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Smoking Hemp Catches On

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Advocates have long differentiated marijuana, the psychoactive cannabis flower that people smoke, from hemp, marijuana's non-psychoactive relative. But these days, more people are smoking hemp even though they're unlikely to get stoned. Vermont Public Radio's Emily Corwin reports.

EMILY CORWIN, BYLINE: When Congress legalized hemp farming at the end of last year, a CNN reporter wrote this - quote, "if you try to smoke hemp, you'll probably just end up with a headache."

KELSY RAAP: Oh, my gosh. They did not do good research.

CORWIN: Kelsy Raap (ph) and her family own Green State Gardener, a cannabis garden store and CBD retailer. They carefully cultivate hemp flowers specifically for smoking. She says the old headache myth - that's if you smoke industrial hemp grown for textiles. Hemp, of course, is the non-psychoactive relative of marijuana, and it's increasingly popular these days for its CBD.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR SQUEAKING)

CORWIN: At her store in Burlington, Vt., Raap gestures to the display case and apologizes.

RAAP: It's unfortunate that I don't have, like, a lovely, giant display of packaged flower because it's sold out. And we keep having trouble keeping up with the demand.

CORWIN: There are three reasons Raap says her customers smoke hemp. Some mix it with today's extra-potent marijuana to mellow it out.

RAAP: So that's what we would call a salad. Some people like 50-50 marijuana and hemp. Some people just do a little sprinkle of marijuana.

CORWIN: Others say smoking hemp is the fastest way to reduce anxiety or insomnia with CBDs, although we couldn't find research to back that up. And the rest...

RAAP: They're in it for the ritual of the smoking.

CORWIN: All this is good for business. Jonathan Miller is general counsel for the Hemp Roundtable, a national lobbying group based in Kentucky.

JONATHAN MILLER: The demand for hemp flower or smokable hemp is a very small part of the hemp and CBD marketplace, but it is - it seems to be the one that's growing most rapidly.

CORWIN: One CBD research firm reportedly projects the smokable hemp market to hit $70 million this year. And as the trend grows, it has some people on edge. Miller says six states have already banned smokable hemp flower in one way or another, mostly to appease police officers who say they can't tell it from marijuana. That's less of a problem in states like Vermont, which does not penalize adults for having small quantities of marijuana.

JOEY VERGA: Everything sells, from bath bombs to hot cocoa to honey sticks. It's unbelievable.

CORWIN: I stop by Joey Verga's new CBD store in downtown Burlington, Green Leaf Central. While I'm there, Fred Morin swings by, and we chat. He shows me the pre-rolled hemp joints you can buy in a pack of five.

Do you smoke pre-rolls at all?

FRED MORIN: Yeah. Yeah, I do. I smoke hemp.

CORWIN: What's it do for you?

MORIN: Well, helps me kind of relax.

VERGA: Me too. Let me tell you, it satisfies me.

CORWIN: Verga puts a pre-rolled hemp joint in my hand.

VERGA: I grew that hemp.

CORWIN: You grew this hemp?

VERGA: I grew the hemp here - like, outside.

CORWIN: We go out to the alley. A single hemp plant sits in the sun.

VERGA: Beautiful out today.

CORWIN: Is this, like...

VERGA: You look good.

CORWIN: Do I inhale, or is it like a cigar?

VERGA: You look good already. Like a cigar.

MORIN: Yeah, no. Well, you can take it both ways.

VERGA: No, no. Inhale, but a little.

CORWIN: Inhale, OK.

VERGA: Yeah, yeah.

CORWIN: Yeah.

MORIN: Joey, you want some?

VERGA: Yeah, that's pretty good.

CORWIN: After a few more drags, I don't feel that different, but I also don't have a headache.

For NPR News in Vermont, I'm Emily Corwin.

(SOUNDBITE OF WAX TAILOR AND ALI HARTER SONG, "ONLY ONCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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