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Ashland business unveils hemp cigarettes

In the rolling hills north of Ashland, three young farmers with alpacas and llamas (for soil building) are biodynamically growing 6 acres of hemp and manufacturing high-grade CBD cigarettes, which they market themselves online, at trade shows and by “pounding the pavement” to dispensaries up-and-down the West Coast.

It’s hard-scrabble farming and face-to-face marketing of something they believe in, first off for its anti-anxiety effects (they don’t talk about healing or curing anything; the market is doing that by itself) and for its almost magical ability, they say, to help break the nicotine habit.

The company, Rasti Hemp, uses the tagline, “Relaxation Without Intoxication.” And, says President Sean Roberts, they are doing everything they can to be planet friendly: organic, permaculture, biointensive, fighting pests with living organisms, biodegradable papers, filters and packaging made from sustainably harvested forests, fertilizing with llama-alpaca manure tea, eschewing plastic and fossil-fuel products, living wages to employees and selling it as “an alternative to smoking.”

“What it has is a relaxing effect. It loosens the muscles and is great for anxiety, which is an epidemic these days,” says April Roberts, the firm’s creative director and website manager. “And, of course, it’s non-psychotropic, has to be under .3% THC by law.”

Sean Roberts notes that the product helps meet the habituated needs of cigarette smokers — the oral fixation, the muscle memory of the hand-to-mouth movement, the similarity in how it draws like a cigarette. It also brings that anti-anxiety effect.

“It should also be paired with the usual smoking-cessation tools,” says company Vice President Tommy Letchworth.

The three say that rules (especially federal) around all cannabis products are being ironed out, and it’s not clear whether it’s legal to smoke hemp in public, where THC cigs and vapes are banned.

Hemp is now legal under state and federal law, but working with banks and insurers is still “a nightmare,” says Sean. They couldn’t get any bank in the valley to open a simple checking account, but finally found a bank online and had to sign a promise not to disclose who it is. However, state regulations around hemp, they say, are far simpler than with recreational cannabis — and were part of the inducement to go in that direction.

Showing off a big lump of bud, Letchworth says its has no trim or shake and is as pure and high-quality as CBD gets. Each cig has 90 mg of CBD, and a 10-pack retails for $25.

Here’s how they describe it on rastihemp.com: “We begin with the finest hemp flower under the sun! Hand-harvested, slow-cured and trimmed to perfection. Then, we mix our trimmed and processed CBD-rich hemp flower with our carefully selected blends of organic herbs, formulated for your smoking enjoyment. With less than 0.3% THC content, our hemp smokes will never get you high, however the approximate 90 mg. of CBD in each of our Original Blend RASTi CBD Flower smokes will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.”

Online testimonials say it helps people sleep, and because it “relaxes your muscles, not your mind,” it’s good for studying.

Another, from restaurateur Bekka Rice, says, “I usually smoke one after a stressful day at work and get an instant feeling of relief. They are very soothing and good for anxiety. I am a health-conscious person who does not smoke tobacco cigarettes. I do, however, enjoy taking a break, sitting outside and relaxing with friends. I love that I can still enjoy the social aspect of smoking, without the harmful effects of tobacco. I also love that these smokes are packed with CBD, which is an anti-inflammatory and helps with stress and anxiety. Since I’ve started smoking these, I have also been sleeping better.”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Sean Roberts and Thomas Letchworth have a puff from their CBD cigarettes at Galaxy Farms in Ashland. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Hemp cigarettes produced by Galaxy Farms in Ashland. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune