Lawsuits Challenge Feds on Cannabis

A lawsuit that could have had a potential far-reaching impact on federal cannabis enforcement has been dismissed by a federal judge. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Manhattan, sought an injunction to stop the federal government from enforcing cannabis’ Schedule I status, naming Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department and the DEA as defendants. Serving as plaintiffs in the case were a handful of medical cannabis patients, including a former NFL player, a veteran of the war in Iraq and 12-year-old Alexis Bortell, who moved to Colorado in order to access life-saving cannabis medicine. Bortell was profiled by THC in April of last year, prior to the filing of the lawsuit.
Central to that lawsuit was the argument that cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance, designating it as without medical application and having a high risk of abuse, defies the current medical understanding of the plant and was originally motivated by political rather than factual reasoning. During opening arguments on February 14, government attorneys argued that there exists a legal procedure to petition the DEA for rescheduling substances under the CSA, and that this lawsuit represents a violation of this procedure. Judge Alvin K. Hillerstein sided with federal attorneys, ruling that the plaintiffs had not exhausted the available avenues to have cannabis rescheduled prior to filing the lawsuit. Previous attempts at petitioning the DEA for a rescheduling made by other cannabis supporters have all failed.
The plaintiffs are planning to appeal the decision, according to a statement from attorney Michael Hiller.
In a turn of coincidence, on February 15 in San Francisco, oral arguments were made in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as part of another lawsuit of potential significance to cannabis users across the country. The lawsuit is challenging a 2016 decision by the Drug Enforcement Administration to create a controlled substances code for “Marihuana Extract”, a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The DEA decision described any “extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” under this new categorization, effectively shaded in the legal gray area of hemp-derived CBD extracts being sold nation wide.
The oral arguments earlier this month gave plaintiff attorney Robert Hoban his first opportunity to directly argue the case, brought on behalf of the Hemp Industries Association and a hemp-CBD business, before federal judges, stressing that the 2014 Farm Bill had allowed federally legal hemp crops and therefore federally legal hemp extracts.
A group of 28 Congress members, consisting of 22 Democrats and eight Republicans, filed a brief in support of the HIA’s position earlier this year.
The 9th Circuit Court will now deliberate based on the arguments and fillings made, setting the stage for a monumental decision that could affect the legality of CBD products already being sold nationwide.
Both of these lawsuits potentially represent watershed moments in national cannabis policy. Stay tuned to THC for future updates.

The Endocannabinoid System

By Dr Nicola Davies


The isolation of plant-based cannabinoids in the 1960s led scientists to investigate the mechanisms by which these chemical compounds interact with the brain’s neurons (or nerve cells).[1] Indeed, the lipid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was different from other water-soluble neurotransmitters or neuromodulators known at that time, and the hypotheses was that the psychotropic effects of THC were made through membrane-related features.[2] However, it became clear that cannabinoids did indeed work through receptors, when, in 1988, a cannabinoid receptor was identified in a rat brain.[3] In the following decades further exploration was made on the constituents of the body’s own cannabinoid system.


Components of the Endocannabinoid System

The endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) includes the cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids (eCBs), and enzymes (such as fatty acid amide hydrolase) that synthesize and degrade the endocannabinoids.[4],[5]


CB1 and CB2: The Body’s Cannabinoid Receptors:

The first endogenous cannabinoid receptor, CB1, was successfully cloned in 1990,[6] while the second one, CB2, was identified in the spleen and cloned in 1993.[7] Both receptors are part of the supergroup of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which are a large and diverse set of membrane receptors that respond to a wide range of external signals, making them essential in regulating numerous bodily functions.[8],[9] Modern medicine has benefited from the more in-depth understanding of GPCRs, with some researchers estimating that up to half of marketed drugs work by binding to these receptors.[10]

The CB1 receptor was initially believed to be present primarily in the central nervous system and was known as a brain cannabinoid receptor. Currently, it is believed that CB1 is also found in peripheral organs, but only in very low levels in some places. In the brain, CB1 is the most common GPCR, with the highest concentrations (as seen in the brain of a rat) in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, cerebellum, substantia nigra, and globus pallidus. These receptors are believed to have an essential role in cognition and motivation, consistent with the high densities of CB1 in parts of the brain that govern sensory and motor functions.[11]

On the other hand, CB2 receptors were previously thought of as the peripheral receptor because it was mainly found in immune cells, but the second type of receptor has also been found within the central nervous system, although at lower densities compared to CB1. It has been proposed that CB2 is part of a general protective mechanism within the immune system of mammals. Subsequently, drugs that act by binding to CB2 are being explored for some diseases, such as liver, cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric conditions.[12],[13]


AEA and 2-AG: The Body’s Natural Cannabinoids:

The discovery of a network of cannabinoid receptors, activated by the plant-based THC (an exocannabinoid), suggested the possibility of naturally occurring lipid molecules (endocannabinoids, or eCBs) also being present inside mammals’ bodies. Since THC is lipophilic (or soluble in fat), the assumption was that endogenous cannabinoids would be lipophilic as well.[14],[15] Soon after the cloning of the cannabinoid receptors, two lipid neurotransmitters were discovered, namely, N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA (which is also known as anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning “supreme joy”) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG.[16]

AEA and 2-AG differ from other neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, in that they are not stored within nerve cells, but are created by the body as and where they are needed. The eCBs are also unlike many neurotransmitters in that their actions are pre-synaptic instead of postsynaptic. This means that the eCBs’ chemical messages are sent “backwards” through the network of neurons. Normally, most neurotransmitters are released from one neuron (the presynaptic cell), travel through a gap called the synapse, and bind to receptors on a neighboring neuron (the postsynaptic cell); it is the activated postsynaptic neuron which then starts the events that allow the chemical “message” to be spread. On the other hand, eCBs are created “on demand” from fat cells within an activated postsynaptic neuron, and travel back to the presynaptic neuron, where they bind to cannabinoid receptors.[17],[18],[19]


