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The Real Cannabis Rush Image Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek
The Real Cannabis Rush Image Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek

The Real Cannabis Rush

Forget weed. The big winner of the cannabis craze is hemp and the CBD trove it’s unlocking

Craig Giammona and Bruce Einhorn, with Ashley Robinson

Mention legal cannabis, and many people think of the weed stores that have sprung up in Boston, Denver, Seattle, and other major U.S. cities. Inside, infused brownies and vape pens are sold next to branded joints and neatly packaged bags of mari­juana presented in a way that wouldn’t be out of place in any American mall. In Canada you can even order pot through the mail, and some of the world’s alcohol giants have set up shop there to develop weed beer.

But the business of getting people high is only part of the cannabis craze. Marijuana is still banned for recreational use across much of the world, and even medical access, while expanding, is restricted in most countries. So players in the $340 billion global cannabis market are turning their attention to weed’s less­regulated cousin, hemp.

Hemp is a strain of cannabis whose fibers have traditionally been used in textiles and rope, and farmers can grow it even in countries with strict drug laws because it has different properties from marijuana. Most important to law enforcement offi­cials, it’s low in THC, the compound that gets you stoned. But businesses are buzzed about its other defining characteristic: a higher concentration of cannibidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive chemical at the center of a wellness trend sweeping the U.S. and expanding worldwide.

CBD is being pitched as an all­natural way to alleviate ailments including pain, inflammation, anxiety, and ins

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