Strong consumer demand for CBD and the prospect of a legal supply from domestically grown hemp is fueling a boom.
December 26, 2018 4 min read
Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Anna Trusty was finding it harder and harder to keep up with her five sons, four of whom she educates in her Chicago home. Instead of walking with her kids to the park a mile away, she was seeing doctors and looking for answers.
Opioid medications gave her no relief. “I was using more and more, and they weren’t working,” she said.
Trusty’s doctor recommended medical marijuana, but she wasn’t ready to use something that’s still illegal on the federal level. Then a friend recommended cannabidiol (CBD). The compound comes from hemp, but unlike the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives marijuana its kick, CBD won’t make anyone high. Industrial hemp is the same species of plant as marijuana, but has to have under 0.3 percent THC, something that Trusty made sure to investigate ahead of time.
“My friend gave me some [CBD] to try, and then I researched it myself.” But her reading reassured her and she decided to give it a try. That was in mid-August. She says in two months a lot has changed.
“It’s actually allowed me to have almost no pain,” she says. As the pain faded, her emotional health improved.
“I’m weaning off antidepressants and it’s going well,” Trusty said.
Demand for CBD is rising because of consumers like Trusty whose health problems persist despite conventional treatments. Coca-Cola is exploring CBD-infused beverages. Epidiolex, a CBD-based medicine, has received FDA approval. President Trump has signed the Farm Bill legalizing hemp farming for the first time since 1937, creating a vast source of legal CBD.
CBD is hitting the big time.
Jeff Wright, vice president for Extraction and Purification for Thar Process, a Pittsburgh-based company specializing in cutting-edge CBD extraction technology, compared it to Omega-3 fatty acids 20 years ago. “In the 90’s Omega-3s were hot hot hot,” he said. “CBD is the next Omega-3.”
Although much of the scientific evidence is preliminary, CBD has been suggested as a treatment for mood disorders. It has the potential to fight cancer, alleviate neurological diseases, chronic pain and other inflammatory conditions.
Most commonly found as an oil, CBD can also be infused into food or drink, as well as vaped or applied topically. From Wright’s perspective in the middle of the CBD supply chain, Wright sees the vast business opportunity it presents.
“Not too many people are farming hemp right now,” he said, “so right now there’s a window of time when it’s extremely lucrative to grow. Long term it will be a huge commodity.”
Cannabis business analysts The Brighfield Group predict that with its growing popularity as a food and cosmetic ingredient in addition to medical uses, the CBD industry will hit $591 million in 2018 and balloon up to $22 billion within the next four years.
Bethany Gomez, director of research for the Brightfield Group, said in an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, “What we started tracking this year was an explosion — face mask, bug bites, skin care, topicals. It’s being used for everything you can think of — sports, triathlons. People want to buy it for their grandma, for arthritis. Women get it for PMS and endometriosis — common things that people have been using over the counter medications [for].”
The demand for hemp is certain to grow. Leighton Rice, co-owner of Humble Hemp Farmers in Ortana, PA, is growing his first crop of hemp for CBD, just six acres, under that state’s hemp pilot program. He decided to try it after a friend on the West Coast sold him on the promise of CBD as a cash crop.
He explained the CBD is extracted from the dried flowers of the hemp plant. At about 15 percent into the harvesting process, he said he has not been able to test the flowers to determine the grade of CBD they will produce. But he’s getting calls every day from people who want to prebuy his flowers for $80 to $100 per pound. So far, he says, so good.