BELGRADE, Mont. — On the heels of hemp’s legalization, a Belgrade cannabidiol company is taking off.
With a 6,500-square-foot research and development production facility, Discretion Partners has signed major distribution deals and provided CBD products to professional sports teams and players across the country, president and CEO Larry Harmon said.
As things ramp up with his company, Harmon said the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill should help the hemp business. The bill took hemp off of the federal government’s list of controlled substances, removing barriers to production and improving accessibility to banks, Harmon said.
In Montana, that could be huge. Though numbers can vary depending on how production is counted, a report done by a hemp advocacy group, Vote Hemp, said that Montana saw the most hemp production in the entire country in 2018, going from 542 acres in 2017 to 22,000 acres in 2018.
Harmon said he buys his plants from a mixture of in-state and out-of-state farmers, and he sees the product helping the agriculture industry, especially if farmers can start feeding leftover hemp to livestock.
“What we’re doing today may look different tomorrow,” he said. “Because we have so much opportunity to help farmers and maybe process their plants for them.”
CBD contains all the physically calming properties of marijuana, with minuscule amounts of THC, the chemical responsible for the psychoactive symptoms.
Harmon views CBD as an alternative holistic medicine. He pairs it with other natural plants and said the substance can be used to treat epilepsy, ADHD, depression, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and even opioid addiction, although that has not been proven by the Food and Drug Administration.
Harmon said he has worked for a biotechnology company, but he’d still prefer to use CBD before anything else.
“I’m personally not a pill-taker and would prefer to put something whole-plant or organic in my body,” he said.
Products Harmon will sell include a therapeutic spray, honey sticks, massage oil and sleeping pills.
Though he couldn’t disclose which ones, he said he has also been working with professional sports teams to provide CBD to athletes.
He also just finalized an agreement with a company that distributes to chains like Walgreens and Bed Bath & Beyond.
Despite hemp legalization and the CBD industry’s success, Harmon said some banks and insurers are still hesitant to take on people who work in the business.
“Unfortunately, we still have what I would call a lot of close-minded people who still think hemp is marijuana,” he said.
Clinton Gerst, president of Bozeman Bank, said he couldn’t disclose if his bank worked with CBD companies or hemp farmers, but he said the bank follows all regulations surrounding who it can work with.
The conflict between state and federal regulations has been a headache for those in the banking industry, and he said it’s on the agenda for discussion when he goes to Washington, D.C. along with some other banking delegates at the end of this month.
“That is a source of irritation,” he said. “We are working with various industry associations to fix those conflicting rules.”
Despite remaining challenges, Harmon sees the 2018 Farm Bill as a huge win for those in the CBD industry, and he wants to see it grow in Montana.
“I hope it does grow,” he said. “We’ve always been this unique, weird little monster in the industry.”