Sales of Kentucky hemp products skyrocketed in 2018

Updated: Mar. 18, 2019 at 11:51 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky’s hemp product sales surged in 2018, according to the commonwealth’s agriculture commissioner.

Hemp was removed from the list of federally controlled substances in last year’s federal farm bill.

Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Monday, the commonwealth’s hemp processors reported $58 million in gross sales in 2018, up from $17 million the year before.

More than tripling sales can be attributed to a lot of hype around cannabidiol, or CBD. In Louisville, there is a CBD shop in almost every part of the city.

"All of our CBD products are made here in Kentucky from Kentucky Industrial Hemp," Dee Dee Taylor, owner of 502 Hemp said.

Taylor sells products that you can eat, bathe in, and even give to your pets. Taylor said now that hemp is off the controlled substance list, it’s easier to sell.

“The cannabinoids are by far the largest sector in the industry, making up 93% or the acreage and farmers in Kentucky,” University of Kentucky Agronomy Professor Dean Williams said.

Williams said while hemp can be used in industrial applications and foods, we see a lot of shops like Taylor’s because of the demand for cannabinoids. CBD, a cannabinoid, has low levels of THC, the component that makes you feel high.

"All of our products are below the federal guideline of zero-point three percent, so you cannot get high from any of our products," Taylor said.

Taylor is breaking down the stigma around CBD. She says many of her products are used as health ailments.

"It's amazing to watch this industry grow and see new places pop up and be a part of it," Taylor said.

Quarles said the Commonwealth is leading the country in the hemp industry. Williams said the crop is making a strong comeback, but it is too soon to compare to other established crops like tobacco.

"We need to approach it with some level of caution only because we don't have a good idea of what supply and demand will be," Williams said.

Farmers and processors also did well this past year. Hemp processors paid Kentucky farmers nearly $18 million.

Processors invested $23 million in capital improvements and employed 459 people in 2018.

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