Is the U.S. Getting on Board With Marijuana Legalization?

Is the U.S. Getting on Board With Marijuana Legalization?

With companies like Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB), Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC), and Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) catching the attention of investors and consumers alike, it’s no surprise that marijuana legalization is a hot issue in the U.S. According to a report by Grandview Research, the U.S. market for cannabis was worth $11.3 billion in 2018, with an expected growth rate of 14.5% per year through 2025 — but that might be contingent on further loosening of prohibition laws. As of 2018, 21 states have debated legislation that would legalize recreational use of marijuana, and 33 states have already legalized some forms of cannabis for either recreational or medicinal use.

Presently, marijuana is fully legal for recreational use in only 11 of those states. With the exception of Vermont, jurisdictions with legalized recreational cannabis also provision for the commercialization of cannabis products for adults. Fully legalized marijuana remains uncommon in the United States, even if it’s significantly more common than it was 10 years ago.

2020 may see pivotal victories for legalization

In 2020, a handful of states will vote on full or partial legalization via referendum, including Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, and South Dakota. It’s reasonable to suspect that at least a couple of these political efforts will fall short, but legalization proponents shouldn’t despair. Many of the states that eventually legalized recreational cannabis via referendum had to try more than once before succeeding, as is typified by California’s failed ballot initiative in 2010. But cannabis investors will be pleased to learn that no state that decriminalized or legalized recreational use has repealed it, despite several different attempts via ballot measures. Thus, the country looks like it’s on track for legalization to make progress this election cycle, even if there’s still a long way to go.

Even as states move to reform their cannabis laws, federal regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are prohibited by federal law from participating in quality control or consumer safety efforts. This means that as legalization advances, state governments need to build new infrastructure to make sure that their cannabis regulations are locally enforceable, thereby introducing a large amount of overhead to the legalization process. It may also make it harder for international cannabis companies to compete in the U.S. because they’ll need to deal with many different sets of regulations rather than just one.

Medicinal use and decriminalization aren’t the same as legalization

Full nationwide cannabis legalization is still a distant goal, and there are many cases where progress has been incremental rather than transformational. Sixteen states have decriminalized recreational marijuana use without implementing full legalization for recreational purposes. In these states, cannabis products are only sold for medicinal use, which is strictly controlled. In places like Idaho and Indiana, medicinal use is so tightly regulated that medicinal products from jurisdictions like California might not be legal. This is a concern for cannabis investors because it means businesses would need to make different products for these jurisdictions if they wanted to compete.

Similarly, many states haven’t committed to full decriminalization despite allowing for limited medicinal use. In Alabama, non-medical marijuana possession is a misdemeanor for first-time offenders and a felony for subsequent violations, so its “decriminalized” status is a bit of a misnomer. In contrast, Georgia’s laws tightly control the THC content of medicinal marijuana while formally forbidding any recreational use, but cities including Atlanta and Savannah have proceeded to decriminalize it anyway, creating precarious pockets of opportunity that businesses are hesitant to exploit.

Finally, there’s the issue of the federal government’s approach to cannabis policy. Right now, there’s no way to reconcile the fact that at the federal level, recreational cannabis is still fully illegal, even if state governments like New Hampshire’s claim to have nullified the federal prohibition. State-level initiatives aside, Congress was initially scheduled to vote on a legalization bill called the MORE Act this week, but with an upcoming battle over Supreme Court nominees looming, the vote will likely be delayed until after the 2020 election.

So, while it does look like there is nationwide momentum building behind legalization for recreational use, there’s still a long way to go, and there may be difficult legal battles ahead.

Here’s The Marijuana Stock You’ve Been Waiting For

A little-known Canadian company just unlocked what some experts think could be the key to profiting off the coming marijuana boom.

And make no mistake – it is coming.

Cannabis legalization is sweeping over North America – 11 states plus Washington, D.C., have all legalized recreational marijuana over the last few years, and full legalization came to Canada in October 2018.

And one under-the-radar Canadian company is poised to explode from this coming marijuana revolution.

