By Richie Burke Contributor Published May 13, 2020 at 4:01 PM

This article is based off the Keeping it Local podcast presented by First Federal Bank.

For those of you who don’t know the difference between hemp and marijuana (I had to google it while doing my homework for this episode), hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent (by dry weight) of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ("high") substance found in marijuana. In other words, cannabis plants with 0.3 percent or less of THC are hemp. Cannabis plants with more than 0.3 percent THC are marijuana. Basically hemp does not get you high, marijuana does. 

In Wisconsin, hemp was only made legal back in 2018, but believe it or not, it actually has a very rich history in our state.

Back in the 1940s, Wisconsin actually led the country in the production of hemp. At one point, during WWII, we had 42 hemp mills across the state making rope, cloth and other products, but in the 1970s, industrial hemp became listed as a drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act and became illegal until 2018. 

Since becoming legalized again, farmers are producing hemp, and plenty of businesses have popped up including from two of our guests today including Paul Bruno founder of the CBD Cellar and Andy Gould from Wisconsin Hemp Scientific, which offers cannabinoid testing, hemp processing and their own line of cannabidiol (CBD) products named "Batch CBD." We are also joined by Michelle Haslam of First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, a community bank headquartered in the Milwaukee area that banks several hemp businesses. This is a rare thing among banks as many shy away due to the perceived risk of the hemp industry and lack of knowledge about the product and industry.

As well as going over the past, present and future of the hemp industry in Wisconsin, we dive deep into what it was like to start a business in this ambiguous industry, the barriers these business owners face while getting off the ground and their predictions for the future of hemp.

Gould and Bruno warned new hemp entrepreneurs to proceed with caution especially in the CBD space. 

"It’s almost too late to get in the game and start something huge unless you have some big innovation at this point," Gould said.

Bruno isn’t much more optimistic.

"Look outside of CBD for opportunitie; hemp fibers and supply chain aren’t as sexy, but the business model has much more upside than a saturated CBD model moving forward," Bruno said.

This episode initially ran on First Federal Bank’s new "Keeping it Local" podcast. It’s a show that connects listeners with local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who have unique and inspirational stories tied in with First Federal Bank’s community bank difference. I will be hosting this show, along with the GoGedders, and look forward to what is to come.