Business

Forever Furniture: Classically Modern Designs in Hemp
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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
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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
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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
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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.” ♦

Developing the Future: Sunstrand is Making Construction Greener
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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. ♦

 

Water Rights for Hemp: Bureau of Reclamation Defines Cannabis Growers’ Water Rights
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by Matthew Van Deventer

 

Until recently, the federal Bureau of Reclamation had one policy regarding cannabis growers and water rights: if you’re growing cannabis, you have no right to water. In the eyes of the federal government, hemp and marijuana are both considered controlled substances; therefore, it is illegal for cultivators of either variety of cannabis to pull from federal water projects.

When a hemp farmer in Montana went to draw water from a federal project to water her crops, the bureau, which delivers water to districts around the country, realized their policy was aimed at marijuana growers, not necessarily hemp farmers. But by the time the dust settled and the bureau realized the farmer was in the right, it was too late to save the crop.

Kim Phillips moved to Montana from Idaho to grow hemp under the state’s recently approved pilot program, according to a US News report. She’d spent two years getting everything ready to legally grow it and sunk $6,000 into this year’s crop, which was initially watered only by rain. Once summer hit, Phillips tried getting water from the Helena Valley Irrigation District, a federal water project, but was denied and her first ever hemp crop ended up as waste.

While the net result was a waste of time, money and effort for Phillips, the incident brought attention to the outdated policy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

When states like Washington and Colorado began legalizing marijuana, water districts requested a policy defining whether or not cannabis cultivators are eligible for federal water from the bureau, says Daniel DuRay, public affairs chief for the Bureau of Reclamation in Washington D.C., which oversees water districts in 17 western states.

Per the districts’ request, the bureau released a policy that, like just about every other federal body, lumped hemp and marijuana together as a Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, cannabis growers of any kind couldn't pull water from federal facilities.

After everything that happened in Montana with Phillips, things have changed and the bureau has revised their policy to reflect industrial hemp pilot programs, which are approved by the federal government.

DuRay explains further: “From our position we’re talking about use of water under the Controlled Substances Act and now we’re at a position for industrial hemp in these pilot program states when they’ve obtained the permit, as the legislation requires, we consider that to be like any other crop because we’re neutral. Because frankly, it’s not controlled by the substances act any longer by virtue of this pilot program that has been created.”

As for marijuana growers, they still fall under controlled substances when it comes to water rights and are ineligible for federal water. Because of how water is delivered to the end user, there are some stipulations.

While hemp farmers licensed under their state’s industrial hemp pilot program can pull from federal projects, commercial farmers operating independently or without that license cannot.

Marijuana cultivators cannot pull directly from any federal water projects regardless of licensing. However, in the case of commingled water, where federal and state water are mixed, anyone can use it since federal regulators aren’t likely to try and figure out what percentage of water belongs to whom.

David Bush, an attorney for Hoban Law Group, says water rights are a “creature of state law.” Federal water is distributed to state districts, who then distribute it to their customers.

The Bureau of Reclamation still could, in theory at least, request that the district not deliver water to cannabis growers and trust that they do so. They could also restrict the amount of water they release to a district if they know cannabis is being grown there. Maybe a 100-acre district is to get one gallon of water per acre of farmland, but two of those acres are hemp or marijuana. The bureau could restrict those two gallons.

“I think that is the pressure that the Bureau of Reclamation is exerting,” says Bush. “It’s more of they short change what they would ordinarily give you. The hope is then that the [division] turns to their marijuana growers and say, ‘We can’t help you guys because we’re not going to short change our alfalfa growers and our corn growers because you want to have this illegal plant on your property.”

While it is a strategy the bureau could implement, Bush is unsure whether or not this is actually happening

DuRay says, the Bureau of Reclamation is not in the investigative or enforcement business — they’re in the water business. In the event that a cannabis cultivator is found breaking the law, the bureau reports them to the Department of Justice to take legal action if they so choose. And he says that’s happened maybe five times.

