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'All In On Hemp': Once-Banned 'Miracle' Crop Could Hold Future To Farming In Pennsylvania

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) -- A once-banned crop is now being called a miracle, and it could hold the future to farming. Only on CBS3, reporter Alicia Roberts takes you to a Bucks County farm where the hemp business is booming.

"You've got this gross misunderstanding," said Fred Hagan, owner of Sugar Bottom Farms.

The future of a plant known to be among the oldest grown by man must first overcome its soiled past.

"Hemp is truly one of the most miraculous plants ever planted," Hagan said.

Hemp, a non-intoxicating form of cannabis and cousin to marijuana, is grown for its fibers, stalks and seeds, and is used to produce everything from clothing, construction materials, paint, paper, biofuel, plastics and medicine.

Hagan, a historian and owner of Sugar Bottom Farm in Bucks County, is on a mission to cultivate a new image for this ancient crop.

"Our government made the fatal error of viewing it as a controlled substance," he said.

While hemp can be traced back to 8000 B.C. in Asia, and was first brought to North America on the Mayflower in 1606, its production was outlawed in the United States in the 1930s.

"There was a sort of paranoia surrounding anything cannabis," said Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Pennsylvania and Kentucky were the first two states to re-legalize hemp production in 2015.

"We are all in on hemp," Powers said.

While marijuana and hemp come from the same species of plants, they contain vastly different amounts of THC, the compound that gets you high.

"Hemp by definition is a very low THC. You could smoke a bale of hemp and nothing would happen to you," Hagan said.

What hemp lacks in THC it makes up for in another component -- CBD.

"CBD itself, cannabinoid oil, is the key," said Stephanie Harris with Sugar Bottom Farm.

CBD, short for cannabinoids, interacts with the central nervous system to affect everything from mood to pain to inflammation.

"It is a miracle," Harris said.

Harris, who now runs production at Sugar Bottom, found hemp after tragedy struck close to home.

"My wife has early-onset dementia and I was giving her CBD and the difference she had with it and not taking it was dramatic," Harris said.

"Just this year, we've offered a quarter of million dollars in support for research and development," Powers said.

Bucks, along with Chester and Lancaster Counties, lead the state with the most hemp production licenses, each hoping to cash in on the nearly $2 billion dollars in revenue projected from CBD by 2022.

"It offers an opportunity not just for our farmers but for new businesses processing and creating products that people want," Powers said.

All while being carbon-neutral, helping in the fight against climate change.

"It's just an incredible plant, it has so much potential," Powers said,

And for those planting the seeds of change in hemp's rebirth, they're hoping history will get it right this time around.

"It has been a labor of love. We're trying to open the door to the future of hemp and we think that the future is almost limitless," Hagan said.

CBS3's Alicia Roberts reports.

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