The shipping industry faced an uncertain future heading into 2020, but there were more challenges to come. The sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic has further fueled uneasiness within an already rocky industry. Every aspect of the national supply chain, from shipping to logistics and beyond, must now adapt quickly in the face of unprecedented change. 

In this respect, legal considerations are just as important as keeping a fleet of reliable vehicles on hand. For instance, a truck driver found himself taken into custody in Idaho in 2019, charged with felony trafficking of marijuana, but the driver, 36-year-old Denis Palamarchuck, was actually hauling a load of industrial hemp which is federally legal according to the Farm Bill of 2018. 

Passed by the Trump Administration in order to provide a boost to the fledgling agriculture industry, the Farm Bill allows for the transport and manufacture of hemp and hemp-based products throughout the U.S. Unfortunately for Palamarchuck, CBD remains illegal in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Idaho as does industrial hemp. In the realm of logistics, planning a shipping route for the transportation of CBD products must account for varying location-specific classifications of the compound. 

CBD By the Numbers

To the untrained eye, hemp is visually similar to marijuana, leading to false identification of the plant, but hemp lacks the psychoactive component found in marijuana, THC, and cannot legally contain more than 0.3% of the compound. Rather than THC, hemp produces CBD, a non-euphoric cannabidiol used to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. 

Make no mistake — CBD products are a big business throughout the nation. Experts claim that the hemp and CBD market is on track to reach $22 billion in revenue by 2022. To do so, however, the industry must rely on every aspect of the supply chain, from harvesting and production to shipping and logistics. 

Interestingly, hemp has many additional applications beyond CBD. The adaptable plant is used to make textiles, paper, biofuel, insect repellent, and various food products, including baked goods and non-dairy beverages. What’s more, hemp rope is sturdy and versatile and was used by Viking sailors as well as early American colonists. 

In 1619, Jamestown settlers were even ordered to grow hemp plants on their land for export to England. Clearly, the history of hemp and America are intrinsically intertwined, yet that didn’t prevent Palamarchuck’s unjust arrest for transporting a federally legal plant. The entire supply chain should take note and advocate for more consistent standards regarding CBD and industrial hemp products. 

Opportunity and Growth in Shipping and Logistics

Interestingly, however, it seems as though the pendulum may have swung in favor of continued growth within the shipping and logistics industries. Online ordering has become the go-to method in the U.S. and throughout the world, and will continue to be into the foreseeable future. The CBD and hemp industries will account for countless products ordered, tracked, and shipped in our post-coronavirus world, and when it comes to the transport of products containing CBD and hemp, supply chain management must do its part to protect drivers from legal repercussions. 

Of course, adapting to change is nothing new in the realm of shipping and logistics. Widespread digitization and advancements in technology throughout the 21st century have ushered in a new age of supply chain management. High-profile security breaches have led to enhanced protection measures, for example, and sustainable logistics have become the norm.

That’s great news for hemp advocates since sustainability is all in a day’s work for the robust plant. Hemp requires one-third less water to grow than cotton, the world’s most popular natural textile source. Furthermore, hemp is the ultimate space saver of the plant kingdom. Under optimal conditions, one acre of farmland can yield up to 8.7 tons of industrial hemp. 

Advocating for Change and Consistency

It’s easy to see why the popularity of hemp and hemp-derived products including CBD oil continues to grow. For many people, daily life post-coronavirus may involve the use of hemp or CBD products, safely shipped rather than purchased at a retail store. Those individuals may not put much thought into the logistical factors of shipping hemp-based products, but overlooking those crucial steps would be detrimental to a supply chain management level. 

Until shelter in place orders and social distancing mandates are significantly relaxed, it’s up to the shipping industry to keep the nation up and running. That includes the shipping of industrial hemp and products made from the highly adaptable plant. The hemp plant is an integral part of American history and continues to provide benefits to the modern consumer, but even in 2020, hemp lives in the shadow of its psychoactive cousin, marijuana. 

The unfortunate reality is that not every state government recognizes the healing and environmental benefits of hemp, as Denis Palamarchuck discovered first hand. Palamarchuck, an essential worker according to the parameters of COVID-19, spent four days in jail for doing his job, simply because it involved hemp. To avoid similar incidents, greater consistency in the labeling and classification of hemp and CBD is needed at the federal level.

Key Takeaway

The threat of COVID-19 exposure notwithstanding, all of America’s harvested hemp needs to be shipped somewhere, and the plant’s legal status can vary from state to state. Therefore, understanding pertinent rules and shipping regulations regarding CBD and hemp is of paramount importance for managers and workers across the supply chain. 

Indiana Lee, contributng writer,