By Malcolm MacKinnon
For nearly, four decades Richard Rose has been an innovator in the natural food industry, starting with soy food products like TofuRella, Cottage Tofu Salad, and LeTofu, which were sold internationally. In 1994, he turned from soy to hempseed. His company HempNut Inc. was the first Best Practices hempseed foods company in North America (1994-2002) and, by far, the earliest to introduce shelled hempseed to North America.
Rose has provided the inspiration for today’s hempseed companies. Throughout his career, he has been a prominent, knowledgeable spokesperson with a clear-eyed perspective on the issues of hemp.
Today, his interest in hemp continues, especially for CBD products. Recently he created the first “open-source” hemp brands Nobacco and Not-Pot (artisanal CBD hemp buds for smoking). He has also created CannaSearch, which has opened consumer access to research of Cannabis for sixty-four medical conditions). Additionally, he founded the Medicinal Hemp Association, the Hemp Flower Products Association and resurrected the Hemp Food Association.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE PASSAGE OF THE 2018 FARM BILL?
It was the other shoe dropping. Working on cannabis legalization since 1972, I look for the little successes to keep moving forward. The DEA tried to legalize hemp products in 2001, but their maximum THC content was 1 part per million (ppm). Then, in 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the DEA “cannot regulate naturally-occurring THC not contained within or derived from marijuana—i.e., non-psychoactive hemp products.”
This recent Farm Bill gave us 3,000 ppm, but it did nothing to protect the CBD market. An hour after Trump signed the bill, the FDA Commissioner granted GRAS status to hemp food [an FDA designation that a chemical or substance added to food is considered safe by experts], which was a huge win. But what was left explicitly unprotected was CBD.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ROADBLOCK TO A LEGAL CBD MARKET?
The Ninth Circuit has already ruled that CBD is legal, as it was never part of the Controlled Substances Schedule by Congress. The government’s desire is to control anything popular and efficacious, thus making it profitable for its friends to be the suppliers—like Big Pharma. While it may be its intention, the FDA can’t stop all artisanal CBD products, especially those products that are marketed intrastate and those not making medical claims. The downside is that there are businesses that sell so-called “snake oil” products.
The biggest obstacle to a legal CBD market is the perception that the CBD market isn’t legal now! Retailers need to feel they can stock CBD products without hazard. That same fear killed hemp foods in 2001-2004.
The FDA points to GW Pharmaceutical’s IND application as the basis for trying to ban CBD products. [An FDA IND application that requires a drug to be part of a marketing application before it is transported or distributed across state lines. The sponsor’s primary goal is to determine if the product is reasonably safe for initial use in humans, and if the compound exhibits pharmacological activity that justifies commercial development.] It’s on very thin ice there. CBD was sold long before GW, and has been in human and animal diets 12,000 years longer than FDA has existed.
ARE YOU WORRIED? THERE SEEMS TO BE A REAL BACKLASH. WYOMING STILL CRIMINALIZES CBD AND SOUTH DAKOTA MAY DO THE SAME.
In the last few years, four states criminalized CBD. But healing cannabinoids come from the same hemp plant that is now exempt from the CSA. Even in marijuana-legal states, the plant is still Schedule One. That concerns me. While we may follow laws as they were intended—to the letter, mind you—government agencies do not. Many a cop has made up a nonexistent law on the spot, and they still do it with CBD and hemp to this day! Hell, marijuana laws have been unconstitutional since 1937—some good that’s done us! Additionally, you can expect to see people charged with marijuana trafficking just over industrial hemp. Why? The Farm Bill specifically exempted them from protection.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP FOR BUSINESSES?
Figuring out how to proceed in an environment where most states won’t have a clue what they’re going to do for years. Furthermore, the USDA, charged with overseeing it all, is currently in a shutdown. In a few months everyone is going to want to plant, but they’ll have no idea how to proceed. Brand new “hemp experts” will prey on the unwary, take their money and leave behind a wake of misery. The prudent will sit out this year and do field trials at most, and form regional hemp co-operatives to buy common equipment for processing.
AS A LONG-TIME SUCCESSFUL HEMP BUSINESSPERSON, WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE A NEWCOMER TO THE INDUSTRY?
Tread carefully. Form alliances close to home for support. Create infrastructure—co-ops. Figure out who will buy what you have to sell before you need to sell it. Have a market in place! Tiptoe slowly. Don’t plant 1,000 acres of some random cultivar that you haven’t tested first. Do field trials. Find a real local agronomist for assistance.
One area that will expand in the years to come is breeding. We are nowhere near having the cultivars we need, especially for grain and CBD. Get them stable—uniform and consistent—and then certified. Then sell across the globe!
You can visit Richard Rose at therichardrosereport.com, coming soon.