Enzymes in the ECS:

In the cell, eCBs are broken down by enzymes. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is responsible for breaking down AEA into arachidonic acid and ethanolamine. In addition, 2-AG is broken down by FAAH and monoacyl hydrolase. Endocannabinoids are quickly removed from the cell by a membrane transport mechanism that still needs to be further investigated. When these enzymes are suppressed, the effect of eCBs is prolonged.[20]


The Importance of Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is now widely believed to be responsible for regulating a wide range of bodily functions. It is essential for the normal operation of the central and peripheral nervous system, and has a part in the regulation of pain, chronic stress, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activities. It also plays an important role in cancer therapy, obesity management, reproduction, liver disease management, and numerous other health conditions.[21] Recently, eCBs have also been shown to be responsible for modulating affect (mood), motivation and emotions. Drugs targeting the ECS are being explored in the field of psychiatric disorders.[22]

Further research, however, is needed to gain more in-depth understanding of the complex mechanisms of this system. For instance, a third cannabinoid receptor has been hypothesized by researchers,[23] although its existence is yet to be fully demonstrated. Another example of a function of the ECS that requires more research is the membrane transport mechanism that is believed to remove eCBs from the cells.[24]

Unfortunately, cannabis research still faces numerous barriers and challenges. In a January 2017 report on the state of marijuana research, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine identified several obstacles. One of these is the lack of funding and support for the development of a national cannabis research agenda. Other challenges include the difficulty of obtaining a large enough supply of cannabis for scientific investigation, as well as securing approval to conduct studies. The drug is highly regulated by government agencies, since it is classified as a Schedule I substance. Additionally, a more rigorous set of tools and standards for research must be formulated by the cannabis-focused scientific community. Data collection methods, as well as public surveillance tools (such as national health surveys), are also in need of improvement.[25]

There is a necessity to address these barriers as they are impeding the advancement of evidence-based knowledge on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. The emerging importance of the ECS is already being seen. The capability to identify the potential ways of modulating its components could lead to the future development of a wide array of therapeutic innovations. The investigation of this important system will aid the public in understanding the numerous medicinal claims for cannabinoid-related products, as well as gain more objective insights into the potential dangers or benefits of cannabis. ♦


[1] Gaoni, Y., & Mechoulam, R. (1964). Isolation, structure and partial synthesis of an active constituent of Hashish. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 86, 1646–1647

[2] Alger, B. E. (2013). Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science2013, 14

[3] Devane, W. A., Dysarz, F. A. 3rd, Johnson, M., Melvin, L. S. and Howlett, A. C. (1988). Determination and characterization of a cannabinoid receptor in rat brain. Molecular Pharmacology, 34, 605–613

[4] Pazos M.R., Núñez, E., Benito, C., Tolón, R.M., Romero, J. (2005). Functional neuroanatomy of the endocannabinoid system. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 81 (2), 239–47DOI:10.1016/j.pbb.2005.01.030

[5] Murillo-Rodriguez, E. (Ed.) (2017). The endocannabinoid system: genetics, biochemistry, brain disorders, and therapy. London: Academic Press.

[6] Matsuda, L. A., Lolait, S. J., Brownstein, M. J., Young, A. C., & Bonner, T. I. (1990). Structure of a cannabinoid receptor and functional expression of the cloned cDNA. Nature, 346, 561–564

[7] Munro S., Thomas, K.L., Abu-Shaar, M. (1993). Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids. Nature, 365, 61–65

[8] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013). The endocannabinoid system and the brain. Annual Review of Psychology, 2013, 64, 21-47. DOI:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143739

[9] Scitable. (n.d.). GPCR. Retrieved from

[10] Ibid.

[11] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)

[12] Ibid.

[13] Cota, D., Marsicano, G., Lutz, B., Vicennati, V., Stalla, G.K., Pasquali, R., & Pagotto, U. (2003). Endogenous cannabinoid system as a modulator of food intake. International Journal of Obesity, 27, 289-301. DOI:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802250


[14] Alger, B. E. (2013)


[15] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)


[16] Ibid.


[17] Ibid.


[18] Howlett A.C., Barth F., Bonner T.I., Cabral G., Casellas P., Devane W.A., Felder C.C., Herkenham M., Mackie, K., Martin, B.R., Mechoulam, R., & Pertwee, R.G. (2002). International Union of Pharmacology. XXVII. Classification of Cannabinoid Receptors. Pharmacological Reviews, 54, 161–202. Retrieved from


[19] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2011). The science of the endocannabinoid system: how THC affects the brain and the body. Retrieved from


[20] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)


[21] Griffing, G. & Thai, A. (2015). Endocannabinoids. Retrieved from


[22] Campolongo, P., & Trezza, V. (2012). The endocannabinoid system: a key modulator of emotions and cognition. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 6, 73. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00073


[23] Samson, M., Small-Howard, A., Shimoda, L., Koblan-Huberson, M., Stokes, A., & Turner, H. (2003). Differential roles of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in mast cells. The Journal of Immunology, 170 (10), 4953-4962. DOI:10.4049/jimmunol.170.10.4953


[24] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)


[25] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI:10.17226/24625


Featured Events: January 2018

THC Fair (The Hemp and Cannabis Fair)

Date: January 20th, 2018 – January 21st, 2018

Location:  Jackson County Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Medford-Ashland, Oregon

Celebrate both halves of the cannabis plant at The Hemp and Cannabis Fair. With equal emphasis on the psychoactive varieties some would call marijuana and the non-psychoactive varieties most would call hemp, this fair is a general celebration of the plant’s legalization. Sure, calling it The Hemp and Cannabis Fair is a bit redundant, but the abbreviation wouldn’t work otherwise.


