Pot Luck? Or out of luck? Farmers in Mexico and Texas are anxiously awaiting possible financial benefits from the now legal growth of the hemp plant. Some have their doubts.
My amigo, Xavier (pseudonym), a cowboy/rancher/farmer in southern Mexico, where the climate is favorable, has high hopes for pot (pardon the pun). The “Law for the Regulation of Cannabis” is to be promulgated December 15 th , 2020, in Mexico (Adrián Cisneros Aguilar, “Hemp in Mexico?” Harris-Bricken, 22 Oct 20). For Texas, the process for hemp growing licenses and applications for permits opened March 16, 2020 (Morgan O’Hanlon, “Struggling Texas Farmers,“ Texas Monthly, 10 Aug 20).
Cisneros vaunts “a much awaited breakthrough for the cannabis industry in Mexico.” The global market for hemp is expected to grow from the current $46 Billion to $266 Billion by 2025. The take-off was planned for earlier, but interrupted by COVID-19. Hemp, many hope, is poised to be ideal for post COVID-19 recovery.
Yet, in Mexico, an “odd legal paradigm” exists. For growers and producers, there is some bureaucratic confusion with the agencies involved, and with definitions. Products sold “must not contain above. .03% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Even so, they may still technically be prohibited, except for medical use. Growers or producers must apply to COFEPRIS (Commission for Protection Against Sanitary Risks) for authorization, an agency under the Secretary of Health, which is much like the US FDA.
Anxious Texas growers, too, face challenges. Hemp is now legal in Texas (and in 45 other states). It was legalized in 2019, but laws and permitted practices remain confusing. Many complain “you can buy it but you cant smoke it!” Interested parties are confused about the law and Governor Abbott’s attempts to clarify. He signed House Bill 1325 in 2019, which legalized cultivation, possession, and sale of industrial hemp, with less than .03 % Delta-9 THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. Many “choose smokable hemp flowers instead of CBD oil, because of its greater impact on the mental, physical and spiritual health” of the user (Malen Blackmon, Dallas Observer, 6 Aug 20).
Meanwhile, Blackmon notes, many “big dreams for the new crop are withering.” Dallas held a major hemp convention in January 2020 convention, successful, but there is “no readily available public data on prices.” Also, Texas “lacks infrastructure” to process the hemp, after storage (Justin Benavídez, Texas A&M AgriLife Economist, Texas Monthly). Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner (and former cowboy) explains the situation, full of hope, but with caution: “This is a baby crawling.” That Republican supports hemp!
Neither Texan nor Mexicans give up. Miller himself uses CBD oil for pain. Troy Owen, Matagorda County farmer, laments the low hemp prices: “we went out on a limb and tried it. We didn’t win, but that ain’t sayin’ we ain’t gonna try again.” But, to this date, “few acres have yet yielded a profitable crop” (Texas Monthly). Among the many problems: no available crop insurance yet, plus Texas’s famous droughts and floods. My friend, Xavier, agrees: “Sí, México también tiene esos problemas”–it’s feast or famine for farmers in both Mexico and Texas. I, too, grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, so can empathize with those risks.
Despite the risks, Mexico is moving forward. There are some differences. “Mexico does not make the distinction, as does the US, between cannabis or hemp and marijuana.” Hemp had been declared illegal, but that law was held “unconstitutional” by the Mexican Supreme Court. The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuél López Obrador (AMLO), supports the current efforts. He has the support of hundreds of farmers and ranchers, a large part of his constituency. So does, counter-intuitively, Senator Erandi Bermúdez, and others with the traditional right wing opposition party, PAN (Partido Acción Nacional); they support hemp growing and production (Ian Moreno, “COVID-19 Changed Everything,” Hemp Industrial Daily, 7 Jul 20). So, that “Mexican Republican” supports hemp!
What is it, exactly, both countries, all those cowboys, those farmers are experimenting with? It’s “Weed,” or “Chronic,” or “Mary Jane,” from “Maria Juana,” or “Marijuana,” or “Pot,” from the shortened version of the Spanish potiguaya, or potación de guaya, a brandy in which marijuana buds were steeped. Literally, it meant “drink of grief.” All that, scientifically, is cannabis, the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. It grows naturally in central Asia and other warm regions, such as Mexico (and Texas). Its uses vary from “recreational,” to medicinal, to religious. It’s seeds and stems become marijuana.
The hemp oil (CBD), from hemp flowers and leaves, is rich in Omega fatty acids, Vitamin E, and Protein. At one time, the cannabidiol oil could fetch up to $1,000 US per kilo. Both types of oil can be ingested or used topically. Adherents swear by the healing properties of CBD; hence, the profusion of choices in Food Supplement stores. Older customers, more than you may think, may prefer the marijuana of their youth, for their aches and pains. It is produced from the dried leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant. To truly be marijuana it must contain between .01% and .03% THC. Otherwise, it can become a sturdy fiber, formerly often used for rope.
Other uses of hemp include: clothing, shoes, paper, food, insulation, bio-plastics, and bio-fuel. It has had a noble past and useful present. Yes, George Washington had a hemp farm, but neither he, nor Thomas Jefferson, as “Facebook” often reports, smoked marijuana. However, reliable data suggest the first, “Betsy Ross,” American flag was made of homespun hemp. Nowadays, observers are looking for profits achieved from the “recreational” uses of hemp and, especially, from the health use potential.
On November 15, Mexico celebrated the “Día Mundial de la Marijuana Medicianal,” or the World Day of Medicinal Medicine. Many lobby groups for years had urged this change of laws and governmental encouragement, hoping Mexico would catch up with the times, and with the US and other countries (Ivan Moreno, “COVID-19 Changed Everything,” Hemp Industrial Daily, 7 Jul 20). Texas, to my knowledge, didn’t exactly celebrate, but support for hemp—if not in all its forms—is wide-spread among all manner of North Americans and Mexicans, among all social classes, and among diametrically opposed political party members. Pot, the great connector? Lucky pot – lucky for those who relish the opportunity to grow this ancient plant. Hemp–its time has come.