Hemp includes varieties of the cannabis plant cultivated for fiber, seeds and oils.
It is different from other varieties such as marijuana, which are used for medicinal purposes in humans and as a recreational drug.
The cannabis plant contains more than 100 chemicals called phytocannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Strains of hemp produce minimal levels of THC, the main psychotropic constituent of marijuana.
Marijuana’s THC content is usually 10% or more, but hemp must have a THC content of 0.3% or less, according to federal law. At this low level, cannabis has no intoxicating effect.
With the Farm Act of 2018, industrial hemp is no longer considered a controlled substance and is now a farm commodity.
With this change in status, hemp is now utilized for many purposes including CBD for humans and animals. Pet owners and horsemen are using products in a fast-growing market — for pain relief, calming and various medical conditions. Some companies process hemp seeds and hemp seed oil as a human food product, and some utilize other parts of the plant to extract CBD.
Tonia Farman and her husband and business partner, Gregg Gnecco, started their company, Hemp Northwest, in Hood River, Ore., in 2017. Tonia was interested in healthful foods, having worked in cancer survivorship for many years, doing therapy programs for young adults with cancer.
“Through that experience, I witnessed poor diet and nutrition habits, high anxiety and other post-cancer issues resulting from inflammation. This was our inspiration behind getting into hemp, which has many anti-inflammation properties, and we became interested in the health benefits of hemp seed for humans and animals,” Farman says.
“Washington and Oregon had just opened up their hemp programs and we started pressing hemp seed oil in June 2018. Then we added protein powder and hemp hearts to our products. In December we added CBD because many of our customers were asking us for CBD products,” she says.
“Hemp seed oil has a wonderful fatty acid profile (healthy balance) and we decided to use it as a carrier for the CBD — which comes from other parts of the plant. We started with CBD-infused hemp seed oil, using plants from which the THC has been removed,” she says.
Stefanie Harrington, whose company is called Tight Joints PLUS, has marketed joint supplements for humans and horses for 20 years. She asked Farman about hemp seed oil after Hemp Northwest launched their CBD line of products, and has now added both hemp seed oil and CBD to some of her supplements.
“We knew there were great benefits from hemp seed oil, even though it had not been formally approved yet by AAFCO as a feed,” Farman says. AAFCO — the Association of American Feed Control Officials — is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.
“The Hemp Feed Coalition and AAFCO are currently working together on a study, gathering samples. They started with hemp seed oil and its benefits, to get it approved for animal feed. It will be a couple more years before the study is finished. There are not very many hemp seed processors in the U.S. but the equine community has learned about hemp seed by word of mouth, and hoping it gets approved as an animal feed.”
Hemp seed was approved in December 2018 by the Food and Drug Administration as a human food ingredient, so it now has GRAS status (Generally Recognized as Safe).
“This means it can be included as an ingredient in any food product. This was a huge step forward because now any company can add it into their ingredient list,” she says.
“The next step is to gain that same status for animal feed. There is so much interest in this right now that we hope this will help expedite the process.”
There’s also a growing interest in CBD. It is being used in dogs for arthritis pain and anxiety. “People who use it on horses are seeing anxiety levels go down — when they are being transported, stressed in competition, taken to strange places, et cetera,” Farman says.