When asked about whether or not it’s caused friction in the hemp industry, Bush says, “It creates tremendous friction to the point where in this past [legislative session] in Colorado we passed a state statute.” That bill, titled the Recognize Industrial Hemp for Agricultural Water Right, was opposed by both the Farm Bureau and the Colorado Water Congress, but still managed to clear both houses nearly unanimously.

Bush admits the statute will have no effect on federal law nor the Bureau of Reclamation’s policy. It’s more of a political statement that Colorado is on the side of the cannabis cultivators.

“This is a political statement that Colorado isn’t playing this game — that they are not going to roll over and try to enforce some Bureau of Reclamation policy. If the Bureau of Reclamation wants to get in people’s faces who are growing hemp or marijuana and try to withhold water, they’re not going to get help from the state to do that. That’s what the statute does,” explains Bush.

As for Phillips in Montana, she will have to try again next year and go down as the sacrificial farmer who moved the bureau to get their policies straight.

DuRay says, “It didn’t happen fast enough to protect that crop up there, and we regret that and we encourage that grower to come back next season and to do that again. And we are certainly well aware of the situation and we believe we are fully synchronized with the pilot program legislation.” ♦

See the full policy here: https://www.usbr.gov/recman/temporary_releases/pectrmr-63.pdf

Legal or Not: The Precarious Place of Hemp in North Dakota
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By Matthew Van Deventer

 

Outside Hettinger, North Dakota, a small town of about 1,200 residents in the state’s southwest corner, Lyle Freerksen was at work when he got a call from someone claiming to be from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. They needed to take samples of his hemp crop for a routine THC test. This was no surprise to him, and he had nothing to hide. Freerksen had given all of his contact information to local authorities and made himself available for any and all questions or concerns. More importantly, he had a valid license to grow hemp from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) and understood that at some point they would need to test his crop.

 

Later that day, Freerksen called the NDDA representative to offer his assistance and meet him at his house for the samples. However, they had already taken samples and needed to meet Freerksen to sign some papers.

 

“Which I though was kind of fishy, because I felt like I should be present for when they take their samples, because who knows where the samples are coming from,” says Freerksen. “But then again, I had no reason to suspect foul-play of any kind. I thought I was being open and honest with everything.”

 

When Freerksen got to the meeting location, there was a uniformed police officer and another man in plain clothes; nothing beyond what he would expect of a routine crop inspection. However, they arrested Freerksen and charged him with cultivation of a controlled substance and intent to distribute.

 

By then, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations had searched his house, confiscated his guns, cash, unused pipes and a bong, and burned down all 273 hemp plants he’d been cultivating.

 

Freerksen asked if they had tested his plants. They said they had, and Freerksen asked what the THC level was. They didn’t know.

 

“I gave it my test and my test said it’s marijuana,” Freerksen remembers the plain clothes officer saying. They threatened him with 20 years in jail. However, Freerksen was only in jail for about three days, and the charges were lowered to possession of paraphernalia.

 

He estimates his crop was worth about $140,000. Freerksen said once he got out of jail, he heard that every road leading up to his house was blocked off a half mile away, police were heavily armed and reinforcements had come from several surrounding towns. When he returned home, he found they had burned his hemp plants by circling them with his own firewood and cut every watering hoses about six inches from the spigot, burning those as well.

 

“What Mr. Freerksen had was a permit from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture for the growing of hemp. They were very clear in the letters they sent to him and in the permitting process that that does not, by itself, give him permission to grow hemp,” says State Attorney Aaron Roseland of Adams County, North Dakota, who was charged with reviewing the case.

 

Roseland says, the permit “opens the door” for Freerksen to apply to the state’s pilot program or work with a university, so that he can grow hemp under an entity licensed with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

 

While Freerksen denies getting any such communication from the NDDA saying he couldn’t grow hemp, he says they did warn him he wasn’t protected federally.

 

“I knew that growing cannabis would be illegal under federal law regardless of a state permit, yes. As is everyone else in the country currently growing hemp or marijuana under any state law that may exist in that state, medical or otherwise,” says Freerksen. To his knowledge, no DEA agents were involved in the raid.

