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New marijuana laws offer opportunity

holding joint

Virginia Cultivars hope to produce, educate and give back

July 1, 2021 was a historic date in Virginia as the Commonwealth became one of just 18 states to legalize marijuana for simple possession and home cultivation for adults 21 and over.

For some, like Hillsville’s Virginia Cultivars, that could mean a world of opportunity for both the business and the area. But first, Virginia Cultivars, located at 234 Virginia Street in Hillsville, wants to educate people about cannabis and the new laws, while also offering several new programs aimed at giving back to the community.

Located in a 48,000-square foot California Style Grow Facility (home of the former Bassett Walker plant), Virginia Cultivars started in 2018 out of the hemp boom that worked its way across the state as people began to use CBD and other cannabinoids as an alternative for anxiety, depression, PTSD and other similar ailments. Part of CBD’s popularity comes from the fact that it is “non-psychoactive,” meaning consumers can enjoy the benefits of the plant without the high. One most refrain from making medical claims on cannabis products outside of the medical realm. Looking to the google reviews for the company and those similar and one would argue the possibilities.

One thing is for certain. CBD is mainstream and because of that, CBD will continue to be the main focal point of Virginia Cultivar’s business, according to CEO and Master Grower Travis Wagoner. But rest assured, the company is making every effort for an opportunity to legally produce medical and/or recreational marijuana.

“I think once we get this new roof on this building and we make a couple of upgrades over the next few months, we are certainly positioning ourselves as a major player. And if you are in the region, in the area, know that if you are supporting us now then you are supporting grassroots cannabis in Virginia as a whole,” Wagoner said. “We certainly in making these alignments with other folks in the industry, we are trying to position ourselves with folks that show the same morals, values and ethics that we do, and believing in giving back and not just taking. I think everyone should research who they are getting their products from, what their values are, and what their roots are. Everyone that works here is from here.”

Virginia Cultivars also wants to help “Switch the Stigma” associated with marijuana and marijuana use. In an effort to help achieve that, the company continually offers programs to serve the local community. In October,the business unveiled a “Buds for Bras” program dedicated to raise funds for breast cancer research for the Pulaski Cancer Center. During the month of November, the company held a kids’ coat drive to help the less fortunate stay warm during the winter. Talk of a community garden has also been discussed in association with the Hillsville Farmers’ Market. A scholarship program has been bandied about to help folks, as has a fundraiser to help victims or family members of those who have overdosed.

Virginia Cultivars now has a grow supply store open inside its facility on Virginia Street. Anything from grow tents to grow lights to native organic soil and amendments are available to get you started. As far as education, the company plans to begin offering grow classes soon for those interested in taking advantage of the new law that allows each adult in Virginia to grow up to four marijuana plants at home, as long as certain conditions are met. Until then, they will have someone available to answer any questions perspective growers may have.

“We are really big on education so we hope to offer grow classes in beginner, intermediate and advanced. We will be having a different grow series, making sure it is also affordable and accessible so people can come in, do it, be hands-on with something,” Wagoner said. “Certainly there is a group of the population that may not feel comfortable coming out still, so if they want to Zoom in with us, we will probably be doing something where people can have remote access also.”

While most Virginians know about the law allowing adults over 21 to grow up to four marijuana plants, manydon’t know some of the fine print associated with the legislation. Any homegrown plant must be tagged and registered, kept out of the sight of children, and out of public view, for starters.

“Basically the law requires someone to take ownership or responsibility of the plant. We have the protective tents, grow tents, a couple of different options to help there. People think you can just plant this outside in your yard, but that is not the case. If it is visible from public land, it is a violation,” Wagoner said. “So they want you to be respectful of others. Not everybody wants to see it. It is kind of like alcohol, you don’t want to be seen drinking out in public. Same with cannabis, you shouldn’t be using out in public or growing it out in public.”

Wagoner said many people are excited and interested in the new laws because marijuana has been shunned historically. But now, he said he and many others are excited about talking about it in the open. Still, there are many obstacles. For instance, even though you are allowed in Virginia to grow up to four marijuana plants,you are not allowed to legally access the seeds within the state.

