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New Approach Campaign Manager Doesn't Know Basic Cannabis Biology: "Hemp Doesn't Have Buds"

In a February 5, 2020 interview with St. Louis based podcast Entrepreneurially Thinking, John Payne, the former campaign manager for medical marijuana campaign New Approach Missouri, founder of marijuana licensing firm Amendment 2 Consultants, and campaign manager for recreational marijuana initiative campaign Missourians for a New Approach, betrays a fundamental ignorance of cannabis.

At about the 35th minute, the host asks asks Payne: "CBD...can you explain about all of this?..Tell me what I don't know."

Payne responds in the 36th minute: "Hemp is the same plant but it's grown very differently, and so hemp does not have buds, and the buds are typically what have THC...but you can still extract CBD from hemp."

This is absolutely incorrect. Hemp and marijuana are the same plant (cannabis sativa): federal law defines marijuana as any cannabis plant with a concentration of delta-9 tetrohydrocannabinol (THC) greater than 0.3%, which is an arbitrary and unscientific standard.

Cannabis plants produce chemicals called cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other compounds, secreted by the glandular trichomes that occur most abundantly on the floral calyxes and bracts of female plants. This is something Payne would know if he was a hemp farmer whose livelihood depended on his crop not exceeding the THC limit either because of genetic selection or environmental stressors. The publication Hemp Grower notes:

“The biggest factor contributing to the issue of hot hemp is probably the genetics that growers are sourcing,” says Bob Pearce, Ph.D., a professor of agronomy at the University of Kentucky who helps lead the school’s hemp research program. “Cultivars that produce predominantly CBD also produce small amounts of THC, typically in a pretty consistent ratio for that cultivar. So, as CBD increases, so does THC. Then you throw in environmental stress and management on top of a marginally compliant cultivar, and you start to see problems with hot hemp.”

The website (or any of hundreds of immediately accessible websites through Google Search), explains:

Hemp buds, CBD bud, CBD flowers or high CBD strains of cannabis are exciting products of the CBD and medicinal cannabis movement.
Hemp is a type of cannabis sativa plant, and ‘hemp buds’ are the flowers of the hemp plant. These buds hold high concentrations of cannabinoids compared to the stalk, leaves and roots of the plant. CBD-rich hemp buds offer an alternative to CBD oil as a source of CBD that can be smoked, vaped or used to make edibles and ingested.

CBD bud – flowers 
For many years, the primary goal of cannabis breeders and growers was to increase the THC levels in cannabis strains to meet market demand. In recent years, as the benefits of CBD have become realised, a demand for CBD-rich strains of cannabis has emerged.

In the context of hemp buds, CBD richness is referring to the CBD content of a cannabis strain. A ‘CBD-rich’ strain has been specially bred to contain a high-CBD content but low-THC content, allowing it to be sold legally across America.

Strains each have their own unique cannabinoid profile, determined by what cannabinoids they contain and in what quantities. At this stage, 113 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the cannabis plant. CBD and THC are the predominant two, followed by CBDa, THCa, THCv, CBC, CBCa, CBG and CBGa among many others.

The fact that John Payne doesn't understand the simple difference between hemp and marijuana, and does not understand the fundamental basis of the CBD industry, is stunning, especially when you realize he's been running marijuana reform campaigns since 2011 and is apparently attempting to persuade people that he's qualified to advocate for recreational marijuana legalization. Further, Payne, who is a director of the MOCannTrade association, is part of a group that is at the center of the controversy over marijuana licensing, and has influenced Missouri regulators in ways perceived as corrupt and unethical.

Kentucky Hemp Farmers Association President Martin Smith says just about everyone in the hemp industry is asking for that 0.3% threshold to be increased to 1%.

"That 1% [THC threshold] is not going to harm anyone in society, and it's going to help our Kentucky farmers," Smith said. "With that, that 0.3% raises when you put the plant under stress, a duration of not knowing how to grow it and not having the right genetics and being in a year where it's going to be brutal.”

They're also asking for different and, what they say are, more accurate testing methods than the current standards. The USDA has previously said it does not have the power to change the THC threshold; that's something Congress must do.

The Kentucky Hemp Farmers Association understands something that Payne does not -- one pathway to federal cannabis reform is to erase the artificial distinction between hemp and marijuana. Increasing the definitional THC cap in hemp is one pathway to do this in federal law.

Given the incompetence and corruption of Missouri's so-called marijuana experts at MOCannTrade, including Mr. Payne, we suggest Missouri regulators consult real cannabis farmers for further advice.

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