Hemp is Now Federally Legal in All 50 States… But What is Hemp?

Hemp is Now Federally Legal in All 50 States… But What is Hemp?

The 2018 Farm Bill was passed in a rare case of bipartisanship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) applying his penultimate signature using a ballpoint pen made from hemp.

This was significant because buried in the extensive language of the omnibus legislation was a provision outlining the end of the federal prohibition of the hemp plant here in the U.S.

Until then-President Trump signed that bill, hemp had been illegal to grow or process in all but very select circumstances here in the U.S. since 1937 and the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act.

In the 1970’s, President Nixon’s doomed War on Drugs along with the formation of the Controlled Substances Act and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led to further discrimination against the cannabis plant in any form, hemp included.

That, however, was then and this is now.

The cannabis plant is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, riding a wave of public support over the past decade to reform and legalization measures in a majority of states today.

The cannabis plant is still a Schedule I drug according to the feds, highly illegal in any form.

Hemp, though, they say is now perfectly legal.

So, what is hemp and how does it differ from cannabis?


Simply put, hemp is just one of many varieties of the cannabis plant.

Hemp is generally grown outdoors, or in greenhouses, in soil.

Other countries have been growing hemp for both fiber and seeds for quite a long time, as were American farmers prior to its prohibition.

Hemp seeds, and their oily byproduct, are used in countless wellness products and the plant’s fibrous stalks are a regenerative source of raw material for textiles, building supplies, and even alternatives to plastics.

When lawmakers here in the U.S. decided to allow American farmers to legally cash in on this popular crop, they felt that they needed to find a way to continue to keep cannabis illegal – they needed a clear-cut way to distinguish between the two.

So, now hemp is only considered to be hemp if the plant contains 0.3% Delta-9 THC or less.

Delta-9 THC is the abundant and active ingredient found in most cannabis varieties that contributes to the ‘high’ feeling most users’ experience.

Anything above 0.3% D9 THC is cannabis, in the eyes of Uncle Sam.

Of course, the cannabis plant (and, in turn, the hemp plant) has hundreds of cannabinoids in addition to Delta-9 THC, but just that one was singled out as the focus of the new federal law.

With the rise in popularity of complementary cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, and others, came a curiosity about how they all work in harmony with one another, along with Delta-9 THC, and terpenes, and other natural compounds in the plant – all of which are now federally legal.

This naturally balanced combination – when grown, extracted, and processed properly – can lead to a highly therapeutic user experience commonly called the Entourage Effect. This full spectrum effect can be achieved even with that nominal (<0.3%) amount of Delta-9 THC.


Today, hemp is being grown on all different scales depending on the intended use (or uses) for the final crop. Hemp grown primarily for fiber will be planted tightly to fit as many burly stalks as possible on the plot of land. Hemp plants grown for seeds or for flowers/buds will be given more room to branch out and breathe a bit.

As with any other crop, the quality of a hemp harvest will depend largely on the quality of the genetics being used as well as the ability/experience/work ethic of the farmer tending to the crop.

As with its cannabis cousin, hemp comes in many different varieties, or cultivars. Each will have its own distinct expression of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds that make up its unique full spectrum.

Though all federally legal hemp must come in at no higher than 0.3% Delta-9 THC, there is no such cap on the rest of the useful constituents of the plant. So, finding cultivars that will naturally produce an abundance of those, while still yielding minimal THC, is the key.

Those proper genetics in the hands of the right farmer will lead to ideal hemp plants at harvest time.

The steps that come next - from the harvest itself to cannabinoid extraction to product creation - are just as crucial when it comes to quality.

When you do find a brand has that entire process mastered from seed to sale, as we have here at Humboldt’s Cabinet, it is best to stick with that brand that you know you can trust.


The cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other full spectrum compounds found in the hemp plant are not only safe for you, but they also have the potential to finally put you on a path to optimal wellness.

Of course, as mentioned above, you need to be able to find a brand that you can trust with products that work for you and your needs.

Unfortunately, the relative lack of regulation in the hemp industry these days has led to the creation of far too many fly-by-night hemp and CBD brands looking for a quick cash grab.

Because the legality of the plant is so recent, reputable trade groups have yet to really take root in the hemp industry which creates some shadowy corners for morality-deprived profiteers to operate.

Too many of these products are sent straight to store shelves without third-party lab testing of the hemp itself, or the products made from it, leading to mislabeling of potency, ingredients, or worse.

Residual pesticides, fertilizers, mold, or harsh solvents can remain in retail-packaged hemp-based products if the brand behind that product has no accountability or reputation.

However, there are brands like Humboldt’s Cabinet that fully recognize and appreciate the potential positive impact that properly grown and processed hemp can have on our society, particularly as a preventative form of plant-based wellness.

As a consumer, it is important to do a bit of research on cannabis and hemp brands. Learn their backstory and their motivation for being at the forefront of this industry. Ask them questions about how and where their hemp is grown, how it is processed, and how their products are best used.

What is hemp?

Hemp is a plant.

Hemp is a culture.

Hemp is a solution.

Hemp is the future.

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