Stripped hemp farm in North Dakota.

So he reapplied for a permit on his own, went through all the necessary steps, including a background check and finger printing, and soon got a certified letter in the mail with his hemp license. After that, he heard nothing from the NDDA despite repeatedly trying to establish a connection with them and regularly inquiring about THC sampling.

 

According to the North Dakota Century Code, residents can grow industrial hemp so long as they have a license from the Department of Agriculture to do so.

 

“That’s why there was no case maintained against him and the charges are dropped. There are no criminal charges now pending against Freerksen.” Roseland continues to clarify, “Because upon review, I found there was not a factual basis to support the maintaining of a charge.”

 

“They gave him a license. They knew he was growing hemp. Now, if they had a question about it, why would they send out law enforcement with a search warrant—it was just completely uncalled for and heavy handed,” says Eric Steenstra, current president of Vote Hemp. “If they had a real question about it, they could have gone down there and talked to him. There had to be some confusion or major error. I have no idea what led to this, but clearly it was unfounded, because they dropped the charges.”

 

Steenstra was the Executive Director of Hemp Industries Association when he heard about Freerksen’s case. They offered to defend Freerksen, but he declined and took the plea. Steenstra did do some digging at the time, but North Dakota officials “weren’t forth coming about what really happened.”

 

For law enforcement to break down doors and burn down crops and ask questions later, only to find little prosecuting evidence is a rarity in the hemp industry. In fact, it’s the first time Steenstra has heard of something like this, and there was little to no media coverage about the case. Even the local press in a town of 1,200 hadn’t gotten wind of it.

 

“We were really disappointed about it. To be honest with you, I think there was some confusion there; that’s a relatively new program for them,” says Steenstra.

 

Today, Freerksen’s case is closed, and he has yet to see any test results from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who declined to comment for this story.

 

Freerksen says when the arresting officers returned his personal belongings he had a chance to ask them why he was arrested. One officer told him his license says he must be a part of the pilot program or a research university. THC reviewed the license and that is not the case. The other officer said the permit was illegal and that the state had no right to issue the permit, because he wasn’t a part of either of those programs, which also is untrue, according to North Dakota legislation.

 

To wrap it all up, Freerksen, who does not consume cannabis, got his paraphernalia back: “The last stickler, that I can’t figure out, is when I was talking to these cops about what had transpired, the cop hands me the bong in the middle of the street right in front of the courthouse. So the paraphernalia that I pled guilty to being in possession of, they handed it right back to me.”

 

Originally published in the Spring 2017 National Issue of The Hemp Connoisseur

CBD Fights Back: Lawsuit Filed Against DEA
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by DJ Reetz

A lawsuit filed on January 13, 2017 aims to push back against a recent DEA decision to create a separate tracking number for “marihuana extracts” under the Controlled Substances Act, effectively codifying all cannabinoids derived from marijuana or hemp as Schedule I controlled substances. The lawsuit was filed by the Hoban Law Group in the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on the same day the new ruling was set to take effect, and seeks judicial review of the decision, claiming that the DEA has overstepped their authority in adding this definition of “marihuana extract” to the controlled substance schedule without following proper procedures to do so as outlined in the CSA. Serving as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Hemp Industries Association, Centura Natural Foods, and RMH Holdings.     

The DEA’s announcement in the federal registry published on December 14, 2016 raised concerns amongst many in the cannabis industry that the DEA would begin to target producers and distributors of hemp-derived CBD, which would fall under the definition of “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” outlined in the DEA’s final ruling.

“This is an action beyond the DEA’s authority. This final rule serves to threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of growing businesses, with massive economic and industry expansion opportunities, all of which conduct lawful business compliant with existing policy as it is understood and in reliance upon the federal government," said Hoban Law Group Managing Partner Robert Hoban in a press release.

The DEA has claimed that the ruling presented in the recent federal register amounted to little more than a clerical decision carried out in order to make tracking cannabinoid extracts easier, but many in the hemp CBD industry saw it as the first step toward a federal crackdown on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has thus far operated nationally in somewhat of a legal gray area.

