Marijuana Business Magazine January 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | January 2019 32 T he sky’s the limit for the CBD market, right? Every month seems to bring new global brands looking to tap into the CBD craze, and no one can seem to grow hemp quickly enough. So it was surprising to get a phone call recently from a nervous 62-year- old Canadian farmer who was anxious about the future of CBD. His country had just ushered hemp farmers into the CBD boom, allowing them to extract cannabinoids from hemp stalks. An exciting time, surely. Before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the CBDmarket in the United States alone was projected to pass $2.5 billion per year by 2022, according to the 2018 Hemp & CBD Industry Factbook. Now that it’s passed, that figure will likely be adjusted upward. This farmer had decades of expe- rience growing herbal medicines and seemed excited to give hemp a try. His fears about crossing the border into the United States while growing commercial cannabis prompted him to request anonymity in this column. But the longtime specialty grower had a different concern, one drawn from a long career in the herbal medi- cine industry. His worry was about coneflowers. Coneflowers often go by their scientific name, echinacea. Native to the Americas and used by American Indian tribes to treat everything from toothaches to gonorrhea, echinacea experienced renewed popularity in the 1990s. Countless echinacea converts swore that the plant’s anti-inflam- matory properties could stop colds, prevent illness and give users a healthful pick-me-up. People added echinacea to drinks and ate it whole, finding antianxiety benefits and feel- ings of overall well-being. Sound familiar? Echinacea’s trendiness bore some resemblance to the CBD madness of today. Like echinacea, CBD comes from a plant eschewed by 20th century medicine but prized by ancient cultures. Here’s where the echinacea story turns spooky if you’re in the CBD market: The Canadian farmer remem- bered seeing the price of his echi- nacea seeds go from around $600 (CA$800) per pound to roughly $225 (CA$300) per pound in a few short years. He chuckled at how profitable echinacea used to be. Echinacea 2.0 The echinacea story should be close to mind as CBD euphoria builds. For all its health benefits, CBD isn’t immune to economic forces. Low commodity prices and double-digit THC price declines are driving tradi- tional farmers and marijuana growers to the hemp industry. Total hemp acreage in the United States last year is expected to dwarf 2017’s total of 25,000 acres. Almost all of it is being grown to produce CBD. The question now is: Who’s going to be stuck holding a $600 bag of echinacea seed no one wants to buy? I think hemp has a brighter future than echinacea, thanks to its many commercial uses. But the chal- lenge for hemp entrepreneurs isn’t to chase the next “hot” cannabinoid, say CBG or CBN. Instead, the hemp industry needs to invest in finding value in non-flower parts of the plant and craft CBD brands that remain in consumers’ medicine cabinets long after glossy magazines have moved on to the next must-have elixir. There’s a lot to learn from the coneflower. Sure, the echinacea fad has faded. But it’s still a household name, and there is still money to be made producing the humble flower. Let’s hope the growing crowd of CBD producers keeps echinacea in mind when eschewing traditional crops or marijuana in favor of hemp. Investment now in hemp’s potential could save a booming CBD company from crashing and burning when the trend fades. Kristen Nichols covers hemp for Marijuana Business Magazine. Reach her at [email protected] . Coneflower Quandary Why the hemp industry needs to plan now for a CBD bust By Kristen Nichols Hemp Notebook | Kristen Nichols