INDO EXPO – Denver, Colorado

Date: January 27th, 2018 – January 28th, 2018

Location: Denver Mart, Denver, Colorado

If you go to only one cannabis trade show this year, make sure it’s the INDO EXPO. Featuring the best in cutting edge cultivation, lighting, branding, packaging and everything else related to commercial cannabis, this trade show is the place to be for business owners and entrepreneurs. There may be no better distillation of the industry.


Cannabis Wedding Expo – Colorado 2018

Date: January 28th, 2018 

Location: Lionsgate Event Center, Lafayette, Colorado

Flowers are an integral part of every wedding, so why not incorporate the flowers of the cannabis plant into yours? With plenty of cannabis related vendors on hand, the Cannabis Wedding Expo is the place to be whether you’re looking to serve cannabis to your guest or just give a subtle nod to the plant during the ceremony.  Get Tickets


Sweet Jane’s Sativa Soiree

Date: Every Sunday between, Jan 14th, 2018 – Aug 26th, 2018

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours is looking to step up the social consumption scene with this series of posh get-togethers. Billed as a cocktail party for cannabis, the Sativa Soiree will feature hors d’oeuvres, infused mocktails and detailed information on a selection of featured sativa strains — which will, of course, be available for sampling.  Get Tickets




Hemp Shield: The Greenest Solution in Woodstaining

By Erin Hiatt, photos courtesy of Hemp Shield 


Using a wood finish, in particular for decks and wooden furniture, can serve both form and function. Wood finish can give a rich and beautiful luster while simultaneously keeping out water, protecting from the sun’s rays, slowing down the growth of molds and mildew, giving traction to the surface, and helping ease the cleaning process. But any typical finish found at your local hardware store is bound to be rife with toxic chemicals and pollutants.

However, for the eco-conscious there is a very viable, if not superior, solution. Hemp Shield is a hemp seed oil-based wood finish that may be the greenest on the market. “The thing to understand is that the revolutionary basis of Hemp Shield is the hemp seed oil molecule,” explains David Seber, president of Hemp Shield. “Turns out the hemp seed molecule oil is smaller than all the other molecules that are in oils for coatings. Therefore, not only does it penetrate the wood better, but it causes this amazing synergy among all the other components in the mixture.”

A quick glance at the label of a well-known and ubiquitous Hemp Shield competitor says, “WARNING! This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” One of the ingredients causing such mayhem is ethylene glycol, which can cause intoxication, drowsiness, or coma. Finishes also frequently contain polyurethane that contain isocyanates, considered a potential human carcinogen demonstrated to cause cancer in animal tests. Within isocyanates are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that have been shown to induce vomiting, dizziness, lung irritation, asthma and can exacerbate migraines.         


“Starting out, Hemp Shield is a new kind of a coating,” Seber begins, “It’s called a hybrid and it’s waterborne. It’s oil-based but waterborne. The first thing this does, it allows you to eliminate the amount of VOCs.” Seber, who has a long history in the wood and timber industry, wanted to stay in the business but in a way that eased his conscious regarding the environmental ramifications. “I had a redwood lumber yard,” he recalls. “And I felt that I owed dues to the forest.” The myriad uses of hemp first came to Seber’s attention through Jack Herer’s treatise on the plant, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.”

Seber’s work in the lumber business harkens back to the early ‘80s, before the environmental disregard of the Reagan administration and the machinations of Wall Street caused him to reassess the industry. “So I did a study on what we could do to replace the amount of fiber that was taken out of the forest,” he continues. “In a temperate climate, the only one that would do it was hemp.”

Seber co-created Hemp Shield with Steve Neiswander, a former research director for a prominent paint company. “I met Steve in the depths of the recession (of 2008) without [either of us] knowing what the other person did. And the truth of it is that Steve is a world-famous paint chemist who’s been in the business for 30 years,” says Seber. “We collaborated together and Steve took every trick that he learned during his 30-year career and put them into Hemp Shield.”

Neiswander’s paint expertise and Seber’s extensive timber background enabled them to create an environmentally friendly finish that performs as well or better than their less conscientious competitors. ”Hemp Shield was designed consciously,” Seber says. “We established a principal with Hemp Shield of using the greenest components, the highest quality and the highest concentration possible on the market,” Seber explains.

There is a wood finish recipe, so to speak, that creates a synergy among the ingredients to create the final product. Standard Paints, Inc. writes on its website, “stain protection is accomplished mainly by three methods: pigment, vehicle, and bio protections. These three methods are the materials left on and in the wood and endure ongoing exposure to the elements water, temperature fluctuation, and ultraviolet light.”

Pigments, made from rare earth elements, are intended to deflect UV rays known to weaken wood, and absorb certain rays of light. About pigments, Seber explains, “They dig them up and they powder them, then they put them in something for color.” To protect the wood, Hemp Shield’s pigments are processed on a micro level into what Seber describes as a tiny needle-like formation, the same type of system used on Ferrari’s and other expensive cars. This pigment formation directs UV rays sideways, allowing the color and substance of the wood to shine through the sealant.

The “vehicle” is a solvent in which the pigments are suspended, and this is where Hemp Shield can really walk its eco-friendly talk. Seber uses Canadian-sourced hemp seed oil as his vehicle, another method to keep the environmental costs down. The hemp plant is known to grow well in a variety of climates and needs little water, pesticides, or fungicides. It has the additional benefit of being an excellent plant for crop rotation because it replenishes rather than depletes soil like many other crops.

And lastly, biocides, or bio protections, also present in wood finishes, are chemical substances intended to kill harmful organisms like mold and mildew by biological means. “Hemp Shield does have biocides in it,” says Seber. “We’ve tested them for toxicity. Hemp Shield is .00126 parts by volume. That’s less than your body, or my body, or any plant or animal in our environment.”

