SOUTH WINDSOR — For generations, tobacco was the hallmark crop in town, but on Tuesday the Town Council discussed advancing the local hemp-growing industry by allowing construction of a „hempery” where CBD-infused products could be consumed.
It would be run similar to wine and beer-tasting rooms found at some wineries and breweries, officials say. Potentially, it would be the region’s first onsite consumable hempery.
In an agenda discussion item Tuesday, the council and Well Flowers LLC discussed the possibility of building a 30-by-90-foot greenhouse and hempery on farmland at 1105 Strong Road.
Well Flowers, a consortium of local farmers, was formed in March 2019 following the state’s adoption of agricultural law that permits the cultivation of hemp and CBD-based products.
The potential hempery would be a place where people could try the products made from hemp plants „to relax and educate themselves in what tends to be a taboo subject” and „understand where this flower comes from and the benefits it can provide,” Well Flower board member Manny Rivera said on Tuesday.
The area of interest that could potentially be developed into a three-season agricultural stop hasn’t been commercially farmed since the 1940s. The area is free of pesticides, making it a prime spot for the company to farm up to 20,000 pounds of CBD hemp annually, the company partners said. The area is 57 acres in total. Of that, 47 acres would be used for farming hemp, and hold the greenhouse and hempery, Well Flower board member Bruce Snow said.
The product would contain low levels of THC and could be smoked or processed into CBD oils and other, undisclosed infused items.
The state does not allow for the legal sale of recreational marijuana. The plant that the company is hoping to profit off of, the CBD hemp flower, „has less than 0.3 percent THC, which is less than the current legal amount,” Rivera said.
The company’s board said that this would be similar to other CBD products on the market, providing users with a calm and therapeutic „clear-headed experience” rather than an intoxicating „high effect.”
Anyone who enters the proposed hempery must be at least 21 years old, officials said. Additionally, the sale of vaping products to anyone under the age of 21 is banned in town. The CBD-based product could be smoked, but would not be sold at the hempery as oil for a vaping cartridge, officials said.
At the hempery, visitors could sample various forms of the plant while witnessing the process of raising it „from seed to sale.” The company plans to farm five different strands of the plant. If customers ask for other strands, the company will look to import them, Snow said.
Board member Andel Green added that the company also hopes to install bar codes or the square QR codes on hempery products that visitors can scan with their smart phones to immediately get the product’s Certificate of Analysis from the testing lab.
The company received its Oregon-based seeds last year from the Connecticut Hemp Association. It also produced its own seeds, which must be approved by the state Agriculture Department. Well Flowers is also working with a University of Connecticut lab to test both its soil and THC content in the product three times a year — pre-harvest, mid-season, and post-harvest, Snow said.
In July 2019, the Town Council approved setting aside $50,000 of its funds to put towards hemp farming in town. The amount is a transfer from the town’s economic development professional account that is earmarked for investing in hemp farming and hemp oil production.
The move was controversial as it was considered a pilot program using taxpayer funds as a capital venture that had high risk and potential high return, town officials said at the time.
The $50,000 has not yet been spent, and the council did not vote on Tuesday to do so. Well Flower officials said Tuesday the company is asking to use the full $50,000 in town funds now, and would agree to repay the full amount in three years, if approved.
Snow said the funds would be used to „get us up and running,” and pay for necessary supplies as well as the potential greenhouse.
„We’re not a bank,” Councilwoman Janice Snyder said, as officials agreed that, as talks continue, the town would focus on looking toward establishing an agricultural program that benefits local farmers while also spending taxpayer money wisely.
At the same time, Snyder said she was impressed with the company’s vision and agreed that this could potentially be beneficial for the town’s economy.
„I see this as an opportunity to start a new farming agricultural industry that can grow in so many ways,” Mayor Andrew Paterna said. „It’s not just one business.”