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Can’t discover a Christmas tree? Don’t Blame CBD

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Bruce Barcott, 2 December 2019

It's getting harder and harder to find a real freshly cut Christmas tree. But do not blame hemp and CBD. (CSA-Printstock / iStock)

Strange News from Texas: People in the Lone Star State are struggling to find fresh-cut Christmas trees, blaming CBD. Or rather, they accuse the rush to plant hemp for the booming CBD market.

The Texas CBS-11 station in Dallas reported a tree deficiency last week. "If you love Christmas trees, it's important to come early to get the first dibs," said John Patton, owner of Patton Christmas Trees. Patton told CBS-11 that his arborists and wholesalers told him, "we just do not have enough trees to fulfill everyone's orders."

According to Patton, the problem is that "outdated farmers are being tempted by faster-growing, more profitable crops such as hemp made from CBD oil."

CBS-11 editors know a hot story when they see it. Her headline, "Demand for hemp, CBD oil could lead to Christmas tree scarcity."

Wait a minute.

I'm not a Christmas tree builder. But a few years ago, I did some research on the industry. And I can learn basic arithmetic.

6 years vs 6 weeks

Hemp can be grown and harvested in just six weeks. It takes six to eight years for a 12-inch noble fir to grow into a 7-foot tree ready for harvest. So this year's tree harvest was planted around 2012. Farmers did not know about CBD at the time, and hemp was highly illegal.

With few exceptions, farmers who entered the hemp game did so only after the adoption of the Federal Farming Act in December 2018, which prohibits cannabis (which is legally classified as cannabis at less than 0.3% THC ) was repealed. , Hemp is currently valuable as a harvest mainly because of the booming popularity of CBD that can be extracted from the plant.

If a tree farmer changes from tree to hemp, it would not make economic sense to abandon trees in the field. If anything, farmers interested in hemp would harvest their trees early to make room for hemp. That would lead to a flood of smaller trees at Patton Christmas Trees in Texas.

Why are there fewer Christmas trees?

Conclusion: "CBD madness leads to Christmas tree scarcity" is a great story. But it's probably not true.

The more likely culprit? Artificial trees. Thanks to improved technology, manufacturers have been able to produce artificial Christmas trees in the last decade that look and feel almost like the original. Revenue from artificial trees more than doubled from 9 million to 21 million between 2009 and 2017. A single purchase of an artificial tree can prevent the annual sale of real trees for years to come. During this time, the sale of real trees fluctuated between 27 and 33 million a year.

Some of these fake tree sales came from consumers worried about the environmental costs of harvesting trees. However, commercial Christmas trees are not cut from natural forests. "Most people are unaware that Christmas trees are not from an untouched forest – we grow them as sustainable crops," an Oregon tree farmer told me years ago.

Hemp is also a sustainable plant. But do not blame it for killing the Christmas tree industry. That's up to you, wrong tree buyer.

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Leafly's Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

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