Seber says that using hemp seed oil helps improve the performance of the other ingredients, and that it’s not just for decks. “You can use it for anything made out of wood,” he says. Hemp Shield has in stock a formula intended for log cabins and can also be used on canvas. “Hemp Shield has no HAP (hazardous air pollutants),” he adds. “There are no fumes to Hemp Shield, you can use it inside.”

Mitigating environmental fallout continues to top Seber’s priority list. “From the very beginning, my main interest has been about the environment and I don’t think we have a lot of decades left before we have to do something heavy duty,” he says. “We don’t have enough time right now to do something about the paper or the textile [issues] before you kill everyone! That’s why I concentrate on Hemp Shield.” ♦



Forever Furniture: Classically Modern Designs in Hemp

by Amanda Pampuro

Rosemary Neary working hard.

Can sustainable furniture save the world? Against all odds, Resin Rose LLC believes that’s the first step. Beginning in a state hell-bent on prohibition, diving headfirst into a market saturated with cheap, mass-produced furniture, the husband-wife duo is creating custom forever furniture with sturdy steel frames and sustainable hardwoods, all upholstered in hemp.

When they first set up shop in Austin, Texas circa 2014, the humble artisans found their first roadblock in explaining to local furniture dealers their pieces weren’t supposed to be smoked.

“We were making this furniture because it was what we believed in, and we couldn’t sell it to save our life,” laughed Rosemary Neary. “All the furniture places all around town, what they said was, ‘Well, who’s going to smoke it?’”

With a formal background in fashion design, Neary has been involved in cannabis activism through NORML for many years. She first met Resin Galvao at Austin’s Yellow Jacket Social Club and knew immediately they were in for a wild ride.

“First of all, he had a real mullet at the time because he was living in Chile, [and] he superimposed his mullet face onto an ‘80’s Jordache ad. I had just gotten off work and he was like, ‘So, what do you do?’ and I was like, ‘Hold on bud, let me just get a drink.’ And he was like, ‘Well, I used to model for Jordache,’ and throws this picture in my face. Then he proceeded to show me an entire calendar of himself in a speedo with this same mullet, and I’m like, ‘You gotta be kidding me. Who are you?!’” Neary recalled, adding lovingly, “We’ve been together, laughing and traveling ever since. We pretty much packed a bag and went on a long road trip after that, and that was it.”

Resin Galvao sewing

Described by Neary as a spatial genius, Resin Galvao first learned how to crochet from his mom. While touring with the Grateful Dead, Galvao was known for hitchhiking with a sewing machine, a cooler, a lawn chair, and a sign calling out “Let’s Carpool.” Galvao made a living at rest stops sewing and selling hemp hats with custom embroidery, and hiding stash pockets in clothing.

“I was known for having all the best stash pockets,” he said. “I had like 15 stash pockets all over my clothes and they were super hidden.”

While selling his wares on tour with Phish, Galvao met EnviroTextiles founder Barbara Filippone from whom he still sources hemp fabric.

In Lake Tahoe, Galvao apprenticed under Dave Nuoffer at Al’s Upholstery Shop before launching Green Foot Furniture in Austin in 2009, where he milled pallets into high-end furniture. Here, training and trade came together and Galvao made his first hemp couch.

Today, Neary and Galvao can be found on the shores of Lake Tahoe in Truckee, California, where they run upholstery services as the Tufted Door and create original sustainable furniture as Resin Rose LLC.

Though their mission is pure and their products come with a 25-year guarantee, they’ve still found that “forever furniture” simply isn’t really in fashion.

“Most furniture is made in India or China, and it’s made for pennies,” said Galvao. “It’s really hard to break through into the industry because of all the competition and how cheaply stuff is made. It’s hard to get people to understand how dangerous [cheap fire retardant is], or how clean what we’re making is, and what they’re paying for is the cleanliness and the strength of it.”

Resin Rose products are built to be heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next.

“Everything [else] is meant to break and fall apart so you buy more. That’s the consumer culture,” Neary said, taking a jab at fiberboard kingpins like Ikea.

“There’s just no more room for that stuff, the population is growing and growing. You have to be more responsible and we’re trying to do our part,” Neary continued. “It disgusts me a little bit — you just go around on trash pickup day and every single neighborhood is filled with mattresses and couches, and it’s toxic.”

“We could have made our furniture out of any material, but we couldn’t stand behind it,” Galvao said of his choice to use only hemp fabrics.  “We believe in it and it’s very satisfying, being responsible like that.”

The couple’s latest design is a completely modular set made to evolve with its owners. At its core, the Resin Rose line is a steel frame sandwiched into sheets of wood, with slots for arms and custom cushions.

“Basically, it can be a couch, it can be a chair, it can be an ottoman, it can be a sectional, it could be a chaise, it could be anything,” Galvao explained.

Neary and Galvao have filled their home with furniture of their own design and making, and share it all with their American bulldogs Marsha Mellow and Barbarella.

In addition to making furniture, Neary and Galvao teach upholstery classes on Tuesdays at the Truckee Roundhouse makerspace. Neary notes that their teaching styles compliment each other — after Galvao likes to launch into a project like a mad scientist throwing around jargon and supplies, Neary slows down and shows techniques step by deliberate step. The couple love to share their knowledge and watch what others in their community are able to create.

By sharing their knowledge and creating lasting products, these two couch potatoes just might have what it takes to save the world — one living room at a time. ♦



Palmetto Harmony’s Commercial is Accepted as First National TV Spot for a Cannabis Based Product

Cannabis is going primetime with the first nationally televised ad for a cannabis-derived product. Palmetto Harmony made history this month by securing the first advertisement of its kind for their line of hemp-derived CBD products set to air across the nation.

The 30-second TV spot (which was produced by DCP Media in conjunction with THC Productions, the video division of The Hemp Connoisseur) is set to air on several nationwide cable networks as well as 71 local stations, featuring the innocuous imagery one would expect from just about any wellness product on the market. What the ad doesn’t feature is any mention of cannabis or the cannabinoids contained in Palmetto Harmony’s products. 

