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Aug 13, 2020

Hemp and the Economy: Resilient Growth in Challenging Conditions

Any major news outlet will reflect alarming news — amid the pandemic, many economies face great potential for recession. Markets are fluctuating, millions of Americans are unemployed, and economic uncertainty plagues many businesses.

But what about hemp? 

Hemp Is Here to Stay.

Even as some states and hemp businesses face new challenges, hemp remains resilient. The hemp industry reaches beyond what a consumer may see — a product from a farmer distributed or sold in a store. Hemp has its own economy and a financial impact across many industries. 

The cannabis industry, propelled by the 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp in the United States, has been growing — some consider it among the fastest-growing industries in the nation. Even in a down year, the cannabis industry is thriving. According to Leafly, the legal cannabis industry supports more than 243,000 jobs. The job growth in legal cannabis is expected to outpace other growing occupations. Hemp has incredible potential for job growth and impact, from farming to manufacturing and regulatory management.

Farming, Processing, and Beyond…

Farmers across the nation are registering to grow cannabis in line with state regulations. Beyond growing the plant, farmers must prove that plants or biomass contents are within legal limits of THC depending on the state. Enter hemp processors that convert biomass into extracts and specialized labs that provide in-depth analyses of plants and products. 

As more and more farmers grow cannabis, there’s a greater demand for the ideal genetics and seeds, a factor driving companies across the country toward innovation and new business opportunities as they meet demands for high-quality, high-producing seeds. 

In stores, consumers have a wide variety of products, from fresh flower and smokables to gummies, tinctures, salves, and body care products. 

“Hemp isn’t siloed into one industry — hemp is farming and pharmaceuticals, government jobs for regulations, a cosmetic industry, and a strong retail front,” says Elisha Millan, Founder and Owner of Grass Roots Health in Chattanooga. “There is such a diversity of jobs, as well as income and taxation potential, related to hemp.”

While growing hemp for cannabinoids and flavor for the consumer market is very nuanced, hemp grown at scale for biomass presents fewer challenges. It can help strengthen soils and doesn’t have excessive water or fertilizer requirements. Hemp can be turned into a variety of end products, including paper, bricks, pet bedding, plastic, and biofuel. Just as farmers and manufacturers are exploring new end uses for hemp, researchers and students are digging in, with new programs popping up related to hemp and cannabis farming in agricultural schools and chemical and medical research programs.

“Hemp holds so much potential and crosses so many business sectors,” Millan says. “There will always be space for hemp to combat an economic downturn.”

An Industry Ready to Adapt

When she opened the first hemp dispensary in Tennessee, Millan was prepared for anything. 

“I really researched and learned the pitfalls of the wider cannabis industry in order to shore up my business and prepare myself for an economic downturn,” Millan says. “For cannabis, an economic downtown doesn’t just mean a slower economy; cannabis regulations could change, rendering the product illegal. Smart hemp business owners financially prepare for those situations and have a rainy day fund set aside for times like these.”

Millan started her hemp business with a mission of improving people’s health, enabling access to high-quality, safe products. She’s always been able to connect with like-minded organizations to spread health and help people during an economic crisis. It’s the reason she started Henry’s Wholesale Dispensary Supply to support hemp dispensaries and provide a place to stock retail products without having to meet high minimum orders.

“Through Henry’s we’re able to provide retailers with a robust catalog of items. Even when it’s not impacting sales, it’s impacting relationships,” Millan says. “The spirit of the hemp industry, in general, is very positive and hopeful.”

Learn more about the hemp industry in and around Chattanooga and visit Grass Roots at our Chattanooga and Fort Oglethorpe locations.

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