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Political Backing, Investor Interest Fuel Kentucky Hemp Boom

CannabisNewsWire Editorial Coverage: The surging hemp industry means exciting benefits for Kentucky.

Hemp is big business in Kentucky. Among the companies working in the state is Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) (SGMD Profile), a supplier of hydroponic equipment that is now moving into hemp through an investment in Hempistry. In New York, a leading politician has been in contact with Canopy Growth Corporation (TSX: WEED) (NYSE: CGC) to ensure the survival of a hemp project threatened by executive upheaval. Tilray Inc. (NASDAQ: TLRY) is looking even further than North America for growth. Cronos Group Inc. (TSX: CRON) (NASDAQ: CRON) is focusing on innovation in the sector. New Age Beverages Corporation (NASDAQ: NBEV) has been expanding its distribution and marketing power to reach into an ever-growing hemp market.

  • Kentucky is now the largest producer of hemp by state in the United States, fueled by local and national political support.
  • The hemp boom promises an alternative crop to struggling farmers.
  • The burgeoning industry is drawing investment into the state from hemp companies.

Hemp Achieves Great Growth in Kentucky

This year has seen a serious ratcheting up of hemp production across the United States. After the 2018 Farm Bill passed late last year legalizing national widespread hemp production, companies have been rushing to establish a foothold in the industry. Some are expanding test cultivation sites established under the 2014 bill, while others are setting up new operations.

This boon is proving particularly profitable for Kentucky. Having wholeheartedly embraced hemp cultivation under the previous regulations, the state is benefiting from a relatively well-developed industry that has existing strong political support. These favorable circumstances are attracting hemp companies and hemp investment into the state, helping to balance declines seen elsewhere in the state’s agriculture space.

Heading for Kentucky

A wide range of businesses, including brand-development company Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD), are investing in Kentucky’s hemp sector, funding the cultivation, processing and sale of the plant. Whether it’s being used for grain, fiber or CBD production, hemp crops are booming.

Hemp production in Kentucky began in 2014, when 20 approved growers planted 33 acres of the crop under legislation that supported trials of hemp farming. By 2018, the industry had grown 200 times in size to 6,700 acres cultivated by 210 growers. On top of this, 14 university projects and 72 processors were invested in the crop. Only Colorado exceeded Kentucky for hemp production within the United States.

Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the state has seen a further staggering surge in production. Kentucky now has 60,000 acres devoted to hemp production, making it the biggest hemp-producing state in the country. The industry has produced nearly a thousand jobs, 250 of them in the first half of this year. And as companies such as Sugarmade increase their investments in the state, that growth looks set to continue.

Sugarmade entered the hemp sector through hydroponics. A significant portion of hemp is grown indoors to provide greater control over how the crop is grown. Growth and acquisitions have made Sugarmade one of the hemp sector’s leading providers of hydroponic equipment and supplies, which are vital for this indoor growth.

Now the company is taking a more direct interest in hemp by exercising its option to invest in Hempistry Inc. Founded by Sugarmade’s own CEO Jimmy Chan, Hempistry is growing hemp in Madison County, Kentucky. Sugarmade is making a series of investments in the project that are expected to total an estimated $1 million.

“These investments into Hempistry make sense for Sugarmade, not only from a financial standpoint relative to probable rate of return, but also from a business development standpoint,” said Chan. “As Hempistry and other local cultivators grow, we believe Sugarmade’s status as a potential supplier to cultivators will also continue to rise. We look forward to a successful growing season with Hempistry.”

Kentucky Politicians Back Hemp Farmers

One of the reasons for Kentucky’s hemp boom is the strong support provided by politicians across the state. Representative James Comer and Senator Mitch McConnell have actively backed the industry at a national level, while Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has been an advocate within the state. Under Quarles’s leadership, the Kentucky Agricultural Department has encouraged the development of the hemp industry, putting policies in place to support it.

This political support is at the heart of what makes Kentucky so appealing to companies such as Sugarmade as they seek opportunities for hemp investment. Though hemp is once again legal on a federal level, the road to this point has been rocky, and the industry is likely to face further political hurdles. Knowing that Kentucky will provide political support makes the state an appealing place to invest.

