North Carolina’s first hemp processing facility to open in Asheboro
Hemp has some deep roots in North Carolina; in fact, Robbins, North Carolina, was originally named Hemp. Industrial hemp can be used as a sustainable alternative to petroleum products, paper products, fabric products and is also used as a nutritional supplement.
Four years ago, Bob Crumley was just a long-time and well-known lawyer of Crumley Roberts and Associates living in Asheboro, North Carolina. After three of his friends died of cancer, Bob Crumley felt compelled to do something to help other people’s suffering.
“I started researching alternative ways to treat people suffering and it led me to medical marijuana and then to hemp,” he said. “The real health benefits are in hemp.”
Then he read more about why hemp became outlawed in the United States for 70 years.
“You know who I am, right? I am Crumley Roberts, I spent my whole career fighting for little guys,” he said. “Hemp got outlawed because rich, industrialists lobbied Congress to lump hemp in with marijuana when they were outlawing marijuana. Why did they want to do that? Because hemp was their biggest competitor.”
Bob Crumley said The Du Pont family’s biggest competitor for their nylon and petroleum plastic products was hemp plastic because the first plastic came from the hemp plant. William Randolph Hearst’s biggest competitor for his paper mill and tree farms was hemp paper. Those people along with oil families, he said, came together and united against their common threat and lobbied for hemp to be lumped with marijuana so it could be outlawed as well.
“They put families out of business in North Carolina that had been growing hemp, they put companies out of business all to protect the rich,” he said. “That quite frankly, just bothered me. So I said ‘you know what, I am going to be apart of bringing this back, I am going to start helping farmers have a new profitable crop they can grow and I am going to be apart of bringing this product back to the United States and that is what I did.”
He remarked that it was really weird for a lawyer who has no experience as a farmer to be one of the biggest advocates driving hemp farming back to North Carolina, but he said that is just where he found himself.
In 2014, the Federal Farm Bill was passed and signed by President Obama. In that bill, Bob Crumley said, was Section 7606, which allowed states to set up pilot-programs to reintroduce hemp farming back into the United States. “Me and another lawyer in Greensboro wrote the statute for North Carolina,” he said. “We got it supported by the Commissioner of Agriculture, the lieutenant governor, the governor, etc. and we got it passed into legislation.”
This meant that farmers in North Carolina could now grow hemp legally. He said it was interesting to him that, from 2004 until 2014 people could buy hemp products in the United States because a federal judge ruled that the sale of finished hemp products was legal.
“You could go to a grocery store and buy hemp seeds,” he said. “You could go to the farm supply store and buy hemp rope, you could go to Walmart and buy hemp toys, you could go to Sally’s Beauty Supply and buy hemp lotion or shampoo, but if you were a farmer and you planted a hemp seed, you were guilty of a federal felony.”
Bob Crumley said the 2014 bill leveled the playing field for American farmers and processors.
“I worked hard to set up the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Association,” he said. “We’ve now got over 1,000 members statewide. We have been very involved in the regulatory process and getting the industry started in North Carolina. It is a brand new industry, it hadn’t been done for 70 years in this state.”
Passing successful hemp legislature was simply not enough for Bob Crumley. He felt like he ought to do more so that he could help more North Carolinians. He then started Founder’s Hemp, North Carolina’s very first registered hemp processor. Founder’s Hemp was recently awarded the “Got to be NC” seal from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and was the first hemp company to receive it.
Founder’s Hemp is a vertically integrated company that works with Innovative Aggregated farmers to farm the product, manufacture and process the product, package the product and sell the product in their retail store (and wholesale to other retailers), the Everything Hemp Store, which is located in a shopping center on Zoo Parkway. The Everything Hemp Store has been open since July 31 but the store’s Grand Opening is scheduled for Oct. 5. Bob Crumley said he hopes to expand another hemp store to Greensboro, but he is still looking for space.
Founder’s Hemp sells products to physicians, doctors, psychiatrists, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, health food stores and a different brand in convenience stores. Some of these vendors come from all across the state and include, Carolina Chiropractic Plus in Shelby; Samson & The Lion Natural Foods, in Asheboro; The Hemp Farmacy in Wilmington; and Stroud Chiropractic Clinic in Archdale. Jamie Crumley Bob’s daughter and a lawyer at Crumley Roberts runs the company as the vice president and COO. Also on staff is food scientist from North Carolina State University Nitya Sarjapuram and Zach Thompson as the director of processing.
“We do everything from planting the plants to growing them to processing the plant material and finished good product,” Jamie Crumley said. “Then we send that product out to both wholesale and retail.”
When her father first asked her to come be apart of the second family business (with law being their first), Jamie Crumley admits she was hesitant. She thought she was only going help by building the business like she had done multiple times before with various other businesses. But when her father told her about hemp, she was immediately skeptical.
“In all transparency, I was the company’s skeptic, and some days I think they still label me that,” she said. “I honestly up until that point didn’t know what hemp was, I flat out thought it was the corporate name for marijuana.”
But after two years of working with her father, starting up the company’s infrastructure and running it, she slowly started learning more and more about hemp.
“After listening to our customers and hearing what they were saying about the products and hearing these successes they were having with the products is when my mind changed,” she said. Prior, she thought they were just trying to sell something, then she thought, “[Hemp] is actually helpful.”
She realized hemp was used for various things but she didn’t think it could be used for pharmaceuticals. She needed someone to prove this to her and her father was the one to do just that.
“I definitely would never claim that I had any convictions toward hemp; I had no idea what it was,” she said. “Now I definitely can say much more so that after hearing, learning and watching it’s become something that really has captured my heart.”
