Before starting Glow Holistic in 2018, Benjamin Clark and his wife Eunice wanted nothing to do with cannabis products. It wasn’t until friends of his parents in North Carolina started growing hemp that Clark, after extensive research, said he recognized the crop’s benefits.
After leaving his job as a mate with the Jamestown Ferry, he began to grow and sell hemp at his farm in King William County last year.
“We weren’t looking to get into this at all — to me cannabis was bad, it always has been,” Clark said. “… I looked into it, and the more research [I did] about it, and the benefits of CBD and how it’s helping people, we decided to get into it.
“At that same time, Virginia was talking about opening up its VDACS program last year. The timing really worked out quite wonderfully for us.”
Hemp, like marijuana, is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, but its level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is much lower — usually less than 0.3% — and the plant can be used in various industries, including agriculture, construction and, historically, shipbuilding.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another ingredient in hemp. CBD is extracted from the hemp plant and, in Glow Holistic’s case, is used to make health products.
Peter Grinspoon, contributing editor for Harvard Health Publishing, notes that CBD has been used successfully to treat epilepsy in children and is also used to treat anxiety and sleep-related issues.
For the Clarks, their tinctures, balms, creams and gummies have been about healing others.
“We’re amazed at the feedback from people, that it helps them with so many different things, from sleeping and problems sleeping to people with cancer that are taking it and all different things,” he said.
In January 2018, Virginia bills HB532 and SB247 were first introduced. They became law July 2018 and allowed the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to lead research through the creation of two different programs.
One program was designated for research by institutions of higher education, while the other is for state research. The creation of the state’s industrial hemp research program meant farmers did not have to pair up with a university to grow hemp plants. Glow Holistic was the third business in the state to get its registration from VDACS last year, according to Clark.
President Donald Trump signed off on the Farm Bill in December 2018, which addressed a variety of agricultural issues and legalized the industrial production of hemp nationwide. In March 2019, Gov. Ralph Northam signed off on a new amendment to the Industrial Hemp Law, which mirrors regulations set for hemp by the Farm Bill. The amendment allows for commercial growing, with no restrictions on what growers do with the hemp they grow.
Even with the expanding legislation, Clark says navigating hemp regulations has not been easy.
“The state and federal government are kind of issuing different regulations at the same time, and so they sort of conflict,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of interest [in hemp], and that’s good. But at the same time, the industry is moving so rapidly that the legislation is not able to keep up.”
Glow Holistic sells its products on its website, at West Point Pharmacy, King William Pharmacy and at a few places in Williamsburg. They also display their products at 2nd Sundays and collaborate with alternative health service Tasha’s Own to produce CBD oil-infused goat’s milk soap. Eunice Clark said it’s important for those who sell CBD products to accurately disclose how many milligrams of CBD is in the product and to price those products appropriately.
“There was one time we went to Virginia Beach and they had a bath bomb and it only had 14 milligrams and they sell it for $12,” she said. “Ours has 200 milligrams, and we’re going to sell it for $15. We want [customers] to have that and not just baloney.”
The couple manages 2 acres with two greenhouses, an irrigation field for outdoor plants and a drying room. The greenhouses’ light uses a long-day schedule, allowing for year-round production and crop yields three times a year instead of once.
The final version of the hemp is packaged and stored in the dry room before being sent off to extractors so the plant’s CBD oil can be cultivated. Glow Holistic does not do extraction in-house because the needed machinery is expensive, Clark said.
While Clark will look into expansions for Glow Holistic, such as a new dry room facility, he said he is grateful for the support they have had from the community.
“We really feel blessed and happy to be part of something that is helping people,” he said. “It’s something that is really changing the quality of life for people.”