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2018 Hemp Industries Association Conference: Hemp Thriving In America Despite Legal Barriers

The 2018 Hemp Industries Association Conference revealed a thriving industry that’s growing rapidly and passionate about the future of hemp.

Ministry of Hemp just returned from the Los Angeles Airport Hilton, where “HIACON 2018” took place from November 2 through 5. Hemp will be a billion dollar industry soon, even though this plant still exists in a legal gray area in the United States. Industry leaders and newcomers alike gathered at the conference to share their newest ideas, and get a better understanding of hemp’s future as those laws shift.

A crowd gathered in one of the ballrooms at the Hemp Industries Association Conference. Hundreds gathered at the Los Angeles Hilton for the 2018 Hemp Industries Association Conference, where they discussed the future and potential of hemp in America.

Hundreds gathered at the Los Angeles Hilton for the 2018 Hemp Industries Association Conference, where they discussed the future and potential of hemp in America. (Ministry of Hemp / Kit O’Connell)

In addition, a two day exposition showcased hemp and CBD products ranging from established brands and freshly launched innovators. The expo was open to the public for one day, and numerous LA residents and tourists alike stopped by to see the offerings.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Hemp Industries Association, a sign that they’ve cemented their leadership role in the industry. A packed schedule of workshops and panels brought the highs and lows of hemp to life for the audience. Here are some favorites from our visit to HIACON 2018.


Of course, one of the biggest topics of discussion at the conference was hemp’s legal status.

After decades of prohibition, hemp was partially legalized in the 2014 Farm Bill which allowed for state-based hemp research programs. U.S. farmers grew over 25,000 acres of hemp last year, but there have still been legal challenges and numerous barriers to the industry’s growth, mostly at the federal level. An effort led by Sen. Mitch McConnell resulted in a historic amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill which would make dramatic changes to U.S. hemp laws by officially taking it out of the purview of the Drug Enforcement Administration and into that of the Department of Agriculture and the Food & Drug Administration.

Unfortunately, political upheaval in Congress, and politicians’ focus on midterm elections, left the Farm Bill’s future somewhat uncertain. Most of the conflict is not about hemp, but rather other controversial provisions in the bill which cover issues like food stamps. In one of many well-attended legal discussions, Jonathan Miller of U.S. Hemp Roundtable joined representatives of Hoban Law Group, who are some of the country’s top cannabis & hemp lawyers. Miller speculated that the midterm elections could be good for hemp.


A newly Democratic U.S. House of Representatives could also be the best chance for changing the hemp legalization amendment’s most controversial provision. The Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill contains a clause that bans anyone with a felony drug conviction from growing hemp. Currently, the House version of the Farm Bill doesn’t contain any hemp legalization language at all, opening a window where some fixes could be introduced.

Later, hemp lawyer & lobbyist Courtney Moran explained how the Farm Bill would change 6 different federal statutes and change the policies of multiple government agencies. She also suggested some alternatives to the drug felony provision of the current version of the Farm Bill:

While any felony ban seems regrettable to us, Moran suggested what could be temporary solutions to allow some people to remain in the hemp industry. These include changing the ban to exempt anyone whose felony is more than 10 years old.

Dr. Karyemaitre Aliffe, a biochemist and cannabis expert that works with Charlotte’s Web, gave another great presentation. Dr. Aliffe discussed the similarities between how cannabinoids like CBD work on the brain with the action of everyday pharmaceuticals like Tylenol:

Annie Rouse of Anavii Market introduced us to Harry Anslinger, the first drug czar, the subject of her fascinating “Anslinger” podcast. The second season is about to launch!

We also loved hearing an update from Kris Kimel of Space Tango about their successful effort to send hemp into space.

There were too many other great panels to mention them all, but it’s safe to say everyone came away from HIACON 2018 more informed than they arrived.


We loved seeing the innovation from new CBD brands at the 2018 Hemp Industries Association Conference. We got to meet Brett Levy from Holsticorn, inventor of CBD-infused popcorn:

And all weekend, people were sipping delicious CBD seltzer from Queen City Hemp, with 5 mg of CBD in each can.

Established hemp brands also brought their best to HIACON 2018. We browsed the latest hemp fashions from Vital Hemp:

And basked in the natural vibes of the Charlotte’s Web booth, complete with a fake campfire:

We also enjoyed a sneak preview of Lazarus Naturals beautiful new CBD tincture labels, which should help CBD consumers make more informed decisions about dosing.

And of course, no hemp expo would be complete without Dr. Bronner:

There’s so much happening in hemp that it can’t be contained in any one article, or any one event. More than anything, we saw a hemp industry full of people that are passionate about hemp, and determined to help hemp spread across the planet.

Special thanks to Beowulf Jones for covering HIACON 2018 with us and contributing to this article.

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