Opinion: Can’t hemp and marijuana operators all just get along?

Be at the forefront of cannabis and psychedelics science and innovation. Register today & Save $200 on tickets to The Emerald Conference by MJBiz Science, April 1-3 in San Diego.


Image of a field of hemp under a cloudy, blue sky

(Photo by Bits and Splits/stock.adobe.com)

Image of Lukas Gilkey
Lukas Gilkey (Photo courtesy of Lukas Gilkey)

The sale and production of hemp-derived cannabinoids generated $79 billion in economic activity last year, according to industry research, with states collecting $1.5 billion in tax revenue from $28 billion in sales.

The data underscores the huge and growing market for hemp-based, low-THC products – in addition to creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

This is welcome news for the hemp industry and the U.S. economy.

Millions of adult consumers – including our nation’s veterans – have begun using hemp-based cannabinoids to improve their daily lives.

Some regulated marijuana operators blame hemp-derived cannabinoid products for the slump in retail marijuana sales, citing legal confusion and a lack of regulation related to hemp products.

It’s time to shed that blame and, instead, work on uniting the hemp and marijuana sectors to focus on mutual benefits.

The marijuana industry’s problem is not hemp: Overregulation, excessive taxes, complicated operating requirements and a lack of cohesive, federal regulatory structure are the real factors negatively impacting MJ businesses.

Some of our cannabis cousins portray the hemp-cannabinoid industry as the Wild West, failing to recognize that cannabinoids such as CBD, delta-8 and delta-9 are federally legal based on the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the Farm Bill.

Moreover, states that do allow the sale of hemp-derived cannabinoids have imposed strict regulations to control matters such as age verification, manufacturing, labeling, full-panel testing and marketing.

Cannabinoids in common

A reunion of sorts might be in the best interest of both industries, as more marijuana companies add hemp-derived cannabinoids to their product lineups.

These marijuana businesses – especially in states without adult-use retail – are seeing big swings in adoption, from gummies to baked goods.

The truth is that marijuana and hemp companies share more similarities than differences.

Many of the same cannabinoids are used by manufacturers in both industries, particularly CBD, CBN and CBG.

In Minnesota, for instance, there has been a boom in low-dose, hemp-derived THC beverages, drawing mainstream retailers into the fold, including Cub supermarkets and Total Wine.

These drinks are essentially available anywhere in the state – and since they’re protected under the Farm Bill, they are being distributed to consumers nationwide.

Hemp and marijuana also share a legacy of entrepreneurship.

The hemp-derived cannabinoid industry is overwhelmingly dominated by independent farmers and small business owners – including many women, minorities and hardworking individuals who have been contributing to the economy for nearly a decade.

We are each other’s closest allies.

We should be competing on product development, not product access, especially since collaborations between hemp and marijuana companies already are bearing fruit.

Where to go from here?

Currently, there are 26 states that do not allow recreational marijuana.

Perhaps those markets are ripe with joint business opportunities for marijuana and hemp players to develop novel low-THC offerings.

Other markets might require legislative fixes for such partnerships to happen.

For example, intoxicating hemp-based cannabinoids such as delta-8 have been deemed illegal in many of the 24 states that allow adult-use marijuana as well as the District of Columbia.

With the current Farm Bill extended until 2024, now is a good time for those in the hemp and marijuana sectors to work together to advance the social and economic benefits of cannabis for all.

Lukas Gilkey is co-founder and CEO of Hometown Hero, an Austin, Texas -based cannabis business that manufactures and distributes hemp-derived delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC, CBDA and CBGA products. You can reach him at Lukas@hometownhero.com.

To be considered for publication as a guest columnist, please submit your request here.