Hemp, the New 'Gateway Crop'
By Michael Brooks, Staff Writer After growing hemp became legal in Texas in 2019, hemp farming has opened the door to new agricultural products and welcomed a whole new crop of farmers, who are eager to take advantage of the fledgling industry.
To make the distinction, hemp is not the same as marijuana. Hemp can be described as a ‘cousin’ of the marijuana plant, and it produces a variety of products. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine, the use of industrial hemp has evolved into wide variety of products, including health foods, organic body care, clothing, construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and more.
In the United Stated, reports Forbes, “the first hemp plantings were in Jamestown, Va., where growing hemp was actually mandatory. From then on hemp was used in everything from 19th Century clipper ship sails to the covers of pioneer wagons. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, and even the finest Bible paper today remains hemp-based.”
Probably the most notable and popular hemp-based products today are cannabidiol (CBD) products. According to Healthline.com, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and causes the sensation of getting “high” that most people associate with marijuana. However, unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. This makes CBD an appealing option for people who need relief from pain without the mind-altering effects of marijuana or other drugs.
Pain management is where Jackson County’s newest CBD distributor, Rose Cannabis enters the picture.
Several years ago Bowen Rose of Edna heard that CBD may become legal in Texas so he began researching.
“In 2015 I saw something on Facebook,” Rose said. “There was this lady who had been pushing to legalize hemp and marijuana. It didn’t happen in 2015 and I had kind of forgotten about it. Then, the end of 2018 came around and it seemed it really was about to happen (be legalized). So I really started digging into it; how to grow it, all the licenses, any information I could find.”
Healthline.com explained with the passing of the Farm Bill in December 2018, industrial hemp became a legal agricultural commodity in all 50 states. While the DEA still considers CBD to be a Schedule I controlled substance, it clarified in a memo that trace amounts of CBD found in hemp stalks or seeds were legal.
But with the legalization of CBD in Texas, THC still is illegal and it just adds another obstacle that hemp growers have to contend with to keep their product legal.
“When we saw it actually was going to become legal, my wife and I dug deeper into learning,” Rose said.”We learned everything we could and realized if we went ahead and got in right now, the opportunities for us would be a lot higher, or at least the chance of us making it, since it is the first year..”
Bowen’s wife, Fairleigh, wasn’t as adamant as Bowen at first, but when she started researching all the benefits, she got on board too and helped gather information.
“People are saying we are pioneering this, and I guess we are in a way, but there are so many medical benefits that we want to help people,” Bowen said..” We see the business side of it, the growth that could happen. There are so many people for this. Plant. It can feed, cloth, fuel and house you.”
“ We have never farmed in our life. We have never grown a plant in our life. We figured if we were going to jump into this, we were going to need to partner up with someone that has. So we partnered up with a company out of Colorado that guided us through it, because they had been doing it for a long time,” Bowen explained. “We met so many people that helped us.
Armed with knowledge and hemp seeds, the Roses planted their crop, but their work was far from over.
Texas allows CBD to be grown along with a scant 0.3 percent of THC. So, farmers have to constantly watch their plant as it grows to ensure it never exceeds that threshold. If it does, the crop is wasted.
Healthline explains “an easy way to think about it is that THC is defined by what cannabis makes you feel, while the effects of CBD can’t be felt. The important distinction is that, unlike THC, CBD will not intoxicate you. It also addresses one of the most common reasons people choose to use CBD – pain management.
“This does not mean that CBD, by itself, cannot offer an effect. High doses of CBD often produce a profoundly relaxing experience. Like stepping out of a hot tub, your body may feel tingly and relaxed, and your brain may be clear.
The Roses have many scares as their crop was growing, and they nearly lost them all a couple of times as well.
“We are learning what we are doing,” Bowen said. “I won’t call myself a farmer because I am not there yet. There are only so many people that know about farming, much less this kind of farming. So, we’ve just started.”
“By the grace of God we grew the stuff and made a good product,” Fairleigh added.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bowen said. “We never grew anything. That we were able to grow this plant, that was a just a seed and we germinated it. It almost died on us. All 6,000 plants almost died on us five or six times because we were learning. Too much water, not enough water. Not enough nutrients, putting them outside too soon, getting them burnt in the sun.”
The Roses were some of the first people to ever grow legal hemp in Texas, so they also had little idea how the plant would react to harsh South Texas weather.
The Roses want their product to be purely organic, so they are unable to use a pesticide to help.
To go along with elements and the insects, new growers also have to be aware of scammers.
“Everyone seems to be very helpful, but we learned at the very beginning, you have to be very careful,” Bowen said. “At conventions they call (the new states that could legally grow) the ‘Wild Wild West’ because it is all new. There are crooks coming in and faking it. We have been burned a couple of times. On one hand, people are helpful and amazing but on the other hand you have to be careful. It is a huge learning curve for us. We have wasted so much money.
“A lot of people in Texas were sold bad seeds. There are a lot of scammers. A lot of people lost their whole crop. From the very beginning they told us to make sure the genetics, the product, and the company are legit,” said Bowen.
So the Roses were able to navigate through shady people and get enough good seed to grow good product, they were able to keep their entire crop alive despite a couple of trying situations and they were able to keep the insects away, but they still had to make sure they kept the level of THC below the 0.3 threshold.
“You have to pass all these state tests,” Bowen explained. “You are constantly sending samples to the lab to make sure your THC levels are low enough. Right now we are hoping the bill is passed that allows you to have one percent THC levels.
“Growing the plant is around a four-month process. Around the second month you are going to start getting leaf samples, tissue samples, and once it starts flowering, flower samples, and you have to send it off the lab weekly to check your levels.
“We had to harvest three weeks early because the plant was ‘going hot.’ We did one more test and we had to harvest.”
A plant ‘going hot’ is a major concern to farmers who grow hemp in an area where marijuana is illegal. Going hot means the THC levels in the plant are getting too high and the plant will have to be classified as marijuana once it gets above that 0.3 percent threshold. If a farmer is in a legal marijuana state and the plant gets above the threshold, the farmer can simply reclassify it. If it gets above the threshold in a state where marijuana is illegal, the entire crop must be destroyed.
The Roses were able to keep their plants within legal limits, where they harvested it and, as of two weeks ago, have began selling their product.
“We made it and now we're gonna sell it,” Bowen said. “It has been very surreal.”
“We aren't business people, so we are having to learn both business and farming, Fairleigh added. “The medical benefits interest me, and we have to learn so we can figure out how it can be beneficial. An elderly lady who is a smoker got some of our product, and she said with four puffs and 30 minutes, her pain was gone. But everyone is different. You never know how it could help someone.”
The Roses have been busy delivering their product since the first started selling and word of mouth seems to spreading fast, not only through Jackson County but through South Texas as well.
“We are doing smokables right now but we will be making other stuff as well,” Bowen said.
“Bowen’s mom is a really good cook and we have big exciting ideas for edibles as well” Fairleigh added..
“We are also considering having someone else make the stuff, using our product. We have been very busy. We are trying to get our name out there and let people try it. We are trying to find our market.”
People around the county have already complimented the Roses product telling how it has eased their anxiety, and different aches and pains.
“Last week was our first sale,” Fairleigh said. “We are working on salves and lotions and tinctures.”
If you would like to order some CBD product, or for more information you can visit the Rose Cannabis Facebook page, call 781-2445 or visit the website www.rosecannabis.net, which will be up and running shortly.