The Desert Whale: the boom and bust of hemp in Arizona

J Cannabis Res. 2023 Jun 9;5(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s42238-023-00187-8.


Background: This paper examines the factors that led to the collapse of hemp grown for cannabidiol (CBD) in Arizona, the United States of America (USA), and particularly in Yuma County, which is a well-established agricultural area in the state.

Methods: This research uses a combination of mapping analysis along with a survey of hemp farmers to assess the reasons why the hemp industry collapsed as well as to foster solutions to these problems.

Results: In 2019, 5430 acres were sown with hemp seed in Arizona with 3890 acres inspected by the state to determine if they could be harvested. By 2021, there were only 156 acres planted, and only 128 of those acres were inspected by the state for compliance. (Crop mortality accounts for the difference between acres sown and acres inspected.) CONCLUSIONS: A lack of knowledge about the hemp life cycle greatly contributed to the failure of high CBD hemp crops in Arizona. Other problems included noncompliance with tetrahydrocannabinol limits, poor sources for seeds and inconsistent genetics of the hemp varieties sold to farmers, and diseases that hemp plants were susceptible to such as Pythium crown and root rot and beet curly top virus. Addressing these factors will go far in making hemp a profitable and widespread crop in Arizona. Additionally, hemp grown for other traditional uses (e.g., fiber or seed oil) as well as new applications (e.g., microgreens, hempcrete, and phytoremediation) offers other pathways for successful hemp agriculture in this state.

Keywords: Cannabidiol (CBD); Cannabis; Hemp; Hempcrete; Microgreens; Terpenes; Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).