp industry a much-needed boon. The World War II effort was documented in the U.S. Department of Agriculture film titled Hemp for Victory.

However, the business tycoons of the cotton, paper, lumber, and other industries were not happy. They began realizing the threat that hemp was to their businesses, so they started to look for ways that they could overpower the hemp industry. They were able to get unfair tax laws passed that made it extremely difficult for hemp farmers to grow and sell their crop.

Between this and the influx of marijuana pouring over the border from Mexico, the media began to demonize cannabis across the board as a substance that would get people “high”, making no differentiation between marijuana and hemp. Cannabis was now being associated with things that were against social norms, and all of hemp’s usefulness and benefit started to be forgotten. Ultimately, cannabis was added to the Controlled Substances Act.

In 1970, during the War on Drugs, federal policies virtually banned the production of industrial hemp, and Kentucky’s long hemp heritage was interrupted. This lasted until 2014 when President Barack Obama signed the 2014 edition of the Farm Bill.

The 2014 Farm Bill Began Revitalizing the Hemp Industry

By the late 1900s, consumer demand for hemp products in the U.S. was rising again, but American farmers were left at a loss, unable to legally grow industrial hemp.

In 1994, Kentucky’s governor Brereton Jones introduced a commission to investigate a legal pathway to reintroducing hemp cultivation. In 2013, Kentucky passed Senate Bill 50, a state law allowing the production of hemp for agricultural research purposes. This was shortly followed by the 2014 Farm Bill. Section 7606 of the act–Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research–differentiates between industrial hemp and marijuana and authorizes “institutions of higher education” or state departments of agriculture in states that have legalized hemp production to regulate and conduct research and pilot programs to learn more about all of the uses of hemp.

This opened up the doors for hemp farmers in Kentucky to again begin legally growing and cultivating top-quality hemp. This was not only good news for the hemp industry as a whole but for Kentucky’s own economy. Figures released by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in early 2018 gave a glimpse of the hemp industry’s economic potential: Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky hemp growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp.

Kentucky Hemp - Hemp Farm - Hand Touching Hemp Plant

Kentucky licensed processors also reported $16.7 million in gross product sales and $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments. All of this was accomplished with a market-based approach and 3,271 acres of approved research plantings and greenhouse space. And Kentucky is looking to expand their hemp-growing acreage–and consequently the positive economic impact–to be even larger than that in the coming years.

The Continued Growth of the Hemp-Industry in Kentucky with the 2018 Farm Bill

While the 2014 Farm Bill was a great step in the right direction for Kentucky hemp farmers, the 2018 Farm Bill took it even a step further.

The 2018 Farm Bill made the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity legal while also removing it from the list of controlled substances altogether. It also lists hemp as a covered commodity under crop insurance and directed the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation board to work to develop hemp policies.

While the law expands the potential for the hemp industry, it is by no means a free-for-all situation, meaning that it didn’t create a system in which producers can grow hemp as freely as other crops.

The 2018 Farm Bill has outlined actions that would be considered violations of the law. Some of these violations would be producing a plant that has a higher than 0.3% THC content or if a farmer was cultivating hemp without a license. The bill even lays out potential punishments and what will happen to repeat offenders. There are also guidelines that set up shared state and federal regulatory authority over any potential issues, outlining the steps a state has to take toward developing a plan to regulate hemp production and the need to submit that plan to the secretary of agriculture for approval.

A Bright Future for Kentucky

The 2018 Farm Bill will drastically change the hemp industry in America in the coming years. As a Schedule 1 substance alongside marijuana, hemp farmers and entrepreneurs have faced many struggles in past years trying to conduct their business. But that is all about to change.

This is especially true for Kentucky, who is quickly becoming a leader in the hemp industry.

The state’s agriculture commissioner has approved 1,035 applications to produce up to 42,086 acres (17,000 hectares) of industrial hemp in 2019. Last year, 210 licensed growers planted more than 6,700 acres (2,700 hectares) when hemp was operating under tighter reins.

This new surge offers more proof that Kentucky is poised to become a national leader in hemp production, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “The numbers tell you what you need to know about the excitement about hemp in Kentucky,” Commissioner Quarles said. “The growth in the number of approved acres … shows that Kentucky is rapidly becoming the epicenter of the hemp industry in the United States.”

While this is a huge boon to every aspect of the hemp industry, what does this mean for Kentucky CBD?

In the end, it means that the laws on natural health products like CBD oil will start to become more accepting, not only in Kentucky but across the country. Better quality CBD will be available to more people, aiding in the relief of many different medical problems. And more likely than not, we should start to even see the cost of CBD come down as hemp becomes more readily available across the nation.

The future of the hemp industry in Kentucky is bright once again, and they can continue on in their heritage of providing our nation with this extremely versatile and useful plant–legally–and for the benefit of everyone.