By Elizabeth F. McNamara

If you were wondering if someone was growing a bunch of marijuana plants next to Heritage Equestrian Center on Tillinghast Road, you were not alone. The crop even had EG police wondering a couple weeks ago. Turns out, the crop is hemp, a very close relative of marijuana, but with a crucial difference: it doesn’t get you high.

Even though hemp contains no or only a trace amount of THC, the chemical compound that makes a person high, it has been illegal to grow in Rhode Island until this year (it became legal in the U.S. last year). Traditionally, hemp was used to make fabric (like cotton) but these days, it’s the CBD oil from the hemp flower that’s the big business. CBD is touted as a remedy for all sorts of medical and physiological conditions though only one medication with CBD (to help with a rare childhood epilepsy) has so far been approved by the FDA. That has not stopped producers from adding CBD to everything from condiments and candies to pet treats and ointments. To say nothing about just using the CBD oil itself.*

Four companies have been granted licenses to grow and process hemp in the state, including Rhode Island Hemp, the company growing hemp in East Greenwich. Michael Kent of North Kingstown owns the property and R.I. Hemp. A real estate developer, Kent also owns Heritage Equestrian and Hill & Harbor Cigar Bar on Main Street.

Kent is known for his very public fight in the late 1990s with the Town of North Kingstown, where he was not granted permission to build a house on his land so he cut down all the trees and painted the tall trunks left behind different bright colors. He’s not planning any such action in East Greenwich, he said. In fact, the town has no jurisdiction over the growing of hemp. The land is zoned farm and hemp is a crop. 

“It’s an untapped opportunity,” said Kent in an interview Thursday. “There is a real medical health value in CBD.”

The field on Tillinghast is only part of RI Hemp’s crop, with the rest of it on part of the property not accessible to the public. In total, Kent said, they’ve planted 25 acres. He said they plan to process the hemp at a facility in West Greenwich and to develop a non-edible product line for things like arthritis pain. 

RI Hemp is not the only operation with EG roots. Former EG state senator Dawson Hodgson is behind Ocean State Hemp, which is a division of Sodco, the family-owned turf farm in North Kingstown. At 65 acres, OSC is one of the biggest hemp growers in New England. Another EG connection is former EG journalist-turned-farmer Bob Plain, who is managing the hemp crop for OSH.

Little old East Greenwich, capital of the RI hemp universe. 

* CBD products are available in East Greenwich at Back to Basics.


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