The 2018 Farm Bill has been passed by Congress, and is expected to be signed into law by President Trump.
This legislation is significant, because it legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp.
This new law will allow businesses and farmers in many agricultural states, like Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and North Carolina (to name a few) to replace tobacco or, in cases where tobacco was not a large cash crop, to develop new agricultural businesses around hemp production.
Why is this significant for business and our economy?
Though hemp and marijuana are technically the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, hemp has very low levels of THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. In other words, you are not growing hemp to get high.
Hemp is grown to be produced into hundreds of different products that benefit all aspects of our daily lives.
It is tall and narrow, which allows its fibers to be harvested for use in manufacturing textiles. The benefit of hemp clothing is that it can be more durable than cotton. In fact, the US used hemp extensively to manufacture clothing and other products during WWII. There also are ways hemp can be used in construction via a process that creates a hempcrete. And of course, hemp also can be turned into paper.
Hemp seeds and flowers are used in health foods, organic body care, and other nutraceuticals. When you start to combine hemp production with legalization of cannabidiol (CBD) oils, you start to expand the number of health and organic options available to people to help with muscle pain and other ailments. You also see growth in the number of small and mid-sized manufacturers and supplier businesses.
Lastly, hemp is a great supplemental and/or rotational crop for farmers. In addition to not requiring pesticides and chemicals, hemp uses less water than most crops, and it helps detoxify soil. It also can prevent soil erosion.
In our more personalized economy, hemp production brings additional benefits. It allows smaller communities of farmers, co-op facilities, and other growers to cultivate hemp crops for clothing production as well as other products. A movement away from large corporate dominance, and into more localized production.
The benefits to a state like Virginia are great. It will mean the state can add thousands of new jobs, and bring in millions of dollars to local economies. The economic benefits would be felt most strongly in economically depressed regions of the state.
Already, plans are in motion for the Virginia Hemp Company to open its production in the fall of 2019 in Shenandoah Valley. A processing plant will use an existing building in Mount Jackson, Virginia (about 2 hours from Leesburg, VA). The plant will create over 50 jobs.
Glenn Rodes, who is a hemp farmer in Rockingham County, Virginia, has an 800 acre hemp farm that James Madison University uses for research. Once commercialization can get started, the hemp he produces can be used for fuel, cosmetics, carpet and other products.
Opening the US and Global Market
The sale of legal hemp products in the US were an estimated $800 million in 2017, and close to $900 million in 2018. With the passage of industrial hemp legalization, the number could sky-rocket in the years ahead, with states, like Virginia, seeing large growth in their agricultural and manufacturing sectors as a result.
Some analysts see the potential for $15 billion to $20 billion in global hemp sales by 2022.
CBD oil, which the state of Virginia has begun to open access to in limited circumstances, could become a $2.1 billion consumer industry in the US by 2020.
This emerging market creates an enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as farmers and investors, seeking to capitalize on legalization.
What This Means for Ecofy / VöC CoWorking In Washington, DC
At Ecofy (soon to be VöC CoWorking), we have long been advocates for hemp legalization. And as a coworking space in the heart of Washington, DC, we support all kinds of businesses that focus on improving environmental sustainability, cleaner and healthier living, impact education and services, as well as legal cannabis businesses and organizations.
Our goal is to provide more than a desk, office and meeting facilities where you come and get work done. We also offer software to help you succeed, business courses, and a community that exists to support one another.
In fact, through our strategic partnerships and community members, we are the best suited space in the Metro Washington, DC (DMV) region for people interested in growing hemp or starting a hemp-based business.
The Political and Social Landscape Is Changing
There is no doubt that political landscape around hemp and cannabis is changing. But we see the social landscape changing as well – not just around these topics, but also how businesses are nurtured, grow, and become successful.
For many years, we accepted the empowerment of big corporations. Government and tax policy favored growth and expansion of large, multi-national corporations, often at the expense of small and mid-sized businesses.
Other industries followed similar models, and as a society, we collectively bought into the notion that in order to be successful we needed to part of something large and institutional, or produced on mass-scale.
However, those attitudes are changing.
Technology has personalized society to such a degree, that mass production and mass education, as well as big government and big corporations, no longer have the cachet they once did. More often than not, they are the barriers to the success we want to achieve.
Hemp legalization, and the growth of co-working, personalized learning, and community-based support, are all part of a trend in our society towards more personal autonomy, localization, and greater small business success.
This is a significant driver in the business model that Ecofy follows. We believe in supporting businesses that give back to the community. This is done through resources such as business operations and software, online and classroom based learning (free or for discounts for Ecofy members), networking events, and more. We also are less expensive than most other co-working spaces in Washington, DC.
We invite you to come see Ecofy, and work in a place that appreciates what you want to do, and works hard to provide the tools to ensure you can succeed.
Ecofy is located at: 1899 L Street, NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20036.