More and more hemp growers are looking to the smokable hemp flower market as a potentially profitable niche for their high CBD hemp crop.
While the smokable hemp market has proven itself (so far) to be more stable and, potentially, more lucrative for hemp growers than the biomass market, there are many caveats growers must consider before putting their efforts behind growing smokable hemp.
If you are considering planting smokable hemp this year, remember:
- Smokable Hemp is a Niche Market
- Smokable Hemp isn’t Legal in All States
- Your Smokable Hemp Must be High Quality
- Smokable Hemp Requires Higher Labor Costs
- More On-Farm Infrastructure is Needed for Smokable Hemp
Smokable Hemp is a Small, Niche Market
Many hemp growers turned to smokable hemp when the biomass prices plummeted after 2019 (and through 2020) because smokable hemp was still fetching high prices while biomass tanked.
Though the smokable hemp market has fluctuated, the prices still have remained competitive with less volatility than the biomass market has seen. However, the smokable hemp market is tiny compared to the biomass market. If regulations eventually loosen up around using cannabinoids in food and beverages (currently illegal), the future market projections for hemp biomass remain larger than they are for smokable hemp.
Smokable hemp is typically sold through brick and mortar smoke shops or online marketplaces — including our Colorado Breeders Depot marketplace. Consumers interested in smokable hemp are usually purchasing it because they are interested in the additional health benefits smoking hemp (versus ingesting or applying cannabinoids) may bring. Or they enjoy the flavor and experience of smoking hemp, similar to marijuana, but without having to deal with the intoxicating side-effects of THC. Before planting smokable hemp, make sure you have an end-buyer lined up.
Smokable Hemp isn’t Legal in All States
Unfortunately, many states have moved to ban smokable hemp despite being federally legalized (under the 2018 farm bill).
Concerns from law enforcement that smokable hemp products allow marijuana uses to circumvent marijuana laws have prompted some states to eliminate the problem entirely by making smokable hemp illegal. States have approached this in many different ways, in some cases banning growing smokable hemp and in other instances prohibiting the consumption of smokable hemp (or sometimes, making both activities illegal).
Hemp organizations have been pushing back against these laws and working to educate law enforcement (and politicians) about the benefits of smokable hemp. Some states passed laws that have been thrown out or are in the process of being appealed.
Make sure to check with your state agricultural department and the current legality of growing (and using) smokable hemp in your state before planting.
Your Smokable Hemp Must be High Quality
The smokable hemp market is, without a doubt, a market that requires a premium, high-quality product.
Biomass growers can get away with many imperfections in their final harvest than smokable hemp growers can. Seeds, mold, brittle over-dried flower heads, or flower without a robust, rich terpene profile and high cannabinoid content are not marketable to smokable hemp users.
Smokable hemp growers must dial in everything about their grow operation, from selecting only the most superior hemp seed cultivars to plant for an attractive, smokable flower harvest to how they grow, harvest, dry, process and even package their smokable hemp. Many smokable hemp growers have moved to indoor-only production, finding it too difficult to control outside weather conditions to reliably grown a marketable smokable hemp product.
Requires Higher Labor Costs
Because of the high-quality standards for smokable hemp, labor costs are higher.
Processes that can be mechanized when growing for biomass (like harvesting, drying and trimming) usually have to be completed by hand when growing smokable hemp. Typical hemp crop problems like hermaphrodites, overcrowding that can lead to mildew, pest and disease outbreaks can have much more of an effect on the value of a smokable hemp harvest than they do on biomass. Or, in a worst-case scenario, make the crop not marketable as smokable hemp at all.
Smokable hemp growers have to be at the ultimate of their game, with the hemp-growing experience and investment in the labor they need to grow a pristine smokable crop. Ultimately this equals more attention to detail, which means more labor and more labor costs.
More On-Farm Infrastructure is Needed
Most successful smokable hemp growers invest in significant infrastructure to support their smokable hemp crop.
As already discussed, many smokable growers are moving their crop to indoor-only production. That means greenhouses. Ideally, high-tech greenhouses, outfitted with appropriate fans, humidity monitoring, irrigation, temperature and light controls.
But smokable hemp growers also need large drying sheds and the infrastructure to support all their plants hung up to dry and cure slowly. Successful smokable hemp growers say a too quick-drying and curing period can ruin an otherwise excellent smokable crop. For most growers, this means an enclosed, climate-controlled space. Smokable hemp growers also need space to sort, trim and package their final product for sale.
Why Grow for Smokable Hemp?
So, after considering how much trouble it is to grow smokable hemp, why do it?
For the right grower with a mindset to go after the best-quality product they can, the smokable hemp market is a profitable niche to make a name for yourself and create longevity and reliability for your hemp farm. It is also an opportunity for hemp farmers with less access to large tracts of farmland to produce a profitable crop. Done right, hemp farmers have made more money with less land and planting less hemp by growing smokable hemp than they have biomass.
The smokable hemp flower market is also an opportunity (for some) to create your own direct-to-market sales channel, creating your retail outlets to capture the highest end-user prices.
If you are serious about growing for the smokable hemp market, please contact us at Colorado Breeders Depot. We can set you up for success by helping you choose the right hemp seed varietals and providing consultation on your grow plan. Plus, Colorado Breeders Depot buys premium smokable hemp from trusted growers (perhaps you!) for our own online retail sales channels.