Because a game-changing deal just went down between the Ontario government and this powerhouse company…and you need to hear this story today if you have even considered investing in pot stocks.

This story originally appeared at The Motley Fool.

Is Marijuana an ‘Essential’ Like Milk or Bread? Some States Say Yes

Is Marijuana an ‘Essential’ Like Milk or Bread? Some States Say Yes

In most cases, marijuana businesses must, like restaurants, limit themselves to takeout or delivery. Black-market dealers are also busy, but feel little need to abide by official orders.

With the coronavirus pandemic spreading rapidly across the country, millions of Americans are being told by state and county officials to take refuge at home, and only venture out to get things they really need. Groceries, naturally. Prescription drugs, of course. Gas for the car. Urgent medical care.

And in many places, marijuana makes the list.

Over the past week, more than a dozen states have agreed that while “nonessential” stores had to close, pot shops and medical marijuana dispensaries could remain open — official recognition that for some Americans, cannabis is as necessary as milk and bread.

In most cases, the marijuana businesses must, like restaurants, limit themselves to taking orders for delivery or curbside pickup.

As Americans have raced in recent weeks to stock up on supplies like toilet paper, canned goods and hand sanitizer, many who live in states where marijuana has been legalized — including California, Oregon and Michigan — also rushed to buy enough cannabis products to last them through weeks, if not months, of hunkering down at home.

After a stay-at-home order was issued to San Francisco Bay Area residents last week, marijuana sales soared more than 150 percent over the same period a year earlier, said Liz Connors, director of analytics at Headset, a cannabis market research company. She said purchases of edibles like gummy candies surged to levels typically only seen around April 20, or “4/20,” the annual, if unofficial, marijuana appreciation holiday.

Women and young people — Generation Z — accounted for much of the sales growth, according to Headset.

“It shows that a lot of people think cannabis is just another consumer good, like beer or wine,” said Ms. Connors, who noted that edible products may have been the most popular because customers were taking precautions to avoid infection. “It’s probably the easiest way to get high without touching your face very much,” she said.

On Monday, the mayor of Denver included liquor stores and recreational marijuana shops among the nonessential businesses he ordered to close on Tuesday for the next three weeks, prompting long lines to form outside some stores. Medical marijuana dispensaries, however, were exempt. But after an outcry, the city reversed the ban a few hours later.

Pennsylvania has allowed marijuana dispensaries to continue operating, though liquor stores were ordered closed. But many states, including New York, have decided that liquor stores are essential businesses, too, and could remain open. Alabama issued an emergency order allowing curbside sales of alcoholic beverages at licensed stores.

Over the last week, marijuana sales have soared in many states, including California, Colorado, Washington and Pennsylvania, where Ilera Healthcare, a dispensary in the town of Plymouth Meeting, had its biggest week ever, according to Greg Rochlin, the company’s chief executive.

“People were concerned we would be shut down,” Mr. Rochlin said, comparing the rush on marijuana to “hoarding toilet paper.”

But while toilet paper has sometimes been nearly impossible to find in grocery stores and pharmacies, Ilera Healthcare has not run out of pot.

In many states, cannabis businesses are being careful to adhere to standards defined by the federal government to ensure they are deemed essential and can remain open. Nevada regulators have allowed recreational stores and dispensaries to operate as long as they prevent crowds from forming, so the stores have urged customers to order online or over the phone. Illinois halted recreational weed sales but authorized medical marijuana patients to pick up orders curbside or in parking lots.

Mindful of rules on social distancing and eager to attract anxious customers, many pot shops and dispensaries have sought to adapt by offering more deliveries and changing their practices.

Curaleaf, which runs 53 dispensaries in 17 states, is setting aside the first hour of operations each day for customers who are 60 or older. It also has created an app, available in Maryland, New Jersey and Nevada, that lets customers wait in their cars for their turn to shop, rather than stand in line outside the store.

Despite high demand, however, not all states that have ordered business closures because of the virus outbreak are allowing legal marijuana businesses to continue to serve customers.

When Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts announced that all nonessential businesses must close on Tuesday, he allowed medical dispensaries to stay open but not recreational pot shops.

Jackie Subeck, a cannabis industry consultant in Los Angeles, said she planned to restock her personal supply this week, out of concern that California may soon enforce even more restrictions over the coronavirus.

At the same time, she said she was worried the marijuana supply chain might soon dry up because the masks and gloves that workers in the legal industry are required to wear are now in short supply.

“I want to make sure I have enough to maintain my daily lifestyle,” she said. “For me, it’s more important to have enough cannabis around than alcohol.”

Not surprisingly, black-market pot dealers have also been doing a brisk business during the crisis, and unlike legal sellers, they feel little need to abide by official orders. One dealer in New York City said sales suddenly picked up two weeks ago when residents began to grow more nervous about imminent social distancing restrictions. “People were coming out of the woodwork,” said the dealer, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Chris, to avoid trouble with the police.

He has since sold out of marijuana candies, and said he was constantly getting calls for more weed. Customers no longer like to hang out in his apartment or let him linger during deliveries, he said. And he related how a couple showed up outside his building recently wearing masks and gloves, handed him a box of disinfectant wipes with the cash hidden inside, and drove off after he tossed their order into their car through an open window.

Still, he said, many of his customers have confided that buying marijuana was worth the close contact, if only to relieve their anxiety.

“They’ll say things like, ‘I’m going to be locked up with my wife for the next-God-knows-how-long and need this desperately.’” he said.

Dan Levin covers American youth for the National Desk. He was a foreign correspondent covering Canada from 2016 until 2018. From 2008 to 2015, Mr. Levin was based in Beijing, where he reported on human rights, politics and culture in China and Asia. @globaldan

This story originally appeared at NY Times.

U.S. FUNDING MEDICAL CANNABIS RESEARCH IN ISRAEL FOR LAST 50 YEARS

U.S. FUNDING MEDICAL CANNABIS RESEARCH IN ISRAEL FOR LAST 50 YEARS

Despite its official stance, the American government has been quietly financing cannabis research in Israel for decades.  More recently, funding was taken over by Big Pharma. You just can’t make this up.

From the CEO of HempingtonPost – Darlene Mea – ‘I’m re’sharing this post now from RXLEAF the weekend of US Independence for Freedom. We the People need to share Truth Above All. While the US imprisoned millions over the past 77 years for cannabis aka Weed, the devils drug – they’ve also fully supported research for cannabis medicine in Israel for the past 50 years – How corrupt the US is to their people who are still dying to be freed from pain and suffering and imprisonment .

It’s time to know the truth and do something about the truth. Vote Consciously! Take the time to reach out to your state representatives and demand full legalization of Cannabis, marijuana and Hemp! If we the people don’t make the moves to gain our rights back, it will NOT be done for us…this is very apparent!’

Although the federal government maintains that cannabis is a schedule I narcotic with no medicinal benefit, U.S. tax dollars (and many more private dollars) have been bankrolling medical cannabis research for years. Except not on American soil, in Israel.

If that sounds like pure hypocrisy, it definitely is.

But it’s also may be one of the smartest moves the United States has made in regards to cannabis policy (as depressing as that is). Despite the acknowledged position of the American Medical Association and a great many pro-cannabis states, politicians at the federal level are still wary of openly advocating for research into cannabis.

So instead of buckling down and doing the hard work, America opened its regular playbook and decided to pay foreigners to do the work it doesn’t want to do itself.

It All Started With One Worried Parent

Back in the 1960s, Israel was one of three countries in the world with a government-sponsored cannabis program.  And it was 1963 when an eager, cannabis-passionate Israeli researcher at Hebrew University sought a grant from the NIH. He was originally turned down because “marijuana was not an American problem.”

(It is interesting to note that this young researcher was none other than Raphael Mechoulam, who would go on to be lauded as the ‘Father of Cannabis.’)