“Because it’s a national commercial, we had to be very, very careful what we say,” says Palmetto Harmony CEO Janel Ralph. “In order to get our foot in the door this is the way it needs to be structured.” 

The ad may represent a watershed moment in the marketing of cannabis products, but Ralph is all too aware of the fine line required to not just have the ad approved for national broadcast, but to avoid offending federal food and drug regulators. Claims of efficacy are out of the question without scientific studies backing them, a problem raised by a series of FDA warning letters sent to several CBD sellers in September. 

With the threat of a federal crackdown looming larger than ever, the ad would seem to represent at least a slight tempt of fate, but Ralph isn’t concerned. “If I conduct myself in a state of fear of what would happen then nothing will ever get done, so I can’t do that,” she says.

Ralph says that Palmetto operates legally under the 2014 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp pilot programs under certain conditions. The CBD in Palmetto’s products is sourced from state-legal grows in Kentucky and Colorado, and as for the ad, she’s being incredibly cautious, hoping that it will lead viewers to the company’s website, where the products’ cannabinoid content is apparent and customer reviews serve as the only indication of its use in the treatment of any medical conditions — though even this gives her some reservations.  

With as much surety as one can have in the situation, Ralph is more than happy to be the first to make such a stand. “I’ve never felt like I have an illegal business because I don’t,” she says confidently.  

Navigating all of this means that Ralph has to spend less time on her business and more time acting as a lobbyist, lawyer or politician just to be sure that she is staying within the not-so-clearly scribed lines. “I have to wear many hats,” she says. “It comes at you from so many different directions.”

But for Ralph, this tumultuous dance is worth the hassle. “I love and respect this industry, even though it’s wasn’t something I ever wanted to actually be in,” she says.

Ralph founded Palmetto Harmony after struggling to find worthwhile CBD products to treat her daughter’s lissencephaly, a rare disorder in which the brain fails to develop its characteristic folds, leading intractable seizures. Ralph began her ingress into the world of CBD treatment as many parents do, hoping to find a miraculous solution overlooked by the medical establishment, which led her to found the Facebook group CBD 4 Children w/ Epilepsy.

“I figured if I created a platform for these people that are looking for it, then eventually somebody would step up and supply them,” says Ralph. “That was a horrible mistake.”

Rather than serving as a source for product information, the page introduced her to what she refers to as the “Facebook industry” of CBD sellers. In the gray market of online CBD products, Ralph found a wealth of dubious vendors and few properly labeled products. “Most of them didn’t even have CBD in them, to be honest with you,” she says. Some of these products were high in THC, she claims, and some even contained potentially harmful contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides.

The ordeal propelled Ralph into the cannabis industry, where she linked up with a Kentucky-based farmer growing high-CBD hemp to treat his own epileptic child during the first year of the state’s pilot program, and in March of 2015 she launched Palmetto Harmony.

The company takes its name from Ralph’s home state of South Carolina — known as the Palmetto State — and Ralph’s very first customer: her daughter, Harmony.

While the company sources its hemp CBD from subcontracted farms in Colorado and Kentucky, its manufacturing facility is in South Carolina, making Palmetto Harmony the state’s first cannabis company, according to Ralph. South Carolina’s hemp program will be coming online next year, and Ralph is planning to move into their 45,000-square-foot growing facility to allow for further expansion of production.

Ralph’s goal at Palmetto is to address the issues she found when first entering the CBD marketplace as a consumer. She’s striving for transparency in sourcing and verifiable cannabinoid, terpene and contaminant readouts from by labs certified by the International Organization for Standardization that can be independently verified by consumers.  

Ralph is a lifelong customer of her own company, having replaced 95 percent of the drugs prescribed to her daughter with CBD products manufactured by her company. She’s posted her daughter’s before and after EEG images on her personal Facebook page, showing what Harmony’s neurologist described as nothing short of divine intervention. “It is so shocking that anybody with a layman’s eyes can see how her brain, on every single level, has now woken up and started to function and connect together,” Ralph says of the images.

Of course, none of this is apparent in the ad, or in any of the company’s marketing material. Instead, Ralph is relying on the curiosity of potential customers and the reviews of existing ones on the website to elucidate the company’s television spot. But even with this cautious approach, Palmetto Harmony is making historic progress. ♦

Palmetto Harmony TV Commercial from DCP Media Production LLC on Vimeo.

Meet Kondo: Small Housing With Big Potential

By Matthew Van Deventer


Interior View

New York restaurateur Ryan Chadwick found it challenging to find comfortable, affordable employee housing for his workforce — so he’s building his own housing out of hemp.

“The biggest thing is building the prototype and I wanted to make sure it had hemp involved in it because I want to make these as sustainable and energy efficient as possible,” says Chadwick who owns seven restaurants mostly in resort towns — he’s on a mission to provide them with a solution to their often limited supply of affordable employee housing.

Originally, Chadwick had been buying vacation homes for his staff in towns like Nantucket, which proved to be very expensive. He looked to a cheaper option: houseboats. Employees could be stationed near their work, have a comfortable place to live for the season, and it was a little easier on the company funds. 

However, two of his restaurants, The Grey Lady and Escobar, are in Aspen, Colorado (The Grey Lady is also in New York City) where he lives part of the year. 

“So, I went from buying homes in resort towns, in Nantucket, which is quite expensive, to buying house boats and having people live on house boats.” But Chadwick quickly realized, “I can’t take a houseboat to Aspen with me. So, then I decide I make these homes that are moveable.” The serial entrepreneur kicked in: “Then I started thinking maybe I should make a business of it.” 

Which is exactly what he’s doing with Kondo.