The true impact of the classification will likely be seen in the coming months and years.

 

How to Create More Diversity in the Cannabis Industry
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by Ngaio Bealum

There have been umpteen different articles written about how the cannabis industry needs more diversity, and a few more about how white people (white men in particular) are poised to get rich by selling cannabis, while people of color (the people that have been disproportionately affected by the extremely racist “war on drugs”) have been systematically shut out of the new cannabis industry. What can be done to fix this imbalance? I am glad you asked. And away we go…

Hire More Black and Brown People
It sounds simple, but it just doesn’t happen. Many employers don't even notice that their workforce is somewhat monochromatic, and while you may not notice, people of color pay attention to these types of things. Having a diverse workforce means you will attract a diverse customer base. It is up to the people that do the hiring to make sure that their business reflects the diversity of cannabis culture. Steve DeAngelo, owner of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center (known for being the largest cannabis dispensary in the country) likes to say, “Our new industry should enthusiastically embrace diversity as a strength, not grudgingly accept it as a legal duty.” He is correct. Studies show that businesses (any businesses, not just canna-businesses) with a diverse employee base make more money and are more successful. Having a diverse workforce helps the bottom line, so even if “social justice” isn’t part of the business plan, if the only goal is to make money, it still makes sense to be diverse.

Reach Out
The idea that being in the cannabis industry is a good way to have a legitimate career is still a new concept. A lot of people with good business acumen and a skill set that aligns with what this new industry needs have yet to consider the cannabis industry as a viable option. With a new wave of legalization on the horizon (five states have adult-use cannabis legalization initiatives on the ballot this year); there has never been a better time for people to get involved. While the legal risks are still higher for minorities than they are for white people, the odds that the federal government will choose to prosecute legitimate cannabis businesses acting in accordance with state law are extremely low. There are some groups (the Minority Cannabis Business Association and the newly formed California Minority Alliance come to mind) that can put employers in touch with qualified prospects. Throw a job fair, go to under-served communities and let them know that the cannabis industry is hiring.

Ancillary Businesses Should Get Involved
The cannabis industry isn't just growers and budtenders. Accountants, lawyers, engineers, event planners, architects, carpenters, food service professionals, marketers, IT professionals, graphic designers, copywriters and other businesses can all find a spot in the circle. Entrepreneurs of color should seek out cannabis businesses and look for ways to get involved. Alaska based activist Charlo Greene produces a series on cannabis diversity summits in different towns across the country (www.gogreene.org). These events can be a good way to network with folks that are already in the cannabis industry.

Lower the Barriers to Entry
Getting started in this new industry is expensive. New permits sell for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many folks don't have the financial backing to get involved. Just going to a cannabis business conference can cost upwards of two or three thousand dollars once you include the costs of travel and accommodations. Conferences and Associations need to start offering scholarships and no cost/low cost options to those who may have the desire and the skills, but not the money to get started. Making sure that the people that have been most affected by the drug war at least get a chance to be a part of the new paradigm is vitally important.

Remember how this started
Cannabis legalization wasn't always about millions of dollars of revenue and profits. Sure, money has always been a factor in the argument, but really, folks just wanted to stay out of jail and smoke weed free from the threat of arrest. California’s Proposition 215 (The 1996 medical marijuana initiative that got this whole joint rolling) was started because activists wanted to keep the police from arresting people living with HIV/AIDS and cancer. I hate to sound like an old hippie, but to ignore the compassion and equality ingrained into the history of cannabis legalization in favor of naked capitalism is to invite bad karma. Working to address the harms done to communities of color by cultivating business and hiring from within those communities invites good karma.

All of these suggestions are fairly simple to accomplish. It just takes a little willpower and a bit of mindfulness. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day actions of running a successful business, but it is vitally important to be aware of and to respect the vitality and diversity of the entire cannabis community.

 

Originally published in the Fall 2016 National Issue of The Hemp Connoisseur

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