ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Julia Trott sells CBD oils, flowers and creams, but she wouldn't mind if the market dropped out on the trendy products.
That's because she's eager to see new markets grow for the many other uses of the hemp plant.
Julia and her husband Justin Trott own and run 419 Hemp, licensed through a Minnesota pilot program.
Justin, 45, grows and processes cannabis. Julia, 49, manages the business and developed their hemp seed product line June's Garden named after their dog, who'd run around the house with pieces of hemp, Julia said.
Their retail store features all manner of hemp products, from fabric bags and mulch to foot cream and smokeable CBD flowers. None of it is intoxicating and all of it is legal.
Not everyone understands that, the St. Cloud Times reported.
"We got kicked out of many stores, because they thought it was marijuana," Julia recently said about the start of the Trott's marketing efforts.
Some of those merchants have come around, she said. The couple does a lot of educating about hemp.
"It would be nice to change the public perception on cannabis," Justin said.
State lawmakers approved an industrial hemp pilot program in 2015 after Congress OK'd such state research programs in a Farm Bill reauthorization, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Seven participants grew hemp in the first year of the state program, 2016, and that number is over 200 now, according to a list of current license holders who agreed to be public.
There are at least nine license holders in Wright County, at least two each in Sherburne and Benton and one listed from Stearns County: 419 Hemp.
The name is a play on the euphemism "420" which, "means marijuana, means you're getting high," Justin said. "We're not quite '420.'"
The 419 products and others produced in the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program have strict limits on THC content.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the part of the marijuana plant that makes a user high or intoxicated. It's still a controlled substance prohibited by the federal government, but some states have made recreational use legal, including Illinois and Colorado.
Justin started in the industry with medical marijuana in Colorado, before recreational use was legal there, he said. He came to Minnesota for Julia — they've been married five years — and for bone cancer treatment at Mayo Clinic. He didn't complete his treatment, but he's gained weight and doing well, they said.
He takes care of the hemp with farm hands. It needs careful tending each day including weed whacking around the stalks, hand harvesting and curing of the plants.
"He definitely puts his heart into it," Julia said.
Justin then processes the hemp in a lab, extracting and purifying 419's CBD products.
"We want to be a seed to sale company," Justin said. "We don't want middle men raising the price."
"Or messing with the product," Julia added.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is not intoxicating, and it's available for sale throughout the St. Cloud and Minnesota. Some sellers describe it as a natural balm for various ailments. The Trotts can't make any medical claims.
"We tell everybody, consult your doctor," Justin said.
The public view of CBD evolved when reports came out that children with epilepsy and seizure disorders found some relief when taking it, said George Weiblen, a professor of plant and microbial biology at the University of Minnesota.
Cannabis was known as an anti-convulsant in the 19th century, but that was forgotten during the war on drugs, Weiblen said.
"Suddenly the potential for CBD as therapeutic has really transformed how we're thinking about hemp," Weiblen said. "The interest and enthusiasm around CBD is getting ahead of the evidence."
Weiblen had special federal permission in the early 2000s to study the genetic differences between hemp and marijuana, he said. At that time he did not expect the popular rise of CBD.
He expects CBD to return "to the pharmacy," but he's not sure what it will treat and how.
"These cannabinoids, they affect neurotransmitters, these kinds of molecules are more like antidepressants than they are simple drugs like nicotine and alcohol," Weiblen said. "(They) affect bodies and minds in complex ways that we're just beginning to understand."
Cannabis has been used for recreational and medicinal purposes for thousands of years, Weiblen said. And it's been harvested for "food, fuel, fiber, pharmacy and fun."
So there's a lot more to cannabis than cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
Bales of hemp hurd line the entrance at 419 Hemp's warehouse on the southern edge of St. Cloud.
The Trotts can rattle off many uses and benefits of the mulch made from the stalk of the hemp plant: mix it with plaster, use it for insulation, put it in animals' stalls and more. The hurd can even be used in plastics.
The outer layer of the stalk can be used for fabrics. It isn't easy to find a producer of hemp fabric in the U.S., but Julia would love to see that develop.
She used to sell Young Living essential oils and learned to make household products with the oils. She directed that expertise into the 419 June's Garden product line made from hemp seed oil.
Hemp seed oil can be used in cooking too. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not the state, regulates edible and topical hemp products.
Even with all the uses for hemp, it's not likely to become a cash crop, Justin said. It's labor intensive and it keeps dropping in value as more growers join in.
Plus hemp requires processors to convert it from plant to product, Weiblen said.
"We need the infrastructure to process hemp and make value-added products," he said. "That is the limiting factor."
The Trotts are doing their part to preach the hemp gospel. They've met with teachers and tribal members. They support regulation and encourage customers to find trusted sources when they buy CBD and other hemp products.
"It's really about making it mainstream," Julia said. "Yay, hemp!"
An AP Member Exchange shared by the St. Cloud Times.