One year after Mechoulam’s  request, a United States senator caught his son using ‘drugs’ and called the young researcher back. The distraught senator promised to fund any work if Mechoulam could explain what cannabis might be doing to his boy’s brain. It seems that the U.S. had no data on this, which was ultimately an embarrassment for the NIH.

So begins half a century of funding medical research into a narcotic with no medicinal value.

Cannabis Has No Medicinal Value?

Thus, the U.S. National Institutes of Health got involved in the cannabis research business. A world of shady financing deals was born. Mechoulam and his team were given $100,000 every year for the next 50 so that they could continue research into cannabis medicine.

(Side note: no one has ever released the name of the senator who bravely chose to ignore a significant public health issue until it happened in his own home. It’s a shame, too, because he may have done as much for sick Americans as any politician in history.)

Why Don’t They Fund American Cannabis Research?

One caveat: the US does allow some American cannabis research to take place within its borders. Approval is just very, very unlikely. If you’re a willing and able researcher hoping to unlock cannabis’ potential to treat cancer, for example, you’ll need to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And that’s just from the Feds.

You’ll also have to go through the usual research processes, such as institutional review boards, funding sources, etc. as well. Then, if you finally secure enough signatures to begin research, you can only conduct your work using cannabis from one farm. This happens to be located at the University of Mississippi and is overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the end, it’s probably just easier to move to Canada.

See full article here at RX LEAF

Still, the threat of a U.S. public embracing a “dangerous plant” is edging ever closer to a national tipping point. It’s getting very difficult to dismiss the videos and personal accounts of real, life-saving work. The peer-reviewed research is piling up, and we are ever closer to human trials on many accounts.

Still, it’s nauseating that Big Pharma is playing both sides. In the short term, its maximizing profits on opioids and other pain relievers in the profit-hungry American medical market. In the long term, it’s working to gain a foothold in the latest frontiers of cannabis research. Sure, that’s a two-faced way to approach things, but it keeps the right pockets lined. That’s what it’s always been about anyway, right?

My Comments to USDA Regarding the Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program

My Comments to USDA Regarding the Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program

Introduction

These comments are in reference to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program interim final rule, Docket no. AMS-SC-19-0042.

I am Richard Rose of The Richard Rose Report. Starting in 1994 I was the first to introduce sophisticated branded dry, perishable and frozen foods based on hempseed, after pivoting from a 14-year award-winning career in soy-based foods. Shelled hempseed, the product I pioneered in the US and Canada, is now 90% of Canadian hemp. In 2000 I co-wrote The HempNut Health and Cookbook and in 2004 The HempNut Cookbook. With 40,000 followers on social media, I’ve given advice to thousands of farmers, processors, entrepreneurs, and regulators regarding hemp since 2014. It is that experience which informs these comments.

America’s Hemp Legacy

As you know, hemp’s legacy in America exceeds even the founding of the nation, starting in 1632 in Virginia where it was once mandatory. The Founding Fathers grew it as a cash and fiber crop, the War of 1812 was about supplies of it, and the esteemed work of Dr Lyster Dewey illuminated it. USDA’s Hemp for Victory campaign during the war was the pinnacle of hemp’s crucial importance in service to the nation.  

Responding to market demands, much of today’s hemp would be unrecognizable to Dr Dewey. While hemp became a proxy in the war against marijuana for decades, marijuana is now legal in some form in 47 of the 50 states. Hemp medicines have been approved by FDA, and hempseed foods are GRAS. Descheduled by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, hemp is no longer a drug diversion threat requiring excess regulation as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Hemp has the potential to improve family farms, the soil, industry, and sustainability, and has already been the reason many sons and daughters have returned to the farm. Hemp flower products can improve wellness and nutrition, and will someday be as ubiquitous as soybean in the domestic food production system. Hemp products will desalinate water, store energy, and make sheets of carbon fiber and plastic. Starting in 2010 the hemp cannabinoid cannabidiol re-invigorated the US hemp industry, and many new varieties were certified. Smokable hemp has the potential to be just as important of a product segment. Hemp has captured the agriculture and processing community’s interest, reinvigorating a new generation.

