GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The longest-running farmers market in the Grand Rapids area says it’s not ready to allow hemp-related sales.
It’s a decision one frustrated hemp farmer is hoping to change through an online petition.
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” said Sean Duffy, owner of Rising Moon Farms in White Cloud. “I don’t understand it. … It’s a health product. In my mind, it would no different than if I were selling chamomile tea. It helps you relax at the end of the day and fall asleep. That’s about it.”
Duffy reached out to the Fulton Street Farmers Market last fall about selling his cannabidiol — more commonly known as CBD oil — and industrial hemp flowers, but he said the market told him it was waiting for guidance from the government.
Then in December, President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp’s designation as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, authorizing the commercial production of industrial hemp in the United States.
In late March, the state of Michigan issued guidance further clarifying the legalities surrounding industrial hemp products versus marijuana products.
In April, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development launched a pilot program through which farmers could become licensed in the growth and commercial production of industrial hemp. Duffy was one of more than 600 people who obtained licenses.
“I paid $1,450 so I could sell this product legally,” he told 24 Hour News 8 at his farm.
But when he applied in spring to sell CBD oil and industrial hemp flowers at the Farmers Market, administrators rejected his application.
“We don’t feel like we’re best equipped right now to be able to regulate those sort of products,” Rory Weston, market manager and executive director of the Fulton Street Farmers Market, said. “Because we are a family-friendly market, we just want to make sure the rules and regulations are in place so we can best monitor products we hadn’t had on the market before.”
Weston said the issue went to the market’s two governing bodies: the elected vendor committee and board of directors.
“For this season, we’re not accepting (hemp-related products) until we have more information. … We’re not saying that it won’t happen in the future for this market. There could be opportunity if it goes through the proper channels and we get the right information,” Weston said.
But Duffy wonders what the “right information” is.
“What are we waiting for?” he asked. “The regulations are out. The law is passed on a federal and state level. There’s nothing more to figure out.”
Duffy also questioned why the market allows alcohol sales but rejected his organically grown, hand-cultivated industrial hemp.
“I just don’t understand why alcohol is allowed but my nonintoxicating health food product, essentially, is not allowed,” Duffy said.
CBD oil is derived from cannabis plants, but it has very little THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive effects. Duffy said a third-party lab found his CBD oil has no THC.
Weston pointed out that the Michigan Farmers Market Association gave markets guidance regarding how to process application for alcohol sales.
“Those folks went through the necessary proper channels and that was legislation brought by the Michigan Farmers Market Association,” she said. “They gave us guidance again on how to accept vendors of that nature. At this point, we don’t have guidance on how to accept (hemp-related) vendors.”
The Michigan Farmers Market Association told 24 Hour News 8 it has fielded a lot of questions. Executive director Amanda Shreve provided this statement:
“In preparation for this farmers market season, a number of market managers across the state have been approached from vendors interested in selling hemp products including CBD oil at their markets. In response to requests from market managers for information that would help inform their decision-making process, we have pointed them to resources provided by Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) agency and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). These materials are available to the public at www.michigan.gov/industrialhemp.
“Ultimately, it is the decision of each market which vendors they allow to sell at their market and which they do not. Markets make these decisions based on a number of factors including the mission of their market, the space available, and the mix of products and vendors within their market. MIFMA supports the ability of farmers markets and their managers to make decisions about what is best for their market.”