As the conversation around the legalization and distribution of marijuana heats up, there is one part of the plant that has allowed a local business to flourish.
For almost five years, Michigan Herbal Remedies (MHR Brands) has distributed hemp products across the country.
Jeff Gallagher, founder of MHR Brands, has been selling hemp-based products, such as facial toners, cream moisturizers, chocolates, gummies, supplements and pet products, to customers all over the world.
“We sell things for the overall well-being of our consumers,” Gallagher said. “We ship to all 50 states and several countries worldwide.”
Gallagher said he has seen his business grow from distributing five hemp-based products per month in 2013 to shipping more than 90,000 hemp-related products to customers nationally and internationally last year.
Although Gallagher’s business has grown significantly over the past five years, he has been unable to secure and cultivate a hemp farm in Michigan even though the Industrial Hemp Research Act (IHRA) was passed in 2014.
According to David Harns, a public information officer from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, IHRA authorizes the growing and cultivating of industrial hemp for research purposes only.
“The IHRA authorized the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development or colleges/universities in Michigan to grow or cultivate — or both — industrial hemp for purposes of research,” Harns said. “The research must be conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research project.”
Despite the legislative approval, Gallagher said he has been unsuccessful in convincing Michigan universities to grow hemp. He said he suspects the institutions of higher learning are fearful of losing federal funding.
Gallagher said much of his work revolves around educating the public about hemp and marijuana because people tend to confuse the two as they are derived from the same Cannabis sativa L. plant.
“The difference between a hemp plant and ‘marijuana’ plant is the amount of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) in the product,” Gallagher said. “So, based on the industrial hemp provision of the farm bill, if it is 0.3 percent or less of THC, it is hemp. If it is over 0.3 percent of THC at harvest, it is marijuana.”
Harns emphasized any part of the plant, whether growing or not growing, with a THC (the psychoactive chemical that causes a “high”) concentration of less than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis is “industrial hemp.”
Harns said marijuana consists of all of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, whether growing or not, including the seeds, the resin extracted from any part of the plant, every compound manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant or seeds or resin.
Although MHR Brands has not been able to grow the plant in Michigan, Gallagher has taken full advantage of the state laws in Colorado and Kentucky.
“We are using domestically grown hemp (from) Kentucky and Colorado, through university partnerships at the University of Kentucky and the University of Colorado, which partner with farmers to produce hemp,” Gallagher said. “We then buy their processed hemp.”
Once MHR Brands receives the hemp, Gallagher said it is taken to a marijuana testing facility in Walled Lake to confirm it doesn’t have THC levels over 0.3 percent. It also checks for the plant’s second prominent chemical, cannabidiol (CBD), which Gallagher said has anti-inflammatory benefits.
Catherine Rudolf is a nutritionist in Indiana. US Hemp Wholesale, a DBA for MHR Brands, supplies her business, Foods That Heal You. She said she has been using US Hemp Wholesale since 2015 and the majority of products she orders are CBD hemp oils.
“I don’t keep an inventory in my office here in Indiana,” Rudolf said. “(MHR Brands) ships everything to my customers. I place the orders, and they ship it.”
Gallagher has MHR Brands facilities in Jenison and Holland. He said he is in the process of sowing the seeds for his own hemp farm in Colorado this spring, which he hopes will allow him to ship over 100,000 hemp-based products this year.