This opportunity is a momentous time in our country’s history. It couldn’t have come at a better time, the hemp industry grew fast but was mostly imported; it can now be supplied domestically. The CBD market grew 600% last year and for the first time hemp products are in retail chains. 

Congressional Changes

Request Congress raise maximum THC to 1%, as hemp is no longer a diversion source; especially with today’s higher CBD content, and especially in the 47 marijuana-legal states. Maximum THC for hemp is 1% in Switzerland, Australia, and most tropical countries.

Request Congress to allow “felon rehabilitation” programs, and support it with targeted grants. Congress’ unfortunate ban of only drug felons from hemp farming falls hardest on minorities, the poor, caregivers and their patients. 

Institutional Knowledge

In the spirit of Dr Dewey (1865-1944), hire several Agronomists with established experience in hemp. Many farms and state programs will be looking to USDA for answers to common questions and emerging problems.

Policy

End USDA and state program jurisdiction upon harvest of the plant.

Encourage farms to use hemp for decortication, animal bedding, fuel, building materials, phytoremediation of soil, and erosion control by not testing for delta-9 THC since there is no intent to harvest or produce flower products. 

Encourage regional co-ops for value-added processing to give farmers more control and higher returns. Empower contractors but give farmers leverage and the right to sell their crop to whomever they want.

Give farmers tools to find, sell to, contract with, and collect from buyers. Allow farm stands, retail sales of hemp farm products. Encourage field trials in year one for new farmers.

Designate Cannabis and hemp co-ops as “agricultural institutions” and allow them to submit plans directly to USDA, bypassing the state.

Encourage farms within twenty miles of other hemp or marijuana farms to develop responsible pollen and fiber/biomass management plans. 

Encourage hemp product exports and foreign marketing. Establish insurance, crop quality, and water programs. Offer development and R&D grants. 

Allow use of analytical laboratories by farmers and the general public, in order to test hemp product quality and compliance. 

Minor technical violations of the program should not be punitive and should be allowed to be corrected without penalty. 

Since some hemp farms are targets for thieves, the locations should be redacted and handled as a farm’s trade secret, not disclosed except under court order or to a law enforcement official. Otherwise, open-source all data. Mandate farms preserve records for no more than three years.

Do not mandate use of only certified or approved varieties, but do provide a clear and transparent path to certifying new varieties. Do not require testing for delta-9 THC if AOSCA, OECD, or other certified seed is used, since it is already certified by a government agency to be low in THC, making expensive testing redundant. 

Treat all hemp cultures equally; personal, outdoor, indoor, hoop house, broadacre, ornamental, and greenhouse cultivation of hemp. Allow small personal and/or ornamental hemp cultivation by citizens, without registration or delta-9 THC testing. 

Regulate like potatoes, not drugs.

Delta-9 THC Test Protocol

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 made clear Congressional intent was to regulate only one cannabinoid, namely delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Remove the “negligence” conditions, as this is not a potential drug crop. A new farmer exceeding 0.3% delta-9 THC is only a mere technical violation, not a drug diversion threat or proof of intent to grow marijuana. If a farm truly does intend to grow marijuana as hemp, the state already has laws to prosecute it. Since non-compliance is legally as if growing a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the risk is too high for innocent farmers caught in a steep learning curve. As we saw in 2019, many are victims of unscrupulous seed sellers, brokers, and consultants

Do not require testing for delta-9 THC if AOSCA, OECD, or other certified seed is used, since it is certified by a government agency to be low in THC, making expensive testing redundant. 

Require that the test sample collection protocol objective be not to obtain maximum THC, but to represent all the aerial parts of the field including males. Do not mandate collection of just the top ⅓ or 2 inches of high-performing specimens, and require use of an objective collection path and protocol through the field. The minimum number of samples per field or variety should exceed 10, later aggregated to one sample for testing.

