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Ornamental Cannabaceae

A New Vertical in Plant Business


The 2018 US Farm Bill and the Illinois Department of Agriculture regulations have significantly advanced the hemp and cannabis industry by providing a clear framework for the cultivation, production, and processing of these plants. However, an emerging sector within this industry remains unaddressed: ornamental hemp and cannabis growing.


Understanding the Distinction


Current regulations are primarily designed for the cultivation of hemp and cannabis with the intent of harvesting and processing the plants for various products, including CBD oils, fibers, and other derivatives. These rules focus on ensuring that the cannabinoid content, particularly THC levels, remains within legal limits to avoid psychoactive effects. However, ornamental hemp and cannabis are grown for entirely different purposes.


Ornamental Hemp and Cannabis: Not Cultivation

Ornamental hemp and cannabis are cultivated solely for their aesthetic value. These plants are grown to enhance the visual appeal of gardens, homes, and landscapes, much like other ornamental plants such as roses or tulips. The focus is on terpenoids and the aesthetic qualities of the plants, rather than their cannabinoid content. As these plants are neither consumed nor processed, their THC levels are irrelevant.


Regulatory Oversight


The 2018 US Farm Bill and state regulations, including those from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, do not specifically address the growing of hemp and cannabis for ornamental purposes. This regulatory gap means that ornamental growers should not be subject to the same stringent rules as those growing hemp and cannabis for harvest and processing, despite the fundamentally different nature of their activities.


A Unique Opportunity for Breeders


The ornamental cannabis and hemp sector presents a unique opportunity for breeders to reach 100% of the population, including non-consumers of cannabis products who are simply plant enthusiasts. Ornamental plants can appeal to a wide audience, from gardeners to interior decorators, expanding the market beyond those interested in the medicinal or recreational use of cannabis. This inclusivity can drive innovation in plant breeding, focusing on aesthetics, fragrance, and unique plant characteristics.


Ornamental Growing: Currently Unregulated


Since ornamental hemp and cannabis growing is fundamentally different from cultivation intended for harvest, it does not fall under the existing regulatory definitions of cultivation. By definition, this means that ornamental growing is currently unregulated. The absence of specific regulations for ornamental hemp and cannabis highlights the need for a new framework that recognizes and addresses this unique sector.


A Call for Change


It is crucial to recognize the unique nature of ornamental hemp and cannabis growing and establish a separate regulatory framework for this sector. Here’s why:


1. Irrelevance of Cannabinoid Content: Since ornamental hemp and cannabis are not intended for consumption or processing, their cannabinoid content, including THC levels, should not be a regulatory concern. The focus should be on the health and aesthetic quality of the plants.


2. Economic Opportunities: Establishing an ornamental cannabaceae vertical can open up new economic opportunities within the plant business. Garden centers, nurseries, and landscape designers can diversify their offerings, appealing to consumers interested in unique and visually appealing plants.


3. Simplified Compliance: By creating specific regulations for ornamental hemp and cannabis, growers can avoid the complex compliance requirements designed for production crops. This would reduce the regulatory burden on ornamental growers and encourage the growth of this new sector.


4. Broad Market Appeal: Ornamental hemp and cannabis can attract plant enthusiasts who have no interest in consuming cannabis products. This inclusivity helps breeders and growers reach a broader audience, promoting the beauty and diversity of cannabis plants to the general public.


5. Regulatory Clarity: Developing specific regulations for ornamental growing will provide clarity and guidance for growers, ensuring that they can operate within a defined legal framework without being unfairly subjected to rules designed for cultivation intended for harvest.


The ornamental hemp and cannabis sector represents a unique and underexplored opportunity within the broader cannabis industry. By acknowledging the distinct nature of ornamental growing and developing specific regulations, we can support the growth of this new vertical while ensuring that the primary objectives of hemp and cannabis regulations are maintained. It’s time for policymakers to address this gap and support the diverse practices within the horticulture community.

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