By Gina Malone
When legislation passed in North Carolina in 2016 allowing farmers to begin growing hemp the next year, Brian Bullman, Randall Snyder and Patton Cardwell were poised and ready. Bullman had established Carolina Hemp Company (CHC) in 2014 as a distribution company and Snyder and Cardwell joined him as co-owners within the next two years. “We made an alliance, a partnership, with Kingdom of the Happy Land Farm and Asheville Botanicals to create a brand: Kingdom Harvest,” Bullman says.
CHC’s newly opened location in West Asheville contains the administrative offices of CHC as the sales and marketing arm of the collaboration and a retail store staffed by a helpful and knowledgeable team ready to share the benefits of CHC’s products. “The neat thing about it is that everyone, every single person that’s involved with what we’re doing came to us in an organic, unsolicited way,” Snyder says. Staff currently numbers 15 employees, all of whom came to the company self-taught and with a passion for hemp products and the benefits from using them.
“We have plans to grow our business thoughtfully and this is the second evolution of us moving from our Woodfin location, which will reopen soon as a micro- location,” Bullman says. CHC received its first sales order through the new location five minutes after the first box was dropped on the floor during the move, a “good omen,” says Bullman, who grew up in Asheville and has a fondness for the West Asheville area.
The owners see the location at the rapidly evolving Beacham’s Curve as a perfect spot—centrally located from downtown, West Asheville and the River Arts District. “It’s not just a retail store or a retail business and distribution here,” Bullman says. “It’s not a static sales environment. It’s a community space.” Plans down the road include hosting micro-events such as pop-up kitchens and art classes for painting on hemp.
The three owners bill Kingdom Harvest as Asheville’s first organically grown, whole-spectrum hemp extract. “Most of what’s on the market is produced in a pharmaceutical tradition,” says Snyder, “so it gets denatured in the process. What we produce is wholly natural. If Mother Nature were packaging a product, she’d package it like we do.” As such it is rich in phytonutrients and phytocannabinoids. People are curious, Snyder says, about the presence of THC in the product. It is found in the Kingdom Harvest products, he says, because it is there naturally. “Mother Nature put it there. Why would you take it out? It happens to be in a very low concentration though. That makes it legal under the hemp legislation.”
Hemp is a “unifying plant,” Cardwell says. “It is the one thing that everyone agrees on right now in the world and that’s no small point: the importance of this plant and its ability to cross barriers, to bring balance to people’s understanding and to bring people together.”
What the team at CHC attempts to do is to alleviate fears about hemp—what they call “our partner plant”—that began with laws prohibiting marijuana. Both hemp and marijuana are derived from varieties of the cannabis plant, but hemp is rich in cannabidiol, or CBD, with low amounts of the THC found in marijuana. “We have to overcome the stigmatization associated with this plant,” Snyder says. He often points out to those interested in learning more that in 2015 there were already nearly 21,000 research documents published on cannabinoids and cannabidiol, their benefits and uses. “There’s plenty yet to be discovered, but there’s already quite a bit that has been discovered,” Bullman adds.
“There’s such a long historical precedent for the use of, the safety of, and the effectiveness of extracts throughout human history,” says Cardwell. “That’s what pre-dates the modern drug and pharmaceutical allocation.” Those seeking the product range from 20-year-olds to those in their 80s, for reasons including anxiety, sleeplessness and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
“We get the most consistent feedback on how friendly our staff is, but also that we put education first,” says Cardwell. “We want to educate people so that they can make their own informed decisions on what’s best for them. It’s not a pressure sale. It’s education. It’s consultation.”Along with their passion and enthusiasm for their own business, Bullman, Snyder and Cardwell see the potential future advantages for the hemp industry as a whole in NC. “North Carolina is really at the center of the magnifying glass in the hemp industry,” Cardwell says. “Everyone around the country is focused on NC due to the fact that we have the textile and the tobacco industry history.” In a recent Hemp Yeah! meeting at THE BLOCK off biltmore, he noted that Blake Butler, executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association, pointed out that while tobacco turned out to be a vice, hemp could turn out to be a virtue. And, adds Snyder, CHC could very well become the “standard bearer” for hemp throughout the country.
Find Carolina Hemp Company at 290 Haywood Road, Suite 002, in West Asheville. To learn more, visit CarolinaHempCompany.com or call 828.GET.HEMP. Hours for the West Asheville retail store are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hemp Yeah! meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at THE BLOCK off biltmore.