Require test sample collection within 60 days of harvesting. The current standard of testing within 15 days of harvest is a prescription for disaster at the state level, for farms, sample collectors and testing laboratories. In a large state with many licensees, it could hold up harvests for months and could cripple the hemp program. 

Allow any agriculture professional to collect samples, not just law enforcement officers. This is not a drug crop.

Allow the delta-9 THC test to be performed by any state-licensed laboratory. Requiring a hemp analytical lab have a DEA permit solely in the event the sample is over 0.3% delta-9 THC contravenes a permanent injunction by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (2004)against DEA using the Controlled Substances Act to regulate THC if found in hemp. It will be a profound burden on labs and farms for a mere technical violation which treats all parties involved as criminals, and illegally gets DEA back into hemp regulation via “the back door.” 

Allow farms to harvest in good faith if it has a compliant delta-9 THC test from a licensed laboratory for the crop taken within 4 days of the state’s sample collection or later.

Encourage programs use High Performance Liquid Chromatography, and test only delta-9 THC. 

Clarify that for the purposes of program compliance, 0.3% is exceeded only by 0.4%, not 0.31%. 

Allow programs to have no regulations or delta-9 THC test on hemp grown only for not human consumption use of the stalk and/or root, including decortication, animal bedding, fuel, building materials, phytoremediation of soil, and erosion control. 

Require no program registration or delta-9 THC test if a farm is growing less than 5 acres of hemp, for use solely on that farm or for field trials and agronomic testing. 

Exempt registered seed breeders from mandatory delta-9 THC testing of plants used for developing new cultivars or varieties.

Require programs select only 10% of licensed farms for delta-9 THC testing, at random.

Require programs provide licensees certified laboratory analyses of delta-9 THC test as evidence of state of compliance or noncompliance.

Don’t hamstring tomorrow’s farmers for today’s Controlled Substances Act. With 50 years of “no medical value” unconstitutionality and 91% public support for the 47 marijuana-legal states which have in fact found medical value, federal descheduling of Cannabis is inevitable. 

Disposal

If the delta-9 THC test certifies levels exceeding 0.4%, allow the farm to submit an acceptable remediation plan within 10 days, or use the crop only on the farm for decortication, animal bedding, fuel, building materials, phytoremediation of soil, and/or erosion control.

Allow remediation of crops exceeding 0.3% delta-9 THC either on the farm or under bond at a remediation facility, or to be used in a product from which cannabinoids can not be readily obtained, such as decorticated bast and/or hurd fiber, animal bedding, fuel, building materials, phytoremediation of soil, and erosion control. 

In marijuana-legal states allow sale of the non-compliant hemp to licensees in that state’s marijuana program.

Require programs allow stalk and root be exempt from the program once harvested, and not needing delta-9 THC remediation in any event.

Allow programs to have no regulations or delta-9 THC test on hemp grown only for uses of the stalk and/or root not for human consumption, including decortication, animal bedding, fuel, building materials, phytoremediation of soil, and erosion control.

Smokable Hemp

I believe that the acceptance of tobacco in Europe was undoubtedly enhanced by European familiarity with smoking hemp. Tobacco was in many ways a counterpart to hemp, all the familiar features were there. Perhaps the spread of tobacco was so rapid and overwhelming in the Old World because a receptive ground had been laid by the traditional folk uses of hemp.” —Sula Benet Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp (1967)

While once fiber, then seed, and now CBD are the value-drivers for hemp, the biggest potential contribution to society of hemp today is as a non-tobacco tobacco replacement. Because of that, it has encountered a number of regulatory obstacles in tobacco-producing states. Since most adults can benefit from smokable hemp in some way, it has massive positive public health implications, especially for tobacco-cessation. It is critical that USDA work to encourage and protect smokable hemp from death by over-regulation. 

Budget

To fund the program I suggest re-deploying a significant portion of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) $1.6 billion domestic enforcement budget, as for years DEA‘s marijuana eradication program was composed 98% of feral hemp (ditchweed), our genetic hemp legacy.

