It’s a farm and it’s already growing the plant, but Michael Goodenough and the nearly 50 other hemp farmers in Connecticut won’t be able to grow the plant with more THC.
That’s because the legislation allowing for recreational cannabis left hemp farmers out of the equation and efforts this year to include them fell short.
D&G Ag Tech manufactures 78 brands of products derived from the hemp plant yet none of their products are allowed to be sold in Connecticut’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
Under federal law, hemp can’t contain more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound that gets you high. Once it’s past that threshold, the cannabis plant is considered marijuana.
The Connecticut legislation legalizing the drug in 2021 said the products sold in Connecticut’s 18 dispensaries could only be from the four medical marijuana approved growers in the state. Those same growers will be able to transition into the recreational cannabis business.
“It left us completely out,” Goodenough said last week during a tour of his farm.
Goodenough helps extract and package everything from CBD oils to creams for about 44 of the 48 hemp farms.
He uses the cold extraction method and rotary evaporation to separate the terpenes from the cannabinoids and the CBD from the THC.
“We know how to store and extract should there be a shortage,” Goodenough said.
He said since the product can’t be shipped over state lines due to federal law there has to be enough product grown here in the state to support a recreational marketplace.
The Department of Consumer Protection is in the process of determining who gets a license to grow cannabis and believes there will be enough to satisfy the demand.
Goodenough isn’t so sure.
“The people who can do it and do it tomorrow are our farmers,” Goodenough said.
He said there’s going to be a land race and local zoning will compound the issue for those seeking to find the space to grow. Goodenough said it took him two and a half years to get this dispensary licensed in Massachusetts.
Under Connecticut’s cannabis laws, a licensed cultivator may cultivate, grow and propagate cannabis at an establishment containing not less than 15,000 square feet of grow space.
While the Department of Consumer Protection doesn’t have an opinion on the policy, the Department of Agriculture says it supports efforts to include hemp farmers.
But at the moment, under Connecticut’s existing hemp program, which is a USDA approved state plan, a licensee cannot simultaneously hold both a hemp and cannabis license.
“The Department did advocate in favor of the working group in Public Act 22-103 which is tasked with assessing how to best support the hemp industry as recreational cannabis becomes legal here in Connecticut,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement. “The Department supports recreational cannabis businesses including Connecticut hemp products for sale at their locations.”
Sen. Christine Cohen, who co-chairs the Environment Committee, said she’s also supportive of allowing hemp farmers to expand into the legal cannabis business.
“We passed the working group and I would like to see them be able to grow,” Cohen said. “It makes perfect sense as they already are cultivating the plant/species and it supports our agricultural heritage in the state.”
Goodenough, a former Marine who worked in the tech industry at IBM for 25 years, said it was the healing properties of the plant that brought him back to his farming roots.
“I fell in love with farming again,” Goodenough said. “I have a background in technology, but it led me back to the farm.”