Each unit is anchored into a trailer with wheels and when it’s set up for the season a skirt will go around them so they don’t look like trailer homes. 

Two 200-square-foot units connect to each other sleeping five.  Five sets of two units will go on a half-acre lot, ideally located near docs, beaches, ski resorts or wherever is convenient for people to get to and from work.

A pilot program of six conjoined units that will sleep 30 people is slated to launch next summer in Montauk. At $150 a bed per week, these units are $50 cheaper than what companies pay on average, says Chadwick.

In the first unit, a guest would enter through floor to ceiling sliding glass doors into a common room with a loft above. The kitchen is on the back wall, a bathroom with a shower is to the left, and above it another loft area. Take a right and they’ll head right into the second unit with sleeping space and another common area. 

“[They’re] kind of like sailboats turned upside down. Like an inverted sailboat attached to a trailer that’s attached to a truck,” says Chadwick. 

The goal is to have the modulars made of 50 percent hemp, the rest being materials like aluminum inserts in the walls for support, the steel trailer, and insulation. The outer walls will be made of a fiberglass and hemp matting in a poly-based resin infused into a seamless mold. In between the interior and exterior walls will be a foam insulation used in conventional houses. They are also looking into what it would take to furnish them with hemp furniture. 

Kentucky-based fiber manufacturer Sunstrand provides Chadwick with non-woven hemp mats made specially for the homes. 

Patrick Flaherty, director of product development for Sunstrand, says the hemp material is largely aesthetic and isn’t providing much structural support. But the product they developed for Chadwick could eventually replace a lot of the fiberglass in the house and other buildings.  

“It’s in there mostly as aesthetic,” explains Flaherty, “but this is getting us down the road where it can be used as actual reinforcements.” 

Hemp is lighter than traditional building materials, which means the homes will be even easier to transport, which is the plan.

In Aspen, where Chadwick plans on having Kondo offices, there are about 3,000 affordable units, “and it’s still not enough,” says Deputy Director of Aspen/Pitken Housing Authority, Cindy Christensen. Nineteen percent of the workers are seasonal employees while the rest live there full time, and retirees can keep the house they are living in, which takes it off the market. 

At one point the city aimed to supply 60 percent of the necessary workforce housing, but they came up short. Now there’s enough for less than half the employees. The median price of a house in Aspen is $575,000 according to the online residential real estate site Trulia. The average price per square foot is $861 and the average monthly rent is a whopping $24,000— a price difficult to pay for those working hourly position in  the hospitality industry.

Rendering of a Kondo community.

There’s more trouble too. “We don’t have a lot of land left to tell you the truth so you’re kind of limited to the kind of projects you can do,” says Christensen. 

In the past, the city required developers to reserve 70 percent of each project for the city’s workforce, putting the remaining units on the free market. However, in today’s economy, that doesn’t turn a profit.

The latest initiative involves giving credits to builders who complete a wholly employee housing project. That developer can then sell the credits to another builder so they don’t have to build units for the workforce. 

Aspen housing has already been looking into incorporating tiny homes into the workforce housing plan, but it would take reworking the city’s zoning code. Tiny homes tend to be in the 200 square foot range and Aspen dictates units can be no smaller than 500 square feet. 

A company like Kondo could be a major asset to a city like Aspen.

But Chadwick isn’t stopping with Aspen. He plans on hiring someone to oversee his restaurant group so he can focus on Kondo full time. He’s talking about rotating his fleet seasonally to supply major resort towns across the country with sustainable, comfortable and affordable hemp housing for their workforces. ♦

Sana Packaging: Packaging Cannabis with Cannabis

by Matthew Van Deventer

One Denver company, expected to go into full-scale production in early 2018, is packaging cannabis with cannabis. 

“Our vision for this company is to be able to package cannabis with cannabis products and cannabis waste and really close the resource loop here and get rid of a lot of the waste we already have,” says Ron Basak-Smith, co-founder and CEO of Sana Packaging. 

Sana wanted to not only make a more environmentally friendly packaging option for the legal cannabis industry, but also upend the design completely. Their top product right now is an eighth-ounce container that will compete with the pill-bottle-like containers dispensaries sell flower in. Sana’s containers looks more like Tupperware made out of bioplastics, which can easily be stacked, shipped and stored. 

James Eichner, Sana’s chief strategy officer, who helped found the company, estimates they can cut shipping costs by half with their containers because they stack into each other as opposed to the current cylindrical models, which are bulky and shipped loose. 

“We felt those were just very inefficient, not to mention it still has the connotation of a pill bottle. It’s sort of one degree removed from that,” Eichner says. They’ll be able to ship at least twice as many of their containers to clients in the same amount of space. “So we just wanted to take a wholesome approach to sustainability.”

Sana Packaging started when Basak-Smith approached Eichner in the 2016 summer of their MBA program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. They ran with the idea, using it for their internship project in the fall, creating their first prototype with a 3-D printer that uses hemp-based plastic. In February this year they were accepted into Canopy Boulder, a seed-stage business accelerator for cannabis start-ups, and began working out the details of their packaging with engineers and manufacturers. 

Eichner and Basak-Smith don’t deal with the actual material themselves but those that do often had a hard time grasping the legality of everything. Not every engineering company or product manufacturer was up to the challenge of sourcing or working with hemp because if the material they got was above the legal limit, they’d be violating federal law. Not only that, not everyone is aware of the differences between marijuana and hemp, still. 

Further, because the legal THC limit, .3 percent, is so low, farmers are hesitant to grow it, which keeps prices high, making some products like Sana Packaging’s difficult to make cost effective. It never stopped them though. The Sana duo found a plastic manufacturer out of North Dakota willing to work hemp into plastic pellets, which are then shipped just over 100 miles away to a manufacturer in Minnesota where the pellets are infused into a mold for the final product. 