As far as products go, Founder’s Hemp has a wide variety. From the stalk, seed and flower of a hemp plant comes Founder’s Hemp dehulled hemp hearts; toasted hemp seeds; oils and tinctures; capsule full of hemp oil; edibles, such as gummy bears with CBD (Cannabidiol) oil in them; cannabinoid infused local honey; and a cannabinoids infused North Carolina soda with no preservatives or corn syrup called, George’s Cherry Hemp Elixir. Founder’s Hemp also have a brand of products going out into vape shops called Hemp Symmetry that includes vape oils and vape additives, Founder’s Hemp also has hemp clothing available in the Everything Hemp Store as well.
Up until recently, Founder’s Hemp had been sourcing their hemp products from Kentucky, Colorado and some seeds from Canada, Bob Crumley said.
“All of our cannabinoid products is grown by US farmers, and are processed in the US,” he said. “There are some stores around that carry foreign made product but most of that product, they do not tell you what country it comes from and they won’t tell you if it was derived from marijuana or hemp.”
Bob Crumley said Founder’s Hemp did not get to farm much in North Carolina this past year because the Drug Enforcement Agency held up North Carolina’s permit. The Federal Farm Bill passed in 2014, but in North Carolina, it passed in 2015 and the DEA has since made it difficult for states to import hemp seeds. Bob Crumley said this was due to the similar anatomy of a hemp and marijuana seed. He said Kentucky sued the DEA because of their delay on permits and his hemp commission voted to sue the DEA as well.
Hemp v. Marijuana
The obvious elephant in the room is a question about what exactly the difference is between marijuana and hemp is. Both come from the same cannabis plant, and the two look eerily similar in both seed form and full-grown plant form. Bob Crumley said it is all about the cannabinoids.
“Hemp, by definition, has very limited THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in it,” he said. “A very, very small amount, 0.3 of 1 percent, or 3 parts per billion- there is not much in it at all. CBD is just one cannabinoid, there are over 80 different cannabinoids in hemp and so our products are what is called a full-spectrum cannabinoid. So, when we extract the oil from the hemp we get all the cannabinoids from that, we also get terpenes which is another chemical in hemp. That is what gives hemp or cannabis that obvious cannabis smell. Our oils, tinctures, capsules are full-spectrum oils. But there are people who want a THC-free product where we actually have the THC removed as opposed to a full-spectrum.”
Bob Crumley said marijuana did not exist in the United States until the 1840s, but hemp had been farmed since before the United States became the United States. All five-first U.S. presidents were hemp farmers, which he said is the origin of the name of Founder’s Hemp.
“What happened in the 1840s was people in Mexico that were farming hemp figured out if you grew it high altitudes and hot climates and if you ingested it, woo woo you could get this high feeling,” he said. “They started breeding it to do that and then it was introduced into the United States as marijuana cannabis in the 1840s.”
Bob Crumley said most experts agree that in order to feel any psychotropic effects there would have to be 2 or 3 percent THC.
“So, [Founder’s Hemp products] are 10 times lower than the lowest amount to get people high,” he said. “I was doing a speech in Salisbury and one of the farmers asked me, ‘If I agree to grow this Hemp and someone comes by and takes the plant and dries it and smokes it are they going to get high? I said, ‘Sir they could smoke an entire 5-acre track of your hemp and they are not gonna get high. They might get something else, but they ain’t gonna get high.’ This quote was picked up by the Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer, Time Warner Cable 14 and it got voted one of the top 10 political quotes of 2016. It is funny, but it is also true.”
Bob Crumley said there is not enough volume of THC per the volume of hemp and that is the main difference between hemp and marijuana.
“You know the old saying, the solution to pollution is dilution? In a diluted form, most stuff does not hurt you,” he said. “You could go buy everything from our store and eat it today and you would not get high. You may have a stomach ache from all the oil but you are not going to get high.”
Although he does not know the fate of marijuana legalization (whether it be medicinal or recreational), his personal belief is that the medical marijuana is more about the high than the medicinal properties.
“With hemp,” he said. “I can give you the medical benefits, I can give you the health benefits without the high, so why do I need medical marijuana then if I’ve got the benefit without the high?”
Bob Crumley said that there are indeed some people where the high might be important. He sees the people with stage four cancer having a lot of pain that would rather take marijuana rather than opioids, as a legitimate use for medicinal marijuana.
But as far as just general health, such as inflammation and sleeping problems, he believes with hemp there is no need for medicinal marijuana.
“The FDA just came out recently and acknowledge for the very first time that CBD has beneficial results for people with Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease,” he said. “This is huge, huge! We don’t need the THC to have the positive effect in kids with epilepsy or the elderly with Parkinson’s disease. The interesting thing that we are seeing in Colorado, Washington and Oregon that have medical marijuana laws, guess what they are selling in their dispensaries? Hemp.”
Bob Crumley can preach the gospel of hemp all day, but he does have one critique for people in the hemp business: don’t oversell it. “Hemp and cannabinoids do not cure cancer,” he said. “It does not cure Parkinson’s Disease, it does not cure Epilepsy. It helps with the symptoms and bad effects so people’s bodies can better react. It is important that the industry does not oversell this. This is not a miracle cure.”
He said let hemp be what it is, a nutritional supplement. North Carolina’s first hemp processing plant is set to open in early October. For more information about Founder’s Hemp, visit their website and social media pages or stop by their offices at 1157 S. Cox St. in Asheboro.
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.