Respectfully Submitted on January 5, 2020.

Richard Rose
Founder, The Richard Rose Report 

Hemp Industry Is Cleared to Do Business With Banks

Hemp Industry Is Cleared to Do Business With Banks

United States regulators say hemp businesses should not be treated with any more suspicion than other bank customers.

The number of banks in the United States willing to lend to hemp producers can be counted on one hand. That is about to change. 

Federal and state bank regulators announced Tuesday that they were scrapping a burdensome requirement that banks said kept them away from the hemp business. Banks will no longer have to treat their hemp customers as suspicious and file reams of paperwork to anti-money-laundering authorities for each interaction.

The change could provide a major boost to a niche product that began its own legalization process last year.

“Banking has been an ongoing problem,” said Erica McBride Stark, the executive director of the National Hemp Association, a trade group for growers. “So this actually should be quite helpful.”

Hemp products are made from the same plants that produce marijuana, but they are cultivated to have far less tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces a “high” when ingested. The plants’ stalks can be woven into fabric and their seeds processed into oils used in food, but they cannot be made into drugs. 

Even so, federal law long considered hemp to be as forbidden as cocaine and heroin. But with the legalization of marijuana spreading across the country — 33 states have legalized the drug for medical use and 11 states will allow sales for recreational use by January — lawmakers in Washington decided to do away with the designation for its milder sibling.

Last year Congress legalized hemp as a crop and directed the Agriculture Department to start regulating hemp production. It took the agency almost a year to devise rules for the industry, but once they were released, on Oct. 31, bank regulators prepared to take action. Tuesday’s statement, from the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Company and other state and federal regulators, informs banks that they can now treat hemp producers like other customers, as long as the companies can prove they’re following licensing requirements.

The restrictions on the industry had held back even Ms. Stark’s organization, a nonprofit that does not actually produce hemp. The trade group had problems getting basic services because banks were worried that it could be receiving proceeds from a crime when it collected its members’ dues. 

The Agriculture Department rule change on its own did not help. “They understood that hemp was removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act but because of the paperwork that was involved, a lot of them were just like, yeah, it’s just not worth it,” she said.

Rob Nichols, the president of the American Bankers Association, a trade group, said his members had been pushing for the change for some time. 

Last month, the association surveyed 1,800 agriculture-focused banks in the country and found that almost half had gotten questions from their farmer-customers about whether they would still do business with them if they started growing hemp. 

“We appreciate the steps regulators have taken today to clarify regulatory expectations for banks, and we look forward to working with them as they develop additional guidance,” Mr. Nichols said.

While the change will help businesses making clothes and other hemp products, it does not affect the legal marijuana businesses dealing with the same problems. The federal government still considers marijuana to be illegal, and even local banks have been too worried about getting in trouble to deal with them. 

But banks large and small have come together to support a bill in Congress, the SAFE Banking Act, that would legalize marijuana banking by stipulating that the proceeds of a state-sanctioned marijuana business would not be considered illegal under federal anti-money-laundering laws. 

The House of Representatives passed a version of the bill, and the banking industry is pushing the Senate to take it up. If it were to become law, it would let banks dive into a lucrative new industry that has been plagued by security concerns and is desperate for even the most basic services, like checking accounts and credit card processing.

Even though banks have been slow to embrace the cannabis industry, investors have been geared up to profit from it. Analysts tracking publicly traded companies have added pot producers to their portfolios, in order to help investors decide where best to maximize their exposure to the industry. Ultrarich venture capitalists have begun to treat pot businesses like tech start-ups. 

Banks have been the buzzkills. When Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana two years ago, American banks warned their Uruguayan counterparts that they would cut them off if they provided services to pharmacies selling the drug. Banks in Canada, where marijuana has been legal for the past year, are still worried about doing business with pot producers in case it causes them problems south of the border. 

Still, it wasn’t clear on Tuesday that the change to hemp regulations would immediately influence bankers’ attitudes. Bankers will still have to study up on the complicated licensing requirements that states and the Agriculture Department have devised for hemp growers. 

