For many American farmers, the legalization of hemp was a godsend. Hemp-derived cannabidiol or CBD has experienced great demand due to its potent medicinal properties, and that has driven up the demand for hemp. Just a year after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp and its extracts, the hemp sector was worth millions in sales. It provided a great opportunity for farmers looking to move from crops like wheat and soybeans to something more profitable.
However, the oversupply of hemp for CBD has caused prices to drop, and farmers still interested in hemp have started looking to minor cannabinoids to boost their income streams. Hemp produces over 100 cannabinoids, CBD and THC being the most known and researched.
While CBD is known for its versatile medical abilities, THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is psychoactive, and it is responsible for creating marijuana’s infamous high. Federal regulation requires hemp to have less than 0.3% THC.
Plant breeders have begun offering genetics for minor, less known cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidivarin (CBD-V). Like CBD, they also have medicinal properties, a trait that’s common to most cannabinoids.
For instance, CBD can help alleviate immune disorders while CBD-V can be used to manage seizures, and CBN promotes high-quality sleep. CBC can receive pain and inflammation.
According to Michael Townsend, President of Oregon-based hemp and CBD producer Hemptown USA, the fact that most of the minor cannabinoids haven’t undergone pharmaceutical review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes them less scrutinized.
CBD, on the other hand, is used as a main ingredient in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved drug used to treat seizures caused by two rare pediatric epilepsies.
“CBG has never been scheduled. It’s almost like they don’t even know it exists. Hopefully, the FDA will come out with an all-encompassing regulatory framework that includes all cannabinoids, but at this time, I would say that CBG is ahead of CBD in the legalization track,” he says.
James Stephens, the Director of Operations for Socati Corp’s processing plant in Missoula, Montana, argues that the current low supply of minor cannabinoids like CBG and CBN might offer the opportunity for hemp producers to pull in a higher price.
Based in Austin, Texas, Socati Corp. manufactures cannabinoids as ingredients for wholesale. The firm already produces CBD and CBN, and it’s planning on adding CBC, CBD-V and potentially THC-V (tetrahydrocannabivarin) in 2020.
Moving forward, the biggest issue will be sourcing reliable genetics. According to industry players, hemp producers should be cautious of companies claiming they have the genetics for CBN, CBG or other minor cannabinoids.
The advent of newer cannabinoids on the radar of hemp producers is likely to be seen as good news by cannabis companies like Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) who see diversification as the only way to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.
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