The passage and signing into law of the 2018 Farm Bill creates a blueprint for expanded growth opportunity through the cultivation of hemp in the United States. This new legislation will set a new standard for marketing hemp-related agriculture and industry, currently estimated to be $800 million. Therefore, a strong academic, research, and measurement services program that targets the hemp industry is both timely and serves to be responsive to a major need of the State of Maryland and the nation.
Over the past few generations, industrial hemp was once a dominant and common crop in the Americas and was used for many purposes. The Declaration of Independence, for example, was drafted on hemp paper. Stretching back almost two millennia, China, France, Spain, and even Russia were using hemp for clothing, paper, and medicine (seehttps://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v13/2/history.html ). The resiliency of the plant is well known. The plant grows in a variety of soil types and climates, is resistant to most pests, and grows very tightly spaced. Currently, hemp is, or can be, used for producing paper, textile, cordage, health foods, construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and more.
Following the "Marihuana Tax Act" in 1937, the United States substantially reduced and then stopped hemp agricultural production. The rationale behind passing of this bill was that hemp and marijuana are related, both being varieties of Cannabis sativa. However, industrial hemp has a far lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. THC concentration in hemp is less than 0.3%, as compared to 3-30% in marijuana flowers. Because of its low concentration of THC and its major economic benefits, European countries and Canada have been growing hemp as part of their normal agricultural commodities. The 2018 Farm Bill allows that hemp be cultivated in all states again. Section 10113 of the Farm Bill, titled Hemp Production, removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, and allows State departments of agriculture to file hemp program plans.
MSU is well-poised for establishing the proposed program. MSU is the State of Maryland's Preeminent Public Urban Research University and has a Carnegie designation of R2 (Doctoral University-high research activity). MSU's School of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences has strong research programs in its chemistry and biology departments, including its doctoral program in bioenvironmental science, with state of the art equipment for measuring hemp chemicals in its Dixon Research Building. Additionally, new faculty members, including Dr. Jiangnan Peng, bring substantial expertise and research experience related to medicinal plants who can lead the program