Next Step for Hemp: Agape Blends founder receives Pennsylvania Hemp Grow Permit to grow product locally.
The Republican Herald 20 May 2019
By JILL WWHALEN STAFF WRITER
WARREN RUDA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Hemp not just for rope anymore. Local Agape Blends Natural Hemp shop owner, Matthew Neifert, has products for people and pets.
GINTHERS — As founder of Agape Blends, Matthew Neifert began selling natural hemp products online a few years ago.
He recently opened a brick and mortar store, which sells hemp derived cannabidiol products marketed to ease aches and pains or lessen anxiety.
Now, Neifert is taking his business a step further and will soon begin planting industrial hemp in the area. He is part of a group recently approved to commercially grow the crop after the federal Farm Bill approved late last year removed it from Controlled Substances Act regulations.
Because it’s a relatively new option, Neifert said not many are aware of what hemp or CBD products are.
“Some people connect it with marijuana and cannabis and the things that they’ve been told their whole lives,” he said. Mostly, he said, they fear they will get “high” if they use the products. He explained that CBD is a compound found in hemp and marijuana but unlike THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, it does not produce a “high.”
“The THC is actually bred out but the CBD levels remain high,” Neifert said of the hemp products.
While CBD isn’t yet approved by the Federal Drug Administration for treatment of any condition, preclinical research and some clinical studies published by the National Institutes of Health have shown that it can provide benefits to those with chronic pain, anxiety and arthritis.
Although Neifert can’t make any medical claims about his product, he said he often refers people to the website www.projectcbd.org. He can also steer people in the right direction if they’re confused about the types of products. After all, Agape stocks everything from salves to tinctures to bath bombs.
Most folks who visit the shop are seeking treatment for pain or insomnia, he said.
“This turns into a cycle. They have pain and then they get anxiety because they have pain. And then they have anxiety so they can’t sleep,” he said. “People are on painkillers. They’re on anti-anxiety meds and they’re on sleeping pills. The three of those — and the combination is not good for your liver.”
Potential for Pain Management and Other Ailments.
Others come to him because their doctors are cutting back on their prescription medications, he said.
“That weaning off of one thing can’t happen all at once. They need a little bit of support,” Neifert said, saying some will supplement with CBD products. “It works for a lot of people and it surprises them. They can’t believe how good they feel.”
Some customers are referred to him by medical doctors, too.
“All of our products come with a certificate of analysis,” he said. “This will show you the exact percentage of THC, which has to be under 0.3 percent (under federal guidelines). I can pull it up for every product in here.”
That’s because Agape’s hemp is grown on an FDA certified organic farm in Colorado, a place Neifert visits to check on the crop.
Department of Agriculture Green Light
Neifert will be able to provide certificates of analysis when he starts growing locally.
“We have approval from the Department of Agriculture. There aren’t even 400 permits in the state,” he said. “This is my brand. I’m not just a shop selling CBDs. I’m actually among the people who will be making it. We will literally be farm to table here soon.”
The crop will be monitored and tested multiple times a week by the Department of Agriculture to make sure THC levels are low.
When it’s ready to harvest, it will be cut, dried and processed. A new line of products — with the locally grown hemp — will be in the store by autumn.
“It’s a durable plant and it’s very useful. You can make it into bioplastics ... there are hemp ‘plastics’ that will biodegrade in four or five months as opposed to 500 years,” he said. “These are the things we need to do more research on but we couldn’t until now because it’s federally legal now.”
Getting the Word Out
Down the road, he’s hoping to work with local colleges and universities.
“The main thing is educating people. People come in all the time and they have questions. They’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry for asking...,’ ” he said. “But that’s the main thing — teaching people that it is different. You won’t get high. You won’t have ‘reefer madness’ or all these things you grew up seeing.”
Neifert said that he started using CBD as a substitute for pain medication after his second knee reconstruction and found that it helped him sleep better. He also didn’t feel sluggish, like he did when he’d pop pharmaceuticals.
And he remembered how migraine headaches crippled his father, leaving him unable to work and confined to bed.
The elder Neifert tried everything, hoping to find a cure. Visits to doctors. Prescription medication. Nothing — it seemed — ever helped. He began taking cannabidiol supplements, and over time, the migraines lessened in strength, diminished in quantity, and eventually left him for weeks on end.
“It didn’t happen overnight but it happened,” Neifert said.
He’s hoping others will find help with the natural products.
“I have a passion for this. And to see people come back and say, ‘Hey, this is really helping me. I’m getting so much relief.’ It’s satisfying,” Neifert said.