Eichner and Basak-Smith pride themselves in being able to develop a solely domestic supply chain and still push out an affordable product that will only get cheaper as the number of production facilities increase and hemp prices decrease. 

“We tried really hard to set up a fully domestic supply chain from our manufacturing and production. And what’s been really great is that drove us to find a really great pellet supplier out of North Dakota and we will be manufacturing just over 100 miles away in Minnesota,” explains Eichner. “We’ve been able to keep it domestic and we’re able to support the U.S. hemp industry and we’re able to minimize the size of our footprint,”

Based off of industry projections, Basak-Smith and Eichner estimate the cannabis industry will toss out one billion pieces of single-use packaging annually by 2020, a number they use when talking with potential clients. 

The two toured the West Coast with their concept in June and received positive feedback. However, they were advised to have a presence there because of how fast the industry is transforming — Eichner is stationed in Los Angeles, setting up to catch the recreational wave when stores start popping up next year, while Basak-Smith is poised for the Colorado market. 

And seeing as the industry is still young, Eichner says they see this as an opportunity to “right the ship before we get too ingrained in the ways things are being done.” 

Their packaging is 100 percent plant-based, though for now only 30 percent of it is hemp — that’s all their engineers were able to get it to — the rest is made up of corn plastic. They are still ahead of the game, however. Many hemp plastic products in the industry max out at about 10 percent, according to Eichner. 

Photo courtesy of Sana Packaging

Their product molds should be ready this month, with product in-hand shortly thereafter, and they’ll be fully operational in January of 2018. Along with the eighth-ounce flagship container, Sana Packaging will make quarter-ounce, half-ounce, ounce sizes, and pre-rolled joint containers. Also available to Sana clients are graphic design services so retailers can have their logo on the packaging. They can do paper and cardboard packaging, but those can be prohibitively expensive due to the lack of paper mills in the country willing to work with hemp.

Basak-Smith anticipates costs going down as hemp becomes more widely accepted, more farmers grow it, and processing facilities move in. Eventually, their packages will be made entirely out of hemp plastic. It’s just another motivation for getting into the business — add to the supply and drive costs down. 

“The biggest pinpoint that we feel is the price of hemp,” says Basak-Smith. “We hope that by doing this on scale and seeing hemp take off as an agriculture crop we’ll see the prices drop as more people begin to farm [hemp] as we see regulations and the general culture around it change. So we hope to be able to make a mainstream consumer product cheap enough, made out of hemp, and we see the cannabis market as a good place to start doing that.” ♦

Reducing Cross-Pollination in Cannabis Cultivars

by Caren Kershner       

Here in Colorado, one of the questions I am often asked as a hemp grower is “How will this affect my marijuana grow?” Marijuana is big business in our state, and seedy buds, although appropriate for some applications, are not a usually a grower’s first choice. And, on the flip side, hemp farmers definitely do not want to grow hybrids high in THC the following season. So, how can we resolve the situation so that everyone benefits?

First, let’s consider some of the reasons we might want to avoid cross-pollination. Probably the most obvious reason is that there are lots of cannabis growers here, some who are growing resin types for the medical and recreational ‘marijuana’ markets or for personal use, and others who are growing hemp for a variety of applications. Hemp, by definition in our state, must contain less than 0.3 percent Delta9 THC, far less than what is offered at dispensaries. Non-hemp cannabis growers most certainly do not want to see their crop become heavily seeded from hemp pollen, while any cannabis grower who is harvesting for seed wants to maintain the purity of the cultivar. Hemp growers in particular do not want to see the THC levels increase the following season, as much as marijuana growers do not want to see those THC levels decrease. Avoiding cross-pollination guarantees that the levels in all cases stay reasonably constant.

Next, we must realize that there are many factors that can result in pollination. Some of these factors can be controlled or reduced, while others are pretty much out of our control. That does not mean, however, that we cannot be proactive in managing our grows.

As you may already know, cannabis can be either monoecious or dioecious. Monoecious varietals have both male and female parts on the same plant, while dioecious cultivars have separate male and female plants. Only the male ‘flowers’ produce pollen.

How does pollination occur? In simple terms, pollen — those dusty specks of haploid genes from the flowers of male cannabis plants (or monoecious cannabis plants) — reaches a female cannabis flower and initiates seed development. Insects, especially bees, will often transfer pollen, but birds and other insects can do so as well. These pollinators are probably the most difficult to control — after all, who doesn’t want to see birds and bees in their gardens? There are also two-legged organisms, namely us, who can be responsible for the transfer by visiting a pollinating hemp field, then a marijuana grow — or vice versa — without changing clothes, showering, etc. And don’t forget the other animals that might spread a little pollen around, everything from domestic dogs to the deer that love to browse the cannabis plants. It takes very little pollen to start the process of seed development.

Another source of pollination is the result of hermaphroditic plants. Some plants seem genetically predisposed to becoming hermies when exposed to any stress, be it a change in temperature, lighting or pests. Often just a small branch will produce a male ‘flower’, but it is enough to develop pollen and result in a few seeds. In some cases, this is inconsequential. The problem occurs when one has no idea about the source of the pollen, making any viable seeds questionable for future cultivation.

Pollen from hemp is fairly heavy, loses viability within a fairly short time and has a limited range. So unless there is a fierce wind or a nearby pollinator, it does not travel far. Canada has a proposed distance of five kilometers (approximately three miles) between cultivars, and farmers there do not report problems with cross-pollination. Still, cross-pollination does occur in Colorado occasionally, and hemp usually gets the blame when it does. Several of our local canna-cultivators found a few seeds in their grows this past year; the new hemp farms in the area were an easy target as being the culprits.

My personal experience was different — I have grown both marijuana and hemp in close proximity and had no problems with cross-pollination. However, one season medical/recreational cannabis pollen fertilized a hemp plant in my field, and the resulting hybrid had eight times the THC of the parent hemp plant, making it virtually useless for propagation.

