New York Hemp Oil Completes First Full Growing Cycle
By Casey Verderosa
Rev: Ithaca Startup Works member New York Hemp Oilgot its license to process industrial hemp in November 2017, shortly after production of the plant became legal again in the state. The company hit the ground running, and in a little over a year has quintupled its workforce, raised $400,000 from private investors, and become one of the only cannabidiol (CBD) oil companies in New York with full circle production, planting hemp seeds, processing, and selling the oil.
CBD oil has become popular as states have begun legalizing hemp in recent years, and its consumption is expected to skyrocket with the nationwide legalization of hemp from the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp production was made illegal with the 1970 Controlled Substances Act due to its close genetic relationship to marijuana, despite the fact that it is impossible to experience a high from hemp.
Consumers seek CBD oil as a remedy for inflammation or anxiety. “We let our product speak for itself,” says New York Hemp Oil co-founder Karli Miller-Hornick ’11[CM1] . “We are built on brand loyalty. People take our oil and see results. We depend on word-of-mouth testimonials to help spread the word.”
The name of that brand is Head + Heal and Miller-Hornick, along with co-founder Allan Gandelman, put their product through rigorous lab testing to ensure its quality. Their CBD oil is tested for accuracy in potency, for heavy metals, and for pesticides. There is no legally-approved pesticide in CBD oil production, as pesticide concentration in the oil can be high.
A collaboration with Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, New York Hemp Oil utilized the CALS database of pests and genetic varieties being utilized in New York to determine which strain of seed to plant based on certain genetic characteristics. As a result of this emphasis on quality, the company is seeing a higher demand for its product than it can currently meet. Funds the company recently raised from investors are being used to build a new, larger processing lab so that it can increase production and sales in New York.
Although New York Hemp Oil has overcome many of the obstacles to CBD oil production and sales, there are still many challenges for the industry. One major challenge is the cost of hemp seeds themselves. For comparison, a carrot seed costs about a penny, but a hemp seed costs a dollar. The reason for such a tremendous difference in price is that hemp seeds undergo feminization to guarantee that the plant will produce buds and only a few companies in the nation are currently feminizing hemp seeds.
Furthermore, New York Hemp Oil’s processing of the plant is all done by hand. The hemp is harvested and dried, then stripped from the stalks and ground down. More research on CBD oil production and more funding would benefit companies like New York Hemp Oil. Currently, New York state only provides grants to companies that use hemp grain and fiber, according to Miller-Hornick.
But the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill has made her hopeful. “Hemp is now legal on the national level so doors will start opening to research,” she says. “The floodgates will open for the industry.”