In the meantime, hemp growers’ hopes might still be dashed. Ms. Stark said she had heard Wells Fargo was considering offering banking services to hemp businesses, but a Wells Fargo spokesman said the bank was taking no such steps.

This story first appeared at The New York Times.

Emily Flitter covers banking and Wall Street. Before joining The Times in 2017, she spent eight years at Reuters, writing about politics, financial crimes and the environment. @FlitterOnFraud

Largest Industrial Hemp Processing Facility in the U.S. Coming to Lubbock Co.

Largest Industrial Hemp Processing Facility in the U.S. Coming to Lubbock Co.

Dallas-based Panda Biotech [on Tuesday] announced it is developing its first industrial hemp processing facility to produce high-quality, textile-grade fiber and premium cellulose. The “Panda High Plains Hemp Gin,” to be located in Lubbock County, Texas, is expected to be the largest hemp decortication center in the United States and one of the largest in the world. 

Panda Biotech plans on deploying the most technologically advanced, highest capacity and first-of-its-kind industrial hemp decorticating equipment ever used to separate the fiber and cellulose from the stalk. The Panda Biotech Hemp GinsTM will be based on smaller versions of proven decortication technology that have been used throughout Asia and Europe for decades.

To ensure the highest quality fiber, the company will only process hemp stalks that are harvested prior to the maturation of the seed and flower, which are the parts of the plant used in CBD products. 

Panda Biotech has also secured the rights to purchase a 255,000 square foot processing facility in Shallowater, Texas in the heart of cotton country. More than 130,000 tons of Texas-grown industrial hemp is expected to be processed annually into textile fiber and cellulose.

In the lead up to today’s announcement, Panda Biotech has engaged key stakeholders in the Texas High Plains region including the local farming community, academic institutions and elected officials. Panda Biotech is also establishing business relationships with large potential off-takers for the fiber and cellulose to be produced at its Texas facility. In addition, the company is assembling a “first in class” advisory board composed of some of the top industrial hemp, textile and cellulose experts in the nation as well as agronomists experienced in the seeding, cultivation and harvesting of industrial hemp.

“After more than a year of due diligence — which has included an analysis of the hemp fiber and cellulose industries in the People’s Republic of China, various European countries and Canada — we have concluded that the processing of hemp stalk for industrial uses will be the next multi-billion-dollar business in the United States,” said Scott Evans, executive vice president of Panda Biotech. “Hemp fiber and cellulose will help manufacturers meet the needs of today’s eco-conscious consumers who increasingly require environmentally friendly products and services. As a result, hemp will be a game changer for both agriculture and industry for generations to come.” 

Formation and growth of the industrial hemp industry

The U.S. hemp industry was made possible due to the passage of the federal Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Panda Biotech was subsequently formed after the provisions of the Act were incorporated in the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill that was signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 20, 2018. Both chambers of the Texas state legislature unanimously passed House Bill 1325, that was signed into law on June 10, 2019, by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The law authorizes the production and manufacture of industrial hemp crops in the State of Texas pending final approval of Texas’ hemp regulations by the USDA which is expected in the coming weeks. The law ensures Texas farmers are able to participate in a rapidly growing industry with a new viable crop option that should also be a boon to rural economies.

The global industrial hemp market is projected to grow from $4.6 billion in 2019 to $32 billion by 2022.

Benefits of industrial hemp fiber and cellulose

Industrial hemp used for manufacturing applications is highly valued for its natural durability, rapid growth and environmental sustainability. The processed fiber and cellulose from industrial hemp can be used in the production of a multitude of products including textiles, a wide array of building materials, paper products, automobile composites, nanomaterials, bio-plastics and finishing products such as caulking, sealants, varnishes and paints. In addition, research indicates that hemp-based supercapacitors offer a less expensive alternative to materials currently used in rechargeable batteries for applications such as smartphones and electric cars. As a result, industrial hemp is poised to transform numerous multi-billion-dollar industries.