There are several methods of reducing cross-pollination that are fairly simple. Surrounding cannabis plants with other, taller plants will help trap pollen. Sunflowers seem especially useful in this capacity with their height and hairy stems and leaves. For a farmer who plans to use the same field for several years, perennials like hollyhocks or biennials like mullein could be used to border the field. These plants will reseed freely and form a living fence around the area.

Indoor grows can use HEPA filters and regulate ambient air pressures to keep pollen at bay. Hemp farmers can deadhead the males as they form pollen sacs and hand pollinate the females, although this is not realistic for a large acreage. Hempsters can also plant dioecious varieties and cull the males when they begin to flower- male plants tend to produce pollen sacs a week to ten days before female flowers begin to bud. Many hemp farmers now grow from clones, just like marijuana growers, and some keep their plants indoors for the entire season. Education, especially for new growers, should always be a given; many are not aware that male and female flowers have totally different morphologies or that cannabis plants can be either monoecious or dioecious, so share accurate information with them.

Here in Colorado, these plant cousins need to coexist. All cultivars of cannabis have equal opportunities to emerge as viable alternatives for food, fiber, fuel, medicine, recreation and countless other applications. Hemp, however, is generally grown over larger tracts of land than other cannabis cultivars. Because adult marijuana growers are asked by the state to grow their plants in an enclosed, locked space, observing this protocol will certainly limit the amount of pollen reaching their plants. Larger outdoor marijuana grows present more of a challenge, although a secure fence could block most of the drift, and interplantings could assist as pollen traps.

Another technique has been suggested, although the water situation at my hemp research field in Colorado has prevented me from adopting it. Misting the male flowers early in the morning before they open is said to keep the pollen from floating away. This seems practical for a small grow, but could be tricky with large acreage, unless pivot sprinklers were available. Then the overhead watering in the morning could easily trap the pollen and keep it from drifting. Staggered plantings may offer another solution. Since cannabis cultivars have a wide range of growing seasons, plantings could be arranged so that one cultivar is ready to harvest just as another begins to flower, even with the short seasons we face in parts of Colorado.

In closing, possibly the single best thing we can do as cannabis growers of any kind is to communicate with our neighbors. This is especially important if we are growing hemp and know that someone nearby is growing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. Keeping tabs on the flowering times of plants in your neighborhood can definitely save some grief at harvest and supporting one another can only lead to better opportunities for all.

Colorado has the opportunity to lead the country with innovative methods of benefitting each and every cannabis farmer, no matter what the intended end use of the plant. Let’s show the rest of the country the way! ♦



Developing the Future: Sunstrand is Making Construction Greener

by Matthew Van Deventer


Kentucky-based fiber manufacturer Sunstrand is taking product development into their own hands. 

The company originally focused on processing raw, natural fibers like hemp, kenaf, and bamboo harvested by farmers, working them to the client’s specifications for their own applications. More and more clients went to Sundstrand requesting they develop a proof of concept asking, “Can we offset a traditional synthetic material with our material,” said Patrick Flaherty, a seasoned mechanical engineer and Sunstrand’s director of product development. “So, we’ll play around in the lab.” 

Last December, they started looking at a variety of products they could start developing themselves, ones that would be widely accepted, yet cost effective while still utilizing hemp. They narrowed those down to about six ideas and are planning to launch two of them in the next year, a hemp hurd board and hemp insulation. 

While the two products aren’t necessarily party conversation, they do represent the longtime dream of a fringe industry nearing the mainstream by making quality, everyday hemp products. 

Flaherty says they start off “tensile testing” new products or performing small, basic pressure tests on them to get an understanding of what they need to do next with that product.

“Our whole goal was to meet or beat the existing products out there,” said Flaherty regarding the hurd board. They could have just made any slipshod job of a hemp hurd board because what it’s made of can be harvested every 90 days, as opposed to wood, which is harvested after decades of growth. So even a mediocre product would still be more environmentally friendly. But Sundstrand isn’t into mediocrity. 

Flaherty continued, “But we still have to meet or beat performance metrics. You don’t want to buy it because it’s hemp, you want to buy it because it has value. So we want to make sure it does that.”. 

The hemp-hurd board, which is scheduled to be released in the last quarter of the year, is about 35 pounds and has a “real neat texture,” according to Flaherty. It is competitive in strength and thickness and could be used in building structures, but the four-foot by eight-foot board won’t be cost effective right now at $100 each. It will, however, be comparable to other decorative wall boards on the market or could be used as substrate—walling other materials can be attached to—or used for sound mitigation. 

Their other product they chose to focus on is a hemp-mat insulation. Again, it will be competitive with  other natural-material insulation rolls a builder could put between two-by-fours to insulate a house. Small green builders more apt to spend a little extra for sustainable products will be their target market until their cost point meets the demands of larger box retailers.  

You won’t see it on the shelves next to the fiberglass rolls, “but eventually it could fit on the shelf right next to the other stuff, because currently the cotton shoddy stuff [fits there] as well,” said Flaherty. The R-13 insulation, the value you’ll find at Home Depot or Lowe’s, will come in eight-foot rolls, three inches thick, and 16 inches wide. They expect to release it the first quarter of next year. 

“We narrowed it down to the hurd-board and the insulation basically because no one else is doing it or people have done it in the past but weren’t successful with it, and we felt with our expertise we could be,” noted Flaherty. 

They’ll also be releasing a hemp spray application that can be used in existing fiberglass chopper guns. The device chops up fiberglass material to be sprayed onto surfaces. It creates that web-like surface on things like bathtubs, hot tubs, boats and recreational vehicles. 

Flaherty says an aerospace company is interested in using the hemp spray-up for their tooling — molds that help make other composite parts. Because it’s made out of hemp, more of the material can be sprayed on without making the finished piece too heavy. ♦





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