Wild Hemp: What Is It And What You Should Know About It
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines wild hemp as “wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing, or tending.” Also known as “feral hemp” or “ditch weed,” wild hemp has proliferated throughout rural parts of the U.S. since farmers were encouraged to grow the plant during World War II.
Can You Smoke Wild Hemp?
Wild hemp contains no detectable delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabis.
There are three main chemotypes of Cannabis sativa plants. Chemotype I contains high amounts of THC and almost no cannabidiol (CBD). Chemotype I is the variety of cannabis typically consumed by recreational users. The second chemotype typically contains an approximately 1:1 THC-to-CBD ratio. While Chemotype II remains prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act, patients in states where medicinal marijuana is legal are increasingly finding benefits from the flowers.
Chemotype III cannabis plants contain high levels of CBD and relatively low concentrations of THC. Industrial hemp plants belong to this third category. Contemporary cannabis strains grown for high-CBD hemp flower are hybrids of different chemotypes with less than .3% THC, which is the legal limit for hemp strains in the U.S.
As we have mentioned earlier, smoking wild hemp is useless due to its lack of THC. Additionally, consuming ditch weed may be dangerous to your health. Feral hemp plants absorb heavy metals and contaminants from the soil. While wild hemp’s ability to remediate the soil may be excellent for the environment, the plants aren’t suitable for human consumption.
America’s Love-Hate Relationship with Hemp
The U.S. government’s relationship with industrial hemp has been a history of contrasts. Humans have been cultivating hemp for over 10,000 years. Early American colonists, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, cultivated hemp for rope, paper, textiles, and fuel for oil lamps.
Reefer Madness and the Marihuana Tax Act
Pressures from powerful industrialists in the 1930s sparked a propaganda campaign against hemp and cannabis. Wealthy entrepreneurs from the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, cotton, and paper industries, seeking to squash the competition from hemp manufacturers, backed a racist misinformation campaign colloquially referred to as “Reefer Madness.” In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act put such difficult restrictions on farmers that the law effectively banned hemp production in the United States.
Hemp for Victory
During World War II, the U.S. government temporarily lifted the regulations and encouraged farmers to grow hemp using the propaganda video, “Hemp for Victory.”
The government suppressed hemp production again soon after its usefulness to the war effort waned. However, hemp cultivation during the war allowed pockets of wild hemp to proliferate throughout rural America.
Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program
In 1979, the U.S. government began an aggressive, decades-long program to eradicate all cannabis plants. Since then, the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression program has spent over $175 million in taxpayer revenue to destroy 4.7 billion wild hemp plants.
Where Can You Find Wild Hemp?
Despite the government’s extensive campaign to eradicate feral hemp plants, wild hemp still thrives in several U.S. states. Wild hemp is difficult to eradicate completely as the seeds can lie dormant for years. Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Minnesota have the highest concentrations of wild hemp.
High-CBD Hemp and Wild Hemp
The question of wild hemp has become even more complicated since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp manufacturers are struggling to evaluate the effect of ditch weed upon the legal hemp industry.
Positive Effects of Wild Hemp
The DEA not only sought to eradicate existing hemp plants but also launched a wide-scale program to destroy all cannabis seeds. Wild hemp may provide a way to recover some of the lost genetics from America’s original industrial hemp strains. Feral hemp may also allow cultivators to take advantage of genes that thrive in different locations. Scientists such as Dr. Shelby Ellison at the University of Wisconsin and Professor Win Phippen of Western Illinois University have launched campaigns to collect wild hemp seeds for study.
Negative Effects of Wild Hemp
While some hemp breeders search for lost hemp strains through wild hemp, other hemp farmers are concerned that wild hemp may contaminate modern high-CBD hemp fields. Veteran breeders Oregon CBD backed legislation to ban outdoor cultivators from growing male plants in areas where wild hemp has been eradicated.
As you can see, America’s relationship with wild hemp has been rather complicated. Only time will tell what impact wild hemp will have upon today’s rejuvenated hemp industry. For the time being, you can keep browsing our amazing collection of high quality hemp flower!