Innovators, MTSU lead in Tennessee’s emerging CBD market.
For years, Maury County’s 600-plus square miles of farmland have been used in the traditional sense, producing corn, soybeans and hay and raising livestock for beef and dairy. In recent years, however, some of this land has been used for a different purpose – growing an old, familiar crop.
Hemp was a staple in Maury County in the mid-to-late 1800s, according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. At that time, the plant was used for ropes and other industrial needs, but with the passage of state and federal laws following World War II, production declined.
Today, times have changed – and so have laws and attitudes toward hemp. Across the country, political leaders and the populace have come to understand that hemp is not marijuana, but a plant with a compound that offers real health benefits. Hemp extracts can contain no more than 0.3% of THC, the psychoactive compound that differentiates marijuana from industrial hemp.
A First for Maury County
Meet Dennis and Samantha Albu of Mt. Pleasant, innovators in Maury County’s industrial hemp resurgence. The couple founded Alleviate Pharms and, as changes in the law allowed, they began growing the plants and extracting cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD. In 2018, they opened the county’s first hemp retail shop, Mule Town Hemp and Cafe, where they sell hemp-based products, including creams, lotions, powders, tinctures, gel caps, tea, pet treats, candies, soaps, concentrates and many other products.
Some of their products are used orally, others topically, and their customers say they alleviate a range of ailments, from arthritis to rashes to sleeplessness.
“People love our products,â€ Samantha says. “We work with our customers to make sure they get the right milligram, and they tell us it helps with different ailments.”
She says people ages 65 and older have been especially receptive to trying CBD.
“Seniors are tired of taking a handful of pills every day and worrying about whether the medications are working and what side effects may occur,â€ she says. “Many are finding relief in our products without having to worry about harmful side effects.”
The Albus describe their business as soil to oil.
“We farm it, extract it and make the products,â€ she says. “We are all about people before profit, and we have been since the beginning,â€ she says. “We are here to help people.”
She says the most important advice she has for people exploring the use of CBD is: Know its origin.
“It’s important that the product is genuine and has the right amount of the extract,â€ she says. “People should be able to trust what the label says.”
In 2019, Alleviate Pharms expanded its operations to include a 25,000-square-foot facility in Lawrenceburg, and they have begun extracting hemp for other farmers.
Research and Discovery
The key to success in the hemp industry is consumer trust, and the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research (TCBMR) is a leader in building that trust through science. Part of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), the center received a $2.5 million grant from GreenWay Herbal Products to investigate the commodity opportunity of hemp and its potential medicinal value.
“Basically, they said, ‘Tell us if there’s anything worthwhile,’â€ says Elliot Altman, TCBMR director. “The bottom line is yes.”
But researchers also made a discovery. The combination of CBD and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is even more beneficial than CBD alone. MTSU patented that discovery and, with GreenWay Herbal Products, launched Tanasi, a line of specially formulated cannabinoid products using the exclusive CBDA/CBD formula.
“People are trying this formula, and it is working for them,â€ Altman says of the Tanasi products. The formula is being used by consumers to treat psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune disorders as well as muscle aches, rashes and other health problems.
Altman credits the state’s leadership for taking the right steps to make hemp a commodity crop and create an opportunity for farmers, processors and marketers.
The 2014 and 2018 Federal Farm Bills opened the door for states like Tennessee that were receptive to the expansion of the hemp extract market, which is expected to exceed $1 billion annually in the next few years.
“I would say the future is bright,â€ Altman says of Tennessee’s hemp industry.
Past & Present: Hemp Throughout the Years
The production of hemp has seesawed a little since the mid-1800s, as laws have changed regarding the farming and uses of the plant.
To shed a little bit of light on the subject, here are a few facts about the plant, from its history to present day.
- Growing hemp in Maury County dates back to the mid-1800s.
- Back then, hemp was used for rope and bagging for cotton bales.
- Hemp – along with tobacco, cotton, sugar and rice – fueled the region’s economy.
- Mt. Pleasant was once home to a bustling hemp industry in the 1850s led by Lucius Polk. A return of the crop is in the planning stages at his family’s large, still-active farm.
- Today, hemp is legal.
- The plant can be processed into clothing, paper, insulation products and even consumables, like additives to salads.
- It is anticipated that hemp might become an alternative to some plastics.
- This could include making single-use storage bags out of hemp, as they would biodegrade, or replacing some car interior parts with hemp.
- CBD oil, which is extracted from hemp, is mostly used for pain relief, insomnia and muscle aches, and the uses of hemp continue to grow.
Hemp, Hemp Hooray: Facts About Hemp
- What is Hemp? Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant, and while it is related to marijuana, hemp is grown for industrial use and contains less than 0.3% of THC.
- There are 25k+ uses for hemp.
- Hemp seeds are even more nutritious than flax or chia seeds.
- Hemp is one of the most versatile materials used to produce a variety of different products, including rope, plastics, insulation, paper, food and more.
- Hemp consumes 4x as much carbon dioxide as trees do.
- The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
- 1 acre of hemp produces 2x as much oil as 1 acre of peanuts and 4x as much fiber pulp (used for paper) as 1 acre of trees.
If you’d like to learn more about the Maury County area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Maury County Business.