3 years into nation’s hemp experiment, crop’s future is hazy

 In News

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) — Three years into the nation’s hemp experiment, a 20-acre farm in southern Colorado exemplifies the crop’s hazy potential.

Hemp could be enormously profitable, but right now there are just as many questions as answers for Will and Ally Cabaniss, two Florida natives who moved to southern Colorado to embark on the hemp business.

“Every day brings something new and different,” said Will Cabaniss, holding up a red plastic cup containing a hemp seedling awaiting planting. “Right now we’re just building data for the industry, seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

Authorized for research and experimental growth in the 2014 Farm Bill, hemp is being grown this year on only about 6,900 acres nationwide, according to industry tallies based on state reports.

The crop is still too new to be tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has no recent estimate of market prices or commercial uses for marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin.

The Cabaniss farm is typical of many nascent hemp farms, where optimism overcomes the many challenges growing a crop that was illegal for decades.

Growing hemp was illegal from 1937 until 2014 because the plant can be manipulated to enhance a psychoactive chemical in the plant’s flowers, called THC, to produce the drug marijuana. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said this week that it still considers the plant an illicit drug with no medical use, limiting its production to state-authorized research and experimental uses.

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