The Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex hosted the 2019 Vermont Flower Show last weekend, bringing a glimpse of spring on a trio of sunny, late-winter days.
The show featured a 15,000 square foot garden display complete with fountains, mini bridges and thousands of live flowers; educational gardening seminars and workshops; and hundreds of local vendors featuring gardening, landscaping and other horticultural-related products.
One Colchester business that showed off its wares at the show was 802 Hemp Oil, selling organic cannabidiol, or CBD, products. The company is new to the Vermont hemp scene, having only been formed at last year’s Champlain Valley fair, according to co-owner Matt Monaghan.
“We just set up at the fair and we were like, ‘Oh, let’s see what happens,’ and now we have stores from Milford, Connecticut to Plattsburgh,” he said. “It was unreal, people were asking us to open stores.”
While Monaghan and his co-owner Alan Young might operate stores across the region, they chose to make Colchester their home base because they’re a little partial: Colchester is both of their hometowns.
“We’ve been in this industry in Maine and Arizona for about six years now, but we all grew up and live in Colchester, so we’ve been trying to slowly bring this back to our hometown,” Monaghan said. “We’re as close as we can get right now.”
The two operate hemp farms in southern Vermont and St. Albans, as well as one in Massachusetts. They also lease land from other farmers in the area who are certified organic, to keep their products compliant with organic guidelines.
“We’re farm to table, so there’s no middle man for us,” Monaghan explained. “We make our own products from seed to finish.”
In addition to owning their own farms or working directly to support farmers, the pair own and operate manufacturing plants in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. While they make some of their products outside of the state, the 802 Hemp Oil label only goes on the products made right here in Vermont.
For example, Monaghan explained the regulations surrounding infusing food with CBD are a bit complicated currently in Vermont, so they make their edible products in Massachusetts instead. In addition to CBD-infused gummy bears, the company offers salves, tinctures, maple sticks and even bath bombs made with CBD for a full-body soak in the substance.
Monaghan said his and Young’s experience in the industry and attention to quality is what sets their product apart from others on the market. He said they test the product in-house first to ensure the quality of their product, and then they send it to a third-party certified lab to make sure they’re meeting CBD federal guidelines.
“Companies are trying to pop up without all the same formalities that we go through, the rigorous testing,” Monaghan said. “It’s tough for somebody like us who are spending thousands of dollars a month to make sure we’re…doing everything right, and then these guys come up with a $54 test that they sent off to some lab and now they can call their product CBD oil.”
Federal and state legal guidelines stipulate the hemp must contain less than .3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the intoxicating compound found in cannabis. Hemp farmers have to register farms in the state’s database as well as participate in a pilot research program in order to be legally recognized.
Monaghan said it can be difficult to balance the varying rules when it comes to selling CBD across state lines.
“In Plattsburgh, for instance, we’re dealing with the state politics there,” he explained. “There’s a lot of hurdles for the manufacturer.”
He said that in the end, his company’s main focus is legality, quality and affordability of the product, to ensure customers are getting the best on the market to help them with their ailments.
“The end result in helping somebody and helping not only the farmer but helping the consumer for their aches and pains and anxiety makes it all worth it.”