McConnell has been particularly essential in establishing this support. The senior Kentucky senator used his position as majority leader to push hemp reform through the federal legislative process. This summer, he publicly reinforced his support for hemp through a tour of the industry in Kentucky with Sonny Perdue, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The tour marked an important moment for Kentucky as a leader in that industry, as well as the hemp industry as a whole, acknowledging its newfound legitimacy.

Among the issues the two men talked about on the tour was improving access to finance for hemp growers. Though December’s farm bill legislation theoretically should have removed financial barriers, in practice, banks need encouragement to change their approach. With high-profile advocates such as McConnell and Perdue taking a firm stance, this is likely to change rapidly, making life easier for companies such as Hempistry and Sugarmade.

Hemp Provides Something We Need

In strained political times, hemp has provided something we all need — an issue on which politicians from both major parties can agree. The hemp provisions of the farm bill passed thanks to cross-party support, and politicians from both sides of the aisle have been keen to encourage the industry.

Nothing makes this clearer than the involvement of both Democrat and Republican senate leaders in supporting and encouraging the industry. Earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke directly to the leadership of Canopy Growth Corp. to ensure that recent changes at the company wouldn’t stand in the way of a building a cutting-edge hemp facility in New York. When companies such as Sugarmade see this type of support, they feel confident investing heavily in hemp, knowing that both parties support industry expansion.

The reason behind this widespread support is that hemp caters to another need — new avenues for farmers to make a living. Farm production in the United States is at a six-year low, with many farmers struggling to get by. Economic disruption and trade wars threaten to further undermine their financial well-being. As a high-value cash crop, hemp offers a lifeline to farmers, making support of the industry more important than ever.

The money poured into the industry by Sugarmade and other savvy companies may be the difference between success and failure for rural communities. And it doesn’t hurt that, along the way, these investments appear likely to be highly profitable for these companies and their investors.

Hemp Producers Rise to Prominence

The growth of the industry has brought hemp-growing companies to greater prominence than ever.

Schumer’s call to Canopy Growth Corporation (TSX: WEED) (NYSE: CGC) highlights just how much influence these companies now have, as they nurture the first shoots of what promises to become a fruitful industry. Canopy Growth Corporation is one of the largest Canadian companies operating in the hemp space, a leader in the field with significant resources and influence. The surprise removal of CEO Bruce Linton caused alarm in some quarters as well as uncertainty about the company’s future direction. But Schumer’s direct intervention has brought reassurance that the company will move ahead with its New York hemp plans.

While Canopy Growth has shed its most prominent executive, competitor Cronos Group Inc. (TSX: CRON) (NASDAQ: CRON) has added a new one to its team. Dr. Todd Abraham is joining the company as chief innovation officer. A thought leader in the field of consumer packaged goods, Abraham has shown faith in the staying power of the hemp industry through his move to Cronos. He’ll have plenty of tools to innovate with, as the company recently announced that it is establishing a brand new R&D facility, as well as acquiring a state-of-the-art fermentation and manufacturing facility. These deliberate moves put Cronos Group in a strong position to create new products using cultured cannabinoids.

The industry expansion isn’t limited to just the United States and Canada. Tilray Inc. (NASDAQ: TLRY) has recently arranged the export of CBD-rich oils to Ireland and is expanding its European leadership team. Hemp and CBD markets operate under different rules in Europe, so local knowledge is essential for expansion there, and Tilray is investing in that knowledge.

New Age Beverages Corporation (NASDAQ: NBEV) has also been pushing to become a global brand, following an announcement to this effect in April. But the company isn’t neglecting its American markets. It recently acquired marketing, sales and distribution company Brands within Reach to strengthen its marketing and distribution position in North America, working to take its relaxing drinks to an ever-wider market.

With the support of politicians and business leaders, hemp is clearly growing in popularity. Nowhere is the economic impact of that felt more strongly than in Kentucky.

For more information on Sugarmade, visit Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD)

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