“I think in January we will have some solutions, but they certainly didn’t leave as many loopholes in Virginia as they did in other states in terms of writing out the laws,” he said.

“We want our opportunity to shine in the recreational industry. We feel like we are just as deserving as anyone. With that being said, it has to be affordable, accessible and effective. We are affordable, effective and accessible because we have distributors across the state. I think the medical industry is interesting and the rumors going around about them possibly getting a head start on private folks like ourselves who are homegrown Virginians, it is kind of discerning for me. First and foremost, let’s understand the politicians we have voted into office or that we are voting in office and what is their political view or standpoint? Because it does affect people right here in Carroll County and in Hillsville. We employ about 15 people year round and we start people out at a good living wage, I feel like.”

And Virginia Cultivars certainly has the space available to make it happen in terms of the recreational industry. As Wagoner describes, only about 12,000-square foot of the 48,000-square for manufacturing and a retail office.

“The remaining part is either warehouse storage space for supplies or the building to grow and produce high-quality cannabis. Lord knows if they give us the opportunity, we are taking it. And the revenues what they say it is for the taxes, not only for the state, but also for the county as well, could be great for this area. So I think Hillsville has been pretty pro-Virginia Cultivars. They check in with us and have been very helpful.”

But in the meantime, the company will continue to offer their CBD and associated products. Even in that field of the cannabis industry, Virginia Cultivars wants to make sure its customers are educated on what they are buying. To ensure that, the company recently added dosage charts for CBD and Delta 8 to make sure people take the proper doses for their weight range.

“We always want to make sure we are educating people on being responsible,” Wagoner said.

“A lot of the stuff that comes out in the media, people aren’t educated unfortunately. We want to do our part in educating people. That is part of the reason we got into the grow, making it so people are investing and they are getting the product they desire. And it is going to be of economic value because it costs money to do it, using resources on all kinds of fronts.”

Realistically, Wagoner said Virginia Cultivars at 234 Virginia Street is half “grow store” and half “head shop.” Now that similar businesses don’t have to say pipes are for tobacco use only, the company doesn’t have to send folks elsewhere to buy things in order to consume their products such as pipes and bongs.

“Everyone was saying we have all these wonderful products, but how do we consume them? So we thought it was foolish to send people to other businesses. I’d like to think we have the best supply of hemp wraps and hemp papers in Hillsville,” Wagoner said. “We like to support local businesses, but we also for some of the slower months like November and December, we need to capitalize on anything our customers are asking us for. We certainly listen to them and try to give them what they ask for as long as it is legal. We are not what you would call a traditional company, but we are also respectful of our neighbors and conscientious of the rules and regulations. And anyone that comes here, we make it our utmost priority to make sure they know A,what they are getting, B, where it came from, and C, that they can trust it, and we are willing to walk people around and show them the products we make from time to time.”

Virginia Cultivars believes in “second-chance employment,” and Wagoner said the story of everyone at the company, including his, is that of a second chance. It makes for a diverse workforce, he said, but one ready to tackle the challenges of the future.

“We hope if we can bring cannabis to the area, with that I think would come diversity and more economic opportunity. A lot of people don’t realize but when you look through the grow store, you see HVAC, you see water pumps, you see plastic tubing, light bulbs, boards, controllers, hanging baskets, soils, fertilizers. That is just inside this room, but think about how many folks profited or made an income off us since we came back and revitalized this building,” Wagoner said.

“Just the upgrades in the HVAC were nearly $250,000, so when you start thinking about the money that has been put in the community already because of cannabis in terms of hemp and an opportunity for growth to come. I certainly hope that the people in Carroll County and Hillsville come by here and take a chance to talk to us and know about everything here. I would say really maybe 5 to10 percent are using this product recreational. Most of those coming here are trying to improve their quality of life, whether it is pain or nausea or inability to sleep, restlessness, anxiety, depression, PTSD, everyone is suffering from something. First and foremost, certainly you need to be educated in your doses, regardless of what one is taking so providing the resources for your consumers so they are taking the supplements they need. This is the most popular time of the year for depression, so if anybody out there is depressed, come by and see us. We always have a smile on our face, try to perk you up, and we have free samples all the time of our newest and coolest items.”

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