Here’s a special report from the Sun Journal
Hemp was supposed to be the next big thing for Maine farmers, an easy-to-grow cash crop capable of fetching as much as $250,000 an acre when sold for CBD, the non-psychedelic derivative of cannabis that can now be found in almost every prominent wellness product line in the world.
But after three years of rapid expansion, Maine’s emerging hemp industry has all but collapsed before it even had a chance to mature, the victim of a flooded national market, unfavorable federal regulations, a resulting price drop, bad business deals and a gold-rush mentality. Novice and veteran farmers alike are sitting on barns full of product they can’t sell and millions of dollars in debt.
Some of Maine’s biggest growers literally bet the farm on hemp, and lost.
Last year, John Black’s New England Hemp Institute was the biggest hemp producer in Maine, with multiple grows accounting for a third of Maine’s licensed harvest. He preached the hemp gospel at local grange halls, imported farm equipment from Italy, and cut deals to purchase other farmers’ harvests. He was in a hurry to scale up before the hemp conglomerates came to Maine.
Last month, Black’s farm was sold off at auction, piece by custom-made piece, at the insistence of anxious investors.
“Every day we hear the same thing: ‘I told you so, I told you so, I told you so,’” said Black’s wife and business partner, Corey, who said the business failure was too painful to talk about in detail. “‘You shouldn’t have gone so big. You shouldn’t have bought that cropper. You shouldn’t have done this, or this, or that.’ It’s been a terrible experience for us.”