Q&A: Joy Beckerman Talks Hemp's Potential, CBD Popularity and More

Departments - Smart Start—The Interview

The ‘wonder crop’ has finally reclaimed its rightful place among legal U.S. agriculture and is gaining global attention, in part due to CBD’s dizzying popularity. While some see CBD as counterproductive to hemp’s future, the interest it’s generating in hemp’s potential is seen by at least one industry leader as ‘wonderful.’

January 23, 2020

Joy Beckerman, principal at Hemp Ace International and president of the HIA, at Longs Peak Ranch in Longmont, Colo.
© Rebecca Stumpf

Since the passing of the Farm Bill (formally called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018), much of the world has focused on opportunities created for hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD). Some traditional hemp farmers have expressed concerns over CBD’s inclusion in the same category as hemp; they feel it could jeopardize hemp’s newly legal status and that CBD should be regulated as a drug. Aside from that, the Farm Bill has significant ramifications far beyond CBD for a crop that has been federally illegal to cultivate (aside from several recent research and pilot programs) for 82 years—a crop that many believe can change, and heal, the world.

To gain insights into the Farm Bill’s full impact across all types of hemp farming and end uses, as well as into the contention between CBD and other hemp industries, Hemp Grower spoke with Joy Beckerman, principal of Hemp Ace International, which provides professional hemp consulting, legal support and expert services. Beckerman, whose hemp career spans more than a quarter century, is also the president of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), executive vice president of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable (an advocacy organization for hemp CBD and hemp food companies), as well as the regulatory officer and industry liaison for global hemp CBD company Elixinol. She also is part owner of Colorado Hemp Works, a hemp grain processing facility, and is a member of Hemp Grower’s Editorial Advisory Board.

Noelle Skodzinski: The media has largely focused on the Farm Bill’s impact on hemp grown for CBD, and we’re seeing the boom in that market. I have heard from non-CBD hemp farmers who are not thrilled about CBD’s association with traditional hemp. Can you comment on that?

Joy Beckerman: The focus on CBD and the obsession with it can be frustrating to those of us who have either been in the movement for grain and fiber purposes or are engaged in the grain and fiber industries. There has been contention within the whole hemp community.

In 2014, we had already started to see the beginning of hemp CBD. It was often smuggled in from other countries, and it was starting to show up in the illicit market. And then the 2014 Farm Bill came along, and farmers started to grow for extract under these research and agricultural pilot programs. The HIA had to decide: Are we going to embrace the resin of the plant? Because we’re in a sticky situation here, no pun intended. Some thought we should not be in dietary CBD or the plant’s resins: It goes against the original mission statement.

We did decide to embrace it, and the HIA has adopted a policy for its members: If you’re making these products, you’re subject to federal and state safety and quality assurance laws and you damn well better be operating in compliance with those federal and state laws because your business is governed.

NS: Do you see CBD’s extreme popularity as a good or bad thing for hemp in general?

JB: I’m shouting from the rooftops about how we can heal the land and the world and make better products and better textiles on your skin and for your baby, and people can be—and are—moved by that. But, when they have a shoulder pain or anxiety or they can’t sleep at night, and they take hemp CBD and that shoulder pain is gone, and that sleep is healed, and that anxiety is relieved, that changes people. It solves an immediate need. And now people are really paying attention. They want to know more about this plant. So the awareness of CBD is wonderful for the grain—oil, seed—and fiber.

Investors then can take their money and move it over into creating the infrastructure for processing the most valuable biocellulose in the world (that’s the long, strong stalk that is hemp) and the most valuable superfood in the world, which is the seed and which has incredible industrial purposes as well.

Tim Rice, managing partner at Seed2System and High Grade Hemp, and Joy Beckerman amid the greenhouse seed crop at Longs Peak Ranch.

NS: What has the Farm Bill’s impact been on other types of hemp products?

JB: The Farm Bill did not just open things up for CBD by making it clear that extractions of cannabinoids derived from hemp are removed from the Controlled Substances Act, it has opened the floodgates for the entire plant and all of its uses. We’re talking human and animal nutrition; human and animal body care; nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals for humans and animals; paper; textiles; biocomposites; bioresin; building materials; industrial sealants and coatings; energy; fuel; nanotechnology; biomedical applications; and more. I just described every single thing that humanity and animals need to survive and thrive.

And I think it’s also important to note that the Farm Bill did not just amend the Controlled Substances Act; it also amended the Federal Crop Insurance Act to allow for hemp. It amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, which is where all legal agricultural commodities in the United States are defined.

Our definition of hemp now lives in Section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act as an agricultural commodity with corn, soybeans, apples and every other lawful crop. It has reclaimed its place in the broad light of day, among all other legal agricultural commodities in the United States of America. A farmer can’t obtain federal crop insurance unless the crop is defined in that act.

They amended several other acts as well—six in total—but around critical materials and supplemental crops and research.

Cannabinoid and terpene profile genetics; High Grade Hemp Inc. plants sown for seed production for future extract crops across the nation.

NS: In light of that, do you think hemp now has the potential to disrupt other traditional mature markets and industries?

JB: Absolutely. Hemp is a massive disrupter if we choose to look at it that way. And I know that disruption can be a good thing, right? But we also like to think of it as the great synthesizer. We’re not looking for a mono-crop world. We’re looking to add hemp into existing rotations, which is much better for the soil and the pest cycle and integrated pest management. … So, in terms of the agricultural scheme, we’re saying not to disrupt but to add it into your rotation.

For the building materials and all these other areas of industry, we’re saying, start to add it into your formulation, whether for an industrial sealant or coating, building material or a road, concrete, or for paper. … Hemp is an amazing blender and synthesizer.

[Hemp Shield Company founder] David Seber is the first researcher in recent history who noticed when you put hemp seed oil in with volatile organic chemicals to make a wood sealer or a stain, it even makes the volatile organic chemicals work better together.

So, yes, it’s a disrupter, and it’s also going to synergize and make crops and industry better and put out superior products with the proper research and formulation. And much of it is already going on.

“In case of climate change emergency, break glass.” Joy Beckerman displaying a locket with viable hemp seeds made for her by activist and hemp industry leader Ah Warner of Hemp Basics. The locket is with her wherever she travels in the U.S.

NS: What do you think the next five years will hold for CBD?

JB: The reality is that it’s a very long-term bureaucratic process within the [Food and Drug Administration]. They have said in congressional testimony that it’s going to take three to five years to come up with all this data and regulation, and it’s important to understand that the FDA is not exactly well staffed, and it takes resources, millions of dollars, to pay the staff and come up with a regulatory framework.

I would say that without legislation directing the FDA to follow an expedited time frame, the FDA could end up taking three to five years to figure it out.

NS: What are you most excited about as you’re looking at the future of hemp in North America and globally?

JB: I am excited about being a part of delivering on the full promise of the world’s most versatile, valuable crop. And that promise affects every single need that humanity and living beings have. It’s going to help the planet so much. Am I more excited about food than I am about hemp paper? I mean, I guess I am, but hemp is everything. Hemp lights up my life.


Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Noelle Skodzinski is editorial director of Hemp Grower, Cannabis Conference and sister magazines Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.