Hemp, the billion-dollar crop

February 17, 2019 GMT

Hemp will revolutionize New Mexico’s agricultural industry, giving birth to numerous opportunities.

In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act made the cultivation and possession of hemp illegal. With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp can now be legally grown in all 50 states and will be treated as an ordinary agricultural commodity. Both marijuana and hemp come from the same species, Cannabis sativa-L. Of the hundreds of compounds found in cannabis, two are of significant interest: CBD and THC. THC produces an intoxicating or euphoric effect while CBD is nonpsychoactive. Plants with a THC level of 0.3 percent or less are classified as industrial hemp. A level above 0.3 percent is considered marijuana.


Hemp, one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world, was first cultivated by tribes in northern China as early as 8000 BC. It first appeared in North America in the early 1600s. Crops planted by the British were used to make rope, sails and clothing. In the 1700s, farmers in the United States legally grew hemp, for medicine and paper production.

Now that hemp is no longer considered illegal, market analysts estimate the hemp CBD market will hit $22 billion by 2022 and will eventually outpace legal marijuana. Others predict that industrial hemp will evolve into a $500 billion global market. Products such as lotions, soap, shampoo, medicines, cosmetics, textiles, industrial materials, biofuels, plastic composites and paper are but a few. Hemp seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants. Considered an edible superfood, it can be added to food and beverages to increase nutritional value.

CBD oil is used for pain relief, anti-anxiety, insomnia, mood disorders and certain types of seizures. It’s regarded as an anti-inflammatory compound as well as a therapeutic agent for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and multiple sclerosis. As the health benefits of CBD become more apparent, producers are breeding strains with higher levels of CBD than previously grown.

Forbes magazine states that industrial hemp is a win-win for the economy and the environment. This fast-growing plant, unlike most cultivated crops, requires very little attention once planted, with minimal use of water, fertilizer or pesticides required. Hemp does not deplete the soil of nutrients but rather nourishes it, as reported by the USDA. The plant has been scientifically proven to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and returns it to the soil. Industrial hemp is well suited for New Mexico’s hot and dry climate. This breakthrough on hemp has the potential for enhanced research, development and unlimited health benefits while supporting a sustainable environment. For those suffering from debilitating and chronic pain, hemp CBD offers a nonaddictive option.


Dexter Russell, Naprapath, is a pain management practitioner in Santa Fe. He will be speaking on hemp, CBD and cannabis at a free seminar Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road. For more information or to register, email or call 505-983-8986.