The Roanoker - January/February 2020 - 32

"I feel that if people will start reintroducing hemp into
their diets they'll feel a lot better," says Cromer, speaking in
downtown Roanoke's artisan gallery, Crafteria, where she is
selling her hemp food products under the label LilyHemp.
The "why" of CBD is not well-understood. But, according
to the National Institutes of Health, it is one of the hottest
topics in pharmacology today. Basically, the cannabidiol
in hemp connects with the endocannabinoid system in
the human brain and organs, lining up in ways that create
wellness.
Over the years, Cromer has testified before the FDA,
presented at hemp industry gatherings and advocated for
the legalization of hemp in Virginia's General Assembly. She's
a board member of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition.
These days, in addition to educating and selling her hemp
food products, Cromer is hoping to help Virginia hemp
growers find a market for their crop.
"Southwest Virginia could be the hemp capital of the world,"
Cromer says. This region has both the agricultural potential and
the health care industry to connect the dots, she says. "Virginia
Tech Carilion could be doing research right now."

"One of the things that is most attractive about hemp
for me as a soils consultant is the fact that it gives farmers a
chance to diversify what they're already doing," explains Wills.
"It gives them another egg in the basket."
To Virginia Tech's Hammett, the long view for farmers
is less about CBD and more about growing hemp for its
multitude of other uses: as animal bedding, a substitute for
concrete, insulation, bio fuel, cloth, food, soap, fishing lures,
makeup.
"We've got the tiger by the tail a little bit here," he says.
"We need to figure out how to move forward and that's going
to be finding other products."
Wills hopes to grow hemp next year on his farm. His plan:
apply for a grant to cover a portion of startup costs, then plant
experimentally - How does it grow in clay soils? How does
it perform with certain additives? How much water does it
need? - and make his results available to other area farmers.
"If I can help just my clients with my information it's well
worth it for me," he says.

TO HEMP OR NOT TO HEMP

For consumers of hemp products, caution is the word of the day.
While hemp and CBD items can be found on shelves in
grocery stores, pharmacies and department stores, that doesn't
make all hemp merchandise equal - or safe.
Today, someone could easily start her day with a few drops
of CBD oil in her coffee, continue with CBD-laced water,
nosh on a CBD-enhanced granola bar at lunch and wind
down with a CBD-infused cocktail after dinner.
But should she?
No one knows.
Nor is anyone overseeing the labeling of CBD and hemp
products. Or testing the effects of CBD when mixed with
other ingredients or medicines.
Do consumers know the difference between CBD oil
(made from cannabis leaves and flowers) and hemp seed oil
(pressed from hemp seeds the way olive oil is extracted from
olives)?
"Regulation is needed," says Cromer. "With no guidelines
in place, who's to say if products are safe?"
Until more oversight kicks in, buyers must do their
own research, purchase from companies they trust and use
common sense.
"There's a lot that needs to be worked out," Cromer says.
Time and research will tell if hemp is to find a lasting place
in U.S. pantries, medicine cabinets, closets and farms or if
today's on-the-rise hemp movement turns into something
different altogether.
"I just have a lot of questions," sums up Virginia Tech's
Fike. "We don't really have a clear picture of where all this
goes." I

As much as hemp has the potential to be the answer to a nest
of problems, at this moment it's still a crazy gamble.
For farmers who deal in, the payoff can be handsome. Some
early growers have netted thousands of dollars per acre - a
profit margin 10 times higher than any other legal crop except
tobacco. But no one knows how long that will last.
The U.S. is the largest global importer of hemp products
- from China, Canada and Europe. The hope is that U.S.
farmers can replace those imports - and then some.
"Several times I've heard it referred to as the Gold Rush
- or the Green Rush," says Brent Wills, founder and owner
of the consulting firm Wills Soil & Stream, co-owner of
Bramble Hollow Farm in Montvale and president of the
Virginia Association for Biological Farming.
Yet the risk is real. Hemp hasn't been grown in Virginia for
decades. What will today's pest pressure be? Will the state's
soil and climate be suitable?
If farmers are growing in hopes of tapping into the
lucrative CBD market, can their crop be consistent enough
for pharmacological purposes? Who will process their hemp?
How will they test their crop to make sure it stays below the
legal limit of 0.3 percent THC? What if a rise in hemp supply
creates a drop in price?
What if a farmer spends thousands to buy clones (hemp
seedlings) and then loses his crop to flooding or a test that
comes back too THC high? Virginia has been included in a
pilot-program that will be used to create a federal insurance
model, but details are few.

32

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020

HOW TO HEMP?

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The Roanoker - January/February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - January/February 2020

The Roanoker - January/February 2020 - Intro
The Roanoker - January/February 2020 - Cover1
The Roanoker - January/February 2020 - Cover2
The Roanoker - January/February 2020 - 3
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