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Wayne Dryker displays his hemp plants as well as botanical products he makes and sells.

During last Wednesday’s Hemp Forum at the Greensville Ruritan Club, local farmer Wayne Grizzard said he had been surprised when first hearing from some of his colleagues and friends that farm in North Carolina had begun growing hemp.

Grizzard asked,“For what, rope?”

This is also when he quickly heard about Cannabidoil (CBD oil) and all of its benefits with great profit. Gizzard began to do some research and knew he wanted to sign up for the hemp program here in Virginia.

“I was the first to get a license here in Virginia,” Grizzard said.

Grizzard has toured hemp farms all over the country to find out more detailed information on the genetics of the plant and which plant would be best to grow in Virginia’s climate. Grizzard explained that outside of the spacing difference, growing a hemp plant is very similar to growing produce and tobacco. He has grown hemp into a business which has given boost to the economy here in Virginia by providing employment for 20 people. Grizzard said if you were to drive by his greenhouse at night it would look like a Christmas Tree. This is where the plants at this time are in vegetation mode. He said his grandfather was somewhat skeptical until he explained the future of the hemp plant and its value.

“I have talked with senators, state delegates who all support hemp due to tobacco becoming a falling crop,” said Grizzard.

Grizzard and his team have been fertilizing trials putting in 60 acres for research purposes. There have been some concerns that growers in North Carolina came up with mold issues and insect damage to their plants. Grizzard is already working with local farmers and his future plans are to set up an extraction facility. The facility’s purpose is to give the farmers an outlet to locally sell their products. Grizzard also makes Botanicals out of the plant. In the near future he plans to hold educational classes on growing hemp and To discuss its benefits.

The floor at the forum opened for questions. One asked how would one know if their soil had pesticide or any toxicity? Grizzard answered, “Get your soil tested first. That is a very important step.”

Another question came from the group for Grizzard. “Did you experience any Deer damage?” Grizzard said at first he thought deer would be a problem, however , the hemp was planted in three different locations and didn’t result in any deer damage. The deer stayed away from it.

Someone also asked if there is a possibility for cross contamination of crops”. Grizzard said he had not personally experienced issues with cross contamination.”

Dr. John Fike, associate, professor at Virginia Tech, also spoke about industrial hemp history and its uses.

“The use of hemp is not new,” he said. “It has a long history of uses Cannabidoil (CBD) as a medicine has quickly changed the debate surrounding the use of hemp,” Fike said.

Fike spoke about the number of studies and reports that state (CBD) hemp is good for medicinal purposes such as inflammation, anti-oxidant, combatting tumor and cancer cells, treating anxiety and depression, suppressing seizure activity, reducing nausea and vomiting.

“If hemp can combat even two of these that would be great,” he said. “There have been homes that have been built with Hemp Crete. It’s benefit is it keep the humidity in the home stable. A fellow said to me the other day hemp is like seafood of the land with all of the fatty acids. It is high in omega 3 and omega 6. The cosmetic industry is making face cream and lip balm with hemp.”

Fike also wanted to make clear that the FDA still plans to regulate telling the audience that Congress explicitly preserves the agency’s current authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act” Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner. Fike spent a short time on soils and fertility, land prep, planting dates, harvest, drying, and post harvest, cost and profit.

Erin Williams, of VDACS, also spoke at the forum. Williams went over the industrial hemp regulations. The hemp plant that is grown is not to have more than 0.3 percent THC. The hemp plant can be grown for grain, fiber and flower cultivars. It is also grown for its stalk or seed for use in textiles, foods, papers, body care products, plastics, and building materials. Flowers grown for Cannabidoil (CBD) can be used in nutraceuticals and supplements. Williams repeatedly said that if the plant test with more than 0.3 percent it is considered marijuana, which is illegal.

There was a second hemp research program created that is directly managed by VDACS. The Hemp grower license was replaced with a hemp grower registration and added a hemp processor registration. Williams goes on to say they have eliminated the background check requirement for the license.

The application fee for the registration is $50. Williams went over some frequently asked questions. Is fencing required? The answer is no. Is VDACS going to give planting seeds to growers? VDACS does not have any seeds to distribute. The law does allow VDACS to conduct random THC testing on any fields. The grower will be notified prior to anyone from VDACS coming out to sample test. There is no testing fee. If your sample is over 0.3 percent THC VDACS will require that you destroy the crop from which the sample was collected. Williams did give out her information for those who had additional questions or just needed help filling out the registration form. When asked the question “How did you enjoy the forum and do you think farmers are ready to jump on board?” Sam Darden from Sussex replied “I enjoyed the forum and found it personally helpful. I do have more questions and don’t feel the farmers were given enough information to jump on board at this time.”

Janet Lee, a Greensville County resident, said she thought the forum was very well organized and presented to those that attended.

“This was a great way reintroduce helming growing here in Greensville County,” Lee said. “I have personally used (CBD) sublingual spray for arthritis and to help with sleep. I found it to be very effective for pain and relaxation. I’m hopeful that we as a community will embrace the opportunity to jump on board and work together for the greater good. My main concern would be quality control and contaminated products.”

— For additional information about the hemp industry, you can contact Erin Williams at erin.Williams@vdacs.virginia.gov, Jasmine Harwell jasmine.harwell@vdacs.virginia.gov Wayne Grizzard contact@virginiahomegrown.com