Biomass vs. Smokable Hemp: What's the Difference?

The Difference Between Biomass and Smokable Hemp Flowers

Cannabis with less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC is now legal to cultivate in the U.S. Farmers now have the opportunity to cultivate cannabis, without fear of violating federal law.

Growing cannabis for high concentration of Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is similar to growing cannabis for high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa). Many of the same principles and methods used in previously "illicit" cannabis cultivation can be applied to outdoor and indoor hemp cultivation.

It's likely that only a small percentage of the population will be able to tell the difference between high-quality hemp, mid-quality, and low-quality. It's also likely that some people will take advantage of this fact. For example, we have seen folks selling hemp biomass as "smokable" hemp flower. The purpose of this post is to help clear the air.

Hemp CBD Biomass

Hemp biomass is cannabis cultivated for large-scale processing, mainly into industrial products. Hemp CBD biomass is cultivated for the purpose of creating extracts to be used in CBD products. Hemp biomass can be grown at larger scale and typically requires machine harvesting and trimming.

Hemp biomass is generally machine dried and not cured, oftentimes resulting in a hay-like smell and very little terpene content. Hemp biomass is usually milled before extraction and includes most of the "sugar leaves" but not the stalks or larger fan leaves.

The goal is to cultivate large amounts of hemp biomass material, at an average CBD concentration of about 10-12 percent. Producers can then sell large amounts of biomass (hundreds of thousands of pounds) at a negotiated dollar amount per percentage point of CBD. For example, at $3 per point, hemp biomass at an average of 10% CBD would yield $30 per pound.

Hemp biomass falling below the 10% industry average would sell for less than the going market rate, while hemp biomass above 10% could sell for more. This price difference has to do with that fact that it takes, for example, three times the effort and resources to process 30,000 pounds of hemp at 4% CBD as it does to process 10,000 pounds of hemp at 12% CBD to achieve an equally potent and marketable product.

The going rate for biomass will vary based on geographic location, the number of processors within a reasonable travel distance, overall demand for CBD products, the current supply of viable hemp biomass in the local or national marketplace, and basically all other factors that impact the supply and demand of agricultural commodities.

As a rule of thumb, if your hemp was not given the proper attention and care that you would normally devote to a THC-rich variety, it's likely suited for biomass.

Hemp CBD "Smokable" Flower

Hemp can be grown to reach high levels of CBD and low levels of THC. Hemp is a great option for those seeking to benefit from the cannabis plant's potential medicinal and therapeutic properties without getting high.

"Smokable" flower is cannabis grown for smoking, typically grown in smaller quantities, and should contain at least 15% CBD. Smokable flowers should be hand trimmed to keep intact the trichomes or the resinous glands that store the plant’s terpenes and cannabinoids. High-quality hemp flowers should have decent terpene content of at least 2%. Smokable flowers must be properly dried and cured for a smooth smoke.

When cultivating hemp flowers for smoking purposes, preemptive measures must be taken to reduce the risk of contamination, e.g., pesticide blow over, heavy metal contamination, or microbial contamination. It may be beneficial to cultivate indoors. Indoor cultivation is more capital-intensive but offers more control over the growing environment. Indoor cultivation includes the use of artificial or supplemental lighting but can also be sun-grown in greenhouses. Growing smokable hemp at large scale while maintaining high-quality is extremely challenging and requires years of experience.